Bullets, Wizards, Or?
The Washington Wizards blogger for ESPN had fun this morning. What should the team nickname be? After spending three years writing about DC basketball, I’m still partial to the Bullets from the Baltimore days.
Wizards Exec Says “Probably Not” on Bullets Name Change, But Not in CAPS; Here are some alternatives
More anti-name-change news was made yesterday. Really, has a city ever been held under such an enduring siege of controversy surrounding the names of two of its professional sports team as Washington, D.C. has? Doubt it.
You have the “Redskins,” which can be a terribly racist term, and you have the “Wizards,” which can just be terrible—specifically, for a pro basketball team in the nation’s capital.
This latest tid-bit of info naturally pertains to the “Wizards,” previously known as the “Bullets” from 1963 to 1997.
On Monday, Joe Dupriest, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Monumental Sports & Entertainment, told John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal that the franchise would “probably not” be renamed the Bullets, also alluding to the locker room gun incident between Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton as being a factor.
“I don’t see us changing the name to the Bullets. But I see us using the Bullets with the Wizards mark and using that history a lot more,” Dupriest also told Ourand.
The DC Sports Bog’s Dan Steinberg called the statement, “the strongest thing I can remember a team executive saying on this topic.”
Unlike Redskins owner Dan Snyder, who told USA Today in mid-May, “We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER—you can use caps,” Dupriest evidently did not specify a preference for CAPS in his statement. Perhaps related but not so much, the current description on Dupriest’s Twitter account (@joedupe) reads: “Caps, Wizards, Duke, Braves with plenty of Ronald Reagan ideology mixed in.”
So there’s that.
Steinberg also rehashed Ted Leonsis’ punting of this very issue in his Bog post. The team owner has several times claimed how “major” a name-change process would be, indicating that it would take “years” to accomplish. Meanwhile, over this offseason, the New Orleans Hornets have changed their name to the Pelicans, and the Charlotte Bobcats will soon return to being call the Hornets. Sure, there is a process [note: "process" is Ernie Grunfeld's favorite word], but if someone wanted to make it happen, it would’ve happened by now. For Leonsis, the action has only been in the bottomless pixel-talk.
So, this latest news is not really news. The language may be the strongest to date, and perhaps it came out of nowhere, but it is hardly a surprise. Even with the blessing of Irene Pollin, it’s long been suspected, by this blogger at least, that a return to the “Bullets” would be out of the question. My advice to people has been to move on. That said, the name “Wizards” should not be accepted. And choosing not to more strongly consider a name change puts Ted Leonsis in the realm of “obtuse” with the warden from The Shawshank Redemption. Then again, the ole pixel warden himself could have a trick up his sleeve.
Anyhow… in light of knowing that I will not be punished for blasting “Ave Maria” over a loudspeaker, I shall blog with freedom about the non-Wizards team name options that may or may not exist.
>The Washington Lincolns.
The city is named after the first U.S. President, George, but the argument can be made that Abe Lincoln is the most iconic. Not many teams are named after a person (the Cleveland Browns, the Charlotte Bobcats, technically (for now)), but Lincoln would be a worthy exception to make.
I mean, if Lincoln is worthy of being the subject of DeShawn Stevenson’s frontal neck tattoo, then what other reason do you need? Now, the marketing wizards at Monumental might have to get creative with team branding, but calling them the “Lincs” for short and having a fake beard promotional give-away night seems easy. Also, beards are popular these days.
Worth noting: there are calls for the U.S. Mint to kill the penny, which features an image of Lincoln—pennies cost more to make than what they are worth. Abe would still have the $5 bill in his corner, but should the penny die, naming a pro basketball team after Lincoln would be nice. Plus, the owner before Leonsis was named Abe.
>The Washington Stallions.
Horses have helped this country a lot, you know, with the towing of carts and stuff before there were cars. So after the eagle, perhaps the horse is the most American of species. And it would be tough to change the name to “Eagles” with that Philly football team up the road. That said, amongst the NBA, NFL, NHL, MLS, MLB, and CFL, there is only one team called the Eagles. Also, “Stallions” was one of the originally narrowed-down team name options in 1997.
>The Washington Federals.
