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The Ultimate Ranking of Sports Team Names, Part Five: Blank Space

The Ultimate Ranking of Sports Team Names, Part Five: Blank Space

With a list like this, there are going to be a bunch of names that come up which are too good to be really worth complaining about, but not good enough to be worth raving about; names which are extraordinarily difficult to rank because you have no clue exactly where to put them. So in order to get them rankings that are at least somewhat safe, you write up the list from both ends until you have the blank space in the middle which is the only place they’ll fit. Again, none of these names are truly bad, and in this leg, we’re going to start seeing the good names crop up. It’s just that they didn’t go very far either here or there, so they come off as fillers.

53: Columbus Blue Jackets, NHL
Named after an old Civil War unit, this name isn’t so bad. The problem is that it’s so, well, innocuous. Old imagery tends to associated jackets with certain kinds of bees. Jackets is also a remnant of sports teams past which has definitely seen its day, and not only does it feel old, there’s no anger or intensity to be associated with the color blue. There have been many teams in many sports known as the Yellow Jackets and Red Jackets, and while those names project intensity, Blue Jackets projects calm and cool. Which could explain why the Columbus Blue Jackets don’t have a ton of success to their name just yet.

52: New England Patriots, NFL
Oh, goodie. Another pretentious name trying to enclose its entire geographical, multi-state region. Patriots is actually a fine name for the team – it was created to honor the original separatists who wanted the 13 Colonies to break free of England. Of course, one of the major focal points of the events leading to the American Revolution was Boston, in whose suburbs the Patriots play. And that’s precisely why the New England Patriots would be best off named with the name they came up with upon emerging in the AFL in 1960: The Boston Patriots! The branding doesn’t work, though, because generally a patriot is someone who loves his country, and I happen to think it’s kind of rude of the Boston (excuse me, New England) team to try to earn fans through this kind of exclusivity. Boston already has a nasty air of pretension, and their fans are already some of the most self-important people on Earth, and there’s really no need to fuel those feelings by enabling anyone to say either you cheer for their team or you hate America. Of course, it’s not like it would stop them from such self-congratulatory hubris anyway, but it doesn’t help matters.

51: Washington Capitals, NHL
Finally, a place where the word “capitol” is spelled in proper grammatical context. It’s spelled with an O at the end, meaning a place, instead of an A at the end, a way of denoting currency. Also, both words have three syllables, and the final syllable of each starts with a T, so there’s a good balance. The Capitols name works because Washington is the capitol of the United States, after all. Furthermore, since the Capitol is also the name of the building where Congress gathers, the name doubles as a recognition of the federal government. And since the Capitol is one of the most famous bits of architecture in the country, the name further triples as a celebration of great architecture in a city full of historic architecture. This name should be higher up, but it’s no one’s fault the name of the Capitol is so bland. (Edit: At least, that is what I would write had the Capitals been that smart, as I wrote this thinking they were. Apparently they’re not. So while the A in Capitals makes sense to the way the federal government is run, it does a huge disservice to the city. Fuck this name.)

50: Oakland Raiders, NFL
The coolest pirate name on the list. This name would be more of a failure if the Raiders were still in Los Angeles, but it holds a lot more meaning in Oakland. Oakland is a historical hotbed of political activism, and that activism is more often than not against the prevailing government policy, prevailing social norms, and frequently against the so-called knowledge and ideas of the common, white, insufferable coffeehouse intellectuals as well. Oakland’s political reputation has a real grassroots attitude, and you get the feeling that the people of Oakland are a hands-on bunch who try to enact change one place at a time with their bare hands. That makes the Raiders a true team for revolutionaries; or, as much of society would prefer to think of them, pirates. See, not every pirate image is bad, even when you are talking about one of the nastiest fanbases in the country. It’s also cool to say – two double-syllable words with hard beginnings and ends with easy middles.

49: Toronto Maple Leafs, NHL
People frequently gripe about proper grammar when it comes to the Toronto Maple Leafs. They argue this is a shitty name just because it isn’t the grammatically proper Toronto Maple Leaves. This team, however, was named after a Canadian Army battalion called the Maple Leaf battalion. I don’t know why grammar rules work the way they do, but experts tend to argue that the name makes perfect sense since we’re not talking about actual leaves. The maple leaf, of course, is the dominant symbol of Canada, and once again we’re into trying to both nationalize and regionalize the fans at the same time. In this case, it works a lot better, because there’s no attempt at exclusivity in the Maple Leafs name. It’s just grabbing the symbol and latching on, subtly inviting people instead of saying “You’re either with us or you’re against us.” The name is also a lot more balanced than it looks – both Toronto and Maple Leafs are three-syllable terms. See folks, you can use national symbols for names, just as you can use generic animals, as long as you can do it the right way.

48: Arizona Coyotes, NHL
The newest name on this list, the former Phoenix Coyotes changed their official name to the Arizona Coyotes just days before I began. It really doesn’t change very much except the number of syllables. A coyote is a good animal to name the team after – it has nothing to do with fellow canine family member wolves, and it’s very much an Arizona animal. The name change makes the whole name of the team a little clunkier, but it doesn’t do any real damage.

47: Chicago Bears, NFL
Chicago is a burly city name. (Unlike the people who live there.) It has power and crunch. What to name the football team? An animal that has the same! Bears is another small word with big impact. It’s also a great parallel allusion to one of Chicago’s baseball teams, the Cubs, something that wasn’t lost on the owner when the team was named. The Bears once played in Wrigley Field, and in exchange for the lease, the original owner said he would name the football team after the baseball team. Since cubs are most often taken in the context of bear cubs, and this owner noticed football players on the whole were larger than baseball players, he named the football team the Chicago Bears.

46: Los Angeles Dodgers, MLB
The most famous move remnant of all time rolled a lot nicer with its original name, Brooklyn Dodgers, and that’s where the animosity toward Los Angeles Dodgers begins. Then again, I already mentioned a couple of posts ago that Brooklyn is such a great name that you can slap virtually any nickname onto a team there and have it come off halfway decent. The trouble is that since the name Dodgers comes from the original name Trolley Dodgers – people in Brooklyn who used to have to cross the streetcar tracks to get to the field – it makes at least as much regional sense in Los Angeles as it did in Brooklyn. Los Angeles does, after all, have a descendant of the old streetcar lines – a lightrail system. And when the team moved, they weren’t walking away from a string of lousy seasons – they had won the World Series just two years before moving, and had a run of Pennant years. And let’s face it, the name Dodgers is some of the best branding out there. There’s no mistaking it, even with the diehard Brooklynites who won’t shut up about the Dodgers still being Brooklyn’s team. Guys, they’re not going to return. If you hate the Yankees so much, buck up and turn to the Mets, okay?

45: Milwaukee Bucks, NBA
This is a strange name. A buck is a male deer, it has no balance, no connection to the Milwaukee area, and, well, I really can’t think of a whole lot to say about it. (Kinda like the team itself!) It stands out, so that much I can offer, but deer are common enough to still be legal to hunt, and I don’t think they drink beer. I’m giving this a nod largely on branding, just because deer are stronger, more dangerous animals than we give them credit for, so that avoids any complaints about it being generic. And really, it’s not such a bad name.

44: Miami Heat, NBA
This is easily the best name on this list that doesn’t invoke a plural. Heat may be an amorphous concept, but it’s an amorphous concept with a very specific definition. Heat can burn you, dehydrate you, make you vomit, and give you strokes and heart attacks. We go out of our way as human beings to avoid exposure to too much heat at the same time, and when we have no other choice, we carry a ton of water with us. So yeah, heat is very nasty business, and it also happens to be something the city of Miami has in abundance. Miami is famous for its heat. While heat can be found in many, many other places, the name also has a good rapport with the city name, and it comes off like an extra syllable, almost. This is a very rare case where I’m going to award bonus points for not making the name a plural. Since Heat feels like an extension of Miami, the T at the end gives the name a bit of heft and finality, which would make it look ridiculous if we tried to pluralize it. Miami Heats. It just doesn’t sound quite as right, does it? On the other hand, non-plural names are still old 90′s hubris.

43: San Jose Sharks, NHL
It’s strange that of all the generic natural critters people like to name sports teams after, the shark is so generic, and yet so underutilized. The name does have a connection to the Bay Area which makes it work out pretty well. The Pacific Ocean contains seven different kinds of shark, and the Bay Area is the location of an area of water called the Red Triangle which is home to a huge population of sharks. The name’s balance comes mostly from the fact that it’s a three-word name, with the syllable counts being one-two-one. That gives it a better, easier sound than it really has a right to have, and I wouldn’t be lauding it if the NHL didn’t take a chance on San Jose and decided instead to create the San Francisco Sharks – the four syllables in Francisco are just beasts. The branding of this team shouldn’t work, just because sharks comes off as another one of those generic 90′s affairs with animal ferocity, but the fact that marine naming is so uncommon makes it pleasant and quirky rather than bland and generic. We might criticize the NHL’s efforts at expanding during the 90′s, but this is an instance where it worked.

42: Phoenix Suns, NBA
I could write a lot of the same things about this name that I wrote about the Miami Heat: The nickname feels like a very natural extra syllable, the location is perfect since it celebrates something both regionalized and fierce, blah blah blah. The thing with the sun, though, is that it’s the generator of heat, which gives it an extra push. Think of it this way: Heat alone isn’t quite enough to melt your car in a hundredth of a second flat – you need a lot more than, say, a blowtorch. The sun is also the source of our ability to exist; it keeps the Earth in orbit. It has a major role in the operations of the solar system that mere heat alone doesn’t have. Also, it’s a plural, and since non-plural names are 90′s marketing hubris, it gets extra points.

