Friday, April 11, 2008

Mulling the Playoffs: "Name That Team" Edition

Posted By on Fri, Apr 11, 2008 at 9:42 PM

by Alejandro de los Rios

OK, after much back and forth amongst commentators, basketball players and this blogger regarding the name of New Orleans' newly-beloved basketball team, I decided to take it upon myself to e-mail fans of other teams with similarly strangely named teams.

But before introducing today's panel, questions and answers, let's look at the history regarding the name "Hornets." Seeing as how the Hornets media guide has no official word on the origin of the name, I turned to Wikipedia which provided this historical morsel:

["Hornets" is] derived from the city's fierce resistance to British occupation during the Revolutionary War, which prompted Lord General Cornwallis to refer to it as "a veritable nest of hornets." The name had been used for Charlotte teams before; the city's minor league baseball teams had been called the Hornets from 1901 to 1972; and there was also a short-lived team in the short-lived World Football League.

Man, I love the internet. Also, as one of our panelists pointed, the team name came about through a name-the-team contest held in the Charlotte area. Strange then, that when the Hornets moved, they didn't hold a similar contest here. Oh well, onto the discussion. Our panel today: Wizards fan Unsilent Majority from Kissing Suzy Colber and Deadspin; Hornets fan Ron Hitley from Hornets247.com; and Raptors fan Ryan McNeill, editor at HoopsAddict.com.

As you may have guessed, the topic today is oddly-named teams. Having grown up in D.C., I know what it's like to have a completely apt name (the Bullets) and have it turned into a completely nonsensical name (the Wizards). And it was all thanks to today's Buzzword: Name-the-Team.

For the first question, I asked each blogger, in their own words, what the history behind their team was.

"Apparently the Hornets were going to be called the Charlotte Spirit when they came into the League in 1988, but then there was a name-the-team contest and the insect moniker was chosen. I think there's some non-basketball history with Charlotte and the name Hornets but I have no idea what it is. - Ron Hitley

"Irene Pollin felt uncomfortable with the violent imagery that went along with our beloved Bullets name, despite the team being named for speed rather than their ability to maim and/or kill. So now we're fucking Wizards." - Unsilent Majority

"The ownership group thought allowing fans the chance to vote on a team name would be a great way to drum up some interest in basketball in a hockey driven city. ... Then, thanks to the recent Jurassic Park craze at the time the majority of fans voted for Raptors and we were given a logo that resembled Barney with a nasty case of rabies." - Ryan McNeill

Notice a trend here? In all three instances, the fans were giving the chance to name the team, and that only resulted in names that either confuse or anger. Glad we're off on the right foot. But now we're on to the all-important second question: Has your team name in any way made you less of a fan?

"I'd probably wear more team gear if we still had the old color scheme, but that's about it." - UM

"Nope, but then I'm not from New Orleans. It seems that Hornets fans from this city haven't really formed a connection with the name, while fans from elsewhere have grown pretty attached to it." - Hitley

"No, I realize it's just a name and I don't really care what Toronto's team is called. However, when the primary colour was purple and our logo was a dinosaur I can say I didn't buy any merchandise. Now that the primary colour is red and the logo is a claw I have purchased some Raptors gear." - McNeill

So, so long as the colors and logo are cool, people will at least buy the merchandise. NBA marketing, take note. Then again, never having to deal with a horrid color scheme or embarrassing logo in the first place would be the ideal option, right? So I asked my panel, would you change your team's name, given the chance?

"The name is fine [Ed. note: GASP!]. The Hornets do need to tweak their colors and logo a little to connect better with New Orleans, and they appear to be in the early stages of that process as evidenced by the recent unveiling of the "Fleur de Bee" as their secondary logo." - Hitley

"The Bullets [Ed. note: Second]. Or maybe the Bloggers, just to piss off Mark Cuban." - UM

"I think a great name for Toronto's franchise would have been Huskies. The Huskies were founded in the Basketball Association of America's inaugural season of 1946-1947 and they hosted the first game in league history against the New York Knickerbockers (which the NBA now regards as its first game). What better way to acknowledge the start of the NBA by naming a Toronto franchise after Toronto' original franchise?" - McNeill (I'm going to counter that by saying: "Why would they do that? It only makes sense).

Really, it's all about compromise. After all, unless you live in Green Bay, the fans don't own the team. But fans do pay the players' salaries, is it wrong that they don't get more of a say?

"In the end it's the owner's team to do with as he (and/or his wife) chooses." - UM

"Fans should have a say if the decision is made to change the team's name. Public naming contests are a great idea. That generates a bunch of suggestions and local folks will always try keep the names relevant to the city." - Hitley

"I think more NBA teams shouldn't give fans a say in the name of the team. As I alluded to in my answer to the first question, I think when you give fans a say you end up getting time specific or lame names for a franchise." - McNeill

Oh, snap! We got ourselves some dissension. On the one hand, fans may have right to voice their opinion on their team's name. On the other hand, fans have had a long history of voting for lousy names. And, in the end, it's the owner's decision. Looks like this has been a long exercise to get to a depressing conclusion: if you don't like your team's name, deal with it. Or you could start a blog.

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