D.C. is the seat of federal government in this country. That said, the District is also a land without the rights of a state—us residents pay federal taxes without any true representation in the legislative branch of government.
So I’m not sure if calling the pro basketball team the “Federals” would be ironically good or ironically bad other to say that watching the Wizards has been very taxing for fans over the years and they have noting to show for it. Thankfully, at least blogs provide the power to talk, which pretty much jibes with the power of Eleanor Holmes Norton.
>The Washington Freedom.
Maybe it could work. I mean, we all like freedom (even if it ain’t exactly “free” … amirite?).
Otherwise, I probably only mention it because my imagination takes me to a spirit squad dressed up like french (or, shall we say freedom) fries throwing out free trinkets, like T-shirts and burritos, while George Michael’s “Freedom” blasts through the arena and Ted Leonsis sings, “I won’t let you down, so please don’t give me up!”
I don’t know where all of this is going other than the fact that if I had to pick a “sleeper” of this whole charade, it would be Freedom.
Worth noting: Freedom was the nickname of a now-defunct women’s pro soccer team in the Washington area. After 10 years in operation, the owner of “magicJack” purchased the team, changed its name to “magicJack,” and moved the franchise to Boca Raton, Florida.
>The Washington Diamonds.
Has a team ever been named after a shape? (Do the Dallas Stars count? Even if they used to be called the North Stars?)
Now is probably not the time to start. Plus, without Virginia, the District is simply not a diamond. Woulda, coulda, shoulda…
>The Washington Hoops.
If you can have the Brooklyn Nets, why not the Hoops? Plus, if would be a good reason to bring back the old team mascot (from during the Bullets days), also named “Hoops.”
No, “Hoops” does not bring much of an association with the nation’s capital, but it’s at least 35.7 to 68.4 percent better than “Wizards.”
“HOOPS!” … in pin form.
>The Washington Dragons.
Like the Stallions, “Dragons” was part of the original name set along with Sea Dogs, Express, and … Wizards.
Unlike Wizards, dragons are real. Perhaps not the fire-breathing types, or even a magical dragon named “Puff,” but there are creatures that walk about this earth known as dragons. So that’s a start. [Full disclaimer: nope, dragons don't really exist, it's just that the name of certain lizards/reptiles includes the word "dragon" in them.]
Otherwise, such a nickname would be an ode to Chinatown, legendary creatives in Chinese folklore and mythology, but would perhaps also lend itself to unfortunate terminology … “I went to watch the Drags last night and boy did things get hairy.” … “Totally, I could’ve put out their lame fire-breathing with my Wiz.” … “Sounds ‘great,’ so when’s the next Drag Show?”
>The Washington Justice.
“Justice” seems popular, and marketable. And it’s perhaps the most reasonable option that’s been tossed about. In June 2010, I wrote a post about the nickname ordeal. The Washington Post’s Mike Wise was one of the many participants who opined. Wise:
The Washington Justice. Now that’s a name. You just got served.
Something tells me it’s going to be Monuments in three years—hence the company name change.
With Justice, there would more spins and local ties than a marketer would know what to do with… Plays on “Justice League” … “Just Us” … the list goes on like drawn-out litigation over several years that gets tied up in the judicial system.
>The Washington Monuments.
With Leonsis’ ownership group going from “Lincoln Holdings” to “Monumental Sports & Entertainment,” upon his assuming majority ownership of the franchise, calling the basketball team the “Monuments” seems so simply easy that it’s an improbability. You’d think that Leonsis would’ve pulled the trigger by now instead of simply diluting the presence of the word “wizards” with jersey changes and the what-not.
With Leonsis recently creating the Monumental Sports Network and likely aspiring toward one day owning the broadcast rights for all of his teams to show on said network, calling one of those teams the “Monuments” seems less and less likely.
Come to think of it… Maybe the big hang-up is actually on what to call the Mystics.
Or maybe this is just an unsolvable riddle with an answer that pleases no one. So the safe bet is to just twiddle thumbs while pixel saturation, like this very post, makes us increasingly numb toward caring until the day that we become so attached to the name “wizards” that we can never imagine life otherwise lest we carry pitchforks in revolution.
To be continued…