41: Tampa Bay Rays, MLB
Here we have another sun-related name. Changed from the 90′s hubrisful Tampa Bay Devil Rays back in about 2007, the new names aspires to bring the Rays a new reputation as rays of light, as in a beacon of light to the baseball world, or as rays of sunlight. I’m giving this name a lot of credit for trying to be something so different, and it undoubtedly helps the branding – devil rays weren’t a real relatable creature to name a team after. Although the idea of a ray of light certainly holds weight in the Tampa Bay area, calling the team the Rays is taking a different approach than a lot of teams. It’s not aiming to create an image in ferocity or history or regionalization, but in inspiration. That makes it unique to any of the four major leagues, although I have my doubts that a lot of other people see it that way. The originality is stronger than most want to credit it with, but whether devil rays or rays, the branding doesn’t lend itself to wonderful imagery.

40: Miami Marlins, MLB
The most lovably dysfunctional team in baseball – yes, even more so than the Mets – gets its name from a popular gamefish. You have to give it credit – the Marlins were created in the 90′s, but instead of going with typical 90′s ferocity, they went with a less aggressive name. If you consider it, you have to eventually figure out that many of the truly great (or truly popular) names in sports aren’t aggressive at all. So in a way, Marlins is evoking many of the sports names of the olden days, concentrating on finding something the team’s fans can uniquely call their own instead of trying to appeal to a national fanbase of prepubescent boys they hope worship ferocious imagery. And coming up with a name of such a popular gamefish gives the name Miami Marlins a sort of Hemingway feel. Author Ernest Hemingway was a big time gamesman, after all, who lived in Florida for a long time and wrote a book called The Old Man and the Sea, which was about a fisherman trying to make a big catch.

The Ultimate Ranking of Sports Team Names, Part Four: What? How? and Huh?!

The Ultimate Ranking of Sports Team Names, Part Four: What? How? and Huh?!

The better way to think of this tier is as a list of naming gambles that didn’t pay off. None of them are outrageously bad or offensive, and most of them made a real try at originality. Unfortunately, the originality was done without a whole lot of regard to the region or the people living in the region, or much respect for the idea of trying to form a connection to the area’s fans; the area fans are the ones you need to click with first and foremost, because they’re the ones who are going to be the original ticket and merchandise buyers. There’s usually effort apparent, but in most of these cases, it resulted in a team name that seems weird or misplaced, to the detriment of the very people the team is trying to appeal to.

70: Anaheim Ducks, NHL
Any readers who don’t know anything about hockey right now are probably thinking of a certain Disney movie called The Mighty Ducks, which came out in 1992 and became a sports movie classic loved by children and adults alike. Disney took the movie’s popularity as license to not only acquire an expansion NHL team, but name it the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, after the movie. Then they used the two sequels to the movie to let the public know their NHL team existed. (The second movie used the NHL team’s jerseys, and was far more subtle about the promotion. The third movie is just pathetic about it: The climactic scene revolves largely around the Big Game announcer’s efforts to keep his lips suctioned to the ass of real Ducks star Paul Kariya.) In about 2005, Disney finally sold the team, and the new owners finally did away with the embarrassing Disney imagery just in time for the Ducks to win the Stanley Cup in 2007. The connection, however, is still very fresh in everyone’s minds, and since the team was named after the movie, it loses virtually everything on its branding alone. That’s a shame, because in the movies, what the Ducks come to symbolically represent – even though they were named after main character Gordon Bombay’s boss, Ducksworth – is ducks in a flying V, coasting gracefully off the air current produced by flapping their wings and quacking to encourage each other.

69: Los Angeles Lakers, NBA
The Lakers are so successful, popular, ubiquitous, and associated with exciting basketball, and their name has such a cool sound – three rolling L sounds, all almost evenly spaced out – that we forget how little sense this name makes. They make their home in Los Angeles, where the only existing lakes were made by men, and no, I’m not going to try to count the Pacific Ocean. The Lakers began their existence as the Minneapolis Lakers and won 16 championships, more than any other NBA team except the Boston Celtics (and the Celtics have just one more title than the Lakers). The first five titles the Lakers won all happened in Minneapolis, so, you know, you probably wouldn’t give up a name after that kind of success either, no matter how nonsensical it sounds. It certainly makes the branding unique, and when the name is so pleasant to say, you can’t really complain that it’s a bad thing in this case.

68: Montreal Canadiens, NHL
I don’t know whether this name was created to appeal to all of Canada or merely the Francophone side of Quebec, given that “Canadiens” in this case is spelled with an E in the final syllable instead of the English version A. I know the team itself was created for the Francophones, but by naming it the Canadiens, the team successfully applied the very definition of having its cake and eating it too: Try and make it national and regional at the same time. There’s a generic element in play here as well, since this is akin to naming a team the Americans. Still, not many other teams use it, and it does manage to be unique enough to emboss the brand into memory – although those 24 Stanley Cups probably have something to do with that too.

67: Orlando Magic, NBA
Another amorphous concept getting a far higher ranking than it deserves, the Orlando Magic would at first look like a perfect name. They’re based in the city of Orlando, Florida, after all, the city in which Walt Disney World takes up its best-known residence. And Disney World is popularly known as the Magic Kingdom, so it’s really not such a bad way to regionalize the team. Unfortunately, after that, what I said about branding in the 70 spot starts coming into play, and you really can’t afford to try branding a team after a corporation that already owns it, even if Magic is more of a stealth branding instead of a blatant advertisement. And trying to name an entire team the Magic is especially disastrous in basketball, in which one of the most famous players of all time, one of the greatest players of all time, and one so popular and beloved that he’s given a ton of credit for rescuing the league when it was on the ropes in the 80′s and transforming it into the juggernaut it is today, happens to be best known by his stage name: Magic Johnson. And Magic Johnson never had anything to do with the Orlando Magic, unless you count the fact that he played the same sport. Not a good idea.

66: Cleveland Cavaliers, NBA
The team of LeBron James tries branding itself using imagery that evokes 17th-Century swordfighters and swordsman who are always ready to draw and duel on the spot. Unfortunately, it won’t change the fact that Cavalier is another amorphous concept which, in a nutshell, is synonymous for offhand and a lack of proper concern. In a historical context, a Cavalier was a supporter of King Charles I back when England was fighting the English Civil War. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s difficult to argue that it would be a brand someone would want.

65: Buffalo Sabres, NHL
This name was created as an attempt to stifle the tide of professional teams in Buffalo that were called the Bisons. Face it, when your city is called Buffalo, damn the redundancy, the name of a sports team is pretty much ready made. The original owners of the Sabres were looking to buck that trend, and they did that by thinking up a name associated with a sword that is, according to them, fast on both offense and defense, and the weapon carried by a battle leader. Fast on offense and defense are nice to associate with a team, even if they don’t have anything to do with the city. As for the part about being a leader, it goes without saying that Buffalo has no right to say it leads much of anything these days, not with the way it decided to turn its back on a changing world and shut itself in. Buffalo once led the entire planet in grain shipment, thus feeding the entire world, and it was in the top five on steel production too. It was also a visionary city in the advancement of electrical technology – Nikola Tesla’s lab was just in Niagara Falls, the original home of alternating current, and between all that, it was one of the richest cities in the world. Those days are gone, and today Buffalo’s leader roles aren’t quite as important: CVD mortality (first); poverty (third or fourth); segregation (seventh); and violent crime (tenth). Uh, we’re number one? The B in the middle of Sabres, though, creates a nice offset to the hard B and O in Buffalo.

64: Washington Nationals, MLB
Nationals? Really? In Patriot Central, the District of Columbia, that wretched hive of scum and villainy, with all those politicians and monuments, you pop up the most useless way of saying “Americans” ever concocted? I’m shocked Fox News didn’t pick up on an angle using this: “We’re using Nationals because not everyone in this country is a rich white guy, and not being a rich white guy is un-American, and we’re too politically correct to call them the Americans!” The Nats are the third baseball team in Washington. The first was officially called the Nationals, in spite of the press prominently calling them the Senators. The second was officially called the Senators. I understand wanting to keep the history of the original team and give it a catch-all term for the countrymen they’re supposed to represent, but we can do much better than Nationals.

63: New York Jets, NFL
Jets may not be the most immediate image associated with New York City, but they work quite well as a colloquial. Jets are, after all, a very modern way of getting from place to place, and avionics technology is always on the move, much like the largest city in the United States. The name Jets also works as a parallel to New York City’s other junior, rebel alternative sports teams – the New York Mets and Brooklyn Nets, the younger alternatives to the Giants and Knicks. But the problem, uh, well…. See, the Jets don’t actually exist anywhere within the entire state of New York…. They play in New Jersey, where they also get their taxpayer extortions and have most of their fans….

62: Seattle Seahawks, NFL
If you’re even a tenth awake in any matters regarding the NFL, you already know from the coverage of the most recent Super Bowl that a seahawk is basically an osprey. Ospreys are more birds of prey, rendering this a pretty generic name, which you would think would be even more so since they decided to use a term with the word “hawk” in it. There’s one very important thing that I love about the Seahawks name, though: the “sea” in seahawks is a really cool allusion to the city’s name, which begins with the same three letters. That gives it an awesome form of regionalization which it really has no right to have. It sticks out and brands the team in a way you would be hard-pressed to forget.

61: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, NFL
A buccaneer is a particular kind of pirate, giving this name a lower originality rating than it deserves. But it has a really cool, jumpy sound, and you at least have to give it credit for using a nickname no one ever used before, making it fairly memorable. I think the nicknames Buccaneers is better suited to New Orleans, but it actually does have a grounding in Tampa Bay Area lore: Tampa hosts an annual event called the Gasparilla Pirate Festival, which celebrates a popular legend revolving around a Spanish pirate captain named Jose Gaspar. He’s a popular figure in Florida folklore, but there’s no evidence of his existence before people started writing about him in the 20th Century.

