Scott recently mentioned the fact that the New Orleans Hornets are contemplating changing their name to the Pelicans rather than doing the sensible thing and swapping names with the Utah Jazz. Despite some voices to the contrary, the general consensus about the name change was “lame,” “sucks” and “sucks balls.” (Note that this sample size is based on my Facebook friends, which tells me that I need to go through and start cleaning those people I sort of knew in high school out of my Friends list.) I was particularly intrigued that the first person to make fun of the name change is a fan of the New York Knicks. Because apparently a team nickname based on carnivorous waterfowl is incredibly lame but a nickname based on the Dutch settlers of New York in the 1600s is sufficiently bad-assed.
There are a ton of sports team names that we accept without thinking because the team has been around for 100 years but we would probably find pretty ridiculous if they were suggested today. Of course, no one would propose a team nickname without going through scores of market research, demographic analysis and focus groups. So I wondered if that was also the case for team naming that took place decades ago. Through hours of dogged research at the archives of the American Society for Sports Team Naming (ASSTN), I was able to find responses from ACTUAL FOCUS GROUP PARTICIPANTS from when today’s classic sports teams were first named. I think you’ll find their responses quite illuminating:
BOSTON RED SOX FOCUS GROUP, DECEMBER 1907
NEW YORK YANKEES FOCUS GROUP, FEBRUARY 1913
CHICAGO WHITE SOX FOCUS GROUP, MARCH 1901
NEW YORK KNICKS FOCUS GROUP, JUNE 1946
LOS ANGELES LAKERS FOCUS GROUP, JULY 1959