It's Rhinos in rout over mere Poe-etry

KEN ROSENTHAL

August 28, 1993|By KEN ROSENTHAL

Went to the zoo to get the lowdown.

Not on the raven, stupid.

The rhino.

We know how you voted in the Sun poll, but "Ravens" got only 29 percent in that unscientific monstrosity -- the kind of victory that would give Gov. William Donald Schaefer a nervous breakdown.

Seriously, which animal would you rather the team be named after, a bird out of an Edgar Allan Poe poem or a 5,000-pound mammal that runs 30 mph?

That's right, 30 mph. Daisy Mae, the female rhino at the Baltimore Zoo, would destroy Brady Anderson in a match race, then toss him like a Frisbee with her two horns.

What if Anderson were getting chased?

"Then," Brad Hange said, smiling, "I'm sure Brady could outrun her."

Hange, 25, can't understand all the fuss about "Rhinos." He's the guy at the zoo who takes care of Daisy Mae and her male friend, Leroy. The two rhinos hang out with the zebras -- the perfect NFL tie-in, dictated by the call of the wild.

Zebras don't mess with rhinos.

NFL zebras had better not, either.

Anyway, Hange isn't some nerdy zoologist. He wears an Orioles cap, and he's from Jamie Moyer's hometown, Souderton, Pa. In fact, Moyer's father was his coach in American Legion ball.

He knows sports, he knows rhinos, and yes, he knows there isn't an obvious Baltimore connection, seeing as how rhinos are from Asia and Africa, not Dundalk and Highlandtown.

"I wasn't surprised that people didn't like the name," Hange said. "But if you think about it, the only lions in Detroit are in the zoo. The only eagles in Philadelphia are in the zoo. The only bears in Chicago are in the zoo.

"If you're going to pick an animal, there's no better animal that embodies the spirit of a football player than a rhino. It's got everything you want. It's got incredible size and great strength, and it's extremely fast.

"It sounds funny to say this, but they're very light on their feet," Hange said. "And, of course, they love to get dirty, which football players like to do."

All right, Brad, enough.

A rhino vs. a lion, who wins?

"Lions aren't fools -- they can't take on an adult rhino," Hange said. "A pack of hyenas will occasionally try to take down a rhino calf [baby]. But they have to deal with a very large and powerful mother."

A rhino vs. a bear?

Hange couldn't answer that one. The largest polar bear weighs about 2,000 pounds, but never sees a rhino. The animals roam different continents, and there's no inter-league play.

Still, Daisy Mae, 25, checks in at around 4,000 pounds. Leroy, 30, goes about 5,000. The biggest rhino weighs maybe 8,000. In the jungle, only elephants are bigger, and they don't scare anybody.

Now, the bad news.

Rhinos are incredibly nearsighted -- "eyesight is their worst sense," Hange said. Many of them come from South Africa, so they're politically incorrect. And, like most animals in the wild, they generally shy from conflict.

"They have a reputation as being very aggressive," Hange said. "But a lot of that comes from the old John Wayne movies, when they're out hunting rhinos, and the rhinos charge their jeep."

One other thing: Rhinos are vegetarians, unlike the ravenous meat-eaters who populate the NFL. But a rhino doesn't eat alfalfa sprouts and bean curd. An entire football field is more like it.

The average rhino gulps down 150-200 pounds of grass a day in the wild, Hange said. At the zoo, Leroy settles for 60 pounds of hay and 15 pounds of supplemental grain -- a more nutritious diet.

Now that's a training table.

Ravens eat dead fish, road kill and heaven knows what else. They don't look like football animals, but rhinos do. "Defensive linemen," Hange said. "Reggie White would have nothing on them."

The horns serve as a natural face mask, and the rhino always keeps his head down, as if ready to rush the passer. What choice is there when your head takes up one-fourth your body weight and you walk on all fours?

Naturally, with that size head, a rhino's neck muscle is a sight to behold -- "like shoulder pads, almost," Hange said. Just like, except it never comes off.

Really, this is a no-brainer. The rhino is an endangered species, Hange said, with only 10,000-11,000 left in the wild. What better way to honor them than to fill a football stadium every Sunday with 70,000 fans wearing rhino snouts?

Quick, before it's too late.

Rhinos.

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