Monthly Archives: November 2012

This project was a natural afterthought to the recent Sport Change moniker rankings for each of the leagues in the Big Four.  Now that we’ve stated our rankings for individual leagues, let’s see which monikers are the best overall.

What are the best names in the Big Four?


The individual team rankings can all be found on the Moniker Monitor page.  This may seem like a simple “take the top tier from each league” process, but moving the monikers out of their individual leagues alters the criteria for selection in a few ways.

Removing the Historical Skaters

-For starters, no historical skaters are included.  These are the teams with questionable pro-level monikers who ranked high in the individual leagues simply due to their historic cred.  The NFL doesn’t have too many skaters, though the Bills, Colts, and 49ers were not even remotely considered.  Major League Baseball skaters are Yankees, Red Sox, White Sox, Cubs, and Dodgers.  Mets and Phillies were also well out of consideration, though that may go without saying.  NBA skaters were Celtics, Knickerbockers, 76ers, and Lakers.  In the NHL, the literal historic skaters are Maple Leafs, Bruins, Rangers, Blackhawks, Canadiens, and Red Wings.  Red Wings is a pretty solid moniker, but is didn’t meet the next criterion….

In or Out of Context

-Monikers that only make sense within the sport they play are not going to be ranked high.  An example would be the Nets, a nickname that would be meaningless in say, baseball.  Not that the Nets would be ranked high anyway–that is a terrible moniker.  Another example would be the Philadelphia Flyers.  That’s a great nickname that fits the team.  They ranked high in the NHL due to alliteration, brand consistency, and some history.  Taken out of context and into the big picture, the same is bland and somewhat meaningless.

Only One Team Per Moniker

There are six nicknames in the Big Four that are shared by two different teams.  These are Giants, Jets, Rangers, Panthers, Cardinals, and Kings.  For each of these pairs, only one was chosen to be considered.  The simplest way to explain it would be: who wears it best?  The New York Giants were an easy choice over the displaced baseball Giants of Frisco.  New York Jets takes a slight edge over Winnipeg, though Jets isn’t a top name to begin with.  Texas Rangers was an easy choice over the urban cowboys of Manhattan–definitely historical skaters.  Though it’s cool that a Florida Panther is an actual animal, we chose Carolina for three reasons: 1. the NHL Panthers shouldn’t be claiming the whole state of Florida as their own when Tampa has a franchise.  2. A black panther better represents the nickname Panthers.  3. Carolina is a more successful franchise–the Florida Panthers seem poised to relocate due to terrible ticket sales.  The St. Louis Cardinals were a gimme over the desert Cards in the NFL.  The Los Angeles Kings were our top-ranked NHL moniker, and the lowly Sacramento Kings don’t wear the crown nearly as well.

So there are a few rules.  Other than that, it’s mostly subjective. Please peruse, disagree, leave comments, and enjoy!

1. Pittsburgh Pirates.

2. New York Giants

3. Chicago Bears

4. Los Angeles Kings

5. Detroit Lions

6. Detroit Tigers

7. Chicago Bulls

8. St. Louis Rams

9. Golden State Warriors

10. Cincinnati Reds

11. Tennessee Titans

12. Dallas Cowboys

13. Texas Rangers

14. Green Bay Packers

15. Pittsburgh Steelers

16. Milwaukee Bucks

17. Atlanta Hawks

18. Philadelphia Eagles

19. Cleveland Browns

20. St. Louis Blues

21. San Jose Sharks

22. Miami Dolphins

23. Carolina Panthers

24. Minnesota Vikings

25. Milwaukee Brewers

26. Edmonton Oilers

27. Pittsburgh Penguins

28. New Jersey Devils

29. St. Louis Cardinals

30. Oakland Raiders

31. Dallas Mavericks

32. Seattle Mariners

There are the 32 as picked by Sport Change.  There is plenty of discussion and disagreement to be had here.  Feel free to use the comment board.  Here is some analysis:


Honorable mention:

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, New York Jets

MLB: Baltimore Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays, Atlanta Braves, Oakland Athletics

NBA: Portland Trailblazers, Cleveland Cavaliers, New Orleans Hornets, Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets, Phoenix Suns, Minnesota Timberwolves

NHL: Philadelphia Flyers, Montreal Canadiens, Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, Boston Bruins


Who Jumped?  Who Slipped?