60: San Diego Chargers, NFL
The Chargers have lightning bolts on their helmets. It’s a good allusion, but it doesn’t have anything to do with anything else in San Diego. It has to do with the original owner wanting to present a certain kind of image – an amorphous concept, as it were! If given the old application, a charger is a very old way of referring to a horse – horses charged back in the medieval era as knights tried to knock each other off. Unfortunately, between the name and the imagery, the only association people will ever make with chargers in this day and age is something that powers up your cell phone or computer battery. Technological evolution has given a comical meaning and image to a name which might not have been so bad a decade ago, and there’s a new generation of children being born wondering why a football team would ever call itself the Chargers, no matter how important actual chargers can be. The future, you can’t escape it. And in thinking forward, the San Diego Chargers brand evolved into an image which now makes the name completely comical. I guess you can’t really blame the original owner for that.

59: Dallas Stars, NHL
This is actually a better name than most people give it credit for. Keeping the Stars nickname after the move to Dallas is a very obvious but still a cool way to evoke the state’s pride in trying to get them to appeal to everyone in Texas. In this case, it works because the Dallas Stars are the only NHL team in Texas, and Texas is famously known as The Lone Star State. The state flag of Texas is easily the most famous in the United States, out of the sheer simplicity and symbolism of it: Red and white horizontal stripes, with a vertical blue stripe that has a single white star on its foreground; held to a special reverence in Texas. Unfortunately for the Stars, the negative end of the branding cancels out the positive. Texas is quite famously a football state. The Cowboys, Dallas’s NFL team, are one of the league’s glamor teams, and their official logo is a large, bold star of navy blue. So by calling themselves the Stars, Dallas’s NHL team looks like it’s trying to leech off the popularity of its far more famous NFL cousin. It doesn’t exactly help matters that, before becoming the Dallas Stars, this team already had one of the coolest names in history: They started out as the Minnesota North Stars.

58: New Orleans Pelicans, NBA
The name change of the New Orleans Hornets sparked a ton of outcry when the name New Orleans Pelicans was announced. But you know what? Fuck that, pelicans are awesome! I think the outcry was sparked out of ignorance: Ignorance of the fact that the brown pelican is the official state bird of Louisiana; ignorance of the fact that pelicans are the most carnivorous birds on the planet; ignorance of the fact that they are capable of not only swooping in, but diving a good 40 feet underwater to catch prey. New Orleans has also fielded more than one minor league team in other sports called the Pelicans, so it’s a nod to the city’s sports history as well. The only real problems with this name are the branding, which is difficult because people are dummies who got way too many impressions of pelicans from Warner Brothers cartoons; and the fact that New Orleans Pelicans is a very jumpy, clunky name which has an unpleasant sound to it. Still, major props to the team for avoiding a generic name change and using a wildlife-related name which honors the city and state.

57: New York Rangers, NHL
This name is such an institution that we tend to forget how dumb it really is. When we think of rangers, we think of bold people on wild frontiers. You could make a case that New York City is a wild frontier, but as for bold people there? Rich white collar thieves and rich, white, useless coffeehouse intellectuals are hardly bold. Ranger also evokes images of an open range with wide skies, and that is not New York City. The Rangers got their name because the man who first brought them to the city was nicknamed Tex, and the team was frequently referred to as Tex’s Rangers. The name does have a nice roll to it, though, and lord knows the branding certainly stands out because of the misplacement.

56: Dallas Mavericks, NBA
Honestly, we hear the work “maverick” so often these days that I just want to clock people who use it to describe themselves. The term is used to describe people who are stand out as lone dissenters among their associates or pursue rebellious policies or ideas. In other words, “maverick” is a good way to describe Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, but the term itself is like the whole San Diego Chargers thing: It’s slowly starting to devolve. Most of the politicians who call themselves mavericks these days are unquestioning slaves to blind prejudices, and more and more frequently, they’re also getting caught in monetary scandals. In other words, they’re trying to fit in with an enormous swath of people that still sees it their way. If we want to think of Tom Cruise’s character in Top Gun, well, he was a dangerous and self-destructive pilot who realistically would have been booted from the Navy about ten times over for all the shit he pulled.

55: Philadelphia Flyers, NHL
Is this another concept or an actual noun that a real image can be attached to? It’s difficult to decide, because flyer is such a general term. It’s also downright silly when you try to think of anything in Philadelphia the term could possibly be applied to. Philadelphia is known for a lot of things, but aviation prowess isn’t one of them. Honestly, I have no clue how this name ended up ranked in the 50′s. It ignores virtually everything about the city and its people, it’s weak, it has a bad balance, there’s no regionalization, history, and the branding gets a passing grade only because the Flyers have been one of the NHL’s premier teams for decades now.

54: Detroit Red Wings, NHL
This is not a generic name, that much can be given to the Red Wings. That automatically gives it a higher standing than Lions or Tigers. But it also brings up the question of just what the hell a red wing is supposed to be, anyway. What’s a red wing, where did it come from, and how does it work itself into the local mythos of Detroit? Detroit Red Wings is another name with good balance and heft, and the Red offers it more intensity and ferocity than a name like the Blue Wings or Green Wings would have ever provided, while the wing is a good abstract reference to the speed of hockey. That at least give it a very unique and abstract way of branding itself and offering some heft to the name, but I’m afraid it loses points for, you know, not making any damn sense.

The Ultimate Ranking of Sports Team Names, Part Three: They Just Didn’t Try

The Ultimate Ranking of Sports Team Names, Part Three: They Just Didn’t Try

We’re out of the realm of the truly objectionable now, and entering the territory of the generic and bland. In this part of the list are the team names that fail because they don’t stand out and try to distinguish themselves from the pack. None of these names have any aspects a fan can take any real offense toward, but that’s because the people who thought of them decided on the safest possible approach: Just think of something that sounds great or fierce, and fuck anything else that makes a team name good. No matter what can be said for the rest of the names on this list – including the ones in the lower tiers – most of them at least tried to take a risk or two, but that can’t be said for anything in this tier. Since the names here are mostly so generic that some of them actually cross sports, it’s safe to conclude the people who thought of them just weren’t trying.

90: Detroit Tigers, MLB
This one gets credit for not being a part of our XTREME!!! 90′s big cat craze, and for being an aesthetic delight – the strong O and the way it lights up the I in Detroit makes the long, hard I in Tigers a sort of natural vocal evolution. Unfortunately, Tigers is another one of those default terms used whenever it’s necessary to come up with something to try to market to a national audience you hope will be fascinated more with badass imagery than imagination or connection to the immediate fanbase you need to click with first. And before its sport was usurped by the panther during the 90′s, it was the tiger that every sports team on Earth turned to when they needed a strong, carnivorous animal to be presented at the last minute because someone in the naming group wasn’t from the area and couldn’t be bothered to do the research before pulling up a name they thought would be at least remotely likable. A generic big cat name is still a generic big cat name, no matter what city it’s attached to or how much you try to sell people on how proud and noble yet blah blah blah colloquial metaphor it is.

89: Cincinnati Bengals, NFL
The trouble with the alternative method of naming a team after tigers is that it’s exactly one letter away from being politically incorrect. A bengal is a tiger. A bengali is a person from Bangladesh. It’s pretty easy to use one in place of the other. I can give the Cincinnati Bengals credit for two things: One is trying to be slightly more original than the Detroit Tigers, and the other is trying to slightly honor the wishes of Paul Brown, who originally wanted his old team, the Cleveland Browns, to be called the Panthers and who was also the first coach of the Bengals (revenge for being forced out of the Browns) and instrumental in the team’s running until his death. But still, it’s another big cat. Another tiger, in fact.

88: Los Angeles Kings, NHL
Using our Stretch Armstrong powers of imagination stretching, twisting, and reinterpreting, Los Angeles has a handful of things which make it a strong applicant for royalty status: It’s the world’s most prominent entertainment producer. It’s also the largest city in California and the second-largest city in the United States by population, and first by size; and it’s the economic power center of California (although San Francisco will likely have a few words with me now). So at least it has that going for it. The trouble with calling a team the Kings, though, is they’re not going to be at the top all the time. While the Los Angeles Kings won two of the last three Stanley Cups, in nearly 50 years of existence, those are still the only two they’ve won. And let’s face it, Kings is not a good brand. Sure, there are those old expressions about how everyone wants to be the King, or how good it is to be the King, but there is so much ubiquity in trying to name yourself after such an old cliche….

87: Sacramento Kings, NBA
This team gets a hair ahead of their Los Angeles brethren by merit of the fact that first of all, Kings rolls better with Sacramento than it does with Los Angeles. Kings has a weaker sound than Los Angeles, putting the name way out of balance, but with Sacramento, the C and the short sounds surrounding it are a nice compliment to the K and the weak and rather common suffix following it. Also, while Los Angeles may be California’s economic powerhouse, Sacramento is its legitimate capitol, therefore making it the place where the governor lives. And if the governor abuses his power too much, the people will resort to calling him the King, possibly followed by other, considerably worse words. The Sacramento Kings are the oldest team in the NBA. They began as a factory team in Rochester, New York called the Seagrams, were the Royals through Cincinnati, and became the Kings in Kansas City before reaching Sacramento. Ironically, none of those locations are especially regal.

86: Minnesota Timberwolves, NBA
When you consider that Minnesota’s NHL team is called the Wild, you have to ask yourself: Are the Timberwolves the wild the name Minnesota Wild is referring to? The name itself gets a fairly decent sense of balance – Timberwolves has a few harder sounds that are equalized by Minnesota being one syllable longer. I don’t know if timberwolves are indigenous to Minnesota, though, but that hardly localizes the name. Besides, it’s hard not to notice that timberwolves is just a specification for the more common wolves name, which is found everywhere sports are played.

