In the United States, the National Football League’s Super Bowl Championship game is the most watched sporting event of the year. Commonly referred to as Super Bowl Sunday, this informal holiday is an occasion for people to gather, eat a lot of food, and root for their favorite team. This year, the Baltimore Ravens will take on the San Francisco 49ers to fight for the coveted Vince Lombardi Trophy on February 3, in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Some of the NFL team mascots are inspired by the animal kingdom. In honor of this, we thought we would highlight some of the animals which display true athleticism, whilst their human counterparts flash down the football field this Superbowl Sunday.
Perhaps the most influential position on the football field is that of the quarterback. This is a role of leadership, strategy and fitness – they call the offensive plays and must attempt to execute them. In the wild, the raven is known for its intelligence and athleticism. They are also playful birds, frequently performing mid-air acrobatics and passing objects to each other. These are all characteristics of a true quarterback! They have a variety of vocalizations, but instead of yelling “hut, hut – hike!” on the football field, they are more likely to caw “krack-krack-krack!”. The Baltimore Ravens have secured their seat in the Super Bowl, and could not have done it without their quarterback, Joe Flacco, a human raven!
Catcher on the Fly
The Miami Dolphins are a popular football team based in Florida, with the bottlenose dolphin as an appropriate representative. Another offensive position is that of the wide receiver, an athlete that must be able to catch a ball in mid-air while running at top speeds. Dolphins definitely have this maneuver down, with a keen ability to swim at high speeds and leap out of the water to catch fish. They are also highly intelligent and social animals, living in groups of up to 100 individuals. Another important trait on the football field is strong communication, so I think Miami has found the perfect mascot!
In order to get the football down the field, you need a strong offensive tackle to block and take down the opponent in front of you. The St. Louis Rams have an excellent mascot for this position. Bighorn sheep males, known as rams, are anything but lamb-like with their massive horns weighing up to 14 kilograms, and ability to leap over rocks and verticals with ease – like a footballer jumping lineman! Rams often engage in dominance battles by pushing and shoving one another before rearing up on the hind legs and lunging forwards and down, bringing the horns together with tremendous force. This species ranges from south-west Canada, through western and central USA into northern Mexico.
The Chicago Bears from Illinois sport a brown bear mascot, an excellent representation of the linebacker on the field. The undeniably large defensemen use their sheer mass to keep the opposing team from getting a first down. Similarly, brown bears have the stature of a linebacker, with the largest subspecies of brown bears, the Kodiak bear weighing up to a hefty 780 kilograms. They are also opportunistic feeders, and move in response to food aggregations. Few creatures will get by a bear of this size without its permission!
The peregrine falcon is the muse for the Atlanta Falcons from the state of Georgia, another high achieving team that made it to the playoffs this year. Renowned for record speed as the fastest animal on the planet and sheer grace in the sky, these birds of prey are capable of speeds up to 250 kilometres per hour diving for prey. Similar to a runningback on the football field who must show swiftness and finesse with the ball in order to score for their team, a peregrine falcon has the prey handling skills while at top speeds to be a successful sky predator.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have an ideal mascot for demonstrating the important role of defensive tackle. This position requires strength, mass, and agility to rundown and seize the opposing ball carrier. The jaguar is the largest cat in the Americas, with its power displayed through its impressive muscling, deep chest, large head and strong jaw. Its common name comes from the native Indian name ‘yaguara’, meaning ‘a beast that kills its prey with one bound. Once ranging farther across the United States, the jaguar is now only known to be photographed in Arizona, otherwise existing only in Central and South America.
Maggie Graham, ARKive Program Assistant, Wildscreen USA