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Monday, October 11, 2010

The Worst Team Names (And What They Should Be)

Lately, I have been watching a lot of sports and realized that there are a lot of terrible names for teams. Like, a surprising amount of bad names. And being me, I couldn't help but call them out and offer replacements. For the purpose of keeping this article (relatively) short I am limiting myself to the four men's pro sports. (I could write forever if I included minor league, college, pro soccer, and WNBA teams.) My criteria for coming up with new names generally relies on one of two things: 1) History -- Either the franchise's or the city's, 2) State/City Symbols -- If the teams truly represent the city and/or state, they should have names that invoke that city and/or state.

The Racist

Culprits: Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Chiefs, and Washington Redskins.

Washington has the most offense name for a professional sports team and the Indians posses what is possibly the most offense logo since the Gold Dust Twins. Atlanta is known for the crowd chant known as the "Tomahawk Chop." It's been years since the American government has all but wiped out the native population. Must we continually mock them with racist team names, logos, and cheers? Simply put, these team names have got to go.

The Braves was a little tricky to come up with a new name for. The team originated in Boston, moved to Milwaukee, and is currently settled in Atlanta. However, the team has only been known consistently as the Braves since 1941. Before that they were known as the Red Stockings, Red Caps, Beaneaters, Doves, and Rustlers. After they were Rustlers and before they stuck with the Braves, they had a name from 1936-1940 that I think they should go back to: The Bees. This name has the bonus of being one of the teams previous names (granted, this was when they were in Boston, but it is the same franchise) and would be offense to no known race. (If aliens ever come and bee in a slur to them, we may have to go to the Doves.) Due to a bee being yellow and black, the colors scheme for the team would likely change to look similar to the Pittsburgh Pirates. This is the only downside I see to adopting the name Bees.

The Cleveland Indians was the biggest no-brainer for me. They should become the Cleveland Spiders. Not only is there historical significance with this name (a previous Cleveland baseball team was called the Spiders), but no other sports team has this name or any derivative of it. It is wholly unique. Because of the history of the new name, it would likely make it an easier sell to die hards opposed to any name changes of their beloved franchise.

The Kansas City Chiefs used to be the Dallas Texans, so going back to their original name doesn't make a lot of sense. Creating a new name becomes our task. Why not honor the original owner and one of the great members of the AFL and NFL and call them the Kansas City Hunters? (After Lamar Hunt, of course.) This could allow the team to keep its colors (changing them could be costly along with a name and logo change). However, if you're going to call your team the Hunters why not go with orange helmets and then brown and green unis? (Ok, that might look especially ugly. Pretend I never said that.) Still, the name Hunters sounds pretty cool.

The Washington Redskins become the D.C. Hogs. This works because of the association with Washington and its policy of putting "pork" into bills, the fact that a football is called a "pigskin," and the fact that they already have fans who dress up as hogs. (Sort of.) If you don't like D.C. Hogs, go with Washington Hogs; you can even get crazy and call them the "Hawgz" if you really want to. But no matter, it is way better than Redskins.

I am not including the Chicago Blackhawks for a few reasons. The history of the team name dates back to the World War I company that the original owner served in. While the naming of the company appears to be named after a member of the Illini tribe, this isn't enough for me to call out Chicago. However, if they ever wanted to change their name, I would fully support that decision. I also want to point out that this isn't a post on what teams need to change their logos. If it was, Chicago would certainly be a part of the discussion.

Teams That Don't End in "S" or "X"

Culprits: Colorado Avalanche, Miami Heat, Minnesota Wild,  Oklahoma City Thunder, Orlando Magic, and Utah Jazz.

I don't know why or when this tradition started, but it needs to be rectified. It sounds and looks weird. When I refer to an individual player I should say that something like, "Derek Jeter is a Yankee." Saying "Giant douchebag LeBron James is a Heat," sounds weird. So we start saying, "Giant douchebag LeBron James is a member of the Heat." I don't like it and so here is what the above teams should be called.

Colorado briefly had a hockey team in the 1970s called the Rockies. The team soon moved to New Jersey and became the Devils. Colorado went without a professional hockey team until the mid-1990s when the Quebec Nordiques left Canada. The team for some reason became the Avalanche. As a fan of the team, this has stuck in my craw to no end. So, what should we call this team? I remember when then team first moved to Denver, they said they were considering calling many different nicknames and that they were also saying that the team could be named after for either Denver, Colorado, or the Rocky Mountain region. As a kid, I thought that the idea of naming a team for a region was a great idea. I immediately fell in love with the idea of naming the team the Rocky Mountain Bandits. However, as I've grown older, my love for a region based name has faded. However, I still like the idea of calling a team the Bandits. Compromise solution: Colorado Bandits.  I think the name works well enough and invokes an "old west" type feeling.

