BY PETER DAHL
With all the controversy surrounding professional sports franchises named after American Indians, particularly the Redskins, I thought we might consider changing a few other names for less serious reasons than possible allusions to racism and genocide. There are plenty of names that I think could be significantly improved, but here are five that I think are setting the bar for moniker malfunction.
Utah Jazz: Geographically relevant team names, like Jazz, are some of the best in sports. Here is the catch: they have to actually be geographically relevant. So when they were the New Orleans Jazz they possessed one of the best names in sports, but the move to Utah completely and totally negated any significance of the team name. Fortunately for Jazz purists, finding a name that actually suits a team in Utah is fairly difficult, and any new name would have to be generic. However, the irrelevance of their team name is dwarfed by the fact that Salt Lake City was (correctly) deemed a better market for an NBA team than New Orleans.
New Orleans Pelicans: New Orleans got a professional team again when the Charlotte Hornets moved to NOLA. In 2012, with new ownership and a chance to rebrand, the Hornets decided to change their name. With Jazz no longer an option, they still had plenty of ideas to choose from. Unfortunately, they went with Pelicans. Yes, the pelican is the Louisiana state bird, but here are some rules about geographically relevant names: they should not be totally ridiculous, and if they are totally ridiculous they cannot be represented by fearsome and/or terrifying logos and mascots. (The name Hornets has now returned to Charlotte after the expansion franchise took the name of Bobcats for its first decade of existence).
Arizona Cardinals: This was a bad idea when the team began in 1898 in Chicago, got worse when they moved to St. Louis in 1960 (so the city had two teams named after non-raptor aviaries) and stayed bad when they moved to Arizona in 1988. There is little reason to hold on to this name other than the fact that the franchise has held that name throughout its history (the longest continual existence in football). I will concede that is a solid reason, but remember that it has not exactly been a proud history.
Winnipeg Jets: When the Atlanta hockey franchise moved to Winnipeg they got a chance to improve upon the name Thrashers, a name that really belongs in the second division of Arena Football. They went with Jets, which the city’s AHL team had used in the 1970s. Jets is a questionable choice in Winnipeg, New York, or the west side, especially in this day and age when our culture is making such a move away from violent symbols. And, if what “jets” referred to are passenger airliners and not deadly instruments of war and mass destruction, it becomes one of the most uninteresting names imaginable.
Tampa Bay Rays: Tampa dropped “devil” from their name and became the Rays in 2007, making a move from an indisputably cool and geographically relevant animal to a nonsensical name of nothing. Rays does not mean anything. It should be a nickname, like A’s or O’s. Rays would have made some sense if they kept the stingray creature in their logo, but there is no trace of the animal that has been hastily dismissed since one of them decided to kill the Crocodile Hunter. Tampa should have kept the name Devil Rays or changed to Manta Rays.