In the NFL, the Browns leapfrogged the Chiefs to make it to the big list.  Other than the historical skaters, MLB stayed true to the original list.  In the NBA, the Mavericks jumped ahead of the Blazers.  The Philadelphia Flyers slipped more than any other team; from second in the NHL to out of the top 32.  A handful of teams leapfrogged the Flyers as they were more worthy when removed from the context of the NHL.


Contribution by League

NFL contributed 14 of 32 for ~44%

MLB contributed 7 of 32 for ~22%

NBA contributed 5 of 32 for ~15%

NHL contributed 6 of 32 for ~19%


Divisions.  For fun, let’s separate these top 32 monikers into divisions based on their category:

The HMC (Humanoid Moniker Conference)

Seafarers Division: Pirates, Vikings, Raiders, Mariners

Wild West Division: Cowboys, Rangers, Mavericks, Warriors

Blue Collar Division: Packers, Steelers, Oilers, Brewers

Looming Figures Division: Kings, Giants, Titans, Devils


The CMC (Color/critter Moniker Conference)

Furry & Fearsome Division: Bears, Lions, Tigers, Panthers

Miscellaneous Mammals Division: Rams, Bulls, Bucks, Dolphins

Air & Water Division: Eagles, Hawks, Penguins, Sharks

Rainbow Division: Cardinals, Reds, Blues, Browns


Now that was a waste of time.  Surely there is nothing more to be said about the state of pro sports nicknames, right?  Of course not!  Next up, we’ll list the worst 32 monikers in pro sports.  Stay posted.



As an afterthought to our recent moniker rankings of each league in the Big Four, let’s look at which markets are the best monikered and which are the worst.

The best monikered market for pro sports is….read on to find out. Unless you’re an expert at skyline identification.


To determine the ranks, we averaged the rankings of all the teams within a given market to come up with a number.  There is certainly some gray area here, so I’ll lay out the criteria:

-By saying ‘markets,’ I’m referring to cities or regions that are the either the same or correlative from league to league.  I used no objective system (such as TV markets) but rather made judgement calls when in doubt.  The easiest example would  be a market like Detroit, where the teams represented are the Lions, Tigers, Pistons, and Red Wings.  Easy.  Lumping a team like the New England Patriots in with the Boston clubs is a no-brainer as well.  North Carolina claims the Bobcats and the Panthers.  Tennessee claims the Memphis Grizzlies and the Titans/Predators of Nashville.  Wisconsin includes the Bucks and Brewers, but also the Green Bay Packers.  The Texas Rangers of Arlington are certainly within the Dallas market.  I chose to separate San Francisco and Oakland as individual markets, though I decided that the Golden State Warriors count for both.  I was tempted to create one “Bay Area” market that would also include the San Jose Sharks (and maybe the Sacramento Kings) but decided against it.

-To qualify, an individual market must have at least two teams in the Big Four.  For the record, I decided against lumping Jacksonville and Orlando into one.  Same goes for Calgary and Edmonton.  Since the Blue Jackets claim Columbus rather than Ohio, they are in not linked to the Cleveland or Cincinnati markets.  The disqualified markets with only one team representative are: Jacksonville, Orlando, Sacramento, Portland, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Utah, New Jersey, San Jose, Edmonton, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Calgary, and Columbus.  

-New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles are the three cities that have multiple teams of a given sport within their domain.  New York claims the Giants, Jets, Mets, Yankees, Knicks, Nets, Islanders, and Rangers.  They do not claim the New Jersey Devils as they play in Newark, an independent market.  Chicago obviously claims both the Cubs and Sox along with the Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks.  Los Angeles claims all teams in LA proper and Anaheim, so that’s the Dodgers, Angels, Clippers, Lakers, Kings, and Ducks.

-Each market had an individual score within a particular league, meaning that the large cities get an average of the teams within it’s league.  For instance, in our NFL rankings, the Giants were ranked number 1 and the Jets were ranked number 17.  1+17=18 divided by 2=9.  The score of the New York market within the NFL is 9.

