Ever wonder how they all shake out? Are there more animals than people? Where do things fit in? And how would you actually characterize a devil, or a phillie, or even a little heat?
Let’s take a gander …
The most obvious group to look at are, of course, the four major North American sports leagues. And that’s MLB, along with the NFL, NBA, and NHL.
Everyone else seem to play soccer. Unfortunately, they’re really not all that into mascots. Heck, most of the teams are just known as a city name, plus “FC” or “United” or “Athletic” or even just “City.” And if they do have nicknames, they’re never official. Heck, they’ve usually got several. Manchester City, for example, is known as City, the Citizens, and the Sky Blues.
Given soccer’s out, the next most likely group is colleges. As I don’t have all the time in the world, I thought I’d limit them to Division I – in particular the Football Bowl Subdivision. And to keep the number of pro and college teams somewhat equal, I limited it to just bigger conferences – the SEC, ACC, Big 10, Big 12, and PAC 12. Sorry, Mid-American. Sorry, Golden Hurricane.
Overall, animals do rule (68), followed closely by people (62). Things are definitely in the running (28), but really don’t compare to those first two.
Undefined are actually not that far behind with 18. These are things that simply don’t seem to have a real-world equivalent outside the team itself. What, for example, is an astro, or a bill, or a hokie, or an aggie?
The two remaining categories both come in at 6. These include mythic creatures/characters-(titans, devils, angels …) and adjectives (athletic, metropolitan, wild …).
Interestingly, there is quite a bit of difference between the pros and the amateurs. To wit, colleges are just slightly over half animals (perhaps reflecting the average student body):
Professional teams, on the other hand, are a lot more balanced, and with a ton of things (particular colors of socks, various means of transportation, weather phenomena, and much more):
Like I say, these are the most popular. As for particular leagues, the PAC 12 and the SEC are both close to 2/3’s non-human creatures:
(Wondering who those mythic creatures are? Why, sun devils, of course.)
Overall, though there are more than their fair share of tigers, eagles, bears, wildcats, and so on, we also have some odd birds (ravens, penguins, pelicans), unusual rodents (gophers, beavers), and assorted ducks, dogs, and buffalo.
Two leagues are half people, the Big 10 (which actually has 14 teams) and the Big 12 (which only has 10):
And Major League Baseball has almost half (37% to be exact).
Overall, people are a lot more unique than animals. In addition to state-wide demonyms (Tar Heels, Jayhawks, Hoosiers, Sooners), there are also some unique occupations (commodores, boilermakers, cornhuskers), as well as various Native Americans, religious figures, and rebels/patriots
Things are not equally distributed. Only 2 leagues, the NBA and the NHL, account for 78% of all things out there:
Why so many things in those two? My guess is that there are a lot more new teams in those leagues. Why go with fusty old animals or people? Let’s do something different!
Heck, why bother with those silly old plurals. Let’s go with mass, instead of count, nouns. You know, things like Lightning, Thunder, Heat, Magic, and Jazz.
So, who does that leave? Well, would you believe there was one pro league (the NFL) and one college one (the ACC) that actually had some real balance? Both were almost equally divided between animals and people (14 to 12 for the NFL, and 6 to 5 for the ACC):
Soccer aside, there are actually two foreign leagues that do a pretty good job with mascots. Interestingly, they’re both based on American sports: the Canadian Football League and the Nippon Baseball League.
The NBL fits in easily with the overall animal theme:
These include standards such as tigers, bears, lions, and hawks, but oddities such as buffaloes, swallows, and carp.
The CFL, on the other hand, is a little more balanced: