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Steelhammer: Pallbearers and pelicans

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Learning Channel, the basic cable network that has provided us with educational programming ranging from "Toddlers and Tiaras" to "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo," is preparing to take its intellect-elevating programming to the next level.

Unfortunately, it's the next level down -- six feet under, to be precise.

"Best Funeral Ever," which debuts on TLC on the day after Christmas, will feature over-the-top services for those heading under the ground. The "reality" series features the personalized, spare-no-expense sendoffs provided to clients of the Golden Gate Funeral Home in Dallas, Texas -- the capital of tasteful understatement.

Services featured on the show, according to its promotional material, include:

  • A barbecue-themed sendoff, in which pallbearers carry the client in a man-sized meat smoker to the site of his service, and make use of live pigs, dancers and a barbecue sauce fountain before lowering him into his eternal pit.
  • A disco funeral with throbbing music, flashing lights and artificial smoke.
  • A ringside service for a boxing fanatic that includes pallbearers in silk shorts and boxing gloves and the ringing of a bell to mark the end of the final round in the departed's bout against the reaper.
  • A service for a Christmas fanatic that features real reindeer, artificial snow, dancing elves, and a casket that arrives atop a bright red sled.
  • In its effort to put the "fun" back in funeral, the show, if successful, could have TLC spin-offs, like "Next Great Undertaker," "Casket Boss," or "Extreme Coffining.

    Or it could just rest in peace.

    ***

    There's nothing wrong with naming a pro sports team after your state's official bird. 

    The Baltimore Orioles baseball franchise, after all, is named in honor of Maryland's state bird. The Arizona Cardinals, on the other hand, are named after the state bird of West Virginia and five other states, apparently since the Grand Canyon State's official bird, the cactus wren, fails to conjure up a well-known public image.

     But the decision to rename the New Orleans National Basketball Association franchise after the Louisiana state bird, the eastern brown pelican, starting with the 2013-14 season, may be a mistake.

    Mercifully, the new name for the team now known as the New Orleans Hornets will come without the "eastern' and "brown" modifiers, and be known simply as the New Orleans Pelicans. While a pouch-jawed, slow-moving shorebird may not be the greatest symbol for a pro basketball team, it could have been worse: The names "Brass" and "Krewe" were considered and rejected for obvious reasons.

    Maybe New Orleans could work out a name trade with the Utah Jazz, which kept the original name of the Louisiana team when it was sold to, and relocated in, Salt Lake City in 1979. New Orleans is considerably more jazzy than Salt Lake, and Salt Lake's Triple-A baseball team, the Bees, would be an entomologically appropriate fit with the Hornets.

    Now, if only a name change could be worked out for the Cleveland Browns, which I only recently learned was named in honor of the team's first head coach, Paul Brown.

    I always thought the team was named for its record after Brown left the team in 1962 -- when it became known primarily for not being No. 1.


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