Sports Nicknames

Mike Moffett

 by Mike Moffett
Weirs Times Columnist

I once asked a class if anyone knew what a 49er was.
“A football player from San Francisco,” was a speedy response.
“So how did that name come about?”
Just another example of the lack of historical awareness so prevalent in our country. As some readers surely know, a 49er was a fortune-seeking prospector who made his way to California following the discovery of gold there in 1848.
So “49ers” is a worthy name for a San Francisco football team, historically speaking.
Nothing against Lions, Bears, Jaguars, Eagles, Rams, Falcons, Cardinals, Giants, Colts, et al, but a nickname that ties a team to its city’s historical roots creates a meaningful, lasting bond with the community.
(Think Inter-Lakers “Lakers” or Lin-Wood “Lumberjacks”.)
The Steelers are beloved in Pittsburgh in part because the nickname reflects that the city was once the center of America’s steel industry.
paul-brownSo who knows what a Packer is?
“A football player from Green Bay.”
Yes, we know. But how did this nickname come about?
Silence? What if your child asked “What is a Packer?” Would you have an answer or would your child be left thinking of you as an incurious dullard?
Packer refers to “meat-packer,” an industry that used to employ many thousands of workers in the mid-west. In fact, there was once an NBA team known as the Chicago Packers, which later became the Baltimore Bullets, and then the Washington Wizards. (Bullets being politically incorrect in a city with so much gun violence.)
Patriots is a great nickname for a football team that plays in New England, where the American Revolution commenced. (Revolution also being the name of the soccer team that plays in Foxboro.)
Minnesota’s “Vikings” honor the Scandinavian heritage of so many Minnesotans with Nordic roots, not unlike how the “Celtics” honor an Irish heritage so predominant in Boston.
The politically incorrect but beloved “Redskins” of Washington have an interesting history. They used to be the Boston Redskins who played at Fenway Park in the 1930s. The name was chosen to honor Native Americans but also because it was similar to “Red Sox,” the Redskins’ fellow Fenway tenants. (President Obama later declared the nickname to be offensive, despite the fact that large majorities of Native American Indians endorse it.)
This all finally brings us to the Cleveland Browns. So what if your child asked you, “What is a Brown?” Would you have an answer?
I’ll let you Google this one, if you care.
Don’t be an incurious dullard!

Sports Quiz
What were the Chiefs known as before they moved to Kansas City, when they played in Dallas? (Answer follows)

Born Today …
That is to say, sports standouts born on Oct. 13 include Hall of Fame third baseman (512 home runs) Eddie Mathews (1931), Dallas Cowboy owner Jerry Jones (1942), and former Celtic great Paul Pierce (1977).

“Better to die a small boy than to fumble a football.” – John Heisman

Sportsquiz Answer
The Chiefs were once the Dallas Texans, in the old American Football League, from 1960-62. After winning the AFL title in 1962, the team moved to Kansas City.

Michael Moffett is a Professor of Sports Management for Plymouth State University and NHTI-Concord, while also teaching on-line for New England College. He co-authored the critically-acclaimed and award-winning “FAHIM SPEAKS: A Warrior-Actor’s Odyssey from Afghanistan to Hollywood and Back” (with the Marines)—which is available through His e-mail address is