85: Atlanta Hawks, NBA
The trouble with a ranking list is that there’s only one spot per name, and every name I push into one spot pushes another name into another spot. After awhile, the spots seem to go by in chunks, and so there are names that will end up higher than they deserve. And with that, here we have the generic bird part of the list, which is arguably interchangeable with the cat parts. The hawk is a generic bird of prey, and is the mascot of Atlanta’s NBA team because it survived the longest: From Buffalo (where they were the Bisons) to the Tri-Cities Blackhawks (now the Quad Cities), through Milwaukee and St. Louis, where they became the Hawks. I appreciate the survival story, but that’s about the only thing the Hawks have going for them. Hell, the Hawks showed up around the time the Falcons did, and my god, how it must suck there for casual fans to try to tell them apart.

84: Atlanta Falcons, NFL
What is it with Atlanta and birds of prey? From a city with a generic bird of prey NBA team comes a generic bird of prey NFL team. The Falcons get credit for being the team that showed up first – unless I’m confusing the two of them myself – but they are still another generic bird of prey, named for very generic reasons. The branding is trouble because they’re, again, in a city with another generic bird of prey name! Imagine the marketing: “We’re not the Other Guys!” At least the name has a better balance, with two long A’s in Atlanta and one in Falcons.

83: Arizona Cardinals, NFL
Another generic bird, another survival story, and it would have been worse had the Cardinals stopped at St. Louis, where the most popular team is a baseball team called the Cardinals. You wonder why they didn’t change their name to something more Arizona-esque: The Sidewinders or Roadrunners, maybe. But I guess there’s something to be said for hanging on to the only consistent element from your past. After all, no one remembers those championships these guys won way back when they were still the Chicago Cardinals. Yeah, the team branding has been simply disastrous, because for a full quarter century – as sportswriter and Cardinals fan Will Leitch so directly pointed out – these Cardinals weren’t even the most popular team called the St. Louis Cardinals. Since leaving St. Louis, it appears that all the Missouri transplants living in Phoenix and Tucson haven’t adopted what’s basically the other Cardinals team.

82: St. Louis Cardinals, MLB
The original Cardinals team still makes a lot more sense than the Arizona Cardinals. The cardinal isn’t indigenous to Arizona, but it’s indigenous to a lot of other places in the United States, including Missouri. It’s also the official state bird of Illinois, and the St. Louis Metropolitan Area encompasses a lot of suburbs in Illinois. That said, St. Louis Cardinals has a pretty, chirpy sound, but cardinals are just too common to be truly unique. At least they have their brand, going strong on a century, and surviving a challenge from a whole other team, also called the St. Louis Cardinals, which played in the damned NFL.

81: Kansas City Royals, MLB
I’m well aware of the fact that the Kansas City Royals were named after a highly respected livestock show that takes place in Kansas City every year, so it gets the essential regionalization points in that respect. But how many non-baseball fans and people outside Kansas City do you think would realize that upon hearing this name? Kansas City may have more fountains than any city in the world except Rome, and it may be the barbeque capitol of the United States, but it’s not exactly known for its royalty or regality. The team name does have a strong allusion to the greatest team from baseball’s old Negro League, the Kansas City Monarchs, so that’s to its credit.

80: Detroit Lions, NFL
The name of Detroit’s NFL team really doesn’t differ all that much from the name of Detroit’s MLB team. It even has a similar letter evolution from the OI in Detroit to the long I in Lions. My problem with the Lions name isn’t so much of a case of it being a misfit – lest you need reminding, neither Detroit nor the Lions have been the kings of much of anything lately – but more the choice of animal. It’s another big cat trying to cash in an image based on ferocity. To some extent, the branding works, but that’s mostly because the Lions have a history. They’re one of the oldest teams in the league, have two divisional rivals even older than they are, and their division has long been known as the Black and Blue Division, a nickname given to it because all three other teams in it – the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, and Minnesota Vikings – have all made their names riding defense to multiple championships, something the Lions themselves were familiar with way back when too. However, as far as the big cats go, in four leagues flooded with trendy big cats, Detroit chose to use the Lions as their mascot. No other team in major professional sports has tried that, so as far as generic big cats go, the Lions at least stand out.

79: St. Louis Rams, NFL
When a team has been as historically nomadic as the Rams, I guess it’s a big deal when they cling on to their old name. Formed in 1936 as the Cleveland Rams, the team bolted to Los Angeles in 1946, just after winning the 1945 title because the Browns were created and looking like they could easily take over the city. In the 90′s, after a long and productive stay in Los Angeles, the Rams moved to St. Louis. I’m not sure why rams were picked to represent the team, but the image certainly is unique – not many teams at the pro level use it. The name St. Louis Rams feels very awkward, and I can’t decide if it’s a powerful name or a weak one – the short A kind of cancels out the long R and M sounds, and the city name is tricky because the only unquestionably hard letter in it is the L.

78: Toronto Blue Jays, MLB
Are there blue jays in Toronto? Of course there are blue jays in Toronto! As far as bird mascots go, the blue jay is an underrated bird – they’re among the bird kingdom’s bullies and hoarders. Maybe we give the Toronto Blue Jays a lot of shit, but their name is more unique than it sounds. Unfortunately, there are still several other teams using names of birds – not even raptors, but regular birds you might find in your backyard – so it’s still easily lost in the shuffle of bird names.

77: New York Football Giants, NFL
A generic name with pretension! I understand the New York Giants originally needed the Football pretense in order to keep themselves distinguished from the MLB New York Giants, who moved to San Francisco in 1958. That sort of eliminates the need for the moniker, but the organization and fans both insist on using it. There’s no reason for this anymore. The San Francisco Giants aren’t the San Francisco Baseball Giants. You don’t hear New York Football Jets. The Cardinals used a similar distinguisher back in their St. Louis days, being the St. Louis Football Cardinals, but they’ve since moved, and are not the Arizona Football Cardinals. That doesn’t even cover the geographical inaccuracy in the name. If the team is in a suburb, despite my nuclear hatred of suburbs, that’s a need I understand – it’s still in the metro area. But when you’re placing the team in a whole other state, demanding the taxes from a whole other state, and the fanbase is mostly in that whole other state, don’t try to leach off the glamor city across the border out of convenience. Have a little fucking honesty about it.

76: San Francisco Giants, MLB
Funny how these guys ended up with this name in San Francisco. Isn’t giant politically incorrect? Don’t they like to be called big people or large people or something? The name doesn’t sound all that unbalanced, mainly because San and Giants play off each other in a decent manner while the Francisco dominates the name. I like this name a lot more than I like New York Football Giants. If we expand the meaning of Giants, we can get a nice allusion to San Francisco’s stature – the city is, after all, the economic giant of the Bay Area, of Northern California, and possibly California itself. As far as being the economic giant of California itself goes, it provides an unintentional but very cool parallel to the NHL team in Los Angeles, the Kings. Los Angeles and San Francisco are raging rivals in cultural and economic power in California, competing to be the state’s king power center or giant power center.

75: Pittsburgh Pirates, MLB
This team was named after stealing a player from an opponent, in a move the opponent said was “piratical.” The name Pirates itself is actually unique, and has a nice balance and heft to offset Pittsburgh – both two syllables. Unfortunately, the name’s uniqueness isn’t enough to offset the common imagery and branding. Pirates are the mascot for two NFL teams, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders, both of which found ways of calling themselves pirates without actually calling themselves pirates.

74: Golden State Warriors, NBA
This name is officially the place where I finally put my foot down in regard to the PC crowd’s arguments about Indian imagery. This team started out using a very racist caricature of an Indian, but that was removed so long ago that the Warriors have ceased to have any real connection with American Indians in their name. That hasn’t stopped the screaming. The last Warriors logo was a faceless blue guy which PC people claimed was racist, and they claim a team name which has been associated with literally every kind of soldier from ancient Roman centurions to modern snipers is stuck with Indian imagery. The problem with the Warriors isn’t some form of imagined racism. It’s that it’s one of those generic names used at every level of sports, and is often a stand-in name for teams in sports movies, which renders it very ineffective. Also, I hate it when teams try to take general regions as their official play area. I actually had to look up just what the hell Golden State is and where the Warriors actually play. That’s not what you think of as a favorable position when it comes to regionalizing the team.

73: Indianapolis Colts, NFL
Teams trying to name themselves after horses are funny to me. Everyone loves the imagery of horses, and who wouldn’t? Horses are as beautiful and graceful as they are fast and powerful – that’s a damn perfect combination of everything you could ever ask a professional sports team to be. But naming a team the horses just doesn’t work because the word “horses” doesn’t roll especially well with a strong city name, so everyone has to use synonyms: Mustangs, stallions, broncos, and so forth. But that doesn’t explain why anyone would name a team after a baby horse. Granted, Colts is a nice, punchy term, but it’s also weaker than it sounds and reliant strictly on the long O. The name is a move remnant – these guys had a long life as the Baltimore Colts, a name given because of Baltimore’s rich history in horse racing. Granted Indianapolis is also a famous racing city, but that fame isn’t from horses. I’ll grant that if you want to stretch the imagination a little, you could point out that those cars in the Indianapolis 500 race on horsepower, but that doesn’t work for me. Especially not when you’re hitching up a name like Colts to that six-syllable mouthful of a city name.

72: Calgary Flames, NHL
Canada is an odd place to put a team called the Flames, and hockey is a strange sport to see a team called the Flames playing. The name is another holdover, which is too bad because the team’s original city gave them one of the all-time great names – the Atlanta Flames. I’ve read an exploration of the idea that Flames is a very cloaked allusion to the Canadian oil industry, which is dominantly in the Calgary’s province, Alberta, but I wonder how many people would accept that explanation, since oil and fire don’t have anything in common except very nasty chemical reactions. In any case, it doesn’t work out very well because there’s another city in Alberta called Edmonton, and they have a team that has a much more direct name in relation to oil.

