Franchise Naming Conventions

As the NBA thinks up a new nickname for the Oklahoma City (née Seattle) SuperSonics, it's clear that we are long overdue for some rules in naming sports franchises. For example, take a look at this list of names the NBA has recently patented:

Oklahoma City Thunder
Oklahoma City Marshalls
Oklahoma City Energy
Oklahoma City Wind
Oklahoma City Barons
Oklahoma City Bison

Of these, the only one slightly palatable is the Marshalls, because it at least has an Old West feel to it. The others are either dull (Barons), ill-thought out (Let's not go into why the Wind is a bad name.) or simply ridiculous (I can't wait for the Utility Bowl when the Energy meet the Heat!).
And hockey already has the Tampa Bay Lightning. Does the NBA really need the Thunder? What's next? The Hail? The Slush? The Precipitation? When did sports leagues start targeting meteorologists as their new audience? Then again, I must admit that the Slush would be a great name for a hockey team.

Obviously, it's time to establish some franchise naming conventions so that things don't get completely out of hand, and so here are some suggestions.

1. Whenever possible, team names should end in an S.

As a Red Sox fan, I realize I'm on shaky ground here, but I still believe in the S. In modern times, the first major team to break this rule was the then New Orleans Jazz in the 1970s. It was kind of novel then, but in the late 1980s the NBA saddled us with the Miami Heat and the Orlando Magic. And then all hell broke loose in the 1990s when the NHL gave us the Tampa Bay Lightning, Colorado Avalanche, and Minnesota Wild.

And don't get me started about all the other sports leagues. Here's a quick review of reigning champions from smaller leagues.

Major League Soccer - Houston Dynamo
WNBA - Phoenix Mercury
Arena Football League - Philadelphia Soul
Major League Lacrosse - Philadelphia Barrage

2. Alliteration is a centuries-old literary technique, and its use in team names should be encouraged.

Case in point: the Tennessee Titans, which would be a dreadfully dull name without the alliteration. The Seattle SuperSonics represented possibly the best use of alliteration in sports, and, for that reason alone, I am sad to be losing them.

3. It's best to name your team after an animal.

Admittedly, cool animal names are becoming extinct. It's tough to find a good one, what with Lions, Eagles, Tigers, and Bulls already taken. This is how we have ended up with Marlins, Ducks, and Penguins.

Still, one should always start by looking for a scary animal. Not many are left, but if you're in the market for a team name, I believe that the Mad Cows are still available.

4. All team nicknames should be a real word, easily used in a sentence.

This year, a minor league baseball team in Ottawa called the Rapids suddenly changed its name to the Ottawa Rapidz. That's the sort of thing that will be unallowable when I become Franchise Naming Czar.

By the way, I fully admit that the Red Sox would be a ridiculous name if it were chosen today, though it could have been worse. They could have remained the Beaneaters, which brings us to the next rule.  

5. Your nickname should always be intimidating.

Giants, Bears, and Sharks are good. Padres, Wizards, and Clippers, not so much. And let's face it, New York. "Look out for the knickerbocker!" is not an expression heard very often.

6. When a team moves, the franchise must change its name.

This is at least one thing the Oklahomans have gotten right. The Sonics belong to Seattle, not Oklahoma City. Otherwise, without name changes, kids can grow up wondering where all the lakes in Los Angeles are and believing that jazz is an American musical art form created by Mormons.  

7. Sports clichés should be avoided.

Here's the real reason the Oklahoma Energy would be an awful name. You would hear the following at least once every game from the announcers:

"Well, the Energy sure are playing with a lot of energy tonight."

The other guy would then chuckle, while you began throwing things at your television. People of Oklahoma, don't let this happen to you.

Despite this rule, I would be willing to make an exception for the Momentum. That would be a great team name, if only for the general havoc it would cause announcers: "Wow, Marv, the Energy have really stolen the momentum away from the Momentum with their high energy play."

For now, Oklahoma City has not settled on a name, although on many lists, their franchise has a temporary name that is really starting to grow on me. This one doesn't end in an S and isn't an animal, but it may be the best possible option. They are simply called the Oklahoma City Team. I think I like it. Go Team indeed.

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