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How Every Team in the NFC North Got Their Name

Publish Date: 21/02/2024
Fact checked by: Mark Lewis

In the famed classic movie The Wizard of Oz, the trio of Dorothy, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow, are alone on a journey when they enter a dark section of the forest. Apprehensive, they fear being attacked by “lions and tigers and bears.”

The Origins of the Detroit Lions

The heroes of Oz are never in danger from those beasts, but the fact is lions and tigers and bears are fearsome creatures. Which is probably why those animals end up as mascots for many sports teams. Two of the National Football League teams in the NFC North, for example.

In 1934, a radio magnate in Michigan named George Richards purchased the Portsmouth Spartans, a professional team of little acclaim.

He moved the franchise to Detroit and decided to build the team into “the kings of the NFL.” That’s how the Detroit Lions came to be.

Even when the team has had little bite, the name has served them well. While Detroit is one of the few teams to have never played in the Super Bowl, the team won championships in the NFL in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s.

The Chicago Bears' Baseball Connection

Among the other teams in the NFC North that rival the Lions, we find the Bears of Chicago. The team name came about because of a baseball team, believe it or not.

The Bears rented Wrigley Field when they first entered the NFL, home to the Chicago Cubs. The team owner noted that football players should be bigger and tougher than baseball players, so he chose to call his team “the Bears.”

The Birth of the Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota NFL franchise traces its roots to the 1960 NFL expansion. That season, Minnesota entered the league as a new team. The franchise elected to honor the Vikings of medieval Scandinavia, which was represented by the large Scandinavian culture in the state.

The Vikings of the NFL have worn that name proudly, playing in four Super Bowls and fielding some of the best defensive teams in league history.

Green Bay Packers - Archrivals of the Detroit Lions

Probably the biggest rival of the Detroit Lions are the Green Bay Packers, and often hated division opponent. The Packers won the first two Super Bowls, and have two more titles since the Super Bowl era began in 1966. Both Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers haunted the Lions for years, orchestrating wins over Detroit, much to the chagrin of Lions fans.

The Green Bay Packers, one of the most storied franchises in the National Football League, derive their name from the team's early history and community roots. Established in 1919, the Packers initially formed as a community football team in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

The name "Packers" reflects the team's early association with the Indian Packing Company, a local meatpacking business.

Naming Origins - Indian Packing Company

In 1919, Earl "Curly" Lambeau, a former player for the Green Bay East High School football team, approached his employer, the Indian Packing Company, seeking financial support to purchase team equipment. The company's owner, Frank Peck, agreed to Lambeau's proposal, providing funds for jerseys and other necessities.

As a gesture of gratitude, Lambeau decided to name the team after its sponsor, resulting in the birth of the Green Bay Packers.

While the Indian Packing Company's direct involvement with the team was short-lived, the Packers retained their distinctive name, becoming an integral part of the team's identity. Over the decades, the Green Bay Packers have evolved into a community-owned franchise, cherished by fans for their rich history and unique connection to the local community.

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