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Team names just aren’t the same
Bob Franken
Bob Franken is an Emmy-winning journalist. - photo by File photo

The Guardians?! After being known as the Indians since 1915, the best team name that the Cleveland baseball club could come up with was the Guardians? There are so many questions: Why did it take more than a hundred years to realize the previous name was obviously offensive to Native Americans? Why not return to one of the squad’s earlier nicknames, like the Spiders? It’s what they were called before the turn of the century -- the 20th century. Why name the franchise after statues on a bridge that crosses the Cuyahoga River, which is most famous for catching fire in 1969? Why not the Flames? Particularly since three years later the city’s mayor at the time, Ralph Perk, set his hair ablaze with a blowtorch. (By the way, I am not making this up.)

But Guardians it is, after this season. What will they call themselves in the meantime? The Cleveland Baseball Team? Sorry, but that idea has already been taken. The Washington Football Team is the best that owner Dan Snyder could come up with after deciding that he couldn’t squeeze another nickel out of the depleted NFL franchise by insisting on calling them the R-word, which is even more pejorative than Indians. For some reason, Snyder cannot get his act together and come up with a nickname until next year, although I’m sure he has heard scads of ideas. Lobbyists would be on the list, with a logo of a fat cat, although you could save time and effort by just renaming the squad the FatCats. Then we’d have the NFL FatCats, the MLB Nats, the NHL Caps and the NBA Wizards.

The Wizards?! How did that happen? It seems that in 1995, team owner Abe Pollin had become concerned that his NBA franchise’s name, the Bullets, celebrated gun violence. A noble motivation, indeed. So what to call his squad? Pollin opened up a 1-800 number for suggestions and decided that the least inappropriate ones were Sea Dogs, Dragons, Express, Stallions and Wizards.

After a while, Pollin announced that Wizards had won, even though it had nothing to do with anything. And Wizards it’s been ever since. By the way, gun violence has gotten worse since then.

Back to the Washington Football Team: The franchise is still a team with no name, although Sea Dogs, Dragons, Express and Stallions are still available; for that matter, so is Spiders. So is my personal favorite, the Swamp. The rally song could easily be changed to “Hail to the Wetlands.”

That would be a tribute to the political situation in Washington, where bribery -- excuse me, campaign contributions determine who gets their way there. And don’t forget Dan Snyder, who not only has sucked the bog dry since 1999 when he bought the franchise, but has also faced years of accusations of sleazy conduct involving cheerleaders and women employees in general. His conduct was so bad that Snyder’s active involvement in operating the team was taken away. But then, as an indicator of how the NFL’s wimpy executives run things, it was turned over to Tanya Snyder, Dan’s wife! 

How much input will she have in choosing a franchise name? It’s possible the NFL squad will continue to be called the Washington Football Team, although it might be more accurate to call it the Washington Disgusting Football Team. But how do you go about choosing a mascot in that case?

Whatever -- the fans don’t really give a hoot. Sports teams are pretty much an automatic moneymaker. Even when it’s a name like the Guardians or whatever the R-words choose, the merchandising alone will generate enough megabucks to make the ridicule worthwhile. And, compared to other news, it really doesn’t mean anything.

Bob Franken is an Emmy Award-winning reporter who covered Washington for more than 20 years with CNN.

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