So it looks like the New Orleans Hornets are going to change their name to become the Pelicans. You look around, and there are a bunch of smartasses making fun of this new name. Oh, a pelican, that's intimidating, they sneer. Well, here's what's up. These people don't know anything about good team names, and they sure as shit don't know anything about pelicans.
You're probably picturing a big, clumsy poof of a bird stumbling around in the shallows, picking at weeds. Wrong. The pelican is fearsome. Take a raven, for example: it's omnivorous. It eats bugs, and seeds, and fruit, and carrion. Compared to the well-rounded citizen that is the raven, the pelican is the serial killer of birds. Not only is it a carnivore—it is a hypercarnivore. (That's a scientific term; look it up.) The pelican eats meat, and only meat. The pelican doesn't eat anything that didn't used to be alive. What's more—unlike an eagle or a falcon—the pelican almost never scavenges someone else's kill. It craves warm flesh, so it gets the job done itself.
Oh, it splashes around in the water and gulps down fish that are just swimming by, that's not hunting, is a thing that fools say. While it's true that the White Pelican dips its head underwater and scoops out the fish, that's not the pelican we're talking about here. The Brown Pelican is the state bird of Louisiana, and it's the only species of pelican that dives to catch its prey. The Brown Pelican is a raptor, without the stupid purple dinosaur logo.
It cruises above the water, its eyesight so good that it can see fish beneath the surface from 60 feet up. Then it spirals into a death dive, streaking down upon the unsuspecting prey before it knows what hit it. The last thing that fish ever sees is the light blinking out as the pelican's gaping beak closes around it, and it's swallowed—while still alive.
The pelican will eat as much as four pounds of fish per day, nearly half its body weight. Its bloodlust is insatiable. It wants to kill you and everyone you've ever cared about. Don't believe me? Here's a pelican eating baby ducklings. And because that's not cruel enough, it makes their mother watch.
And here's a pelican eating a pigeon whole, in front of traumatized children.
The pelican might be the world's best-designed killing machine. You know how evolution works, and how animals steadily adapt to be better suited to their environments? Well, the pelican's bill hasn't changed in 30 million years. It's literally perfect.
But the pelican isn't just a mindless see-it-and-eat-it hunter, oh no. They work together. A bunch of pelicans will practice "cooperative fishing," herding fish into a central area so they can take turns dive-bombing the prey. Hear that, rest of the NBA? Pelicans work as a team.
They're so noble, they're pretty much deities. During times of famine, it was said, the mother pelican would draw her own blood to feed her young, and the early church quickly adopted the pelican as a symbol for the Christ. Do you see anyone worshipping a seahawk? You do not.
We've already established that a pelican's offense is unmatched. But they're selfless defenders as well. Here's a New York Times story from 1910, about a "marauding weasel" that found its way into the pigeon coop at the Central Park Zoo. Did the zoo's pelicans, Hidalgo Pete, Signor Gomez, and Sanchez Hoolihoo, run away? Did they stare helplessly as the weasel trespassed on their property and helped itself to a meal? They did not. They chased the weasel away from the pigeons, and cornering it against a mesh fence, beat it to death. "Even after the animal was dead the two pelicans…kept jabbing their bills at it."
Hidalgo Pete suffered a broken wing in the melee, but that's just what pelicans do. They give up their own bodies to protect their court. There's no way New Orleans will lose a home game.
Most of the criticism of the New Orleans Pelicans name is that it's not fearsome enough. We've established how bullshit that is, but you get the sense these bellyachers would have been happy with a more traditional predatory animal. Well, that's how pro sports team got into the mess they're in today.
The truly classic names aren't aggressive—Yankees, Packers, Browns, Maple Leafs—and yet they'd never get past the first public Facebook vote today. Not edgy enough. For the last couple decades, franchises have just been picking whatever deadly local animal springs to mind. And so we've ended up with "cool-sounding" names like the Timberwolves, Grizzlies, Diamondbacks, and Devil Rays, which sound like they ought to be Arena Football teams. Barring that, the default has been the predatory cat, and just in the last 20 years, we have the Jaguars, Bobcats, two different Panthers, and the oh-so-imaginative Predators, whose logo is a saber-toothed tiger.
The Pelicans are here to assure you that your mascot can have a killer instinct and local significance without appealing to a fourth-grader's sensibilities.
Here's a montage of pelican attacks. God, they're badass.