The Miami Heat sounds like an STD. "I met this girl last night and I think she may have given me the ol' Miami Heat." Plus, what is a heat? Can you show me a heat? When I think of your team name, I shouldn't think of the knocking caused by my apartment's heater. We can do better than that: Miami Crocodiles or Crocs for short. Crocodiles are found in the area (as well as alligators). And the name sounds infinitely more vicious and cool than the Heat ever will.

Minnesota had a hockey team before the Wild called the "North Stars" which sounded unique, fun, and cool. Then the team moved to Dallas, dropped the "North" and left Minnesota with an expansion franchise and a name that makes little to no sense. (Seriously, the Wild? This may be the least thought out name in all of sports.) I think that Minnesota needs to get back to their roots and take up a name that local sports fans know and understand. They need to be called the Minnesota Lakers. (Don't worry, we'll address the Los Angeles basketball team later.) Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes, this name just makes sense. The fact that they never tried to get the name back is ridiculous. They should be the Lakers, plain and simple.

I wish I lived in a world where we could have a basketball team called the Oklahoma City Scissor-tailed Flycatchers. Instead, they are called the Oklahoma City Thunder and another opportunity is missed. However, I know that calling a team the Scissor-Tailed Flycatchers is much too long and cumbersome to make for a good team name. Instead of going with Oklahoma's state bird, let's go with another state symbol: Bison. The Oklahoma Bisons (or, if you really have to, Buffaloes) makes for a much more interesting name for a team. Plus, while I know what thunder is, I can't see thunder or hold thunder or eat a thunder burger. I can do those things with a bison.

Orlando clearly chose their name as a nod to the Disney theme park that exists in the city. This is a stupid reason to choose a team name. I was tempted to go with Orlando Conquistadors as a nod to the Spanish explorers that originally settled and exploited the region, but opted not to mainly because of the cumbersome nature of the word. Then I thought about the Orlando Skeeters (Mosquitoes), but they are no longer part of that county. And it still doesn't sound that great. I also considered the Orlando Ballers, but that just sounds like a generic basketball team. So, what do we call the basketball team from Orlando? The Orlando Manatees. Taking the name from Florida's state marine mammal, it works for a few reasons. The colors can stay the same and it can help spread the word about the endangered "sea cow."

The Utah Jazz were originally the New Orleans Jazz. This made sense because jazz music is played in New Orleans, unlike Utah where music is not allowed. (Previous joke stolen from "BASEketball." Probably the best joke in that movie.) Utah needs a name for their team that is more representative of their culture. Originally, I thought that the Utah Bees might work (Utah is the "Beehive State" and its state insect is the "honeybee"), but decided that it is best not to give the same name to two teams. I thought that calling them the Utah Elks could work (Rocky Mountain Elk being the state animal), but that isn't that much better than Jazz. Also, it should be noted that all of the sports teams in SLC have double" Z's" in them: Buzz (minor league baseball), Grizzlies (minor league hockey), and Starzz (WNBA). With that limitation in mind it became quite the puzzle for a replacement for the Jazz. Ultimately, I went with a compromise: Utah Zombiez. Yes, it doesn't have the double "Z" and yes, it doesn't end in "S" or "X." But, it ends with the plural sound (which is what was needed) and it keeps two Z's in the name, albeit in a ham-fisted way. On top of that, Zombies are constantly increasing in popularity. Plus, dead people are pale just like the majority of Utah's population. This is what I call win-win.

Names That No Longer Make Sense

Culprits: Arizona Cardinals, Calgary Flames, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Lakers, and Memphis Grizzlies.

The Arizona Cardinals used to be the Phoenix Cardinals and before that were the St. Louis Cardinals. Yes, just like the baseball team. So, clearly this team is in need of a new name. The other pro teams in Phoenix are the Suns (NBA), Diamondbacks (MLB), and Coyotes (NHL). All items that invoke a desert feel. Cardinals do not create this feeling. So, if we're going to go with a desert feeling we could try calling the team the "Arizona Sand" or "Phoenix Cacti" but those violate my "teams need to end in an "S" sound" rule. So, let's leave the desert and say with Arizona. I'm thinking we use the state's official mammal, the Ringtail. The Ringtail has a unique physical makeup and this could lead to some of the most dynamic uniforms in the league.

