You'd think the Super Bowl and the end of the football season would have put the talk of sports to rest around here--or at least turned it to basketball--but no, my boys are as fanatical as ever in wanting to discuss every statistic and passing yard.
However, the other day we got into my favorite sports discussion yet--worst team names. We had a great time compiling our favorites and feel free to add to the pot. I'm listing them by category.
I know I missed some obvious ones--the Lakers and Jazz for example--which seem odd and out of place but back when the teams were formed their names made more sense so I left them alone. I would like to know how the Celtics came to have a corner on the market for pronouncing "Celtic" with a /s/ rather than a /k/ sound. How did they happen to leverage that one I ask? It sounds better with a /k/ that's for sure.
1. Outdated Team Names. If you went to Southern Arkansas University wouldn't you be a little embarrassed to tell people you were the mighty Muleriders? Purdue may be cool and hip down south in Louisiana but calling themselves the Boilermakers really nullifies their edge you know? Though I'll give them credit for making the most of the situation with their logo. It's kind of like naming a team "The Montgomery Milliners" or "The Columbia Coopers."
Pardon my ignorance but it would seem that if you really wanted to strike fear in the opposition you would shy away from things that aren't exactly an economic force anymore or things that got down-sized. If you're looking for a professional mascot that scares people into submission what about the Wall Street Raiders? Or the Lawyers? Now THOSE are scary.
2. Extinct Team Names. Speaking of outdated mascots you can't get anymore outdated than the Toronto Raptors--which is of course short for Velociraptors--apparently they're trying to look hip and "with it" by shortening things.
While I can appreciate that a mascot that can rip you open with its saber-like claws and eat you up while you're still wriggling is truly terrifying they're kind of missing the fact that these guys are extinct. As in gone. No longer living or thriving. Pushing up daisies. Deceased. Kind of hard to be a threat on the court when you've been taken out of the game by something as small as natural selection.
3. Overly Patriotic Team Names. There are a slew of these guys and none of them make much sense. The Washington Senators? Besides the fact that senators really aren't that threatening (unless we're talking Ted Kennedy who is quite horrific) they're not exactly known for being team players now are they? Could you possibly find a mascot less likely to encourage teammates to work well together?
Or what about the Franklin and Marshall College Diplomats? Hmmm . . . diplomats . . . known for peace and negotiation? Not exactly fearsome.
The plain ol' Patriots are okay, just because patriotism brings in images of fighting and strength and intense pride but the Washington Capitals?? Washington Nationals?? What is it with poor, sad little Washington D.C.? It's supposed to be where the greatest minds of the country gather to forge alliances, write policy and find solutions to our problems but apparently they're not quite creative enough to come up with mascots better than these.
4. Uninspired Team Names. Speaking of a lack of creativity, the Houston Texans have become the running joke around here. Good logo, bad team name. Don't you kind of wish you could have seen the list of possible mascots that they had going around before they figured that it didn't matter anyway that they might as well just stick with the "Texans" and play it safe?
Wouldn't want to get too crazy and call themselves the Houston Tornadoes or anything. Or maybe it was just that the Rangers, Astros and Cowboys took all the good names so they gave up hope. Too bad the Oilers moved because that was a sweet name. But whatever the reason, the general implication is that if the team is too lazy to even come up with a good team name then how much of an opposition could they possibly provide on the field?
The same goes for the Montreal Canadiens. Just in case we forget where Montreal is (though now that I think of it maybe it reflects the Quebeçois' opinion of our American geographic skills).
I guess it's all about the spelling--if they spell it the French way then it gets in a little dig for all those Francophones in the province. Kind of a little "Ha ha! We may have to submit to living in a country that speaks mostly English but we're going to thumb our nearly-French noses at you by naming our team a French name." It's all politics.
5. "Huh?" Team Names. Can anyone enlighten me as to what exactly a Nittany Lion is (Penn State)? It appears to me to be suspiciously like the gourmet version of a plain old cougar or panther or something. Or how about a Hoya (Georgetown)? Or even a Sooner (Oklahoma University) or a Hoosier (Indiana University)? I mean I know it's supposed to be a person from Indiana but that really doesn't answer my question.
