Sports news

Given the exceptional nature and notoriety of the California condor, it’s not surprising that the species has found its way into popular culture. Here are 3 examples — old and new — from the sports pages of major newspapers.

In a bird-themed article predicting the outcome of various college football games, John Kiernan offered this in The New York Times in 1936:

Fordham vs. St. Mary’s — The visit of the Galloping Gaels recalls that the largest North American bird is the California condor, with a wingspread up to eleven feet. Its head and neck are bare of feathers. This is the only resemblance between the California condor and the St. Mary’s football players. The wing-spread of the Madigan birds is something that Fordham is about to investigate. Putting all the eggs in one basket, three cheers and one vote for Fordham.

This makes a little more sense if one knows that the St. Mary’s team is from California and that “Madigan” refers to Slip Madigan, the famed coach at St. Mary’s College.

Three years later, Kiernan was back with more of the same:

Colby vs. Bates — Yes, sir, a man away out on a limb like a cedar waxwing makes just a little error in marking a ballot and the carping critics give him a bird as big as the California condor, which is the largest bird in North America. Peering through the thicket, a quick vote for Colby.

The forecasts for the other games in these 2 articles were in a similar vein. Kiernan was a passionate birder and no doubt enjoyed blending birds and sports.

Moving into the 21st century, Mike Lopresti built an article around the idea of endangered species in USA Today:

Today’s assignment: review the current status of selected endangered species, and that doesn’t mean the California condor. The sports world has them, too, so let’s make sure we’re up to date with recent developments.

Species: Water coolers in the Chicago Cubs dugout.

Status: Highly endangered.

Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster and Milton Bradley have committed recent assaults on various beverage dispensers, holding them responsible for on-field displeasures.

Lopresti goes on to comment on the increasing rarity of “African Americans on the PGA Tour”, “female tennis players who don’t grunt”, and the like.

For another example of the California condor finding its way onto the sports pages, see a previous post: Tennis players as birds.

Kieran, John. Sports of the Times. New York Times. 24 October 1936.

Kieran, John. Stuffing the ballot box. New York Times. 11 November 1939.

Lopresti, Mike. Grunters in, cheerleaders on way out. USA Today. 30 June 2009.