Sunday, January 24, 2010

sports and the athletically unsupported

As the non-sportly half of a relationship with a woman who loves sports (and was herself an incredible athlete) I find myself musing about sports more than I'd expected. Ever.

To be sure, my interests are tangential. I am interested in team logos and colors (Rockets and Texans: nice; Astros: meh). I am fascinated by expressions and chants (Good eye! Good eye!). I am curious about superstition and it's manifestations (You don't wash your socks during a streak? You velcro and unvelcro your glove three times before every swing? You draw a smiley face on your away game cup?). I like to mock the interviews (see Bull Durham: "We gotta play it one day at a time."). Being a wordaholic, I mostly like to see if where the team lives has anything to do with it's name.

The Minnesota team is called The Vikings. All those Scandinavian-descended mid-westerners rightly picked a name from Nordic history. (Although "Vikings" is rather showy and aggressive for such a unfussy people, eh?) Then there's the Miami Dolphins, San Francisco Forty-Niners, New England Patriots...all clearly symbolic and geographically-rooted. I particularly like the Baltimore Ravens (shout out to my man and opium-hound, E.A. Poe) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Argh). H-Town, of course, has it's NASA/space-flavored team names: Astros, Rockets and the sadly defunct WNBA Comets.

When a team is usurped, bought or flees to another town, I think they ought to create a new name. Like the witness-protection program: start a new life, new branding, new location, new name.

When the Brooklyn Dodgers moved to L.A. (and broke my sweet mother's heart, you bastards) they kept the Dodgers part. This from Wikipedia:

"By 1890 New Yorkers (Brooklyn was a separate city until it became a borough in 1898) routinely called anyone from Brooklyn a 'trolley dodger'..."
Which is a lovely bit of local history that produced a name. However, since Dodge(r) is a word that has multiple meanings and connotations (Artful Dodger, Draft Dodger, Dodge baller, Dodge vehicles are craptastic, etc.,) I suppose it was more adaptable to the California move than some other names.

When the Houston Oilers (lousy logo, pukey colors but understandable nomenclature) moved to Appalachia, it seemed right that they became the Tennessee Titans...well, the alliteration works anyway. (I'm not sure being named after the Giants who spawned the Greek Gods isn't setting yourself up for some disappointing comparisons. But it's SO much better than the Tennessee Oilers, which just conjures up the image of Jed 'n Jethro gnawing on greasy possum fritters.)

When the basketball team from New Orleans named themselves The Jazz, I thought, right on. Jazz is an American concoction with a bluesy heart and lyrical playfulness. New Orleans Jazz is unique from St. Louis Jazz is unique from Chicago Jazz, etc., so great name! Then, they were jettisoned out of Louisiana to Utah. Utah. Where innovative, experimental and cutting edge land with a dull thud.
  • Utah is Scenic not Shimmying.
  • Utah is LDS not LSD. (A stretch but do you have any idea how long I've waited to say this?)
  • Utah is Hiking not Hip-Hop.
  • Utah is Mormon not Mardi Gras.
  • Utah is Casserole not Creole.
  • Utah is The Tabernacle Choir not The Jazz.
I could go on but I'll rein myself in here.
When the team became the Utah Jazz, a little part of me died.

And I can't stand basketball.

I just hate it more that two words standing next to each other in line are forced to hold hands when it's obvious they are not meant to be together.

As I overheard Barbara cheering the New Orleans Saints, it dawned on me–Hey, if the Saints moved to Utah, they wouldn't have to change their name at all.


Kim said...

Thank you for today's sports history lesson. Like you, I can't stand pro basketball, and had no idea the Jazz were originally of New Orleans. I had wondered how a team in Utah came to have that name, but didn't care enough to, well, care.

Epiphenita said...

So glad I could shed some light on this wee slice of sports history.

The fact that my Venn diagram of Utah, Sports and New Orleans overlapped in this tiny vector is the kind of random I love.

E4 said...

and I was beaming with pride that my sister finally seemed to be paying attention to the game...