The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in Sports Names: NHL, NFL, NBA, MLB

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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in Sports Names: NHL, NFL, NBA, MLB

They were the Best of Names, they were the Worst of Names

The other day I read an article by Andrew Echevarria discussing the meaning of a few NHL team names. Andrew's idea was so intriguing that I decided to flush out the idea and take a look at team names from the NHL, NFL, NBA, and MLB. The unique and relevant are applauded with the utmost vigor, while the routine and illogical are patronized like a soccer fan in the US. Here's the ones that stand out at both ends of the spectrum.

NHL

-The Hakan Loob Award (Best Name) 

Tough one here for me. I think the Washington Capitals and the Colorado Avalanche are great names, but I have to go with the St. Louis Blues. I love Louis Armstrong's version of the song, and the originality of the name is one of the best in sports.

-The Dick Butkus Award (Worst Name)

Unfortunately, the NHL isn't lacking in generic names. The Tampa Bay Lightning, the Los Angeles Kings, and the Nashville predators are all deserving of some scorn, but the Florida Panthers takes the cake for me. Not only is it a generic name, but I haven't seen a single panther in Ft. Lauderdale—and I've been looking.

-The Etymology Award (Best Origin)

I really liked the Carolina Hurricanes name. But, the fact that Raleigh isn't on the coast took off just enough to push them to second. The winner, and this may surprise some people, is the New Jersey Devils. I used to think the name was baseless and just another generic block in the wide world of unoriginality; however, I learned that the team was named after a local spook story, the Jersey Devil. Similar to the Loch Ness monster or Bigfoot, the Jersey Devil is a mythical (though some claim otherwise) creature that lived in the Pine Barrens and used to terrorize the inhabitants of southern Jersey. Kinda like the original Sean Avery.

-The "How does that make sense?" Award

A few teams fit in this category, including the aforementioned Florida Panthers. The Toronto Maple Leafs are a strong candidate for their rebel attitude towards basic grammar as are the Pittsburgh Penguins for choosing alliteration over geographical relevance. All those aside though, I gotta go with the Calgary Flames. The name made sense when they were in Atlanta. But Calgary!? How many slap shots to the face have you taken? One of the last adjectives that should ever be associated with Calgary is something implying heat.

NFL

-The Hakan Loob Award (Best Name) 

The NFL has a strong group of team names. Though it seems a shame to leave some others out, the Baltimore Ravens is one of the best names in sports. I don't care what anybody else says, I will not be swayed from this belief. For starters, the name is an ode to Edgar Allen Poe. That alone makes it one of the best. Add on top of that the tendency of sport franchises to name teams after birds, and the Raven perches far above the flock.

-The Dick Butkus Award (Worst Name)

OK, the NFL's plethora of good names is met only by its surplus of bad ones. There is no real "middle of the road" names. Though there are many teams in need of a shot of originality, they are saved this time by one of the worst names in sports. The Houston Texans. I'm gonna write that again for this to really sink in—The Houston (as in the city in Texas) Texans (as in people from Texas). Step away from the computer, grab a drink of water, and call your doctor about the aneurism you probably just had.

-The Etymology Award (Best Origin)

This one is actually a tie for me, I sat here for 20 minutes trying to pick just one, but to do so wouldn't do the other justice. The Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers are at the head of the class when it comes to originality and relevance. Both names reference important facets of each location (Packers coming from the packing companies that first funded the team and Steelers coming from the steel workers and factories that drove Pittsburgh's economy) and are a tribute to blue collar workers.

-The "How does that make sense?" Award

The NFL unfortunately doesn't have the one team that's name is completely ridiculous. If you throw out all the cat and bird names, the San Diego Chargers is one of the few names that makes no sense to me. That's a shame, cause their powder blues are one of favorite jerseys in sports. Is there some major electrical power plant in San Diego or something like that? If you know, please help. I also wanna give an honorable mention to the Cleveland Browns. The fact that the owner named the team after himself technically makes sense, but the narcissism of the act is almost Oprah-esque.

NBA

-The Hakan Loob Award (Best Name) 

This was another hands down one for me. The Detroit Pistons run away with the award. Incredibly original, relevant to the automobile factories that drive (no pun intended) Detroit, and reminiscent of the hard-work and team style the Pistons are known for. Right up there with the Ravens as one of my favorites. 

-The Dick Butkus Award (Worst Name)

The Toronto Raptors. Whaaat? Until a paleontologist informs me that the majority of velociraptors made prehistoric Toronto their primary habitat, I will continue to shake my head condescendingly at the name. That being said, Washington Wizards, Memphis Grizzlies, Sacramento Kings, and the New Jersey Nets are right there with the Raptors in my basement of respectablity.  

-The Etymology Award (Best Origin)

Though the Indiana Pacers deserve credit for paying homage to their race car enthusiast brethren, I give a slight edge to the Houston Rockets with their NASA ties. Also I took points off Indiana for changing from some of the best jerseys in the game.

-The "How does that make sense?" Award

Ohhh boy, this is the one I've been waiting for. Two teams, two relocations, two examples completely void of logic. The Los Angeles Lakers and the Utah Jazz—you good sirs, are both kings in the world of nonsensical names. Originally the Minneapolis Lakers (a quite brilliant name if I may add), the team moved to LA and decided, for some inane reason, that the name fit pretty well in the new city. Poor Minnesota always seems to come up with great names (Lakers, North Stars) only to have them taken away. Battling the Lakers is the Utah Jazz. Yeah, cause when I think Jazz, I think Utah. Another name that fit perfectly with its original owner (New Orleans) only to continue on in another city, confusing a whole new generation of sports fans. Until the Canadiens move to NY, These teams have a permanent place as two of the worst named franchises in sports. 

MLB

-The Hakan Loob Award (Best Name) 

Almost for purely iconic purposes, I nearly gave this one to the New York Yankees. But instead, the Milwaukee Brewers wins out, and my reasoning is simple. What's more American than Baseball and Beer? 

-The Dick Butkus Award (Worst Name)

Wow, lot of nominees for this award. The Oakland Athletics, the Kansas City Royals, and the Detroit Tigers are pretty bad, and I'm not at all a fan of the Philadelphia Phillies, but I pretend they were named after the cheese steak sandwich and I refuse to vote a sandwich the worst. So, this may be due to my ignorance of Baseball name origin, but my winner for worst name goes to the San Diego Padres. Please someone explain the real origin of this one, because the San Diego "Fathers" seems uncomfortably religious while padres seems... well just weird. 

-The Etymology Award (Best Origin)

I'd probably give this one to the Brewers if they didn't win the Hakan Loob award. Luckily I got a strong candidate to hold the mantle. The Minnesota Twins is a great reference to the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul) and a truly unique name in a league that's lacking them. Also the NY Mets deserve an honorable mention.

-The "How does that make sense?" Award

The Los Angeles Dodgers. Once again LA finds a great name and destroys it. Originally the Brooklyn Dodgers (one of the best names in sports), the team was named for "Trolley Dodging." In Brooklyn, in order to get to games, players and fans alike used to have to dodge both the trolleys and the strong electrical shock that occurred on the rails when the trolley was close. Hence the name Brooklyn Dodgers. In LA people have to dodge... uhh... the traffic that doesn't move? the paparazzi? The train-wreck that is the Clippers organization? 

 

Well there it is, the best and worst team names in sports. Hope you enjoyed the read and please don't be afraid to throw in your opinion. Thanks again to Andrew Echevarria for the idea. 

P.S. If you know who Hakan Loob is, give Bucci my best.

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