Not long ago Pittsburgh was a worn-out city much like Detroit is today. The steel industry went belly up in the 50’s and took Pittsburgh with it. Historians give a large part of the credit for the spectacular recovery and revitalization of Pittsburgh to its Steelers, and the civic pride the championship Steelers instilled during that critical time in the city’s history. The lesson learned from Pittsburg is that our professional sports teams play a large role in defining our cities. The names of the teams are important, very important.
I especially like Pittsburgh’s NFL team’s name, the Steelers, because it defines the city and the people in one simple word. A word we all understand and can directly associate with Pittsburgh. It’s what I call a place name. A name appropriate to and unique to that particular place. Other great place names are: the Green Bay Packers, Edmonton Oilers, Milwaukee Brewers, New England Patriots, Detroit Pistons, New York Yankees, Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, Montreal Canadiens (spelled the French way no less), Philadelphia’s 76ers and Phillies, Colorado Rockies, Houston Texans, San Diego Padres, Portland Trail Blazers, San Francisco 49ers, and Washington’s Capitals and Nationals.
A couple of really bad and totally inappropriate place names are the Los Angeles Lakers and the Utah Jazz. Both of those teams moved from places where their place name actually fit, Minneapolis and New Orleans. Lakes in LA or lively, improvisational music in staid Salt Lake City? Come on! They should have renamed those teams the Smog and the Polygamists. These names would better reflect these two cites than the names that came with the teams.
The most inappropriate name in pro sports is the Los Angeles Dodgers. Way back when Brooklyn was a separate city, New Yorkers routinely called the denizens of Brooklyn “Trolley Dodgers” because of the big network of trolley tracks that ran through the borough. Brooklyn’s baseball team was originally called the Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers. Many think that Charles Dickens’s Artful Dodger was the eponym of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Regardless of the history, Dodgers is all wrong for an LA team. There is nothing to dodge in LA, nothing moves. The Los Angeles Traffic Jams would be a far better name. Got it? Okay, here’s my first rule:
1.0 Team owners must change the names of their teams to something appropriate when they relocate their teams to new cities. (Did you hear me, Walter O’Malley?)
Hear, hear! That makes sense. Someone was smart enough to change the name of the Washington Senators to the Rangers when they moved to Dallas in 1972 and the Montreal Expos became the Nationals when they moved to DC.
Speaking of the Montreal Expos. Montreal hosted Expo 67 in—you guessed it—1967. They were so caught up in their big international event that they named their new MLB franchise the Expos in 1969. Dumb. Their one big event was long forgotten in just a few years. Can you remember Expo 67? It was only 47 years ago. No, and neither can anyone else.
My second rule:
2.0 Never, never name a team after an event no matter how big the event was. (Or we’d have the Los Angeles Olympics, the New Orleans Marti Gras, and the Des Moines Spelling Bees)
And do you remember the heyday of NASA in the 1960’s, the Apollo program, and role that the Houston’s Manned Spacecraft Center played in putting a man on the moon? Barely. Well some idiot named the Houston MLB team the Astros after their state-of-the-art new stadium, the Astrodome. The Astros have since moved to their new Minute Maid Park and the Astrodome is now vacant, deteriorating, and a candidate for demolition. This dumb name brings me to my third rule;
3.0 Never name a team after a building or a man-made structure no matter how good the idea seems at the time. (Or we’ll have the Seattle Space Needles, the Chicago Sears Towers, and the New York Stock Exchanges)
Following place names we’ve got creature names, generic creature names. I’m lukewarm on creature names, but they should at least be creatures that we admire and respect. Who would name their team the Rats, the Roaches, or the E coli Viruses? No one. So take a look at these names and see if they conjure up an image of a creature you would enjoy having for a pet or admiring from afar through binoculars.
First, we’ve got birds. Do we have birds. We’ve got: Ducks, Cardinals, Falcons, Ravens, Orioles, Hawks, Blackhawks, (the bird is two words, the helicopter is one) Red Wings, Eagles, Penguins, Seahawks, Blue Jays and Raptors. At least we didn’t name any teams: Canaries, Hummingbirds, or Titmouses (or is it titmice).
Enough with the birds. How about some ferocious mammals. Vicious predators like: Lions, Bruins, Panthers, Bobcats, Bears, Bengals, Tigers, Jaguars, Grizzles, Timberwolves, and lowly Coyotes. And we’ve even got mild mannered herbivores like: Bulls, Rams, Broncos, Colts, and Bucks. And lastly we’ve got a few token sea creatures: Dauphins, Marlins, Sharks and Rays.
