Thematic Superbowl

Sounds like a showdown to determine the World Champion of Syntax… but actually, the upcoming Superbowl provides a particularly rare collocation of team names. I’ve been playing with this post for a week now but didn’t know what to do with it, since it’s not really phonological (although that hasn’t stopped me before, nor is it technically against my reading of the rules. But while out for the morning walk I realized that a lot of the active discussion on phonoloblog starts with something one or another of us reads on Language Log. Examples include our recent flap debate, gaydar, nucular vs parapalegic, and trendy IPA usage.

Curiously, flaps and IPA-chic converge in a recent Nokia promotion, in which various famous people text-message each other about Snoop Dogg’s laundry habits. I haven’t found an image to share, but there’s a shot of one of the messages saying ɾinse cycle (with a flap for the “r”).

Anyway, there’s been some recent discussion of team names on Language Log, some of whose contributors are known to cheer for the NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles. I couldn’t resist pointing out the incredibly fitting matchup of teams (by name at least) for the upcoming Superbowl. Eagles vs. Patriots: America can’t lose.

I’m calling this a thematic matchup (perhaps against better judgement), because the names of the opposing teams occupy the same metaphorical and/or semantic space (in this case, images of Americana). Such matchups are rare possibilities in any league, but other potential ones are imaginable. This has inspired me to dream up a few more worth playful comment. I offer these below, along with predicted outcomes for each game.

Tennesee Titans vs. NY Giants (NFL): You have to favor the Titans since their name has a slightly more literate edge to it – until you realize they chose it for alliterative reasons rather than literate ones.

Washington Wizards vs. Orlando Magic (NBA): Slam dunks require no spells, so the Wizards are at a disadvantage. Magic has more luck, and wins on shots from the backcourt.

LA Kings vs. Ottawa Senators (NHL): Technically, the Kings play in a republic while the Senators play in a monarchy. Both have more power on paper than they typically wield. Senators win with a more representative roster.

Anaheim Angels vs. NJ Devils (MLB vs NHL): OK, they play different sports, but we all know who to root for. The Devils win anyway, since Anaheim’s bullpen can’t get the ball through the neutral zone.

And last, a hypothetical NFL-CFL matchup:

Washington Redskins vs. Edmonton Eskimos: This one’s so potentially offensive, nobody knows which team to protest more. Both teams have winning traditions, and while the Redskins have fallen on hard times, they have the talent to be favorites. Nevertheless, the Eskimos win when they reveal 43 words for blitz and at least 50 words for pass (although I can assure you that they’re all derived from at most three distinct roots).

[Update 2/28/05: Marc at bLing points out an ugly one that did happen, the 1995 World Series featuring the Atlanta Braves and Cleveland Indians. My excuse for omitting this is the lingering (10 year) effect the 1994 MLB work stoppage had on my paying attention to baseball. Take that, NHL.]