I guess it sounds slightly cool to have a mascot that nobody comprehends--as if you had this secret lingo that no one in the rest of the country understands--but let's be honest, if the rest of the country doesn't really get what you're trying to say they're just going to snicker. Unless of course you beat them soundly. Then they probably won't snicker. Not likely.
6. Impossible Team Names. And taking this a step further are the mascots that came straight from Harry Potter. The University of Vermont Catamounts . . . the Lubbock Christian University Chaparrals . . . the Sarah Lawrence College Gryphons . . . the Williams College Ephs. Anyone know how to pronounce these guys let alone define them? Maybe that's the point. "We're the team that is beyond definition, man. Beyond the boundaries of mere language. You'll never master us."
7. Overly Religious Team Names. While I love the suggestion that if you have a religious mascot you have Divine powers backing you it does make one smile. What if the Oklahoma Baptist College Prophets met the Johnson Bible College Evangels on the court? Who would get the stamp of godly approval? Who would triumph? I'm not sure American Protestantism is prepared to deal with such conundrums.
And then I have to wonder. Why is it that the San Diego Padres can get my "Yea!" while the Eugene Bible College Deacons or the Center College Praying Colonels crack me up? Makes me wonder about when exactly it is that the colonels are praying and if it gets in the way of scoring goals.
8. Team Names That Are Just Plain Wrong. I'm sorry but the University of Idaho Vandals crossed that fine line between acceptable and the foul side of the law. I'm okay with Bears, Cougars, Hurricanes and threats of violence from random mammals or natural disasters but last time I checked vandalism really wasn't something to be encouraged. What next? The Tarrytown Terrorists? The Sacramento Suicide Bombers? The Carlsbad Carjackers? Or how about the Pasadena Pedophiles? That's got to have the scare market totally dominated.
Really people isn't there a line there somewhere? Nothing says "team spirit" like some good old-fashioned wanton destruction of property.
9."It's All about Me" Team Names . I love it that the Yale Elis decided to name themselves . . . after themselves. Was it Mr. Eli Yale that decided that the mascot should be himself? Or was it one of his progeny? Come on, there HAD to be something better. If nothing else isn't it a little uncomfortable when their stuffed mascot comes out and it's an old guy with glasses? It would be like the United States' bald eagle being replaced by a "Georgie" after George Washington. Feels . . . I dunno . . . rather diva-ish. And silly.
10. Fashionistas. I'm not sure how it happened that colors became mascots. Where along the line did someone say, "Sure a hawk is full of majesty and respect and power but let's stick to the pretty stuff and call ourselves the Cincinnati Reds." Ditto for the Cleveland Browns only it's not so pretty. Maybe it's an Ohio thing--I'm not sure.
11. Sweet Team Names. Oh my lands, there are so many in this category it's hard to name them all. We'll start with the biggies: The Oregon Ducks (or Beavers, take your pick) or the Pittsburg Penguins then move along to the Mary Baldwin Squirrels, the Hampshire College Frogs, the Goucher College Gophers, then finish with the cutest mascot ever which would be the Columbia College Koalas. They receive points not only for the cuddle factor but for alliteration (I don't think inserting the word "fighting" in there really helps the image much. We're still talking cute little fuzzy koala bears here right?)
Maybe these institutions just assume that the adorable factor will help their teams skip along to victory, maybe they think that it's more important to be loved than feared. Who knows? But I have to hand it to them, all they need is a princess or two and maybe if money gets tight they can sell the rights and become a Disney franchise. Oops! Sorry--I guess Oregon already has, judging from their logo.
12. Funniest Team Name. What is it about using Australian animals for U.S. schools? What is it about Ohio? At any rate, as a finale the award for this one goes to the University of Akron Zips. Just because anyone brave enough to name themselves the Zips is so open-minded, so culturally bold, so enlightened that they deserve something out of it all. Or maybe it's just a case of product placement--remember those shoes from the 70s? Zips? Maybe they're really a Nike subsidiary in disguise.
Updated to add: (giggle) OOPS! It's silly but I always get Tulane and Purdue mixed up. I have no idea why, they're completely unrelated but there it is--my twisted mind for all the world to see!
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