From Maumees to Flying Dutchmen to ninjas
With a last name of Cropp, I consider myself an authoritative figure on what constitutes a good nickname.
Since childhood, I’ve heard plenty of takeoffs on my surname, from crop circles to helicropter to not-so-printable names. So it is with this analytical mind that I have been taking sports teams to task recently.
If you take a look at the all the nicknames, there are plenty of unequivocally awesome ones, like the Cleveland Infants (a baseball team in the Players National League back in 1890), along with the not-so-racially sensitive names, like the Washington Redskins.
On a whole, they really knew what they were doing back in the day. Who wouldn’t have wanted to play for the Toledo Maumees (American Association baseball league), Springfield Sallies (All-American Girls Professional Baseball League) or Providence Steamrollers (National Basketball Association)?
As was tradition, many names were geographically related, but when clubs picked up and moved, the names held as much truth as those like The Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea. I’m sorry, but when I think of Los Angeles, I just don’t picture Lakes, and Utah isn’t the land of Jazz.
In some cases, where the old name just wouldn’t cut it, the franchise opted for a new name, like when the Quebec Nordiques left Canada and came to Colorado. This is logical, and could have worked out well, like in the case of the Montreal Expos, who are now the Washington Nationals. But the Colorado hockey team (the Avalanche) adopted the name of a natural disaster ” one of the biggest faux pas in nameology (now a word, much like strategery).
You may think your team is big and scary with a name like the Chicago Fire or Carolina Hurricane, but imagine how the name looks to those totally unfamiliar with the sport. The Carolina Hurricane aren’t quite as well-known as Hurricane Katrina. While I’m sure the Iowa State didn’t have any malicious intent when it named its team the cyclones, I find it somewhat absurd that a team models itself after a force that may end up killing more than 100,000 people in Myanmar. Last time I checked, there aren’t any teams called the Bubonic Plague.
Certain teams have names that make a lot of sense, are historically accurate and even sound good, like the Denver Broncos. But there are some franchises that seem to flip through the dictionary and look for a noun, like the New Haven Ninjas (formerly of the afl2, the Arena Football League’s development league). Hey, at least the team is a noun and not an adjective, like the Minnesota Wild. But I’m kind of OK with the Wild ” at least it’s not a corporate sponsor.
I thought it was a little much when stadiums had to change their names when there were corporate mergers, but then along came the New York Red Bulls (shortly after the company bought the rights to an Austrian soccer team). Before it gets more absurd, just stop. I don’t want to see the Columbus Crunk!!! Energy Drink, or the Kansas City Head On, Apply Directly to the Forehead’s. And even Bob Dole may not do the wave for the Charlotte Viagra.
Moving on to the college ranks, you can find an abundance of the “Roughriders’ dilemma” ” a case where more than one team has the same nickname, which happened in the Canadian Football League where the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Ottawa Rough Riders coexisted for decades. With thousands of college athletics programs, though, repetition is admissible. What isn’t, however, is when a team is just a color. If you are going to be a color, please add a noun, unlike the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Blugolds, Wellesley College Blue, Millikin University Big Blue or Dartmouth Big Green.
You team shouldn’t sound like it’s jargon from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, like the McDaniel College Green Terror. And settle for something simple like the Dutchman (Union) when you can be the Flying Dutchman (Hofstra University, Hope College and Lebanon Valley College)?
I know some teams don’t want to sound mean like the Blackburn College Battlin’ Beavers or the Indiana University-Purdue Unversity-Fort Wayne Mastodons, but don’t get too cute, like the University of Central Arkansas Sugar Bears or the Ozark Christian College Ambassadors.
If you can’t be a mean something mean or mainstream, be something absurd, like the Whittier College Poets (after all, the pen is mightier than the sword), the Centre College Praying Colonels (is this a Mad Libs creation?), the Crown College Purple Storm (they decided against Soylent Green), the Oglethorpe University Stormy Petrels (terrible pets, trust me from experience) or the Southwestern College Moundbuilders (I think the University of Albany Great Danes took their advice in my backyard).
When all else fails, just cheer on the University of Rhode Island hockey team: the Nads. Go Nads, go.
Sports Writer Ian Cropp actually played for the Nads. He can be reached at 748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.