What's in a Name?: The Hidden Annoyance of Franchise Relocation

Dan E. LoveContributor IMay 10, 2008

I am hardly Sports Purist Guy.  I believe American League baseball is more enjoyable than the National League’s version primarily because of the designated hitter.  I don’t miss Chicago Stadium or the Boston Garden and I won’t miss Yankee Stadium when it is gone. 

I only care about the Rose Bowl when it’s a match-up between two good teams, regardless of whether they are in the Pac-10 or Big Ten.

That said, I was watching last night’s NBA playoff game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Utah Jazz and immediately found myself annoyed.  The Los Angeles Lakers vs. the Utah Jazz?  I have never been to L.A. or Utah, but I am pretty sure that there is not an abundance of lakes in Southern California, and I’m damn sure that no one in the state of Utah even knows what jazz music is. 

So who the hell named these teams?  Umm… the cities of Minneapolis and New Orleans did.

See, for those of you who do not know, the Lakers started out in Minnesota (the land of 10,000 lakes) as the Minneapolis Lakers. 

Great name, right? 

Well, it was, until 1960, when the Lakers relocated to Los Angeles (the land of 10 lakes), but were too lazy to change their name. Similarly, the Jazz played in New Orleans from 1974-79 before failing to change their name once they relocated to Salt Lake City.

Aside from the obvious mismatching of team names with the cities in which they now reside (see Calgary Flames), I have a problem with teams taking the histories of that franchise with them to a new place.  Surprisingly, no one really cared to rectify this problem until the Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore and the city fought to make sure the Baltimore Browns never happened. 

Subsequently, the Browns became the Baltimore Ravens, and a few years later a new Cleveland Browns franchise was founded.  Ironically, I was driving through Baltimore not too long ago, and Local Radio Guy was complaining about how Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts will go down in history as one of the “great Colts of all-time,” lumped in with famous Baltimore Colts like Johnny Unitas and Raymond Berry. 

You know what, Local Radio Guy?  I completely agree.  Peyton Manning should not be playing for the Indianapolis Colts, but rather the Indianapolis Motors or something like that, and therefore, Ray Lewis should be another great Baltimore Colt.

You think I’m crazy?  Well, maybe I am, but baseball used to do this all the time back in the day.  The Cincinnati Reds that we know and hate today is the third installment of the franchise (according to Wikipedia).

Hockey seems to be the only sport that has gotten it right as of late.  Of course, the team names in that sport are more closely tied to the city or region in which the team resides (Quebec Nordiques, Hartford Whalers, for example) so, with the exception of the Minnesota North Stars becoming the Dallas Stars (which, because Texas is the “Lone Star State” would actually be acceptable had Minnesota named their expansion team anything other than the Wild).

The Atlanta Flames (best nickname ever; General Sherman would be honored) keeping their name when they packed up and left for Calgary hockey gets an A+.  Watching the Colorado Nordiques and New Jersey Rockies skate around would have been nearly as ridiculous as the Jazz selling like hotcakes in SLC.  

In a perfect world, Congress would step in (apparently they have nothing better to do) and set the World of Sports Nicknames straight.  Goodbye to the Utah Jazz, Indianapolis Colts and Atlanta Braves, hello to the revitalized Charlotte Hornets (and their Starter jackets), St. Louis Cardinals (the football version) and New York Giants (sorry Mets fans, but your team’s name is ridiculous).

As we are seeing with the Seattle Supersonics in the NBA, pro franchises will always come and go.  We should at least fight to keep the names in the cities in which they belong.

What’s in a name?  Everything.