I’ve always wondered what it was about a sports team that leads them to make terrible artistic choices. There seems to be no end to the terrible jerseys, team names, logos, and mascots produced. There are many ugly, offensive, perplexing examples of terrible artistic decisions made by professional sports organizations. Is this the revenge of fashion designers who were bullied by jocks as kids? Perhaps there’s something about the inherent popularity of a jock that doesn’t allow them to consider the possibility that one of their ideas wasn’t cool. Whatever the reason, a lot of teams need a proper image overhaul.
Probably the greatest offenders of artistic style in sports are colleges. To be fair, there are so many colleges that is strains their ability to have a unique identity, but some colleges show almost no shame in their poor decisions. Among some bad university names are the Lord Jeffs, Gorloks, Caridinal, and Redmen. Though, in fairness to the Redmen, they changed it back in 1994 and opted for a less derogatory alternative. I, for one, attended the University of Ottawa and home of the Gee-Gee’s. What’s a Gee-Gee? A horse. Why do you care? You don’t, it’s a terrible name.
Going through all the different team names, I decided it would be best to omit college teams. For one, there are too many examples to include, but there’s also a difference between a college team and a professional team. Also, a college team is just a department within an institute of growth and learning. They have deep-rooted tradition and what they’re called is irrelevant to their purpose. A professional team, on the other hand, builds a brand image for a fan to buy into. Lastly, at the end of the day, students aren’t people yet and no one cares what they call themselves. With that, here are 10 of the worst team names in professional sports.
10. New Orleans Pelicans
To start us off, we have our most recent example of a terrible team name. Previously known as the Hornets (a good team name), the New Orleans basketball town announced a name change to take effect with the 2013 season. The New Orleans state bird is the brown pelican and I can understand the correlation, but that doesn’t make it a good team name. At that point, name it after the state flower and be the Magnolias, or better yet, after their state vegetable plant and be the Creole Tomatoes. A pelican is one of the least threatening birds and looks goofy. You wouldn’t want your team or their play style to embody any of the attributes of a pelican, so why name them after it? To be fair to new owner Tom Benson, they wanted to bring the name Jazz back to New Orleans, but Utah wasn’t having any of it. Speaking of which…
9. Utah Jazz
Seriously though, just let New Orleans have the name back. At this point, you’re just being a bunch of jerks. There is nothing about Utah that correlates to jazz. When the team originally moved in 1979, there was no reason to keep the name. In fact, attendance was terrible in the new market, probably in part to nobody in Utah caring about jazz. Bringing back my earlier point about distinguishing college and professional teams, a professional team is not an institution of higher learning and traditions, it’s a business. Build a brand image that your local market can relate to and wants to buy into. They should just give back the name to New Orleans, so they can stop being the Pelicans, and pick something better for themselves. In fact, even Utah picked another terrible team name, giving up the Jazz would make the NBA team names as a whole better.
8. New England Patriots
Now, before you go asking yourself what’s wrong with the Patriots, let me assure you that there’s nothing wrong with it. The problem is naming your team New England. I can understand team names representing a state, but representing six states is just ridiculous. You’re a Boston team, just be named the Boston Patriots. I’m sure someone thought it would be better to widen their home market and probably gain more supporters, but it’s unnecessary. There’s nothing going on in Maine, Vermont, etc. and they would be fans of whatever team is in Boston anyway, since that’s their closest link to civilization. So now you’re just stuck being named New England for no reason. It’s just made more ridiculous being paired with, Patriots. They’re the sport’s equivalent of someone who got a divorce, but kept their ex’s surname. You seem weird and probably have some personal issues you need to deal with.
7. Rochester Knighthawks
Who are the Rochester Knighthawks, you may be asking? They’re a lacrosse team in the NLL and currently reigning champs. Why is there a K in their name? No reason. I’ve always been a little disappointed that lacrosse is not a more popular sport. It looks like someone took all the best parts of the popular sports, turned up the aggressiveness factor, and just had at it. Unfortunately, the fact that not much is known of them is a reality they must accept. So, who thought it would be a good idea to make up a word by adding a silent K to a recognizable word and then have it be the team name? It’s not even like knight is any more badass than night and when qualifying a hawk, it just makes it goofier. Instead of a nocturnal predator, you have, what I like to imagine as some pompous bird with a monocle, bowing before the Queen. The worst part is they go by the nickname, the K-Hawks, which sounds like a bad one-hit wonder pop star.
6. Philadelphia Phillies
Come on man, you can do better than that. There are a lot of uninspired names in sports (see: any feline), but calling yourself the Phillies takes it to another level. This may be the only case of a team name that is both generic and unique. This one is like when you meet someone who’s given name and surname rhyme; you know their parents must’ve hated them. There’s no other reason a person would name something like that other than a deep disdain towards it. Though, when I think about it, this could have just as easily been much worse had they been named the Fillies. For the non-ranch hands among you, a filly is a young female horse. Crazier things have happened and the use of this homonym would have offended me as an English speaker. So, I guess it could be worse.
