I was watching Pujols hit number 500 out in Nationals Park this morning on SportsCenter, and just thinking about how much I disapprove of the Angels now being called the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. I do understand the owner’s perspective that he wants to market the team to the bigger city in the metro area, but anyone who actually lives in Los Angeles makes a clear distinction between L.A. and Orange County. It’s not the same place, so the team name shouldn’t pretend it is. It really isn’t even pretending- it’s saying “We know they play in one place, but we’re naming it after this other one.” I was accused the other day about trying to make up the names for how teams name each other, in regards to what right the Brooklyn Nets have to name their team after the borough. But I’ve come around on that. Brooklyn is a huge entity, with a huge identity, so they should go for it. Which brings me to the first rule:
Rule 1: Thou Shalt Name Thy Team After the Smallest Possible Entity Thou Can Which Most Respects the People of that Area.
When I was first granted these rules from the Great Sports Commissioner in the Sky, I didn’t understand all the wording. But I believe this simply means that whatever entity the people of the area most identify with is probably the right one to choose to name the sports team after. All the teams in Chicago are named after that city because no one cares about the rest of Illinois. You could sooner name it the NE Illinois/NW Indiana/Southern Wisconsin Whatevers, and it would have the same kind of resonance. (Except it would be a mouthful.)
The Rangers play in Arlington, Texas, which is not a very well-known city outside that area, despite having almost as many people as Dallas or Fort Worth. So for that and reasons of synergy with their nickname, they chose to name them after that state. Probably for similar reasons, the Minnesota Twins chose their state name, even though there had already been a very successful major sports team in their state named after their biggest city. Bloomington still had to be associated with the whole state, and as great a name as Twins is, it wouldn’t be possible to call them the [Insert a single city’s name here] Twins. Nonetheless, I do feel like they are our area’s team most closely named after the Twin Cities,[i] which suits me just fine.
A couple other questions can be brought up in regards to the GSC’s first rule. What would he have to say about the Golden State Warriors, who play in Oakland? First, I would have to argue that no one wants their team named after an s---hole like “Oaktown”, especially if there is no competing team in San Francisco, aka The City[ii]. And while Golden State technically refers to the whole state of California, it specifically highlights the history of Northern California, whither everyone headed during the area’s famed Gold Rush of 1849.
Then we come to the question of Tampa Bay- the fact that they have two rather large cities surrounding one geographic feature does not necessarily define the area geographically. It’s said that Tropicana Field in St. Pete is about a 40 minute drive for anyone from Tampa, and considering very few people are from that area and Tampa itself actually hosts a minor league affiliate of the Yankees, this translates to rock-bottom attendance even when the team is good. This is easier to justify in the football realm, because with only eight home games a year, people from all over can completely justify the trip, and there is very little else competing in that area that time of year. So considering its giant population, its history as an independent city, and a very recognizable cultural association in the present-day, Brooklyn can have their Nets- and maybs take the Isles when they have the chance.[iii]
Rule 2: Thou must at least play in the same Metro Area as thou claimest thy team is from.
This is a rule that has mostly been rectified, although there are a few cases which at least bear further discussion. The first and probably most notable is in the Meadowlands of New Jersey, where not one, but TWO teams claim to represent a city in one state over. I have myself been to new Jersey, and I can tell you that there’s still a strong association with the Big Apple all the way over in Northwestern New Jersey, which the Meadowlands is much closer than. In fact, most of the entire state of New Jersey is a ‘burb of NYC and they’re content with that. The original incarnation of the MLS franchise now known as the New York Red Bulls was at least originally called the New York/New Jersey MetroStars. And they had to point out that the recent Super Bowl in the unfortunately named MetLife Stadium[iv]. In the case of the NJ Devils, they found a great name, a multitude of competition from two other New York hockey teams, and a nickname with which people of the area identify (plus a few more Cup wins than those teams in our lifetimes).
The sin of FC Dallas of MLS is not so much a sin against their fans, but a symptom of what’s wrong with having a team in that area in the first place. The team plays in Frisco, a city so far outside Dallas, that no one in the city would try to claim being from Big D. And if that’s where you are resigned to play as a pro sports team, something needs to be re-addressed about the alignment of teams in your league[v]. It just sucks that the team happens to be doing really well so far this year.
The former Boston Patriots have acknowledged the distance Foxboro is from the capital of the region in their name, on the west coast, we will soon have an egregious violation of this rule and the geographic sensibilities of all Californians. The San Francisco 49ers are moving to a stadium just outside San Jose (Frank to Joe?) and about a 75 mile trip to the city they profess to represent. I have no idea what they could do to redefine themselves (not that they’d want to), but if I was an Oakland Raiders supporter (who are scary enough), I would pull a George H.W. Bush and tell them “This aggression will not stand”! Nor would I be happy as a resident of San Jose, for our generosity to go so unacknowledged in the team name. “We’re home of the Earthquakes and Sharks, for crying out loud!” Naming them something to do with the Bay Area or NoCal would completely contested by Oakland, but they might have to take a more Angelic approach to it. In Anaheim, they rarely refer to the ‘Los Angeles’ moniker, given the risk of alienation to those actually attending the games, saying simply “Here are your Angels!” I genuinely feel bad for these teams.
[ii] Which I believe the team actually had on their uni’s for a few seasons back in the day.
[iii] Brooklyn Jets also has a nice ring to it, considering those two other teams’ second class status in the city, and the presence of JFK on the edge of the borough.
[iv] How could they not call it JetBlue Stadium? So much going for that name.
[v] City of Lakes FC!