May 09, 2008

The Worst Sports Team Names of All Time

WHEN IT COMES TO SPORTS, the easiest part of the business -- as most folks in a front office would gladly tell you -- is actually playing the game. Success requires great sales and marketing work, smart personnel management, an eye for controlling costs while still producing an excellent product, and a hell of a lot of sweat equity. I am convinced that sports teams whose owners think the business is like running a bank won't do all that well, while sports teams whose owners realize their business involves competing for entertainment dollars will do quite well, and perhaps even great.

But let's get focus on one point -- the selling. If you want to succeed, your sales and marketing operation is key. Thus, it quite frankly stuns me just how many sports teams out there operate with names that can be charitably described as stupid. Yes, stupid.

I mean, we've all come across sports teams with stupid names. If you're like me, you wonder a few things upon hearing the names, such as, "What the hell were thinking?" and "How the hell do the fans root for the team without bursting into gales of laughter?" That's to say nothing of the opposing players. This might earn the home team a touchdown or goal or two, when the defense gets distracted at having to play the Local Yokels, but it sure won't earn them a bit of respect.

Before I get any further, though, I should note that all the teams I root for -- in order: the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Michigan Wolverines, the Manchester Wolves, the Grand Rapids Rampage, and the Saskatchewan Roughriders -- all have excellent names. As a fan, this boosts my loyalty to the team, something I could not have pulled off if I was rooting for, say, the Colorado Crush. (The Crush have such a bad name that it got mocked in The Onion).

Now, the worst offender when it comes to bad team names -- inexplicably, I might add -- is the Women's National Basketball Association. Why the WNBA's names are so amazingly bad, I don't know, but out of 14 teams in the league only ONE has a semi-decent name, that being the New York Liberty. Whatever one thinks of that name, one must agree that it is far superior to say, the Atlanta Dream, the Chicago Sky, and the Seattle Storm. I mean, come on. The Atlanta Dream? Even the "Lady Hawks" -- which I am not suggesting, I would note -- would be a better name than that.

I have to think the amazing prevalence of bad team names in the WNBA has hindered its success -- just as stupid team names hindered the success of the XFL. (The New York/New Jersey Hitmen? But what about Connecticut? And the Hitmen -- yeah, that's a team everyone can get behind). Now, obviously, a dumb team name isn't going to hinder a well-run organization, just as a great name (Minnesota Fighting Pike!) won't automatically lead to success. But in honor of team names That Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time, here's my rundown of the Worst Sports Team Names of All-Time.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: There are so many bad team names out there that limiting my list to just, oh, let's say 15, will provoke cries of outrage from readers. So here are my list of honorable mentions, and their leagues:

New York/New Jersey Hitmen (XFL), Memphis Maniax (XFL), Atlanta Dream (WNBA), Chicago Sky (WNBA), Detroit Shock (WNBA), Staten Island Stapletons (NFL), Arkansas GlacierCats (WPHL), Cape Cod Freedoms (NEHL), Tampa Bay Strong Dogs (ABA), Roanoke Dazzle (NBA D-League), and the Toronto Ontarios (NHA).

Now that that's out of the way, let's get to the Grand List:

This professional basketball team, which competed in something called the International Basketball Association, was based in Appleton, Wisc. Despite this, the "Wisconsin Blast" was the best name they could come up with. I don't know about you, but when I think of the phrase "Wisconsin Blast," I think of the Sunday morning torture innumerable frat boys suffer through after downing far too much Milwaukee's Best the night before.

A team that played for one year in the World League of American Football, the Ohio Glory finished their 1992 season 1-9. What was their team fight song? I imagine it went something like this:

We don't give a damn about the whole state of Michigan --
the whole state of Michigan, the whole state of Michigan --
we don't give a damn about the whole state of Michigan --
'cause we're from O-HI-O.

Another IBA team, the Rochester Skeeters were apparently named with the idea that even if the team didn't perform all that well, it would still be really annoying. Why the team was named after mosquitoes in a place where the ground is only free of snow for two months out of the year is beyond me, but there you go.

Back in the days of the early 20th century, there was actually a baseball team called the Red Roses in Lancaster, Pa., that faced off against the nearby White Roses of York, Pa. Given the rivalry and the history behind the original War of the Roses, the team name was an inspired -- almost genius -- choice. Furthermore, given the state of education back in the day, most people would actually have gotten this -- unlike today, when people would think Dennis Miller had somehow been allowed to come up with the team's name.

But I'm not talking about the baseball team. I'm talking about the CBA team from the Forties, which clearly tried to piggyback on history with the name choice. It didn't work -- and without a rival in York, the team name instead made the players seem like a bunch of pansies.