5. Houston Texans
Speaking of things being worse, the Houston Texans. If you thought Phillies was uninspired, giving yourself the name for residents of your state must seem unbearably bland. Some other teams do something similar, Canucks, Yankees, and Canadiens, but they add spin to it that says something about them. French dominated Montreal uses the French term, while Canucks and Yankees use the affectionate term for residents of their respective countries. Then you have the Texans, who aren’t the only NFL team in Texas, and who win the title for the most Boringest Borings of Boredom. When coming up with the name, they must have pulled confidence in their decision from the name being previously used by World Football League franchise and the Canadian Football League, San Antonio Texans. Well, the World Football League Houston Texans became the Shreveport Steamer, another terrible name, and I would not look to that franchise as an example. At least the San Antonio Texans were playing in a Canadian league, though it was still a terrible name for them as well.
4. South Sydney Rabbitohs
This one is an example of why not to hang onto tradition too tightly. At least if you do, remember why it is you’re hanging onto it. Rabbitohs is, objectively, a terrible name, but it at least intrigues your curiosity. It may be made up and ridiculous, but its creation is not straightforward. It’s totally possible for a great creation story to redeem a bad name. The problem is, the South Sydney rugby team does not have such a story. There are believed to be two possible origin stories for the name and a majority of team supporters don’t know either of them. Most Rabbitohs fans simply accept it as the team name without question.
The first of the possible origin stories is that team players worked day jobs skinning and selling rabbits. The rabbit fur/meat peddlers supposedly would shout in the market to attract customers, “Rabbitoh!” The other origin story is that the original field the team used was so bad, the players described it as playing among many rabbit holes, which over time became rabbitohs. Both those stories suck. If you want to rely on tradition, you better remember the true story and it better be a story good enough to hang on to.
3. Cleveland Browns
The Browns isn’t actually that terrible of a team name. It’s not good either, but there exist much worse names. The reason the Cleveland Browns land on this list is the origin story of the name. The franchise was created in 1945 and the owner, Arthur McBride, wanted to name the team after the head coach, Paul Brown. Paul had the decency to refuse the calls to have the team named after him and instead held a poll to decide on a new name. After the poll, the name Panthers was chosen and enacted until a copyright claim was filed two months later. Apparently, Cleveland already had a failed football team named the Cleveland Panthers (who would have guessed there were multiple feline-named teams?). So, the team name reverted back to the Browns, supposedly not after Paul, but after Joe Louis’s nickname. I don’t buy it, the team was definitely named after the original head coach, and in that, they missed a great opportunity. They would have easily had the best team name in sports if it would be officially changed every time a new head coach took over. Who wouldn’t love to be watching the Cleveland Pettines on Sunday?
2. Columbus Blue Jackets
If you’ve seen the Blue Jackets lately, you might be wondering why they’re included on this list. They’re a symbol for patriotic, blue-blooded, American, Union soldiers fighting to abolish slavery. For those of you who don’t know, a blue jacket was the term for Union soldiers (the North) who fought the Confederate soldiers (the South) in the American Civil War. Well, since they were brought in as an expansion team in the 90s, the Blue Jackets have tweaked and worked their brand image. When originally created, they did not have the patriotic logo that you now know and don’t love. No, originally, the logo was a wasp wearing a blue, Union jacket. Not just any wasp, it was a yellow jacket wasp wearing a blue jacket. That’s right, the teams premise was a terrible pun and no one likes puns. A pun makes everyone who isn’t the person saying it feel bad, not exactly in line with the purpose of creating a brand for your team. To their credit, they didn’t opt to go with the city name instead for an image and have a ship sailing the Atlantic as a logo (I’m looking at you, Buffalo. Be better.)
1. Toronto Maple Leafs
You can’t just make up words; I don’t care if you’re a Rochester lacrosse team no one cares about or a hockey team with the largest market in the NHL. Actually, let me rephrase that, you can make up words, but you can’t misspell actual words and then pretend they’re a word you made up (still, also looking at you, Rochester). You’re the Toronto Maples Leaves, not Leafs. To top it off, a maple leaf isn’t a good team name to begin with. Yes, it’s very Canadian, on the flag and all that, but that doesn’t mean it represents the qualities you want in a hockey player. Then again, an argument can be made that being Canadian is a very sought after quality in a hockey player. Yet, you would still come back to the same problem, the plural of leaf is leaves.
You may or may not agree with this list and if I’ve offended a fan of any of these teams, I apologize. Unless you’re a Leafs fan, then screw you.