We ran a contest yesterday with a simple question: what do the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers have in common? There are many correct answers, but there was one in particular I was looking for. I was worried it might be hard, and I was ready to step in and give a clue. But I was wrong to be worried. The post went up at 10:30 a.m.; the first correct answer came in at 10:31 a.m., in the very first comment:
They are both named for industries.
That’s my thought.
Yes, the Steelers and Packers are the only two NFL teams that derive their names from the historical working culture of their towns. In a league full of birds and bears and fish and pirates, the Steelers and Packers stand alone; the other outliers are the teams with historical-figure names, the San Francisco 49ers and the New England Patriots.
The Steelers, founded in 1933, were originally called the Pittsburgh Pirates, thanks to the common practice of naming football teams after a town’s existing baseball team. But in 1940, they became the Steelers to honor Pittsburgh’s dominant industry. The team’s logo is drawn from the Steelmark logo of the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI): three diamond-ish hypocyloids in a circle. The Steelers had to petition the AISI to change “Steel” to “Steelers.”
Curly Lambeau and George Whitney Calhoun created the Green Bay Packers in 1919. Lambeau received $250 to buy uniforms from the meat-packing firm that employed him, the Indian Packing Company, in exchange for naming rights. The company also provided practice fields for the players. “Green Bay Packers” remains the oldest standing name in the NFL.
The Indian Packing Co., meanwhile was absorbed into another firm during the team’s first season. And there isn’t a lot of steel made in Pittsburgh anymore either. But at least the names live on. Congrats to Josh, who’ll get his pick of Freakonomics swag, and thanks to all for playing.