What the hell is an Alumnite, you're asking? Beats me, but I daresay this was the first basketball team to ever get named after a shaving product. This may have been why the team -- and the NPBL in which it played -- folded before its season ended back in 1950-1951.

Ole! This ABA team was named in that fraught-with-danger sports tradition, the Name That Team Contest. Amazingly, the team ownership went along with this name, despite the fact that it would undoubtedly annoy a good portion of its fan base. Also not helping matters: the mascot was a stereotypical "Mexican bandit." The average attendance of their games was 1,293, according to Wikipedia.

These two af2 teams, now mercifully defunct, violated the Cardinal Rule of Sports Team Naming Conventions: don't name your team after some lame-o physical force, especially if that makes the team sound like an WNBA team. Why Roanoke has issues with naming teams -- see above -- is beyond me, but they might want to do a better job with their marketing in future.

I'm sorry, but ThunderBears reminds me too much of this.

Since the team was sponsored by a trash-hauling company, you can't exactly blame the marketing guys for this one. In fact, I'd venture to say the marketing guys tore their hair out at having to come up with a team name and appropriate mascot for the owners, who should have stuck to hauling waste. According to the team's Wikipedia page, the mascot was a trash can wielding a hockey stick.

The winner and champeen of the XFL's only season. Sadly, nobody told the XFL guys that -- how to put this -- it's completely and incredibly lame to use the letter X in an attempt to impart coolness. Despite this, there are several sports teams that have done this. As for the Xtreme bit -- although "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle" didn't arrive until a few years after this, it should have been pretty clear that using the word "extreme" can only be used in a cynical or sarcastic sense, as in: "So -- not -- extreme!"

I'm sorry, what? The Minnesota Fighting Saints? I don't care if they played hockey in the Seventies -- it's the sports equivalent of UHF's "Gandhi II" sketch serving as your team name for all time. ("No more Mr Passive Resistance!")

Someone please tell me the team's star player wasn't known as "Six Percent." Please. I'm begging you. I mean, can you think of any team name less likely to get your fans fired up about the squad? (I've got three, actually, but we'll get to those). What was the mascot for this Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League team? A guy in a suit with a bunch of paperwork? I guess we should be thankful they weren't a baseball team, because the jokes about closing would be too much to bear.

Nothing brings to mind Eddie Shore and Old Time Hockey like a team named ... the Peoria Prancers. Holy God! What were they thinking? Think about it -- it's minor-league hockey. Your natural audience is a blue-collar crowd who shows up to see grown men beat the hell out of each other, and you name the team the Prancers? What was the mascot, a rotating collection from My Little Pony?

To the team's credit, though, the Prancers nickname only stuck for two years in the early Eighties. Someone apparently got out the epsom salts and the owners changed the name to the "Peoria Rivermen." That's not a great name either, but at least it doesn't conjure up images of tea parties and Care Bears.

Now here's genius for you: not only did you have the team with the worst name in the Arena Football League, you moved the team and found an even worse name. Was there no one with an IQ of 80 in the ownership group that could have said, "Say, I don't mean to rain on anybody's parade, but couldn't this new name complicate matters in terms of attracting families with children to the games?" I don't care if it was a sponsorship agreement: as amazing as it might seem, there are times when not being stupid trumps a lot of money.

Miami Hooters. My God. It's worth noting, by the way, that average attendance fell from about 9,000 in the first year to about 6,250 in the third year, according to ArenaFan. Fortunately, after 1995, the team got an actual decent name and continued to play on for several years.

In South Park, the kids' football team is named the "South Park Cows," who famously play the Middle Park Cowboys. Tell me how this is different. You can't, because it ain't. I mean, if there's nothing that suggests an immobile offensive line, a slothful defense and a quarterback who spends more time flat on his back than Jimmy Clausen playing Michigan, I don't know what does. I don't care if beef's an Omaha specialty, this is ridiculous.

Even worse, the beef analogies exist throughout the whole bloody organization. The mascot is Sir Loin. Yes, Sir Loin. That's somewhat alarming. More alarming is that the cheerleaders are called the "Omaha Prime." God help them -- if somebody from the University of Nebraska's Women's Studies Department picks up the sports section, there's going to be trouble! Or at the very least, two or three doctoral dissertations. ("Patriarchy, Indoor Football and the Continued Sexist Objectification of Women in Minor-League Sports.")

That said, unlike many of the teams I've listed, the Beef are doing quite well and have spent several years in the United Indoor Football league. I just hope they've got a backup name just in case. How about the Berkshire Hathaways?

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at May 9, 2008 11:59 PM | TrackBack
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