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This story appears in ESPN The Magazine's Sept. 30 Franchise Issue. Subscribe today!
The Tampa Bay Rays play in a dome -- there are no rays of sunshine beating down on fans' heads.
This story appears in ESPN The Magazine's Sept. 30 Franchise Issue. Subscribe today!
WHETHER LUDICROUS legacies from long-ago cities (we're looking at you, Utah Jazz) or massive marketing fails (Raptors ... really?!?), some franchise names make as much sense as, well, grizzly bears in Memphis.
So we've orchestrated the world's largest 18-team trade, sending rightful monikers back where they belong. Sound nuts? Hardly more nuts than "lakes" in L.A. Let the trading begin!
IN: SAN JOSE BLADES (NHL) We begin our epic journey with a little-known fact: In 1991, a fan vote was held to name San Jose's NHL team. The winner: Blades. Because, you know, skates have blades. No fighting that logic! Team owners, though, fearing gang connotations, opted instead for "sharks" -- which is fine, except there are no sharks in San Jose, a city about 40 miles from the Pacific. So let's begin by righting that wrong and herding those Sharks from the NHL to the NBA and down the coast ... OUT: SAN JOSE SHARKS (NHL)
IN: LOS ANGELES SHARKS (NBA) ... to LA! Indeed, as we all know from watching Baywatch, there are sharks off LA's beaches. What there are not are a whole lot of lakes -- it's a veritable concrete wasteland! Thus, we'll divert the Lakers back to Minnesota. OUT: LOS ANGELES LAKERS (NBA)
IN: MINNESOTA LAKERS (NBA) Yes, Minnesota! Land of 10,000 Lakes! What's wrong must be made right! And although the current name isn't technically a fail -- there are more timber wolves in Minnesota than in any other of the lower 48 -- there are, in fact, far more in and around Western Canada. OUT: MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES (NBA)
IN: VANCOUVER TIMBERWOLVES (NHL) Indeed, Western Canada is the primary stomping ground of the little jackals. And, in turn, migrating the Wolves there frees up the Canuck name, which is as generic as calling a U.S. sports team the Americans. OUT: VANCOUVER CANUCKS (NHL)
IN: TORONTO CANUCKS (NBA) So where, oh where, should we move the Canucks? Perhaps to the city with more Canucks (2.8 million of them) than any other town in Canada? So many Canucks in Toronto. No velociraptors. So why was the NBA team named Raptors in 1994? Well, kinda because of the popularity of the 1993 movie Jurassic Park. True story. Lame story. OUT: TORONTO RAPTORS (NBA)
|Pelicans now exist in California in abundance.|
IN: UTAH RAPTORS (NBA) There is, however, a state that's sick with raptor bones, where vacationing families routinely stumble across historic fossil finds. That place is Utah. Hell, there is an actual dinosaur named the Utahraptor. Utah has raptors! What it does not have is an abundance of jazz. There might, in fact, be a jazz bar in Salt Lake City -- but it sure as hell ain't Preservation Hall. OUT: UTAH JAZZ (NBA)
IN: NEW ORLEANS JAZZ (NBA) And so it is that the name Jazz -- after a senseless relocation 34 years ago -- returns to the city in which the music is actually performed on a regular basis. Which means the Pelicans can be forcibly migrated from New Orleans -- where they only recently escaped the endangered species list. OUT: NEW ORLEANS PELICANS (NBA)
IN: LOS ANGELES PELICANS (NBA) And we'll fly them all, instead, to Cali, where pelicans now exist in abundance, in estuaries and in the form of lawn ornaments. What does not exist in abundance in LA -- whose maritime museum basically consists of a tugboat -- are tall, masted sailing ships. OUT: LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (NBA)
IN: SAN DIEGO CLIPPERS (NFL) Where do you find such ships? San Di-aaago, with an actual maritime tradition and a world-class maritime museum that houses the world's oldest active sailing ship. What it no longer has? An NBA team. Thus, the NFL team inherits the Clippers name because, little-known story: In 1960, Barron Hilton (team owner and grandpappy of Paris Hilton) named his football team the Chargers because his GM liked the "Charge!" bugle cry played at the LA Coliseum. OUT: SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (NFL)
IN: LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (MLB) Thus, we send that battle cry back to LA but hand it to the baseball team, since the Dodgers moniker was, of course, dragged to LA in 1958 because owner Walter O'Malley was the original troll. And he also apparently forgot that his team was named for the pedestrians who used to dodge (get it?) the trolley cars that roamed the streets of Brooklyn. OUT: LOS ANGELES DODGERS (MLB)