71: Denver Broncos, NFL
Now this is a horse name! Unfortunately, that doesn’t equal an especially high rank because it’s still just a generic horse name with generic branding, but damn. If you’re going to be generic, this is the best example there is of how to be generic and pull it off. First, you make sure your horse name is in a nice Rocky Mountain city with a history as a frontier outpost. Then you make sure your favored synonym has two beginning consonants which make it rugged, and two hard O sounds – including the end – to give it weight and power. Make sure the city and name are both two syllables, giving the entire name punch, and hopefully both city and team name will both have a short N sound in the middle for a nearly unmatched balance. There’s generic, but there’s also generically awesome.

The Ultimate Ranking of Sports Team Names, Part Two: Just Plain Suck

The Ultimate Ranking of Sports Team Names, Part Two: Just Plain Suck

These are the names that don’t quite betray the ideals of good sports team naming, but which are nonetheless irredeemable all the same. Some come from bad trends, others lack originality, but all of them are inexcusable.

115: Florida Panthers, NHL
You’re an ad executive in the 90′s who needs a name that screams “XTREME!!! SPORT COMIN’ YOUR WAY!” and since you live in sun-drenched Miami, you laid on the beach and let it go until an hour before the presentation. So you need a ferocious animal now, but all the good ones are taken. What do you do? You pick out the name of a big cat which doesn’t even really exist (what most people call the black panther is just an ordinary, run-of-the-mill leopard with black fur). The panther is the little black dress of professional sports team names. It’s the go-to for those who either can’t do something better or those who need to throw on the quick emergency backup because they’re trying to get back out the door in a hurry. In other words: No matter how much resonance the panther may hold to the metro area, you never, ever, ever name your team after it.

114: Carolina Panthers, NFL
Okay, I don’t think there is a pair of teams on this ranking list so similar to each other. Both the Florida and Carolina Panthers were created in the early-to-mid-90′s. Both have an appearance in their respective sports’ finals amidst very nondescript existences. Both have names and logo designs with deep roots in 90′s advertising hubris. Honestly, I could have re-posted my bullet point from the other Panthers team or switched these two around, and it wouldn’t matter one bit. So why does Carolina get the slight nod? Because the Florida Panthers infect my favorite sport, while the Carolina Panthers infect my least favorite.

113: Jacksonville Jaguars, NFL
Another team created during our love affair with all things XTREME!!! during the 90′s, the Jags at least have a small bit of an edge over the Panthers and the, uh, Panthers by merit of the fact that they managed to avoid using Panthers as a name. I’ll give them credit for also avoiding use of the name Wildcats, that ubiquitous name for little league teams from sports movies. I can also credit it for a decent ring, featuring a duo of place and name which both start with the same syllable, with accompaniment by a series of short sounds which make the JA poppy. It still doesn’t change the fact that Jaguars are strictly rainforest animals from South America, not Florida. Or the fact that Jaguars are difficult to brand because they constantly get forgotten in all those other big cat names.

112: Nashville Predators, NHL
This is the kind of shit you get when you make the logo before thinking of a decent name for the team. I’ll admit this is probably about the best the Preds would be able to do with the image they were given, that of a roaring sabertooth tiger. But it should also make you wonder who would ever try such a naming technique, especially in a city nicknamed “The Athens of the South” and “The Music City,” both of which are quite capable of offering better, more memorable alternatives. It shows no respect for the city of Nashville whatsoever, and it ruins any shot at branding because the only people likely to remember it are transplants from the north who are only interested when the teams they cheered for north of the Dixie Line come to town. Again, it’s pointless 90′s hubris named to capitalize on a trend, and with the Preds always topping the lists of NHL teams likely to move, you have to wonder how much the name had to do with it.

111: Tampa Bay Lightning, NHL
Out of ferocious, XTREME!!!-style animals to name your sports team after? Time to turn to ferocious, XTREME!!!-style weather phenomena! The Lightning once claimed they were named in a fan contest, which would explain a lot, but former owner Phil Esposito later came out with the true story: He thought it up himself one night upon seeing a particularly vicious lightning bolt during a storm. While Esposito wrote of Tampa being the lightning capitol of America, it doesn’t excuse the fact that it happens everywhere, even in the desert. So again, no regionalization, no real respect for Tampa or its people, shitty branding which gets lost in a sea of other things which were more about fierce imagery than substance. At least the balance works: Two syllables, one syllable, two syllables. The city and team names both turn on hard syllables, and the “Bay” is a punchy word which adds oomph to the nickname.

110: Winnipeg Jets, NHL
Well, Winnipeg was once considered the cultural capitol of Canada, so if the Jets name is something there to imply modernity, it has that going for it. Unfortunately, how many non-hockey fans have ever heard of Winnipeg? Yeah, this particular cultural capitol is overshadowed by Canada’s other, more famous cities, not to mention a certain other Jets team south of the border which is a much better fit for its home. It was the second team in North America called the Jets, which destroys all tries at either originality or branding. It’s aesthetically terrible – three syllables to one, none of which have anything in common with each other. And even its regionalization – the only thing this name has going for it – is loose at best because of, again, a certain other team that lives in the United States.

109: Memphis Grizzlies, NBA
This name was a casualty of a relocation. When the Grizz were first created in the mid-90′s, they were located in Vancouver, where the name made a hell of a lot more sense. There are grizzly bears in British Columbia, after all. There aren’t grizzly bears running around in Tennessee, which wipes out any regional premise. Also, Memphis has a softer name than Vancouver. In Vancouver, the long “ooh” in the middle of the city name was a nice, very subtle compliment to the hard Z in the middle of “grizzlies.” Every other part of the Memphis name has a soft, quick sound, and it makes the audio aesthetic a really lousy pairing of words.

108: Pittsburgh Penguins, NHL
So you live in a blue collar, hard workin’ steel city and this is the best name you can come up with for your hockey team? I know penguins are speedy and graceful underwater, but they’re also antarctic creatures, which means they’re also covered with plenty of blubber. They waddle, an image unbecoming of a hockey team. The aesthetic doesn’t quite work as well as it should. While both are two-syllable words beginning with P, the city name jumps back up twice with a pair of hard syllables, while the team name turns on a smooth U. The best thing that can be said is that the branding is unique, but that’s mostly because no other team would ever call itself the Penguins.

107: Houston Texans, NFL
I wonder what Houston is trying to do. Sponge fans off of geographic rival Dallas by evoking the name of the state? This has the same problem as the Canucks up there: They’re trying to mobilize a fanbase by appealing to a sense of regional pride that expands way further than it should. What’s a Texan? Someone who lives in Texas. You know who also lives in Texas? Fans of the Dallas Cowboys. I should point out that while Texans may hold their state to their hearts, we have an increasingly open political world which is starting to attach a lot of negative connotations to Texas from the outside. Calling your team the Texans is an invitation for mockery by people who are buying into the view of Texas as a state full of uneducated, illiterate hicks, rednecks, and ultra religious bozos who hate common humanity and common sense and are so stupid and gun-happy they would cure a headache by shooting themselves in the head. Also, it’s a direct lift of the old AFL’s Texans, who were pushed out of the state altogether and became the Kansas City Chiefs. You know what city those Texans were based in? Dallas. I don’t know how anyone in Houston who’s in the know about the AFL Dallas Texans could possibly live with cheering for a team called the Houston Texans. At least the war is staying on the gridiron. So far.

106: Cleveland Browns, NFL
Would any Clevelanders like to explain to me exactly why they keep making fun of the Baltimore Ravens name? Their team name is the associative color of shit, dirt, and possibly Lake Erie when Cleveland managed to light it on fire. I’ll grant the association makes it quite the apt colloquialism for the way the Cleveland Browns have been playing since their return, but even the team’s real name association can’t save it. Even rudimentary football fans know the Browns were named after Paul Brown, the team’s first and greatest coach and one of the greatest coaches in NFL history. Basically, the Browns were named after a guy who, at the time of their naming, hadn’t done anything with them yet. So it hits a number of bad places: It’s a color with negative associations, and a man who meant nothing to Cleveland outside of football before he ever did anything. The latter at least suggests why Browns fans are so famously rabid: By branding the team after Brown himself, it closed itself off to anyone who isn’t in the know, and therefore the symbolism is related only to football and has nothing to do with civic pride. Therefore the team name may not even be capable of rising above its medium. Even Paul Brown himself hated it.

105: Washington Wizards, NBA
In the late 90′s, the owner of the NBA’s Washington Bullets grew a little uncomfortable with owning a team called the Bullets in the murder capitol of America, so he changed the name. I’m a little up in the air about accusing this of 90′s hubris; fantasy wasn’t where it is now, but the Harry Potter series appeared around the time the Bullets renamed themselves the Wizards. The branding was probably more unique in hindsight than it is right now, when we conjure wizards for everything. After that, this is another case of disbelief that Wizards was the best anyone could come up with in America’s capitol and one of its most historic cities. I guess the name does make sense in its way, though: The way Congress is able to constantly throw money away while doing jack shit suggests there’s black magic at work somewhere in The District. But who would ever want an association like that?

104: Oklahoma City Thunder, NBA
Although this name wasn’t taken in the 90′s, it’s definitely of the 90′s. The 90′s saw a period of sports team expansion in all four major leagues on a level that hadn’t been precedented for a long time. All four leagues had stabilized, the economy was up, and I guess all the leagues decided they had nothing to lose by rolling the dice. Unfortunately, the naming problem stems from the fact that too many admen got caught up trying to sell the public more on the XTREME!!! culture than on trying to create a connection with sports fans. Nearly a decade after the fact, the residue of the 90′s remains, stuck on yet another generic weather name which, like the Lightning, is even found in the desert. It’s another mass originality failure getting lost in generic ferocity. Ironically, it doesn’t roll especially well when you say it.