The Calgary Flames were originally called the Atlanta Flames. They were named after General Sherman's march to the ocean. Which as far as name origins go, is pretty cool. However, the team moved to Calgary and inexplicably kept the name. Oilers would be a natural fit, but is taken by rival Edmonton. Calgary needs to embrace a new image. I'm thinking cowboys, but Dallas already has that name locked down. In that same spirit, here are your Calgary Rustlers! It is sort of like a cowboy, but distinctly different. Which is exactly what Calgary needs.

The two teams most associated with Los Angeles were originally in other cities. The Lakers were in Minneapolis and the Dodgers were in Brooklyn. Originally known by many other names, the "Trolly Dodgers," took their name in 1891. Soon after it was shortened to simply the "Dodgers" and the name has stuck ever since. In 1957, the Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles and simply replaced the city name. While I respect the history of the club, there aren't trolleys in L.A.. The name hasn't made sense for the club since the move from Brooklyn. It's time to change that. The Los Angeles Angels would be good if it wasn't already taken by the club in Anaheim. I would love to call them the Los Angeles Sabertooth Cats (after the state fossil), but it's a little long. Sticking with state symbols I think that the team should be called the Los Angeles Grays (after the state marine mammal the Gray Whale). One of the original names for the team was the Brooklyn Greys, so it has a bit of a historical flavor too. I really like this name, but it has to be the second least likely to change.

The least likely team to change their name is the Los Angeles Lakers. While the name no longer makes sense, after they left Minnesota, it has been built into such a huge brand that it is likely to never change. That's not going to stop me from trying to do better though. In fact, because the Lakers will likely never change their name, I am going to go way out on a limb and recommend one that I like. It is named after another state symbol, the state prehistoric artifact. Ladies and gentlemen, get ready for the Los Angeles Stone Bears! Named for the chipped stone bear, this name satisfies for a few reasons. It is linked to the state, it has uniqueness, and it sounds pretty sweet. Here's hoping the Stone Bears become a team. Until then, we'll have to deal with the Lakers.

The Vancouver Grizzlies was a perfectly reasonable name for a team. It was an animal that existed in the region and the name was slightly unique. When the team moved to Memphis, one thing was overlooked: there are no grizzly bears there. The bear that is unique to the region is the black bear. However, calling a team in the South the "black" anything is probably a bad idea. Let's drop the bear angle and go for something that Tennessee is known for: music. Admittedly, this isn't the best name in the world, but I think it suits our needs and wants for the name. Let's welcome the Memphis Notes to the NBA. Honestly, the name would work better if the team was based in Nashville, but we can't move the team. Still Notes is better than Grizzlies. Really.

The Ridiculous

Culprits: Anaheim Ducks, Atlanta Thrashers, Charlotte Bobcats, Houston Texans, Los Angeles Clippers, New Jersey Nets, Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Raptors, and Washington Wizards.

All of the teams listed in this section have pretty awful names. So much so, that it is imperative that they change. In fact, on the whole, the teams above haven't been very successful. Maybe a name change is exactly what's needed to turn these franchises around.

The first rule for naming a team should be that you can't name your team after a kid's movie. Yet, Disney did just that when they were awarded an NHL franchise in the early 1990s. The team was originally known as the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, but have since dropped the "Mighty" and are simply the Anaheim Ducks. However there is too much similarity to the previous bad name; a new name must take its place. A name for this team is a little tricky because of the geographic location (southern California) and the sport it plays (ice hockey) seem to go together like oil and water. I think sticking with the bird angle is a fine idea, which is why I am proposing the team be called the California Condors. Granted, if San Diego had a hockey team, this could be a better fit; but why would San Diego ever have a hockey team? Plus, I think a condor could be a duck in a fight. And isn't that what truly matters?

The Atlanta Thrashers is a silly name for a team. Especially after you realize how great of name the Atlanta Flames was. I was really tempted to call the team the Georgia Peaches, but decided that would better fit a WNBA team than an NHL team. I'm going to go out on a bit of a limb here and say that the team should embrace Greek mythology for their name. Thrashers then becomes Tridents. The Atlanta Tridents could incorporate Neptune and Triton as part of their mascots. (And to those wondering, I was inspired by Futurama.)

