What’s In A Name? (Sports Edition)

And now for something a little more frivelous.

Some people have never really figured out the perfectly simple concept behind naming a sports team. The idea was, in the beginning, anyway, to give your particular team, whatever sport you’re doing, a somewhat ominous name to scare the crap out of your opponents for the purpose of giving your team a bit of a psychological edge. For example, would you rather be facing, and I’m making these team names up (I think) the Frankfurt Forest Faries or the Oppenheim Ogres? Faries – generally not scary. Ogres – rather scary. Simple concept, right?

Some sports, on the professional level, never knew this, or, at the very least, didn’t get it. Back in the beginnings of Major League Baseball, for example, “Indians” were considered a threat to American life, thus scary, and, if you think about it, that’s almost a respectful concept for a team name. I know what was done to the Native Americans was horrific and wrong on a great many levels and that it is not even close to a politically correct name now, but at the time, it made sense with the concept as it should be. Incidentally, in today’s game, the Cleveland team has removed all imagry associated with that name. The Boston Braves, where the Atlanta team came from via Milwaukee, same concept, although not as effective. “Oh look! The children are attacking!” In the NFL, there’s that team in Washington DC that has no clue about this concept and has done it in a very disrespectful manner to the point that they don’t even get their name mentioned here. Unlike the NHL team the Chicago Blackhawks or NCAA Florida Seminoles, both of which are tribal names and I think handled respectfully, similar to the Apache Helicopter. I think those are meant respectfully, but, all of these are changable things.

I just wanted to get that bit out of the way. Those cities had the right idea… ish, but others really didn’t. For example, the Toronto Blue Jays, who have an incredible base for a great young team and I love your city (you gave us Rush, for which I am eternally grateful), but put them together with the Baltimore Orioles and St. Louis Cardinals and you have the makings of an Alfred Hitchcock scare concept, but unless those teams are playing together, somehow, against someone else who has just seen the movie, it doesn’t work, does it? Look out! It’s a … Blue Jay. Doesn’t really strike fear into the hearts of much of anyone. Maybe you could take the religious aspect of the Cardinals? I think that’s what they did in San Diego with the Padres. “Run! It’s the clergy!” I try to avoid the clergy myself, but that’s a different story.

(Don’t take the religion thing too lightly in sports though. The Tampa Bay baseball team used to be called the Devil Rays, and they were horrible! The dropped the Devil part of the name, just called Rays now, and they’re usually a pretty good team. Not that I think the name had anything to do with it, but there we go.)

Detroit is one of the few cities that seems to have gotten it mostly correct. They have the Lions and Tigers (NFL and MLB respectively) but fall down a bit on Hockey with Red Wings and Basketball with the Pistons. Neither are particularly scary. Seattle goes for a sea motif with the Mariners (MLB) and Seahawks (NFL), both of which work… kinda. Nashville, of all places, nailed it with their two top-level pro teams, the Titans (NFL) and Predators (NHL). Make it the Sexual Predators and you’ll scare enough people away that no one will come to the games. I’m kidding. Don’t do that. They do have one of the best sports logos, though.

I wasn’t kidding, was I? That’s a beautiful logo and a great name for a sports team!
© NHL and Nashville Predators

New York, weirdly, doesn’t seem to have this concept in mind anymore. Originally, they had the Giants (still do in football but don’t use any imagry), which works on that Ogres idea from above. But they also had the Dodgers, which sounds more avoid the enemy rather than crush them, to me. In other sports, they have the Jets (maybe), Nets (no), Islanders (Seattle-like but not really), Rangers (closer), and, of course, the Yankees and Mets. Yankees, maybe because they were named so close after the U.S. civil war had just ended and Yankees were the good guys and victors in that. Mets… really? One of my favorite sports commercials is for WGN, the Chicago TV Station at the time, starring Dennis Franz, in his pre-NYPD Blue days, who would make fun of the incoming teams. For the New York team, he put down the newspaper he was reading, looked at the camera and said, “What the hell is a Met?”, picked up the paper and continued reading. That was it. It was beautiful.

I bring this up, because, in the news recently, there was a tragedy for a minor league baseball team involving multiple murders. That’s not the funny bit. That’s truly horrible and I express my condolences to all involved. No, this was the silver lining, in my mind, to the story. I read the name of the team involved a few times because it was so truly laughable that it couldn’t possibly be right? Could it? I think I may have found the worst possible offender of this whole team name concept.

So, with no further ado, I give to you, the loyal reader, the worst name in the history of sports teams. The least scary idea of them all. The Tampa Bay Rays AAA Affiliate, from Montgomery, Alabama. I give you, the truly terrifying, Montgomery Biscuits. I really wish, I were making that up.


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