Sport Prophecy

by Eric Nelson

The Sports Prophecy has a thing for names. They aren’t any easier to forecast than game outcomes, but guessing what’s coming next happens pretty infrequently. And you have to admit nicknames are fun. Who didn’t want to learn more about the “Kraken” after reading the last installment of the prophecy?

Now comes a season of change because pro leagues have added some new teams — like the Kraken in hockey, and maybe eventually a pro basketball team in Seattle? — but more so for a society reckoning with the roots of some monikers that wouldn’t pass muster these days. The Washington Football Team seems content to sit on its generically named hands for a few seasons, the Cleveland Indians did away with some stereotypical imagery and now have promised to do the same for the team’s nickname itself. And high schools, at least in Washington State, are being asked to change mascots that are insensitive to indigenous communities.

So there’s plenty of coffee pot conversation to come about what makes more sense in our enlightened day and age. The Sports Prophecy is here to guide.

Looking for a new team name? Here are a few categories that can help set the stage:

1. Borrow some of history’s runners-up. Did you know the Philadelphia Phillies before 1900 were the Philadelphia Quakers? A Houston ballclub pre-1900 was called the Babies? The Miami Marlins were nearly christened — and what a whiff this was — the Florida Manatees? There’s a full sack of good names that just didn’t make the cut. Seattle Albatrosses, anyone? (That came from a fan suggestion that the ownership appealed for when the city’s first MLB franchise was awarded, though I’d imagine it was an early cut before the much more appropriate Pilots settled into Sicks Stadium.)

2. Look to the minor leagues. If you’ve missed this story, unsettling decisions are coming from Major League Baseball that have reduced the number of farm clubs around the country — which happens to be where all the best mascots are! The Lugnuts, Isotopes, Zephyrs, and Flying Squirrels! (Really. That one is real, named by the fun-loving fans in Richmond, Virginia.) If the bean counters are planning to cut any of these wacky mascots, let’s get them recycled and back into circulation quickly.

3. Just add more birds. There’s a reason several baseball teams flirted with being called the Blue Jays (the Philly Quakers were one, in fact) before Toronto nailed down the name. Birds are cool! We probably have met our quota for teams named Cardinals, but how about the Hummingbirds for an NFL team full of quick receivers? Woodpeckers for a team reliant on pitchers sawing off bats? Condors to represent the NBA’s lanky stretch forwards?

And if none of those suggestions work for your team, how about naming the team after the best player? This worked for Nap Lajoie’s ballclub from 1905 to 1909 — the Cleveland Naps! Now, if you don’t mind, I think I’ll stretch out on the couch and rest my eyes for a bit.