Here's the Steelers-Packers Contest Answer

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.
– Josh


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.


Brett

umm, not to rain on the parade... but the 49ers represent the original industry of their town...

Ezzie

The Cleveland Browns are named for their original coach, Paul Brown.

Joe D

And the '49ers? Admittedly, there weren't many gold prospectors in SF when the team was created.

Paul

You're right on the birds and bears and pirates, but no fish in the NFL.

Myles

And just a side note on the outliers, the Baltimore Ravens are the only team named after a literary work.

But yes, they are also a bird.

Nerf

Paul - You're forgetting Big Tuna. He doesn't have a team named after him admittedly...

tj

I would say the Buccaneers are named for an industry and some say a historical culture of the community. In Tampa they still celebrate this every year as the pirates invade during Gasparilla.

mark spino

how about dolphins paul?

Sam

And the Cowboys?

Matt Broderick

Dolphins are mammals, Mark, not fish!

Austin

Because dolphins are most definelty fish, not mammals, Mark.

David L

Yeah I'm on board with Brett. The 49ers definitely fall into that category... that was the name for the gold prospectors that jumpstarted the process of transforming California from wilderness into an economy larger than that of all but 6 countries. Without the 20-fold population increase that came with the gold rush, who knows what Cali would even look like today.

Transplanted Lawyer

They're now renamed, but the Houston Oilers were also named after industrial workers.

Steve S.

Great question! Anyone know the etymology of the (extinct) Akron Triangles?

chuck

How bout horses? Colts and Broncos!

anteek

I always classified the teams into these segments:

Animal kingdom - birds, mammals, reptiles, etc.

People/Peoples - occupations/industries, callings, races, persons (real or mythological)

Technology - airplanes

Warren

I have to agree with Sam - what about the Cowboys? Although the cattle industry was more prominent in neighboring Forth Worth due to the stockyards there, the images of cowboys and Texas are inextricably linked. Granted, Dubner hedges his explanation that the teams' names are derived the working culture of their respective towns, a steeler is "one who points, edges, or covers with steel." This is not the working culture for which Pittsburgh is known. They made steel, and the workers were known as steelworkers, ironworkers, or mill workers, not steelers. By the way, although obviously not in the same category as Dubner's NYC, Green Bay and Pittsburgh are both cities and not towns.

Ryan Anthony

If you want historical, aren't Buccaneers and Vikings just as historical as Patriots? (Look what you've done Mr. Dubner. Classifying something people get so excited about. You should know better.)

Witty Nickname

The Cowboys are also named for an industry.

Mike B

Some might say that Green Bay is named after a certain lifestyle choice XD