IN: BROOKLYN DODGERS (NBA) And so the name returns to those mean streets. Only it also jumps to the NBA, as there's only one team in Brooklyn today and that team plays basketball. Thus, the generic Nets moniker is displaced, both because it's a New Jersey hand-me-down and also: Try finding a net on a single outdoor hoops court in Brooklyn. OUT: BROOKLYN NETS (NBA)
IN: NEW YORK NETS (NHL) There are, however, nets in hockey. There are not, however, Rangers in Manhattan. Nor have there ever been. Another little-known story: When, in 1926, Madison Square Garden president G.I. "Tex" Rickard was awarded a hockey team, local media dubbed them "Tex's Rangers." Inexplicably, it stuck. It sticks no more. OUT: NEW YORK RANGERS (NHL)
IN: PITTSBURGH ALLEGHENYS (MLB) Yes, those darn media. They get so carried away. As they also did in 1891 in helping to bring about the demise of the original moniker of Pittsburgh's baseball team -- the Alleghenys! -- so named for the river that runs past PNC Park. That surely makes more sense than the name that stuck after a sports writer claimed the team "pirated away" two Philly players. There is not, nor has there ever been, swashbuckling in Pittsburgh. It's landlocked -- arrgh! OUT: PITTSBURGH PIRATES (MLB)
IN: TAMPA BAY PIRATES (MLB) What is not landlocked, though, and what does have a storied history of piracy is Tampa; its freakin' NFL franchise is named the Buccaneers. What there are not in Tampa are rays of sun shining down on the heads of baseball fans -- because the Rays play in a dome. The name's a lazy sleight of hand anyway. Just because you drop the "devil" to appease religious groups does not alter the fact that your town averages six-plus inches of rain a month from June to September. OUT: TAMPA BAY RAYS (MLB)
IN: ANAHEIM RAYS (NHL) So where is it always sunny? In Anaheim, of course, where the average monthly rainfall is just 1.13 inches. And although ducks do enjoy the rays, they take to freshwater better, and there are only two natural lakes in all of Orange County. Besides, the franchise started as a weak marketing ploy in 1993, capitalizing on Disney's peewee hockey hit Mighty Ducks. OUT: ANAHEIM DUCKS (NHL)
IN: MEMPHIS DUCKS (NBA) A far better marketing ploy can, instead, be found at Memphis' Peabody hotel, whose adorable ducks have been making their twice-daily march to the lobby's marble fountain since the 1940s. Meanwhile, if you see a grizzly marching through Memphis, rest assured the zookeeper is either in his stomach or hunting him down. Seriously, when the team moved 2,500 miles from Vancouver, why did nobody care that there isn't a single grizzly outside of captivity east of the Mississippi? OUT: MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES (NBA)
IN: CALGARY GRIZZLIES (NHL) Thus, back go the hairy beasts to Calgary, where wild grizzlies still roam. Hell, one grizzly there devoured a whole black bear in August! Hungry grizzly. Besides, that moniker is far more sensible than Flames, considering it's a legacy from the franchise's original city and Calgary never experienced anything remotely similar to the burning of, well, Atlanta. OUT: CALGARY FLAMES (NHL)
IN: ATLANTA FLAMES (MLB) Yes, Atlanta! A city that did go up in smoke before Sherman's March to the Sea. What didn't happen in Atlanta was James Gaffney dubbing the team Braves. That happened in the franchise's origin city of Boston, where Gaffney was team president from 1911 to 1916. He was also a member of a corrupt NYC political machine (Tammany Hall) that adopted a headdress as its emblem and called its members, yep, Braves. So we're sending the name back to ... OUT: ATLANTA BRAVES (MLB)
IN: WASHINGTON BRAVES (NFL) ... the rightful home of political corruptness. In fact, DC's NFL team began as the Braves in Boston, sharing the name with the local MLB team. How's that for full circle? The decision to rename it came only after its poorly attended inaugural 1932 season; owner George Preston Marshall assumed the switch to Redskins would create a stronger identity. Mission accomplished, jackass! Thus, the name is an unnecessary abomination of a lesser abomination -- and one that haunts the franchise to this day. So we'll right that wrong by tossing it out. Because if there's one thing we've learned: Nothing good ever comes from playing games with team names. OUT: WASHINGTON REDSKINS (NFL)
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