Saturday, January 28, 2012

Say My Name!

Let's be honest. The only grizzly bear within 500 miles from here is in the Memphis Zoo. And I'm sure there's some hip jazz bands in Provo, but no great Be-Bop giant ever came from Utah. So, the Utah Jazz should give New Orleans its team name back, only New Orleans is now using the old Charlotte nickname, the Hornets. Everyone knows that the Packers are in Green Bay, the Bears are in Chicago, and the Colts are in Baltimore. Only, they're not. We've got Cardinals in Arizona; Rams in St. Louis; and Colts in Indiana, and the names are all mismatched to the locale. Instead of franchises moving around, I propose a trade of a different sort. Let's have a one-day, giant name swap and return all sports team names to the places where they have meaning. Memphis would be better served known as the Kings; for MLK, B.B., and Elvis, only Sacramento is using that name. What king is from Sacramento? Larry King? Let's swap names. Memphis gets the Kings, and a grizzly bear is featured on the California state flag. Perfect.

It was a sad day in 1957 when two fabled New York baseball franchises packed up and split for the coast, leaving the palaces where Duke Snider and Willie Mays roamed the outfields as rubble for the  wrecking-ball. The Dodgers and Giants' move to California was, for many, the first generational lesson in hardball capitalism. It raised the question of what's more valuable; free enterprise or fan loyalty and trust. Still today, there are wounded men walking the boroughs of New York in tears, wearing faded, old baseball caps, mumbling, "what happened to my team?" The New York teams move west was the also the first example of corporate greed entering pro sports. But, when some greedy bastard sees greener pastures and decides to relocate a beloved sports franchise with emotional roots to a community, at least have the decency to change the name. Imagine Boston's hoops team moving to Salt Lake City and calling themselves the Utah Celtics. (Why is Boston the only place that pronounces it "sell-tics," instead of the correct, "kell-tics?"). Finding a Celt in Utah is as rare as finding a Mormon pimp. When the Washington Senators moved to Minnesota, they changed their name to the Twins. Since Indianapolis is not known for horses, give Baltimore their Colts back, retire the morbid name "Ravens," and rename the Indianapolis football team the Racers. It rhymes so well with Pacers.

Some regulations will be necessary. After all, we don't want the Baltimore Orioles returning to St. Louis to become the Brown Stockings. So some locations get to remain as they are. The Milwaukee Brewers now have a descriptive name preferable to their old one. Atlanta has no business, however, naming their baseball club the "Braves" when their stadium sits on what once was Indian territory. So, Atlanta must drop the "tomahawk chop," and return to the team name they used until the early 60s, the "Crackers." In football, St. Louis gets to reclaim their Cardinals from Arizona. Only they must first return the name "Rams" to Los Angeles, so that city can have their team back. Arizona is then free to choose a new moniker. Since their governor is Jan Brewer, I recommend "the Haints." But, the Rattlers would fit well with the baseball Diamondbacks. "The Haints," however, might go well with the New Orleans Saints.  But "Jazz" is synonymous with the Crescent City, so return the name to its proper place and then Utah can become the "White Polygamists." It's sort of like the Crimson Tide, only kinkier. Finally, give the Lakers back to Minnesota and retire the silly Timberwolves name. L.A can become the "Stars," like they were in the old ABA. Charlotte can then reclaim their Hornets from New Orleans and put the Bobcat mascot in play. Maybe Utah has bobcats. When fans get back their traditional mascots, everyone will be happy, and there's nothing so pliable as a happy customer next time they decide to raise ticket prices.

It's curious that some of the most durable teams are located in the most economically distressed areas. That's because they have owners with a stake in the community that understand the value of long-time fan loyalty. The Rooney family has owned the Pittsburgh Steelers since the leagues' inception. Founder Dan was known for his generosity, and son Art developed the "Rooney Rule," which says any NFL team with a coaching or managerial vacancy must interview a minority candidate. "Papa Bear" George Halas both coached for and owned the Chicago Bears. Born in Chicago, Halas was noted for his philanthropy. The Packers have the only publicly owned franchise in pro sports, with over 100,000 Green Bay fans holding stock in the team. When the Packers leap into the stands after a touchdown, they're just saying "hello" to the boss. But corporate money has corrupted sports. Where teams once played their games in Veterans Stadium, the Polo Grounds, and Soldier Field; they're now in Qualcomm Park, MetLife Stadium, and Bank of America Stadium. Corporations are so fond of splashing their name on every sports edifice in the nation, here's a thought: spend some of that tax-exempt cash putting your names on hospitals, schools and colleges, rather than just college bowl games.

Finally, a word to the Grizzlies front office. I've said this before but in vain, so permit me to say this once again, only louder. LISTEN TO ME! You are wasting a unique opportunity to promote Memphis' most famous export; music. The formulaic techno music used throughout the league is not inspiring, it's annoying. Imagine the excitement if the team enters the arena to the sound of the Bar Kays' "Soulfinger." Rather than "We Will Rock You," picture the crowds' response to the opening two chords of "Jailhouse Rock." And, after a Grizzlies rally, the audience might enjoy a bit of Jerry Lee Lewis' "Whole Lotta' Shakin' Going On." You have everyone from Carl Perkins to Three 6 Mafia to choose from. I'm not fishing for a job here. If you throw a rock in this town, chances are it will come down and hit a music expert. So, pick your consultant, but be bold and plant your own flag. In the words of celebrated philosopher Sam the Sham, "let's not be L-7," and be just another follower of the formula. Sam Phillips once said, "If you're not doing something different, then you're not doing anything." You Grizzlies execs aren't in Vancouver anymore. You're in the town of visionaries like Sam Phillips of Sun Records, and Dewey Phillips, the free-spirited disc jockey immortalized in "Memphis, the Musical." So, like the man said, "let's get hot, or go home!"

9 comments:

Hans Faulhaber said...

I love your commentary Randy. It's humorous, factual and timely. I am not a real big sports fan but I totally understand what you have written and agree with it all, especially about the Grizzlies; a team name whose relevance I have often wondered about. Stay well my friend.

billy wicks said...

FANTASTIC RANDY..TERRIFIC...

Anonymous said...

Cities should have proective covenants to prevent the high-jacking of their teams names. Totally agree with you. A most engaging article.

Randolph Haspel said...

Thank you all. It's always good to have Billy Wicks in your corner.

Cary Wolfson said...

How 'bout the Memphis Suns (in honor of Sam Phillips)? Which would leave us with the Phoenix ... what? Slow-driving Old Farts?

John McLallen said...

Randy, I have always felt that about the team names and it was cool of the NFL keeping the Browns name and records in Cleveland where they belonged.

John McLallen said...

Let me add that I like your choice of playing "Soul Finger" at the games. It would be an excellent song that would get everyone going. It gets me going anytime and anywhere I hear it!

Anonymous said...

Sput never misses an opportunity to bash free-market capitalism. Hey! Hey! Whoa! Whoa! Western civ has got to go!!

Anonymous said...

This is in reference to a comment made on the last commentary. Someone mentioned health care rationing for the elderly and many on the Left do not believe that this will happen. There was a segment tonight on the news concerning the surprises that are continually being found in the Obama health care bill. Here is the latest. Beginning this October all hospitals who are deemed to over-spend on people who are 65 or older will be financially penalized. If hospitals are penalized for treating those over 65, then services to this group will be curtailed. Sounds like the beginnings of rationing to me. Good luck, old farts.