103: Carolina Hurricanes, NHL
XTREME!!! 90′s ferocity? Check! Regionalization? Uh… Does localized to the Eastern Seaboard count? Branding? Hey, fierce sports team names are in style forever! Right? Memorability? Sure, just like all the other ferocious weather names! Ferocity and balance? Okay, that I can legitimately give. 90′s! XTREME!!! The great shame here is that the Canes are a relocated team which had a great name in their last home: They were the Hartford Whalers.

102: Brooklyn Nets, NBA
There’s no major city with a cooler name than Brooklyn. Brooklyn is amazingly cool to say and listen to; it feels and sounds smooth with the OO sound taking the stage, and the weird mashing of consonants on the end cause a sudden jump which comes on just when your tongue is getting comfortable, bringing in a gritty, urbane feel. If you have to create a team in Brooklyn, your work is basically done. All you have to do is attach the proper noun. (Brooklyn Kittens!) Good thing, because that’s basically all the owners of the Brooklyn Nets did. Yes, the name survived moves from New York City to New Jersey and back again, and yes, Brooklyn rolls pleasantly and easily into Nets. That’s good, because Nets doesn’t lend itself to branding very well. If meant in strictly a basketball context, it won’t transcend the sport and appeal to new fans. If used in other contexts, Nets are bits of rope that spend the vast majority of their existences hanging around lifelessly. You have to hand it to Mikhail Prokhorov and Jay-Z – they did a hell of a job turning an unbrandable team name into the hippest team in the NBA.

101: Utah Jazz, NBA
If music genres translated to sports, Jazz is actually a perfect nickname. Jazz, like basketball, requires a lot of skill, as well as equal amounts of linear planning and improvisation. It’s not the nickname that’s the problem. It’s the location. There’s a team named after a fiery musical genre based in a state that hates music and fun altogether. Although they do get brand points, the brand is memorable mainly because it doesn’t make any sense. This team started out as the New Orleans Jazz, a damn near perfect name, and as little sense as Utah Jazz makes, I’m going to separate myself from the other writers who spend their team name lists by not calling for the name’s return to New Orleans. The New Orleans Jazz were formed in 1974 and lasted a short five years under terrible lease terms with two different home stadiums, never having a winning season. The Buffalo Braves lasted longer. As the Utah Jazz, they fielded four Hall of Fame players, a Hall of Fame coach, a two-time MVP, and won two conference titles. No matter how many arbitrary name lists the Jazz appear on, the name ain’t going nowhere with kudos like that.

100: New York Islanders, NHL
This name gets a few points for partial accuracy. New York City isn’t a real, honest-to-god city the way, say, Chicago is a real city, though. New York City is actually comprised of five different counties which consolidated their governments and therefore have no real power. Those counties became known as New York City’s boroughs, and of them, Staten Island and Manhattan are both legitimate islands. Brooklyn and Queens are both located on the west end of Long Island, while The Bronx is the only part of New York City on the US mainland. The problem is that even with such an unusual arrangement, New York City will never pass for a real island. It’s way too urbane, and the long I sound in the nickname adds the tropical tang we tend to associate with Hawaii or the US Virgin Islands. Therefore, the team name tends to be dominated by the I that starts off the nickname, which is the only real hard sound in it. Island imagery wallops this name, too – islands are seen as relaxed, laid-back places, whereas New York City is nicknamed The City that Never Sleeps.

99: Buffalo Bills, NFL
So are we talking about dollar bills, utility bills, duck bills…. While anyone who’s spent any length of time living in Buffalo knows how frightening those winter gas bills can be, all I can think of these days is that Snickers commercial where the St. Louis Rams got renamed the St. Louis Freds. The Buffalo Bills were named after an earlier team from the AAFC, an earlier competitor to the NFL, which in turn was named after a famous poacher. When your city’s name is Buffalo, you wouldn’t think there were a ton of options, but the city of Buffalo has a rich history as an industrial capitol for the entire world, an innovator in uses for electrical power, and an important location in early US wars and the Underground Railroad. Even with all that going for it, the team got named after the nickname of every Buffalo expatriate who was ever named William. Furthermore, Buffalo is a hard place with a real rough and tumble way of life – it’s a place where the word “buff” is perfectly applied, as are its close cousins “tuff” and “ruff.” And the NFL team still has the short, punchless, almost flighty Bills as a nickname. There’s no balance or heft there.

98: Cleveland Indians, MLB
This name has a unique and surprisingly effective verbal roll. Five syllables, all of them featuring either an N or an E. That’s about all it has going for it. Indians is a common name, so it has the feel of a massive cover-all in lieu of a more regional name related to the tribe which once populated the Cleveland area. (The Wyandot and Ottawa were the last two tribes to hold the area, moving in around 1740.) That doesn’t exactly lend it any originality, and the team compounds the flaw by claiming the name honors a former player, Louis Sockalexis, a great American Indian player who was frequently serenaded with war cries and whoops and slurs. When Sockalexis began to decline because of alcoholism, sports journalists nicknamed the disease the “Indian weakness.” That’s a bad enough legacy to hold, so in the case of The Tribe, it’s a very odd thing that the Indians stick to using that story over the true story of their name’s origin: They latched onto the idea of an Indian name, trying to rip off the Boston Braves after the Braves’ miracle World Series victory in 1914.

97: Kansas City Chiefs, NFL
Slightly better than the Indians, because Chief is a title rather than a people. Still, it does nothing to quell the surge of generic Indian imagery, and so we get just another boring name that manages to draw attention to itself anyway. To think, all it would take to stand out is to change the imagery slightly: Instead of an Indian Chief, they could make a switch to, say, a Fire Chief. They have the colors to match already.

96: Atlanta Braves, MLB
This name goes a little bit further than even Chiefs. Brave is technically an amorphous concept, so I can’t figure out why we choose to keep slamming it with Indian imagery. (Creek and Cherokee owned the land in Atlanta.) I understand this is an old name which survived through Boston and Milwaukee before the team reached Atlanta, but in this day and age, Indian names are major wins for teams. Some people get pissed off about them, thus drawing attention to the team which otherwise may not be worth paying attention to. Then the reactionaries to the pissed off people become fans of the team just to goad everyone on the other side.

95: Minnesota Wild, NHL
You already know this one is from the 90′s, don’t you? Look at that name! That name looks like it belongs on the marquee sign of a small town midwestern strip club, and a rather low-end one at that. Wild is also about the worst amorphous concept you could give to a place like Minnesota. The term “Minnesota nice” exists for a reason. Being wild in Minnesota means staying out until 11 while leaving the kids to a babysitter. Of all the amorphous concept names, this is probably the toughest to brand, because there’s not even a particular base from which to build a vision of wild. Wild like a forest? Wild like an animal? Wild like an asshole frat boy?

94: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, MLB
The “of” just kills it. In some ways, it can create a name that makes perfect sense: The Los Angeles Angels of Glory? The Los Angeles Angels of God? The Los Angeles Angels of Light? No, they did something completely nonsensical and said these Los Angeles Angels are of a city 40 miles south of Los Angeles, in another county. Even God is confused. The Angels nickname does work, though; as well it should, because “Angeles” is just the Spanish word for “Angels,” and they create a nice roll together. Too many listers complain about the redundancy, but if they were that adamant about it, they would also be decrying the city’s nickname, the City of Angels. City name, followed by city nickname. it’s just that in this case, they’re in different languages.

93: Chicago White Sox, MLB
And here we have the literal definition of Jerry Seinfeld’s famous routine about how sports fans are just rooting for their laundry. Not just any laundry, mind you, but the article of clothing most likely to get punished, dirtied, and lost in the laundry. The white sock is one of the most ubiquitous of all clothing articles, which means it’s also one of the blandest. Also, the city of Chicago has a kind of crushing name in your mouth, but the team nickname is a pair of very short words which aren’t weighed down enough to match it. And how the hell do you create a brand out of something people wear on their feet? It’s no wonder Bill Veeck pulled all those weird stunts. I stand by the argument that the Cubs have a worse name, but there’s little wonder why they’re the darlings of the city’s baseball scene when the alternative is this.

92: Boston Red Sox, MLB
I would like to repost my last entry, but a couple of things give the Bosox an edge over the Chisox: Red socks are more unique than white socks, and they stand out more, and the name has a better rapport with its city. Boston is a syllable less than Chicago and a lot easier to say, which makes it a lot better weighted. The Boston Red Sox also have a stronger brand than the White Sox despite their World Series drought being two years shorter and replete with more good years. Of course, the Red Sox are the only game in Boston as well, so there’s that, and that bitter rivalry with the New York Yankees also helps.

91: Colorado Avalanche, NHL
Would it really surprise you by now to learn this is another piece of 90′s residue? I can at least give it credit for not basing itself on either fierce animals or fierce weather, despite it being a natural occurrence. Besides, Colorado is a mountainous state, so we can assume avalanches happen there from time to time. Still, there’s not enough difference between Avalanche are other names based in XTREME!!! 90′s ferocity to vault it above and beyond most of the other teams introduced during the decade. Bad as this name is, though, it beats the shit out of naming the team the Denver Avalanche, because Denver is a softer, shorter word which doesn’t carrying nearly as much weight as Colorado or avalanche.

The Ultimate Ranking of Sports Team Names, Part One: The Disgraceful

The Ultimate Ranking of Sports Team Names, Part One: The Disgraceful

Before the last NBA season, one website, Grantland.com, got the brilliant idea to rank all 30 NBA team names. That’s not teams; that’s their names alone. Another website I like is called Hockey by Design, which celebrates uniforms and logos. The writer of that blog is a graphic designer who counted down all 30 NHL logos in 30 different articles, giving us new ways to look at what makes a good logo.