Just to round out the animal kingdom we’ve even got one team that chose a venomous snake as their name. I was in Arizona back when we were awarded our new MLB franchise, and I voted for another name. I’m almost sure the election was rigged. How else could you explain The Arizona Diamond Backs? A damn snake! How bad is that? This stupidity is worth a rule.
4.0 Never, ever let the fans vote for anything. (The students at University of California, Santa Cruz voted to have the Banana Slug as their new mascot)
In these days of political correctness the use of Indian-related team names is being questioned. Kansas City’s Chiefs and Atlanta’s Braves don’t seem too derogatory or demeaning to me. But what do I know about Indians and such? One can see the activist side of things with the Cleveland Indians’ use of that toothy caricature for their logo, and Washington’s use of a slang racial descriptor, the Redskins. Shame on you, Washington. Was Jungle Bunnies already taken? And is Boston trying to make up for their years of persecuting the Irish by naming their basketball team the Celtics. Next rule:
5.0 Racial or ethnic team names will undoubtedly piss some people off. (Of course, almost everything will piss those people off)
Next, I get to the pompous and pretentious names. These are the unimaginative names chosen by insecure owners to give them, not their teams, a false sense of power or self worth. Names like: the Dallas Stars, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Kings, Orlando Magic, Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Angels, New Jersey Devils, New Orleans Saints, Tennessee Titans, and San Francisco Giants. These names are dumb and fans can’t identify with them. The Giants aren’t giants. They’re just big jocks on steroids. The Kings aren’t kings of anything. And Stars of what? So there!
6.0 Never let rich, insecure owners chose their team names. (How about the Fairies, the Good Samaritans, or the Apostles)
Now that I’ve mentioned dumb names, I’ve got a few more. Here are some teams that use their names to tell us what they’d like to be, or want they want us to think they are. What’s up with a name like the Cleveland Cavaliers? A cavalier is either a supporter of King Charles I in the English civil war, or a small spaniel of a breed with a moderately long, noncurly, silky coat. Take you pick. I kinda like the long-haired dog definition best. Some other dumb names are: the Dallas Mavericks (an unorthodox or independent-minded person), Golden State Warriors (a brave or experienced soldier or fighter), Oakland Athletics (physical sports and games of any kind) and Raiders (a person who attacks an enemy in the enemy's territory; a marauder), Nashville Predators (a person or group that ruthlessly exploits others), San Diego Chargers (a device for charging a battery or battery-powered equipment), Seattle Mariners (a sailor), Philadelphia Flyers (a person or thing that flies), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (a pirate), and the New York and Texas Rangers (a keeper of a park, forest, or area of countryside).
7.0 Avoid goofy action names or any names that end in ers or ors. (Warriors and Predators my ass)
The really dumb team names are the names of inanimate, abstract or uninteresting things; names that make us wonder what the hell were they thinking. Poorly chosen names like: the Buffalo Bills (a proposed law), Buffalo Sabres (a misspelled sword), Calgary Flames (the gaseous part of a fire), Cincinnati Reds (wavelength of light from approximately 620–740 nm), Cleveland Browns (the color of dark wood or rich soil), Colorado Avalanche (a snowslide or snowslip), Columbus Blue Jackets (a Shawnee Chief), New York Mets (past and past participle of to meet), Denver Nuggets (a small lump of gold or other precious metal), Brooklyn Nets (an open, meshed fabric, for catching fish, birds, or other animals), Houston Rockets (cylindrical projectile that can be propelled to a great height or distance by the combustion of its contents), Indiana Pacers (a horse bred or trained to have a distinctive lateral gait), New York Islanders (a native or inhabitant of an island), New York Knicks (a shallow notch, cut, or indentation on an edge or a surface), Los Angeles Clippers (an instrument for cutting or trimming small pieces off things), Minnesota Twins (two children or animals born at the same birth), Minnesota Wild (a natural state or uncultivated or uninhabited region), San Antonio Spurs (a thing that prompts or encourages someone; an incentive), Saint Louis Blues (feelings of melancholy, sadness, or depression), Vancouver Canucks (a Canadian, esp. a French Canadian), and the New York and Winnipeg Jets (a rapid stream of liquid or gas forced out of a small opening).
And I especially hate the dumb environmental phenomena names. Names like: the Carolina Hurricanes, Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, Phoenix Suns, and the Tampa Bay Lightning. How about the Boston Red Tide, the Philadelphia Yellow Fevers or the Houston Refinery Stench.
Wait. Wait. What about those two colored stocking names, the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago White Sox? They’re cute, quaint, traditional, and maybe even the dumbest names of all. Doesn’t everyone wear white socks, including Boston? These names make about as much sense as the Birmingham Beige Jockstraps, the Trenton Wine-stained T-shirts, or the Nashville Nifty Knickers.