Charlotte's basketball team was originally the Hornets. But the team moved to New Orleans and almost Oklahoma City. North Carolina has a rich history from which to pull a team name. And now that Michael Jordon owns Charlotte, he should really look into rectifying the situation. However, I'm going to skip over the history and go with a bit of local wildlife: Muskrats. The Charlotte (or Carolina) Muskrats sounds great and is unique. When was the last time you heard of a team called the muskrats? Never that's when. Again, this is a vast improvement on Bobcats.

The Houston Texans are a relatively new team. The city's previous team was the Oilers who moved to Tennessee to become the Titans. Houston's new team invokes thoughts of the former name of the Kansas City Chiefs, the Dallas Texans. The Houston franchise originally narrowed it down to six names: Apollos, Bobcats, Stallions, Texans, Toros and Wildcatters. All of those names suck except for one: Stallions. It isn't great, but it is much better than Texans. And what we're doing here in improving team names. So, welcome your Houston Stallions.

The Los Angeles Clippers is a terrible name. By keeping Los Angeles in their name, they will always play little brother to the Lakers. So, let's try to break the team out of that image. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome your Hollywood Stars! This is another instance where you could get away with adding a "z" at the end and go with Starz. I would stick with the "s" though, it's classier. This is such a large improvement over Clippers, I'm surprised they haven't already adopted the name. (I should point out that this name wasn't my idea. My brother is the genius behind this one. Turns out it wasn't my brother wasn't such an amazing genius, but he got the name from Dave Dameshek. )

The New Jersey Nets are under new ownership and planning a move to Brooklyn. On top of that, talk of a new name has been bandied about. This can only mean, they're aware of bad name. Moving to New York, they'll want the best name they can get. That's where I offer them this: Brooklyn Knights. It's cool, you can keep your current colors (if you want), and it is unique. Ok, I admit it, this name is sort of stolen from the name of the professional baseball team n the Batman universe. But, the Nets need a hook, especially now that they're moving into the city that is Gotham. Plus, I think it sounds pretty cool. If the team currently known as the Nets decided to go this way, they should try to lock down Batman as their mascot.

Originally the Rays were called the Devil Rays, which made a bit more sense because we're all familiar with what a Devil (or Manta) Ray is. Dropping the "Devil" has served the team well as they have put together winning ballclubs ever since. Admittedly, going with Rays was a step in the right direction, but it still doesn't work. Not completely. The team needs to exorcise the spirit that clings to their old name so that they can finally win the Series. Sticking with the animal kingdom: Tampa Bay Bats. This is such a natural baseball team name, I'm surprised nobody has done it before. (For the uninformed, a bat is what baseball players use to hit the ball.) I don't think I need to explain my choice here. It just seems to fit.

Toronto had the misfortune to get their team in the mid-1990s, right after Jurassic Park came out and the world was going crazy over dinosaurs and particularly the velociraptors. It would be like if a team started now and decided to call themselves the Glittering Vampires. It's never a good call to name your team after a fad. Toronto is Canada's only basketball team now and they should have a name that better represents them. This animal appears on Canadian currency and is a part of Canadian culture. No more Raptors, hello Toronto Beavers!

Washington's basketball franchise was originally based in Baltimore and called the Bullets. (As far as team names go, this could be the scariest based on Baltimore's homicide rate.) The team moved to Washington and kept the name for a time before deciding to go with the Wizards. They made this change pre-Harry Potter, so the impetus behind the call has to be that the owner was a huge Dungeons and Dragons fan. There is talk of having the name go back to Bullets, but we can do better than that. And by we, I mean me. Calling the team the Patriots would be a little too on the nose. Calling them the Generals sounds good until you remember that's the team that always loses to the Harlem Globetrotters. And Washington Masons feeds a bit too much into conspiracy. I think it is best to keep with America's (and therefore Washington's) rich history though and name the team the Washington Doughboys. The term used to refer to American soldiers during the Mexican-American War until World War II. This name invokes images of patriotism, history, and could lead to the greatest mascot since the Phoenix Suns' gorilla.


Not much else to say. Those are all the team names that I could stand to see changed. The groupings are from what I feel are the most needed changes to the least  needed. However, if none of the other names are changed, I feel that the Washington Redskins has got to go. I can live with the others (for now), but Redskins just feels to hateful and ignorant to continue.

Did I miss your team? Don't like one of my suggestions? Do you have a better idea? Let me know in the comments section!

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