Those achievements impressed me because they contain a between-lines truth about sports many people try to ignore: Mascots and colors matter. It’s true that every team is going to have a base of hardcore followers no matter what, who love the team because of a deep, emotional, and personal connection and/or a great sense of civic pride. Much as we all hate them, though, plenty of teams actually need all those bandwagon fans in order to print enough cash to stay competitive in what is, ultimately, a national market where the smaller areas get eaten alive. No matter how many diehards are paying for tickets, they need the lukewarm fans from neutral areas to pay for the merchandise. So you better be packing a mascot and color set your country cousins in Montana would be damn proud to be seen in.

Of course, not all names are created equal. I know it, you know it, and damn if it ain’t fun to punch “best/worst team names” into a search engine and pour over the results. It’s an unfortunate fact of best/worst lists that writers tend to restrict themselves, though. Coming up with actual rankings makes things more particular and therefore a whole lot more difficult, and most writers can’t be bothered. They’ll come up with the 10 or 20 they personally have the most love for and/or biggest problems with, and this being the internet, half the time they’ll have absolutely no objective reasoning beyond “dis is da worst! Only fuckos lke this team!” That’s what makes the Grantland list and Hockey by Design all the more impressive: Both writers were visibly as objective as they could be while adhering to a constant set of standards with their personal opinions doing a minimum of violation. A good team logo or uniform should have this, that, and the other. A good team name should have a sense of regionalism, a memorable brand name, a pleasant audio aesthetic, originality, and perhaps a little bit of balance and ferocity. Sadly, even the brave, ambitious writers on the aforementioned websites seem to think only a fool would try to not only judge, but rank all 122 team names in all four big leagues in North America.

Readers, I am that fool.

The Disgraceful

The names on this first section of the list go far beyond just being bad. They transcend it in a way which can actively make fans question their loyalty to those teams as much as any bad owner can. They absolutely have to be changed, and with a couple of them, I’m not the only one who thinks that. There are in fact two teams in this part of the list whose fans are making loud, active campaigns to get the names changed.

122: Vancouver Canucks, NHL
As far as the worst names go, Canucks sits feet and ankles many feet under the scrap heap. First of all, Canuck is a slur, over and out, and I’m not sure it’s one of those intellectually-friendly old school slurs like “wop,” or “paddy” either. It was controversial when the Vancouver Canucks first emerged in 1970 and had enough power a couple of years later to cost an election to a presidential candidate who was caught using it. Although that’s well out of my own lifetime, it’s still disturbingly recent, and more than enough to highlight the idea that using slurs as affectionate nicknames might not be the smartest way to name professional sports franchises. Even removing that, Canucks isn’t exactly regional. There’s an entire country full of them outside the province of British Columbia. You would figure if a team was trying to rally a national fanbase, it would avoid the slur and just call itself the Vancouver Canadians, but, eh, gee, a certain other team in Montreal kind of beat them to that punch. So that makes a name which was not only naming itself after the country’s nationals, but blatantly ripping off another team that had already done it some 62 years earlier. At least the team managed to avoid trying to characterize their mascot – more than can be said about the minor league Vancouver Canucks who preceded the NHL team – preferring instead to place a large C (another allusion to the Montreal Canadiens) with an orca leaping out of the top half on their sweaters. Ironic, given that Vancouver Orcas would have been much better than this dreck name.

121: Washington Redskins, NFL
I’m not the first person you should visit about PC fanaticism. I generally have no problems with teams named after races for the most part, because a lot of those names are created from blunt fact: Indians are Indians, Celtics are Celtics, tribesmen are tribesmen. (This does not, however, mean I’m especially fond of them, as you’ll soon learn.) Redskin, however, has the same problem as the above: It’s a slur. Trying to sell the name as a term of respect for bravery and honor is like trying to sell a team called – and I’m writing this outright so you can see for yourself just how bad it is – the New York Niggers based on the culture of the strong, artful people who did hard labor and created blues music. It’s not going to wash. Of all the names on this list, Redskins is the one with the most active fight to get it changed. A not insignificant number of Congressmen wrote owner Daniel Snyder a letter, and the US Patent Office cancelled its patent on the name. The change of name seems inevitable, and no amount of blustering Snyder and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell do is going to save it.

120: Toronto Raptors, NBA
The other team on this list with a major movement to get rid of the name, the Raptors are the first example of egregious 90′s hubris you’re going to see on this list. When the Raps first came about in the early 90′s, everyone still had dinos on the brain thanks to Steven Spielberg and his blockbuster smash, Jurassic Park. The team made that ultimate mistake of naming: They let the fans vote on it. So here, over 20 years down the line, a handful of playoff appearances, and two Hall of Fame superstars later, we’re stuck with a name that has no originality or respect for the region, its history, or its people. Instead, we get a name not only trapped in the 90′s, but trapped within a particular part of the 90′s. You would never know that Toronto was once one of the founding cities of the Basketball Association of America, the direct precursor to the NBA, or that Toronto’s team back then – which lasted a year – had a great name: The Toronto Huskies. You’ll soon be seeing how much I hate 90′s hubris.

119: Chicago Cubs, MLB
This name doesn’t exactly smack of redeeming value: Power, audial beauty, regionalism, and heft are all concepts the name of Chicago’s National League baseball team is bereft of. I’ll give it its due by saying the team did manage to create a unique brand around it, but Cubs is a case in which the branding works as a negative. Maybe the Cubs brand held a lot more weight before 1945, when the Cubs were a dynamo that visited the World Series often and regularly rolled through the National League. Since then, though, the Cubs performed a presto chango and, since they can’t seem to win even for winning these days, they rely on playing up the image of the cute bear cub. The technique created a legion of national fans, but it also branded them with an array of yechy nicknames: Cubbies. Lovable Losers. Even the stadium is nicknamed The Friendly Confines. Now, there are very emotional Cubs fans out there who have unshakeable connections to the team, but the more common image of the Cubs fan is that of the overprivileged postcollegiate white guy who got a six-figure job at daddy’s ad firm, who knows absolutely nothing about baseball, going to Wrigley Field to drink and do anything but watch the game. If your team name is capable of creating this image, you’ve royally fucked up.

118: Oakland Athletics, MLB
What’s worse than a team named for an amorphous concept? A team named for an amorphous concept which is embodied and shared by literally every athlete who ever lived, let alone suit up in a professional uniform. Maybe what they were going for was more along the lines of “Oakland Athletes,” but that wouldn’t have improved things substantially. In fact, it would subdue a halfway decent balance to the name, because it would rob it of the K sound rounding out the first and last syllables. Granted, this is an early MLB name that journeyed to the west, accompanying the team through three cities and surviving a very real name change to just the Oakland A’s, which is even worse. This is a very serious originality failure, perhaps all the more so because it’s intertwined with a branding which would have to improve to even be called a failure. How many amateur teams, clubs, gyms, have marketed themselves “(Name here) Athletics?” It makes you wonder if the Patent Office is even half-awake.

117: Cincinnati Reds, MLB
Here’s another old school MLB name. In fact, the Cincinnati Reds were the first MLB team. That doesn’t mean their name works. It’s not a noun, or an adjective, or even a verb. It just exists as itself, becoming a sort of mercenary amorphous concept to anything it feels right to deploy it on. While Cincinnati Reds has a pleasant ring to it, that can be traced mostly to the rolling, hard R that stands out. There is admittedly an intensity associated with the color, but that’s not always a good thing. Look at the Washington Redskins up there, and hell, look at the Cincinnati Reds themselves, who wound up changing their name to the Cincinnati Redlegs for a period in the 20th century because too many people were using it as a label against their political opponents at a rate which would shame Fox News. Those are huge knocks on originality and branding, and without the regionalism to anchor it, it’s a lost, meaningless team name.

116: Green Bay Packers, NFL
The most likable and only true populist football team in the United States gets everything right except the name. (Your mileage on their colors may vary as well.) First of all, it’s probably the supreme irony of sports history in all four leagues: A team in which literally anyone can buy stock shares (there are, again literally, more stockholders who own the Packers than there are people living in Green Bay) is named for the private packing corporation it was named after. I’m no hipster, so I don’t do irony when it goes this far. The name strikes a decent balance, with hard R through both the first and last syllables and both place and nickname having two syllables, so the name sounds shorter than it looks. There’s something ruining about the term “Packer,” though, because of the variation of meanings associated with “pack.” None of those meanings have anything to do with football. While the name was once a perfectly good term to apply to a blue collar factory man to describe his job, today “packing” has the decidedly more negative connotation to people who lack any intellectual curiosities, who sit and gorge on all the Wisconsin milk and cheese within reach while watching the Green Bay Packers every Sunday.

The Fourth of July – Righteous Anger Day

The Fourth of July – Righteous Anger Day

That’s it. It’s time to throw in the towel with Independence Day until everyone is finished with these bullshit shenanigans. Somehow, the Fourth of July has managed to fall into a position in which it means even less than the blatantly offensive Columbus Day. And Columbus Day is a day taken for one of the worst people who ever lived, a man who our public schools mythologize as if he were Perseus, and don’t tell you a single kernel of true information about.

The only major holiday of the summer has turned into a platform of grandstanding on whatever soapbox is available. It’s the day people either love or hate the United States the most and accuse any and all dissenters of being either racist or, well, uh, racist. (Yeah, the favored form of libel from the left has now been flipped around and become a weapon for the right as well. It’s like trench warfare. That, however, is another essay for another time.)

Once upon a time, the Fourth of July was one of the easiest days in the world. It never felt like there was any form of political polarization. Instead, the Fourth was the one day a year when everyone was able to put they’re political differences off to the side and celebrate the things this country actually gets right. Call it another side effect of the internet, but everything that was once good about Independence Day is long gone. Independence Day is another regular day, when you keep quiet and actively avoid all mentions of your home country – or any country at all – out of fear that whatever you have to say may be a loaded phrase.

