Five faux pas in sports team nicknames.
@BreakTheHuddle (e-mail: BreakTheHuddle@gmail.com)
It takes an awful lot of work to get a major sports franchise to call your city its home. Don’t believe me? Ask anyone in the city of Los Angeles who is a football fan. First, you have to convince a league to expand to where you are, or worse, steal some other poor city’s ball club. Then, you have to get a stadium built, which involves convincing everyone in the city, county or state to voluntarily raise their taxes (good luck with that).
But once the hard part is over, you get to the fun stuff – what will our uniforms look like? What colors should we incorporate? And what are we going to call the team? Despite the fact that it takes a wealthy, savvy businessman or group of businessmen to get the team to town, often these same people royally mess up the easy part – naming the team itself. Let’s take a look at five mistakes in sports team names, and see if we can’t help them come up with a better alternative.
Relocated teams with out-of-place nicknames.
Culprits: Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Lakers
Jazz is an art form pioneered by primarily African-American musicians that called the city of New Orleans home. The New Orleans Jazz was a terrible basketball franchise in a city that didn’t support them financially. So they packed their bags in 1979 and headed out west, to the whitest, most-straight laced, un-jazzy city in our fair country, Salt Lake City, Utah. Instead of changing themselves to something more appropriate, they stuck with the Jazz. Imagine the Phoenix Suns moved to Anchorage, or the Montreal Canadiens moved to Houston. I’d say the idea of ‘Utah Jazz’ is on the same level of absurdity. It wasn’t as though the ‘Jazz’ nickname had a great legacy attached to it – in the five seasons prior to the move, they’d never had a winning record.
The Minneapolis Lakers, on the other hand, won 5 championships between 1948 and 1959. When they picked up and moved west in 1960, you could at least see the rationale behind keeping the Laker nickname – after all, it was practically synonymous with basketball success. That is, until you glance at a map of California and notice that there approximately five[i] lakes in the entire state. The ‘Laker’ nickname ought to have been left in the land of 10,000 lakes.
Suggested alternatives: Utah Sacred Underwears[ii] (The Fightin’ Tightie Whities), Los Angeles Narcissists.
Naming your team after a part of the field of play.
Culprit: New Jersey Nets
The Nets began as the New York Nets, became the New Jersey Nets in 1977, and in a couple of years are moving back to New York (technically, Brooklyn). It’s still undecided if they’ll change the team nickname after the move. They’re rarely called out for having a ridiculous name, but imagine teams in other sports named themselves after a random part of the field – the Oakland Pylons, the Cleveland Foul Poles, the Columbus Blue Lines, etc. See? It’s absurd, and ought to be changed immediately.
Culprit: Washington Redskins
At least the Florida Seminoles have the blessing of the Seminole Indian tribes, ditto for the University of Illinois Fighting Illini. But the Washington Redskins? Are you serious? How are we allowing this to happen in the 21st Century? Some people assert the term ‘Redskin’ was at one time the equivalent of the ‘n-word’ for Native Americans. Need I say more?
Suggested alternative: Washington Mistresses, Washington Lobbyists or the Washington Porkers.[v]
Culprits: The Cleveland Orphans (MLB, 1890) and the Dayton Triangles (NFL, 1920-29)
Okay, I dug a little deep for these two. But seriously – how did this happen? I haven’t been this ashamed of America since we ceded the BMI crown to Kuwait and Egypt.[vi] The only explanation I can think of for the Orphans is that the owners of the club were going for an ‘Oliver Twist’-related theme a la the Brooklyn Dodgers (who are named after the teenaged Dickensian thief ‘The Artful Dodger’… am I getting too literary here? My apologies).
As far as the Dayton Triangles go… Pythagoras would be proud, I suppose, but the rest of us should all be confused as hell. Perhaps they were mandated to use a geometrical shape and decided that the Dayton Trapezoids or the Dayton Octagons just didn’t click. Or maybe they were attempting to harness the mystical power of triangles.[vii] The franchise died in the Great Crash of ’29, which changes my outlook on that dark hour of American history entirely – if it killed the Dayton Triangles, maybe it was for the best.
Suggested alternatives: Well, they’re defunct franchises, so it doesn’t really matter, but just for the heck of it, I’d say the Cleveland Child Soldiers and the Dayton Arbitrary Polygons would work nicely.
Naming your team with a non-count noun or a made up spelling of a word.
Culprits: Oklahoma City Thunder, Miami Heat, Utah Jazz (second appearance), Minnesota Wild, Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, etc.
This one is just a matter of personal preference, I suppose, and the inclusion of the spelling issue was done exclusively as a means to get my two least favorite baseball teams, the Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox, in this column.
But really – there are two avenues for picking a nickname for your professional sports team. 1. Some unique name hearkening back to your founding (Green Bay Packers, Cleveland Browns, etc) or 2. Picking a strong-sounding proper noun reflective of your geographical region. What’s with the abstract references? It only leads to ridiculous sentences coming from the mouths of athletes and the columns of sportswriters (“Johnson was quoted as saying, “I want to be a Heat for the rest of my career” despite swirling trade rumors”).
The unique spelling strategy is every bit as annoying as the modern trend of giving your kid a regular name with zany spelling just to distinguish them. Ever met a Chone (Shawn)? How about a Breannah (Brianna)? Or an Ngazi (I don’t know what the hell that’s supposed to be)? My mother has – she’s a preschool teacher, and they have all been students of hers. The parents of those poor children ought to be publically shamed – as should the fans of both Sox baseball clubs.
Suggested alternatives: Oklahoma City Bombers, Miami Strippers, Utah Sacred Underwears (The Fightin’ Tightie Wighties – so nice I had to use it twice), Minnesota Mud Ducks, Boston Inferiority Complexes (a stretch, I know), Chicago Politicians.
[i] “Approximately” is the key word in this sentence.
[v] Pork, you know, like the pork that politicians add to bills as they go through Congress… bit of a stretch, I know, but I think it would be an easy transition for some of their fans. http://www.profootballhof.com/UserFiles/image/Hogettes_425.jpg