Letter Z holds proud history in Utah sports
June, 18, 2012
By Matt Lindner | Special to ESPN.com
Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE/Getty ImagesDerrick Favors, Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap represent the Jazz, who started the "Z" craze in Utah.Utah’s official state motto is simply “Industry,” but it could just as easily be “Where professional sports teams go to get their Z's.”
“An S is too soft,” said Jeff Katofsky, owner of the Orem Owlz minor league baseball team. “S’s are for wimps.”
The Owlz, the rookie league affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels and the only team in all of minor league baseball with a nickname ending in Z, are at least the 11th professional sports team in our nation’s 45th state to prominently feature our alphabet’s 26th letter.
From the prominent (the NBA’s Jazz) to the obscure (the short-lived Utah Freezz of the World Indoor Soccer League), Utah teams and their fans seemingly can’t get enough Z's.
“It’s a local flavor thing,” Katofsky said. “You’ve gotta be in the club to understand it.”
From a branding perspective, Katofsky said his decision to deliberately misspell the team’s name when he bought and subsequently rebranded the team nearly a decade ago has made aesthetic sense.
“If you look at the name across our jersey, there’s a sharper edge to everything we do,” he said. “Z makes great logos. It’s such a great logo when you’re making products.”
It’s also great for naming mascots, apparently.
The Owlz decided to stick with the theme when naming theirs, an owl named ... wait for it ... Hootz. So is Katofsky concerned about the potential negative impact the desire to be different is having on the spelling skills of Utah children?
Not at all, he says. Sports, much like life, are better off not being taken seriously.
“Minor league baseball is a white canvas, and I’m the one with all the crayons in the box,” Katofsky said. “If you can’t make minor league baseball fun, you shouldn’t be in it.”
Roll call of Utah Z teams:
- Utah Blaze (arena football)
- Utah Blitz (women's football -- now defunct)
- Utah Blitzz (pro soccer -- defunct)
- Salt Lake Buzz (Triple-A baseball -- now known as Salt Lake Bees)
- Utah Catzz (pro indoor football -- defunct)
- Utah Freezz (pro indoor soccer -- defunct)
- Utah Grizzlies (AHL)
- Utah Grizzlies (ECHL)
- Utah Jazz (NBA)
- Orem Owlz (Rookie League baseball)
- Zion/St. George Pioneerzz (independent baseball -- defunct)
- Utah Starzz (WNBA -- defunct)