Politicking has turned into a serious spectator sport in this country, and not in a good way. There are some people who are lifelong political hobbyists who enjoy all the little quirks and nuances of politics, and they’re the ones who frequently turn out to be the most knowledgeable. If you have a serious question about a particular stance or candidate, those are the people you flag down who will tell you everything there is to know. If you’re sitting on the fence about something in particular, those political hobbyists are life savers, because they’re the ones who can tell you all the minute details which will help you decide which policies are good or not.

People like that were a fringe people before the internet came along and provided everyone with a ready resource of useful information about everything politics. Now that the internet can call off all bets, political hobbyists…. Are still on the fringe. The difference is that now everyone takes views of politics like they see their favorite sports team, and therefore everyone has turned into the Monday Morning Quarterback. No shit is given to the little details that can make politicking a lot harder than it looks to the layman. Apparently, every politician – especially the president – is equipped with a magic want that can cut through all the checks and balances and all the legal jargon and technical jibberish that makes politics a giant Chess match.

Worse than that, they’re expected to cut through common human decency as well. I’m sure this is very easy to do when you have a thousand miles of nothing but milktoast white suburbs lying as a buffer between a voter and the real world, but getting to know different types of people is a real monkey wrench in polarizing political thought once you do it. Humanism is that thread that can take what should be an obvious and pragmatic choice of law or bill and cause its writers to add a few more lines of legalese.

Independence Day is now the day when all the resentment starts to foam over. We can be civil every other day of the year, but come the Fourth, we regress into comic book stock characters. Nuance runs off, and suddenly the country is either Saint Paul or Hitler. Maybe it’s time to call it off so there’s one less thing that pisses everyone off.

Girl Meets World and the Trouble with Nostalgia Culture

Girl Meets World and the Trouble with Nostalgia Culture

Forget all the complaints about the nuked refrigerator, the monkey vine jeep chase, Mutt Williams, and the aliens, because those are all arbitrary complaints which have the same general base anyway. Here’s the real reason you hated Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: You grew up. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was then made, marketed, and presented to the grown-up you, so you were incapable of applying your nostalgia goggles to it. Therefore, you saw right through the presentation and got a big load of the fact that the Indiana Jones series is, objectively, comically ridiculous. Unfortunately, you’re still not capable of watching Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom, and Last Crusade through anything but your nostalgia goggles – or maybe unwilling – so you’re still blind to how silly those movies all are. You walked into Kingdom of the Crystal Skull thinking you still had the same mindset you did as a kid, watching Indy beat up those Nazis and Thuggies for the first time ever, and were expecting to be blown similarly away, but it didn’t happen because you’re a lot more critical in your old age. Meanwhile, you saw a movie in which absolutely nothing you complained about couldn’t also be applied to every other movie in the series.

On June 27, we saw the premiere of the Disney Channel show Girl Meets World. Girl Meets World is the very direct sequel to one of the most beloved family sitcoms of the 90′s, Boy Meets World. By that, I mean Girl Meets World focuses on Riley Matthews, the daughter of Cory and Topanga Matthews, two of the characters from the original series who met the world. Both Ben Savage and Danielle Fishel are reprising their original roles in Girl Meets World. The show’s writers, though, have backed themselves into a weird corner. The audience that still reveres Boy Meets World is now all grown up, and Girl Meets World was picked up by the Disney Channel. Judging from strictly the pilot episode of Girl Meets World, the show is now trying very, very hard to attract the nostalgic demographic of people who grew up watching its predecessor while trying to make everything acceptable to the childrens’ gatekeepers with the Almighty Mouse. Disney’s censors haven’t loosened up their clamps any. I caught the pilot of Girl Meets World myself, and while it delighted me to a point, it still felt pretty stilted. Although I’m in my 30′s, I’m no stranger to the sitcoms there; they remind me a little bit of the old Nickelodeon sitcoms I loved. I’ve taken a particular liking to Liv and Maddie, a show about twins, and Austin and Ally, a show about a duo of musicians. So I have a good idea of exactly what gets done in Disney Channel sitcoms. Strictly in that context, I was happy enough with Girl Meets World to be curious about how it develops. It’s a Disney Channel sitcom, after all, and it did everything that was asked and expected of a good Disney Channel sitcom. But if the writers don’t get the show settled in, well, let’s just say it will not end well.

We’ve been hearing so many rumors about Girl Meets World for so long that we’ve built up a very steep set of expectations, which we then went and compared to a television ancestor that ran for seven years. During the time, Boy Meets World also happened to take on a sort of exulted status. Among people of my generation, Boy Meets World is remembered with (rightful) fondness as the arguable best of a bad genre of TV show. It never talked down to its audience, and main character Cory Matthews was a fine everykid who succeeded in conveying many of the real concerns and issues faced by kids his age. The senior show, though, is also being seen through its own nostalgia lens, and that built up its own reputation to a level which it probably doesn’t deserve. What a lot of fond remembrances of Boy Meets World online tend to do is gloss over the show’s worse aspects – even the normally insightful AV Club ended up blowing its review, which is really saying something. I followed Boy Meets World through its first three seasons or so, but dropped out after being put off after the sudden shift to a dramatic format and the show’s inability to find any stability. Years later, I caught almost every other episode in reruns, and it’s amazing how many people overlook the fact that Boy Meets World switched identities more often than Mystique. Despite only running seven years, Boy Meets World underwent so many different retoolings, you would have to use both fingers and toes to count them all. Boy Meets World also got to be pretty heavy-handed in its Aesop impersonations. The show had many strong points, but its strengths rarely all surfaced at the same time, and so it just wasn’t that good.

My generation probably isn’t the first to be obsessed with childhood nostalgia, but with mass communication and the internet, we’re probably the first generation that can put forth a reasonable effort to keep its childhood alive. Let’s be honest: We brought all the reboots, remakes, and rereleases on ourselves. It’s one of those great laws of economics: If you demand it, they will produce. Well, we started saying someone should begin rebooting all those stored memories of childhood pop culture, and now here we are. We’re seeing mass translations like never before, and in some cases, it’s pretty difficult to argue those in the nostalgia industry aren’t doing their jobs. Everything getting made is getting made by people our own age, trying to pitch the wares at the kids we’re having, and somehow we think we’ve earned the right to be upset at remakes of things we loved as kids when they’re being released for kids with a different understanding what a kickass cartoon is. On the off chance something is released to the adults, it’s inevitably going to be set in a more adult context. There’s the contradiction: Either get let down by a version marketed to kids because the quality of the original wasn’t quite as good as we thought, or get let down by a version marketed at adults because it lacks the sense of fun and amusement. There’s not much of an in-between here.

The pilot episode of Girl Meets World turned out odd because it nailed the contradiction of the nostalgia industry. It’s trying actively to have it both ways. Cory is being set up to be in the role that Feeny played for him in Boy Meets World, the influential teacher, except in this case he’s the father of the main character instead of the neighbor. Main characters Riley and Maya are clearly avatars of Cory and Shawn. Lucas is bland, but he seems set on a path which will make him Riley’s own Topanga. Auggie is coming off a lot like Morgan. Topanga herself may end up an avatar of Cory’s mother. The show even has an imitation of Minkus with Farkle, who – if the previews of future episodes are to be believed – is incidentally the son of Stuart Minkus himself. Feeny had a touching cameo in the pilot, and other rumored cameos are down the line (including a scene with the original Minkus, seen right in the series trailer). This was all clearly set to nab the nostalgia demographic, which was pining to see more of one of the most beloved TV couplings of the 90′s. According to the data released by the Girl Meets World website, some 1.6 million people in the 30-plus demographic tuned in to play catch-up.

For Girl Meets World to find any real footing, though, both the show’s creators and those 1.6 million people who watched the pilot are going to have to come to grips with the reality that this show isn’t about Cory and Topanga and the trials of their marriage and child-rearing. Despite the nostalgia trip, it’s meant to introduce the children of those 1.6 million people to a relatable character of their own who meets world on her own terms, and the pilot wasted no time or dialogue establishing that. Seriously, I could have made a drinking game out of how many times I heard references about Riley meeting the world.

The only things Girl Meets World could possibly be are two things which will be violently rejected by the Millennial watchers of the original Boy Meets World. If the show tried to revolve around Cory and Topanga and their lives as a married couple, we would reject it outright because the dynamic of the original show everyone still loves and reveres would be ruined. Yeah, everyone was all “aww!” when the couple finally made their overdue trip to the altar, but since they’re married and parents now, their concerns about their lives are a lot different, and I don’t think any Boy Meets World fan would want to spend a half hour a week watching them fight over finances, parenting methods, and the rank of the Philadelphia Phillies on Cory’s priorities list. Thus, everybody hates it. The other direction is to make it revolve around Cory and Topanga’s kids, which isn’t quite as simple as it sounds. One of the appeals of Boy Meets World was that it never talked down at its audience, and that was because the characters were all relatable enough to be effective. Kids, though, aren’t going to understand problems in the adult world, so we can’t very well expect Riley and Auggie to pick up that slack themselves and become vessels for adult ideas. Think of how absurd that would be. While the kids are kids, there are certain problems and issues which tend to have limited cultural relevance, and so we can’t expect them to spew our old kiddie problems from our childhoods right back at us again. They’re going to be presented as children for the kids we’re having and raising ourselves, so it’s pretty stupid to think we’re going to have any real emotional stake in Girl Meets World the same way we did with its ancestor.

I’m hoping the best for Girl Meets World. As for all the adults who have any stakes in it, I leave you with the advice that Girl Meets World will work best if you’re able to recognize it for what it is: Not yours.

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