Thursday, June 14, 2007

Trouble with team names

I'm taking a short breather from draft stuff. Frankly I'm all Yied out for the moment.

Instead I want to talk about something completely irrelevant, which is NBA team names.

Once upon a time all the team names made sense. They either had tradition or the names related to the history of their region, or both. Everything was blissful and all was right with the universe.

Then four screwy things happened:
--1 Teams shortened their names.
--2 Styles got stupid.
--3 Teams moved.
--4 The Bobcats.

Let's take these in order:

TEAMS SHORTENED THEIR NAMES: Bad move. I liked the old names. But somehow the Knickerbockers became the Knicks; the Supersonics the Sonics; the 76ers the Sixers; and the Trailblazers the Blazers. I don't know why they did this. Maybe it was because some marketing consultants told the league they'd make 1.6% more money if they shortened the names. Maybe it was just the era's zeitgeist what with J-Lo and T-Mac and other ridiculous nicknames being the order of the day. Who knows? At any rate I miss the Super, the Seventy, the Trail and mostly the delightful Erbockers.

STYLES GOT STUPID: In particular I point to the SINGULAR names, Heat and Magic. Before, almost all team names were plural. I mean Phoenix could have called themselves the Sun (after all there is only one; those other far away lights are called stars); but they called themselves Suns. That's perfect. It's plural, it's regional for an area that's sunny like 364 days a year. It just fits. Good job Phoenix. But Miami and Orlando—I shake my head at your lack of s's— after all this time I still can't get used to it.

Even worse is the Raptors. Let me tell you a story: Long ago when the great city of Toronto got their franchise, there was a movie trilogy that was really popular. It was off the charts popular. They were called the Jurassic Park films. They were Big BIG box office! So what happens? ...Toronto apparently decides to ride the wave and go with a trendy dinosaur theme. Well that might have been cool at the time, for like two months. But now? It makes no sense. I mean if Toronto was starting their franchise in 2007 would they call their team The Carribean Pirates? Or maybe go with the Harry Potter mania and call themselves the Wizards? ...Nevermind, that one's taken.

Speaking of the Wizards- I loved their old name: The Baltimore Bullets. That just rolls off the tongue. It was great. But then look what happened: People stopped killing people while at the same time guns started killing a real lot of people and the word Bullets took on a negative meaning. Too bad.

(By the way I like when the first letter of the city and of the team nickname is the same, like: Baltimore Bullets, Washington Wizards, and Los Angeles Lakers. A franchise gets an extra gold star on their collective forehead for that.)

TEAMS MOVED: Have you ever been to Los Angeles? They have lots and lots of swimming pools, but honest-to-goodness LAKES are not exactly prevalent. This is (as you know) because the franchise moved from the splooshy north country and took their cool name with them. That's a long standing NBA trend- taking great regionally devised nicknames and transplanting them where they seem almost embarrassingly out of place...

...for example the Utah Jazz. Miles Davis and Mingus are just not the first things that come to mind when thinking of the Great Salt Lake! Wait a minute— Let's test it: OK. I'll say a word and you quickly say the first thing that pops into your head. Here it is: UTAH ...pause for your answer... (insert Jeopardy music) ...Time's up! You didn't say, "Charlie Parker" did you? I didn't think so.

Here's another franchise who is a sad victim of name displacement: The New Orleans Hornets. The name Hornets was originally given to Charlotte because it comes from a comment by the British General Cornwallis in the revolutionary war, who when he was frustrated by the unexpected fierceness of Carolina Colonial fighters compared them to hornets.

THE BOBCATS: It's an ok name, but come on. As far as I know there's a rule against an owner nicknaming the team after himself. Still, Charlotte owner Robert Johnson managed to do just that with the name BOBcats. That's cheesy.

(By the way, I hope there really IS such a rule, because otherwise the Celtics could easily become the Wiccans. (Which is not too bad actually) ...think about it. On second thought- don't bother.

Anyway, the point of all this is that I have devised solutions to all these problems with dumb team names. First, the Magic become Magicians. That's easy.

Then we do a three team name rotation thing where the name Jazz goes back to New Orleans where it belongs. New Orleans Jazz- perfect except for the singularity thing- but I don't think you can call them The Jazzes can you? Then the Hornets name goes back to Charlotte making everyone there happy. That's followed by allowing Utah owner Larry Miller a one time only waiver on the not-naming-the-team-after-yourself rule and the Utah franchise becomes the Larrycats! Who could possibly object to that? That's right, no one. Absolutely no one.

Finally the Heat can have that terrific suffix that was discarded by New York, and they become the Heaterbockers!

Perfect. All problems solved! You see what can happen when you put your mind to it?

(One last thing: Thank God no one combined the trends of name shortening and singularization, and applied it to team names. Otherwise we'd be following B-CELT.)

Now back to your regularly scheduled draft talk...


stopmikelupica said...

Did you see that the Arizona Diamondbacks were sporting jerseys the other night against the Yankees with "D*Backs" written in large letters on the front? That is why you should keep team names small to begin with.

Or the Diamondbacks' name should be shortened to the Dimes or something....

Gant said...

D'Backs? My worst nightmare come true. Arrrgh! Nooooooo!

MD said...

I would love to see a team named the "Larrycats" in my lifetime.

While we're talking about names, putting aside the fact that I hate the WNBA, THEY have stupid names. Naming your WNBA franchise after the closest NBA franchise? The Starzzzzzzz, the Monarchs? lame.

Gant said...

Yes, if Utah ever changed their name to the Larrycats, they would instantly become my second favorite team.

Tony said...

this is a great article. i have been reading several of you blogs and you are one of the funniest writers ive seen....u would fit wonerful on espn page long as u still keep talking boston sports or funny team names!!!