Here are links that open new tabs to Sport Change moniker rankings:

For MLB, click here

For the NFL, click here

For the NBA, click here

For the NHL, click here

-The league scores of each market are averaged together to produce a final score.  An easy one is the Dallas market.  The Cowboys were ranked 7th, the Rangers were ranked 5th, the Mavericks were ranked 7th, and the Stars were ranked 9th.  That’s easy math.  7+5+7+9=28 divided by 4=the average market score of 7.  Easy.  The score are then simply ranked from 1 to 32.  There were two ties.

-There are obvious flaws within this system, as it operates more like an electoral college than a popular vote.  For instance, the NFL has much better monikers overall than the NBA or NHL.  The 15th ranked NFL team may be better than the 8th ranked NBA team.  A better system might to be to rank all 122 monikers in the Big Four collectively, then extract the numbers.  For now, we’re going to use this system.  The rankings and criteria are somewhat arbitrary anyway, so what the hell.


Alright, another instance of Sport Change over-explaining things.  Now let’s get right into it, starting at the top:

The ‘Lou has a good group of nicknames, but there’s no Gateway Arch in that skyline picture.


1. Pittsburgh.  The Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins were all ranked in the top ten of their respective leagues.  The Steel City is number one by a good margin.  Average score: 4.33

2. St. Louis.  Rams, Cardinals, and Blues were all top ten.  The Cardinals skate by on some history, but St. Louis has great monikers overall.  If they still had the NBA’s Hawks, they might have even done better.  Average score: 5.66

3. Chicago.  Bears and Bulls are exceptional nicknames–no market has two nicknames ranked higher (#2 and #1) within their leagues.  Cubs and Sox combined for a score of 9, but both are historical skaters, as are the Blackhawks.  Average score: 6

4. Dallas.  The only market with a top ten team in each of the Big Four.  Rangers, Cowboys, Mavericks, and Stars are all solid monikers.  Average score: 7

5. Wisconsin.  Bucks is a very good nickname, and the Packers and Brewers both have blue-collar cred.  Average score: 7.66

The cheese state manages to produce a string of non-cheesy nicknames.

6. Detroit.  Lions and Tigers are terrific nicknames.  Red Wings and Pistons do not disappoint.  Average score: 7.75.

7. Philadelphia.  Eagles and Flyers are very good.  Phillies and 76ers are questionable–they mostly skate by on history.  Average score: 10.25

8. San Francisco.  Giants and Warriors are top tier, but 49ers is questionable at face value.  Frisco just edges out the other big Bay Area market.  Average score: 11

9. Oakland.  Warriors is top tier, of course.  Raiders is above average, whereas Athletics is bland and middling.  If the Bay Area (with San Jose Sharks included) were viewed as one market, it would be ranked 7th–just ahead of Philadelphia.  Average score: 11.66

The Bay Bridge connects the two cities that share the Golden State designation. Both benefit from the excellent Warriors moniker.

10. Boston.  Just about each team here skates by on history.  The Bruins have nice alliteration, but none of the teams (Celtics, Patriots, Red Sox) have an appropriate pro moniker when viewed at face value.  Average score: 11.75

11. Los Angeles.  The Kings have a phenomenal nickname.  Angels, Ducks, and Clippers are very middling.  Lakers and Dodgers have history going for them, but little else.  Average score: 13.5

12-tie. Atlanta.  Hawks is a nice moniker.  Braves and Falcons are alright.  The NFL has so many great nicknames that it’s hard to believe that Falcons slipped to 19th of 32.  If pressed to choose, I’d give Atlanta the slight tiebreaker over Cleveland due to the tomahawk chop being only slightly less offensive than Chief Wahoo.  Average score: 14.33

12-tie. Cleveland.  The Cavaliers score high in the NBA, but that’s not saying much.  The Browns have a nice nickname that went underappreciated in the electoral system.  Overappreciation and underappreciation makes for a pretty average score.  Average score: 14.33

14. Tennessee.  Titans is a terrific handle, but Grizzlies and Predators leave something to be desired.  Average score: 14.66

Grizzlies and sabre-toothed tigers. Two animals you shouldn’t expect to see in Tennessee.

