September 27, 2023

What’s In A Name? – Evidently Everything! by Brendon Marks

West Side Story

I saw a recent newspaper headline that blared, “Cardinals Come From Behind to Beat Eagles.” I just had to investigate, because with my admittedly limited knowledge of birds, even if the cardinals did attack from behind, I would have put my money on the eagles. Then I realized the headline was referring to a football game.

Why do we have to name our sports teams? I realize that being called the Phoenix or Philadelphia Footballers might not have much popular appeal, but why the Cardinals? Or for that matter, why the Eagles–or anything? Even though there are cardinals and diamondbacks in Arizona,

I’ll bet eagles or flyers in Philadelphia, pirates in Pittsburgh, buccaneers in Tampa Bay, or cubs in Chicago are pretty scarce.
If the intent is to strike fear in the heart of your opponent, is “The Cardinals” going to do it? Only if your opponent’s name is the “Sunflower Seeds.”

The “Giants” might evoke some trepidation, except we all know there is no such thing as a giant, but there could be, and some of the guys on the team are pretty big.

And then we have the  “Jets.” Aren’t they the gang in “West Side Story” that spontaneously broke into song and dance whenever they got into a tense situation? “Oh, third down and twenty-six? Time for a rousing rendition of ‘I can see clearly now, the end zone is in sight.’”
Baseball is no different–who would be intimidated by a Diamondback while carrying a bag full of three-foot wooden bats? In this case, “Beavers” would be more of a threat.

Some of the names make no sense at all. It’s possible they did at one time, but just what exactly is a “Brown,” as in Cleveland Browns, a “Red” as in Cincinnati Reds, or a “knickerbocker”? And just exactly which one of the New York Knicks is a descendant of the early Dutch settlers in New York? I’m also told that the Romans had “Reds” and “Blues,” but I don’t know if that was before or after the competition. And by the way, how did the Reds ever survive the McCarthy era?

It goes without saying that a lot of the names do not accurately represent what the team members actually are. For example, a member of the Dallas Cowboys could really be a cowboy, but we all know there are no dolphins on the Miami team. And if there were, they would be pretty ineffective on a football field.

(Almost like a fish out of water.) Also naming a team by the color of their socks only makes sense if a) all players are required to wear the short pants that show off their socks and b) no other team can wear that color sock.

We also apparently have more teams than we have usable names. That’s the only reason I can think of why we have the baseball Giants and the football Giants, the baseball Cardinals and the football Cardinals. And it was even worse when each pair was located in the same city, I hear.
Some team names include the state, others the city and at least one team the geographic region. The New York Yankees and the New York Mets both are located in New York, but the Giants and the Jets play in New Jersey. The Los Angeles Dodgers are from Los Angeles, but the Los Angeles Angels are from Anaheim, however, those names do make sense, because with the traffic out there, you’re either a dodger or an angel.

This lack of standardization is all very confusing and I’m sure has an impact on fan support. I think we should scrap all names that cannot be justified and force the team to adopt a new appropriate name or a name that has no other meaning, such as the Seattle Skahoolies or Phoenix Feedandles.

When a team moves, their name is left behind, no more of the Brooklyn Dodgers playing out of Los Angeles or the Milwaukee (or Boston) Braves in Atlanta.

Once we get this all straightened out we can avoid those confusing headlines, like “Rockets Fizzle in Miami Heat,” or “Texas Rangers Climb Colorado Rockies.”


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