Football Names and
How They got That Way
(From the Vault)
With the brand new and much
ballyhooed National Football League season almost underway for real -
-all kinds of gridiron language will be coming your way, some familiar,
other times, baffling.
The words and phrases are spoken
and written day after day, year after year - generally without any
wonderment as to how they became part of the language. All have a
history, a story.
Here for your reading pleasure is some timely gridiron gems explained,
just a sampling of millions of terms. As always, reactions and
suggestions most welcome
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: A group of New England sportswriters
picked Patriots as a tribute to Patriot Day, which celebrates Paul
Revere's ride. The team originally located in Boston, was named the
Patriots because of the area's heritage as the birthplace of the
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: Bert Bell established his NFL franchise in
Philadelphia in 1933 at a time the United States was suffering through
the Great Depression. New president Franklin D. Roosevelt had introduced
his "New Deal" program through the National Recovery Administration,
which had the Blue Eagle as its symbol. Since Bell hoped his franchise
also was headed for a new deal, he picked Eagles as the team name.
STEEL CURTAIN: The term "Steel Curtain" was used to describe
the Pittsburgh Steelers defensive unit for almost a decade, starting in
the mid 1970s. Four players from those teams are in the Pro Football
Hall of Fame: "Mean" Joe Greene, Jack Ham , Jack Lambert and Mel
Blount. Others linked in the public eye associated with the "Steel
Curtain"include: L.C. Greenwood , Dwight White , and Ernie Holmes .
ROCKY: Footbal star Robert Patrick Bleier was always better
known as Rocky. The son of an Appleton, Wisconsin bar owner, Bleier
explained how he got his nickname: "Our living quarters were in the back
section of the ground floor, just off the dining room ... In my first
few weeks, Dad would bring some of his customers back to the bedroom to
take a peek at his son ... "'... Son of a bitch looks like a little
rock,' my dad would whisper proudly. "So I was Rocky before I ever
departed the crib."
Bleier was the 417th player drafted in the 1968 draft out of Notre Dame
and went on to become Pittsburgh's inspirational leader and their
TAXI SQUAD: Art McBride, original owner of the Cleveland
Browns, owned several Cleveland-area taxicab companies in the 1940s, a
time NFL rosters were set at 33 players. Players cut by the Browns
drove McBride taxis allowing him to replace injured players immediately
with well-skilled taxi drivers. The term has become interchangeable for
players on a reserve list.
TERRIBLE TOWELS: Fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers wave the golden
"schmatas" celebrating their team and taunting opponents.
SUPER BOWL: The merger of the American Football League and the
National Football League led to the need for a championship game. The
first contest was played on January 15, 1967, and although officially it
was known as the National Football League championship game, its
unofficial name, the Super Bowl, was used in the media, by the fans, and
by the players-and the name has stuck.
One theory for how the high-sounding name came about is that at an
owner's meeting centering on a discussion of what to call the game, one
of the moguls. Lamar Hunt, had in his pocket a super ball that he had
taken away from his youngster earlier that day. Not too taken with the
long and ordinary-sounding suggestion for what would become pro
football's ultimate game, squeezing the ball, Hunt suggested the name
Super Bowl, but the name was not received with much enthusiasm.
Nevertheless, he mentioned the name to a reporter and as they say in
sporting circles, "The rest is history."
The first Super Bowl saw the first
dual-network color-coverage simulcast of a sports event in history, and
attracted the largest viewership ever to witness a sporting event up to
that time. The Nielsen rating indicated that 73 million fans watched all
or part of that game on one of the two networks, CBS or NBC. In
actuality, the game was a contest between the two leagues and the two
networks, for the CBS allegiance was to the NFL, and the NBC allegiance
was to the American Football League, which it had virtually created with
its network dollars.
The Super Bowl from the start has been designated with a Roman numeral
rather than by year-a move on the part of NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle
to give the contest a sense of class, and at the same time, of
# # #
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Harvey Frommer at:
About the Author:
Harvey Frommer is in his 38th year of writing books.
A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports
books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and
"Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE
STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL
AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to
acclaim in 2011. The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was
Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One.
His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times,
Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men's Heath,
The Sporting News, among other publications.
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