15. Kansas City.  Talk about a perfectly average market.  Chiefs was ranked 14th and Royals was 16th.  An average market at the 15th spot.  Average score: 15

16. New York.  Giants is the only truly good nickname in the largest of the markets.  Jets, Nets, and Mets are all middling.  Yankees, Rangers and Knickerbockers are all historical skaters with little face value.  Islanders is marooned on an island of mediocrity.  Average score: 15.6

17. Miami.  Florida Panthers is nice, though they could change to Miami Panthers.  Dolphins and Marlins are very appropriate for the market, if somewhat fishy.  The Heat are the best of the NBA’s non-singularable/non-pluralable monikers, but those are the worst of the worst.  Average score: 17

18. Cincinnati.  The tale of two opposites.   Reds ranked 4th in Major League Baseball, whereas the Bengals ranked 31st in the NFL.  Average score: 17.5


One moniker is magnificent, while the other is Cincinnasty.

19. North Carolina.  The Carolina Panthers have a good moniker, whereas the Bobcats are little more semipro.  The Hurricanes drag the average down a bit.  Average score: 18

20. New Orleans.  The Saints were ranked low, but in other leagues they would’ve been higher.  Hornets is a pretty good basketball nickname.  Average score: 18.5

21. Toronto.  The Blue Jays are solid and the Maple Leafs have history.  It’s those darn velociraptors that drag down Ontario.  Average score: 19

22. Minnesota.  Vikings is a nice nickname and Timberwolves is above average.  The Twins and Wild monikers are the dead weight here.  Average score: 19.75

23. Baltimore.  Orioles is fun and unique, whereas Ravens fell victim to the deep NFL moniker pool. Average score: 20.5

The Orioles and Ravens nicknames are about equally decent. The depth of great nicknames in the NFL doomed both blackbirds to the lower quadrant.

24. Seattle.  Mariners is a solid moniker, but Seahawks is maybe a bit of stretch for a pro team.  If the Sonics return or if a new NHL chooses a good nickname (Grays!) then the average ticks back up.  Average score: 21

25. Buffalo.  The overly-clever Bills ranked 22nd in the NFL, and the overly-classy Sabres ranked 22nd in the NHL.  That’s good for 25th best.  Average score: 22

26. Colorado.  Broncos and Nuggets are fun, if unimpressive.  Rockies and Avalanche cause the average to tumble down the mountainside.  Average score: 22.25

27. Tampa.  Buccaneers is pretty good, but the NFL is deep.  Rays is decent, but Lightning is crap.  Average score: 23

28. Houston.  Rockets is a pretty good moniker, but Texans is bland and Astros….they might as well be called Ass-tros.  Average score: 23.33

Astros makes a flighty nickname like Rockets look tame. Texans grounds all Houston monikers.

29-tie. Arizona.  Suns is the best one here, and that’s not saying much.  Diamondbacks and Coyotes are pretty sad, but I’ll give them a slight tiebreaker over Indy due to the fact that the NFL’s Cardinals nickname is the oldest in football–if in a strange place.  Average score: 24.5

29-tie. Indiana.  Just lower tier.  Colts is questionable and Pacers is the epitome of a mediocre moniker.  Average score: 24.5

31. Washington.  Capitals is the best moniker in the Capital.  Yikes.  Nationals is boring.  Wizards is embarrassing.  Redskins is unacceptably offensive.  If San Diego had more than two pro sports teams, Washington would likely be last.  Average score: 24.75

32. San Diego.  Nothing especially good here.  Chargers is bland enough to tumble in the deep NFL pool, and the lovable ‘Padres’ is a minor league nickname masquerading as a pro nickname.  Having only two teams makes for a touchy average.  Even if they still had the Clippers (ranked 22 of 30 in the NBA) they wouldn’t be in last place.  And that’s the Clippers!  Damn the electoral college!   Average score: 25

The Swinging Friar may be lovable, but he’s not enough to save San Diego’s moniker ranking.


