Monday, June 26

On the naming of Sports Teams

I know someone who simply cannot grasp the modern naming style of certain sports teams. Oilers, Hurricanes, Penguins, even Maple Leafs she can understand - on these teams such as these, each player is a single "senator," a "knickerbocker," or perhaps a "Red Sock." The team is therefore collectively called the Giants or the Jets or the Argonauts or what have you.

But these basketball team names really confuse her. The Miami Heat? Heat is singular! How can many players form a team called a "heat?" What is a "heat" anyway? Same thing with the Utah Jazz or the Orlando Magic. These teams should be called the Miami Heat Sources or the Orlando Magicians or the Utah... uh, Jazz Musicians.

These modern-sounding American-style names really confuse foreign ears too. When Major League Soccer was founded in the United States back in 1993, many of the teams had wacky names such as the Kansas City Wiz (later the Wizards) or the San Jose Clash (later the Earthquakes). According to the Wiki article, these name changes occured to lure more traditional-minded Hispanic soccer fans to the league. Witness the Dallas Burn (hunh?), which became FC Dallas in 2005. FC stands for Futb├│l Club, a naming convention popular among many Latin and European teams.

Letting the popular masses name a sports team may not always be a good idea. The Toronto Raptors started their first season in 1995, but well before that, the organization held a contest within the city to name the new NBA expansion team. Jurassic Park was the movie-du-jour at the time, so instead of receving a name that reflected Toronto's rich botanical or avian diversity (as its hockey and baseball teams respectively do), the basketball team was named after a species of dinosaur popularized in a Michael Crichton adaptation.

I guess it's all for the best. You can guess what the Toronto Raptors would be called if they had been founded this year: The "Toronto Snakes on a Plane." I can just picture the logo.

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