December 2, 2016

AKABAS | We Need to Do Something About Professional Sports Team Names

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CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 11: Michael Bourn #24 of the Cleveland Indians is congratulated by Carlos Santana #41 after scoring on a single by Michael Brantley #23 (not pictured) during the sixth inning against the Minnesota Twins on September 11, 2014 at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio.(Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images)

As a society, we suck at naming things. I don’t really need to defend this claim other than stating that someone decided to name this place “Greenland,” but there are countless other examples. We park in driveways and drive on parkways, whoever named oranges “oranges” is possibly the least creative person to ever walk the face of this planet, there is a car repair shop in the United Kingdom called “Poorly Car Repair” (I swear this is real, click on the link), and the number of expert astronomers that probably signed off on a planet being named “Uranus” is truly quite astounding.

Case in point: Last month, we had a baseball team in the World Series called the Cleveland Indians. Sigh. Beyond the fact that “Indian” is a term borne out of ignorance for another culture, it astounds me that there’s even a team named after a specific ethnic group. How weird would it be if a football team were named the Washington Jews or the Washington Asian Americans? Now imagine if that Washington football team replaced the name of the ethnic group with a much more derogatory term. Oh wait, you don’t need any imagination at all.

There are quite a few other team names in the four major professional sports that are simply awful. Aside from the two different teams named the Cardinals, the two different teams named the Panthers, and basically every other boring animal mascot, here are a few of the most indefensible…

Cleveland Browns / Cincinnati Reds / St. Louis Blues – Forget highly offensive, culturally appropriating, racist names. We live in the year 2016, and we have not one, not two, but three sports franchises named after colors.

Minnesota Wild – When your team name is so vague that you have no idea what to put in the logo and ultimately come up with this bull****, it’s an issue.

Toronto Maple Leafs – You may say, “Lev, I’m sure there’s a fantastic reason why they chose to incorrectly spell a basic English word,” to which I will respond, “They lost me when they made their mascot a plant.”

Oakland Athletics – I don’t know what definition of “Athletics” they’re referring to, but it doesn’t matter. Either they named their sports team a word that literally means “sports,” they named their baseball team after a different sport altogether (track & field), or their mascot is the plural of an adjective.

Houston Texans / Montreal Canadiens – I stand by my statement that whoever named oranges “oranges” is the least creative person to ever walk the face of this planet, but it’s close.

Philadelphia Phillies – If two parents named their child Phillip Phillips, one would automatically come to the conclusion that those parents must hate their child, so why is naming a sports team any different?

Buffalo Bills – Their name is not the Buffalo Buffalo, therefore their name sucks.

Brooklyn Nets – Let’s also name a football team the Crossbars or a baseball team the Home Run Fences while we’re at it.

So I repeat: we suck at naming things. But now that we’re aware of the problem, how should we fix professional sports franchise names? An easy way is to look at teams that have cool names and use them as examples. As far as mascots go, I think the Los Angeles Lakers check off a lot of boxes. “Lakers” rolls off the tongue, it represents something specific about the history of the franchise and the cities in which they’ve played, and it’s wholly unique.

I also think the “Golden State” in the Golden State Warriors is a really nice touch, so why don’t more teams do something similar? Doesn’t the South Beach Heat sound way cooler than the Miami Heat? And if the Detroit Pistons became the Motor City Pistons, the reason behind their choice of “Pistons” becomes much clearer.

But why let the creativity stop there? Professional sports teams could have funny, punny names like fantasy sports teams. Why have the Oklahoma City Thunder play the Golden State Warriors when we could have the Oklahoma City F*** Durant play the Golden State Super Splash Bros? Why have the New York Knicks play the Cleveland Cavaliers when we could have the New York Porzingasm play the Cleveland All You Need Is [To Bench Kevin] Love? For too long, fans have lived and died with sports teams that put as much effort into naming their franchises as Marvel puts into coming up with original character arcs for their superheros. We deserve better.