There are some interesting thoughts provoked by this study.  Once we hit number 7 (Philadelphia) the average scores only increased gradually, building to a highest score of 25.  What’s dramatic is the leap between #6 (Detroit at 7.75) to Philadelphia (10.25) at #7.  From that, I’m going to jump to the conclusion that there are six and only six markets with truly solid monikers throughout each of their sports.  These markets are: Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Chicago, Dallas, Wisconsin, and Detroit.


Alright.  Got that out of my system.  Been plugging away at the list of best and worst overall monikers in the Big Four combined, so stay alert for upcoming posts.  Got to love Thanksgiving break…enough time to justify staring at averages for the rankings of sports nicknames.  Only on Sport Change.


Followers of Sport Change will be well aware of the concept of a Vision of Reversion.  It’s basically stating that mistakes were made by owners in days gone by to relocate franchises or to fail to rebrand when relocating.  The VOR points out ways to revert to past structures that would obviously benefit the sport–or at least be an improvement.  This was previously explored for the NFL, but now we turn our sights to the National Basketball League.

Time for some switchin’ and swappin’


In a Sport Change post back in August, NBA teams were explored to determine which teams were “fair game” for relocation and rebranding discussion.  More recently, a post was dedicated to ranking the nicknames of each NBA team.  Those explorations have set the stage for talk of various relocation and rebranding scenarios.  For now, we’re focused simply on a sensible moniker swap; much of which is a reversion to former names.  There is no recent precedent for moniker swapping, so this is certainly pure fantasy.  If anything, it might be a good way to stay vigilant about which nicknames are worth keeping and which are worth dropping when a team moves.  Let’s get started.


The Four Point Loop

We begin with Toronto, a large market that certainly deserves pro sports teams.  The NBA has already broken the border, so we’re happy keeping a team in Toronto.  The problem is that the team is called the Raptors.  This moniker is based on the lingering popularity of the film Jurassic Park around the time of 1994, when Toronto was branding an expansion franchise.  Popular opinion chose ‘Raptors’ over another moniker that we’ll discuss soon.  Nearly twenty years later, ‘Raptors’ seems dated, cute, and lacking context.  I would be content to see Toronto keep the moniker but totally rebrand into a reference to birds of prey, but that’s not as much fun.  There is probably only one region where the dinosaur version of raptor could find a lasting appropriate home, and that location is…


The fierce, feathered Utahraptor

Utah.  The Raptors leave Canada and find a home in Salt Lake City, near the excavation sites of the aptly named dinosaur, the Utahraptor.  It works.  It certainly makes a hell of a lot more sense than Utah’s current team name.  Which brings us to….


Bringing back the Jazz to to where they were in the heyday of Pistol Pete

New Orleans.  This is truly a retro revert.  I certainly do not like non-singularable/non-pluralable monikers, but ‘Jazz’ has been around a long time and it fit with the unorthodox nature of New Orleans.  Of course, that means that the Hornets buzz out of town and find their way to…


Time for the ‘nets to fly home to North Carolina

Charlotte.  Charlotte fans have never fully embraced their current identity, and pine for the days of Alonzo, Larry, and the great Tyrone Bogues.  Charlotte gets back the Hornets, and the ‘Bobcats’ moniker claws it’s way North to….


They should’ve been the Toronto Bobcats from the get-go.

Toronto.  In the name-the-team contest in the mid-nineties, Raptors beat out Bobcats and Dragons.  Dragons is cool, but is not best served as a pro team nickname.  You can say the same thing about Bobcats, but it just feels more at home in Ontario than North Carolina.

So that gives us the Utah Raptors, the New Orleans Jazz, the Charlotte Hornets, and the Toronto Bobcats.  Nice.  There is something uniquely satisfying about this closed loop Vision of Reversion.  If only this would actually happen, the NBA would be a much better place.


Now let us take a look at another quick swap that is essentially unthinkable.  In fact, it features a team that didn’t qualify to be considered in the Sport Change “fair game” teams exploration.  But let’s do it for fun anyway.

There’s only one place where a nickname as odd as ‘Lakers’ can find a home.

The problem here is that Los Angeles stole the Lakers moniker from Minneapolis.  It has never been a good pro nickname, and at face value would be ranked in the lower quartile of NBA monikers.  It’s comparable to the Colorado Rockies.  But if it made sense anywhere, it made sense in Minneapolis, not Los Angeles.  Of course, the Los Angeles Lakers have been in existence for over fifty years and have built one of the most storied and colorful histories of any NBA franchise.  They are a quintessential example of the “historical skater” phenomenon, similar to the Los Angeles Dodgers.  So…

1.  Los Angeles gives the Lakers nickname back to Minneapolis, where they become the Minnesota Lakers.   Makes good enough sense in a “land of 10,000 lakes,” as the saying goes.

2. Minnesota drops the Timberwolves from their name, and Los Angeles takes the opportunity to seize a more general version of the nickname; becoming the Los Angeles Wolves.  Los Angeles Lobos would be kind of fun, but is too obscure for pro sports.  Just Wolves.  At face value: a much better moniker than Lakers.

In the words of Los Lobos: “Will the Wolf Survive?”

So there’s that little exercise.  Nothing serious, but hopefully thought-provoking.  The important thing here will be to keep thoughts like these at hand as teams are created or rebranded.  Feel free to comment.  Next up will be a combined moniker ranking of teams in the Big Four sports leagues.  Sounds like a good project for spare moments around the holiday.  Unless you consume too much tryptophan, stay alert for that.

For more NBA posts, click here.


Sport Change was going to wait until the NHL season kicked off to rank monikers in the league, but now that it looks like there probably won’t be a season at all–we’re just going to knock it out of the way.

NHL: Nicknames Hellaciously Lacking


If you’ve been following Sport Change posts, you’ll know that the nicknames of the NFL, NBA, and Major League Baseball have recently been ranked.  For the Sport Change explanation of what makes a good or bad moniker, click here.  For the purposes of ranking NHL nicknames, here are those criteria:

Factors that make a good moniker: history, generality, regional relevance, alliteration, and intimidation.

Factors that make a bad moniker: overspecification, overdependence on alliteration, blandness, and the dreaded non-singularable/non-pluralable epidemic.

NHL monikers a bit of a mixed bag, somewhat comparable to the NBA.  History is interesting.  There are the original six teams and another batch added in the late sixties.  Beyond that, most nicknames have came to be in recent decades due to relocation and expansion.  Let’s dig right from the top:


This is a nickname that works on a few different levels, but the Penguins aren’t number one.

Four out Front

1. Kings.  I once read that the original owner of the Kings chose the name due to the hard ‘K’ sound. Nice.  It also doesn’t hurt to have an authoritative and immediately respectable moniker.

2. Flyers.  It’s a little vague, sure, but this name flies by on alliteration and historic consistency of the brand.

3. Penguins.  This name is more minor league than pro, and it certainly isn’t an intimidating nickname, so why so high?  Alliteration and brand consistency are nice, but I’m won over by the hilarious appropriateness of an ice-dwelling bird as a hockey moniker.

4. Blues.  The music genre connotation is corny, but Blues is just a great nickname.  Big fan of color-based nicknames for pro sports teams.

If they dropped the music note and just went solid blue, this would be one of the best nicknames ever.


Five to Follow

5. Devils.  It’s general, universal, and certainly intimidating.  Perhaps regionally relevant, as well.

6. Sharks.  I’m glad that Sharks is used somewhere in pro sports, and it works in hockey.  The alliteration is there and San Jose is close enough to the ocean to at least seem regionally relevant.

7. Panthers.  This is the third best cat moniker, after Lions and Tigers.  The Florida Panther is an actually specie, so it’s kind of a Baltimore Oriole situation.  With a little more teeth.

8. Oilers.  Just a simple blue-collar occupation nickname that says something about it’s region.

9. Stars.  Though a bit bland, this nickname makes a good deal of sense for a pro sports team and seems to fit Dallas well.

A moniker that walks the fine line between respectably general and simply bland.


The Original Six (the true historic skaters)

10. Canadiens.  There’s something badass about a hockey team called the Canadiens.  Especially when the team is the most historically successful club in the league.

11. Red Wings.  This moniker works on two levels.  The Red works nicely to match a color to a team, and the Wings is a good reference to the hockey position.

12. Blackhawks.  For the record, I don’t find this nickname particularly offensive.  The reference to a great Native American leader seems like a way to honor that figure.  It’s regionally relevant and immediately respectable.

Game on!

13. Bruins.  The alliteration and brand consistency are nice, but I just don’t like the overuse of ‘Bruins’ as a sports moniker.  Why not Boston Bears?

14. Maple Leafs.  This nickname is certainly historic and lovable, but not exactly the most intimidating in the league.

15. Rangers.  It just doesn’t fit in New York that well.  Rangers is not some vague term, it’s a specific occupation that fits the Wild West better than Madison Square Garden.


The Nationalists

16. Canucks.  This name has a tough sound to it and has subtle enough humor to pass the “inappropriate cleverness” test.

17. Capitals.  Not bad.  Just bland.  It works.  Similar to the Nationals.

18. Senators.  The Canadian version of the Caps, but more specific and less tough-sounding.

Senators: a nickname that strikes fear into the hearts of opponents.


The Questionable Critters, Part I

19. Predators.  The NHL is the only pro league where this name wouldn’t be ranked bottom five.  Intimidation is great in a contact sport, but this is a bit of a stretch.

20. Ducks.  Much more respectable now that they’re not owned by Disney and have dropped the ridiculous ‘Mighty’ from their name.  But the effect still lingers.  Besides, there’s only room for one cute bird name in the league, and Pittsburgh scooped it up decades before Anaheim.

The Objects

21. Jets.  Not bad.  Just bland.  It works.  Similar to some football team.

22. Sabres.  I actually kind of like this moniker, but it’s a reach for a pro team name.  It may also be a little to classy for hockey.

Rattle those Sabres!


The Forces of Nature, Plural

23. Flames.  It’s a nickname that seems cool for an instant, but then flames out quickly.

24. Hurricanes.  Meh.  Not a big fan of weather nicknames.  “I’m a Hurricane.”


The Questionable Critters, Part II

25. Coyotes.  It’s a regionally relevant predator, but are they trying to be clever?  Coyotes aren’t exactly the most respectable animals on the planet.  This would be a good minor league hockey team name.

26. Blue Jackets.  Oh, boy.  What a crappy nickname.  For starters, they should be claiming the entire state of Ohio as their own.  There’s no Cincy or Cleveland, so have at it.  A name like the Ohio Knights, Ohio Wolves, or Ohio Captains would be much, much better than some vague reference to the Civil War based in a college town.  When this nickname was first released, I remember seeing the bug logo and not realizing the Civil War thing.  They’ll always be a questionable critter to me.

The real reason the Union won the Civil War was this little guy.


The Forces of Nature, NS/NP

27. Avalanche.  It’s not terrible, as far as NS/NP names go, but that’s not saying much.  At least it’s regionally relevant.

28. Lightning.  According to the story, the owner was trying to think of a name when a lightning storm occurred.  Good thing it wasn’t a hail storm or an incidence of drizzle.

29. Wild.  Very vague, but not necessarily terrible.  Like the OKC Thunder, the Wild get points deducted due to the fact that they chose NS/NP after the fad shown itself to be a bad idea.  Minnesota should’ve known better.

The Stinker

30. Islanders.  If you read the Sport Change October newsflash, you’ll know why this is ranked last.  When there’s an opportunity to change a bland moniker, take it!

The longshoreman is landing in Brooklyn soon. Culture clash time.


So there you have it.  Feel free to comment and offer your own take.

Sport Change has now ranked the monikers of each of the Big Four sports leagues.  Sometime in the near future, there will be posts dedicated to ranking the all of the monikers collectively and doing some further analysis.  Stay alert.  Other than that, there will be some long-overdue basketball posts coming up.  Thanks for reading.

For NFL moniker rankings, click here.

For MLB moniker rankings, click here

For NBA moniker rankings, click here


Sport Change takes a break from Moniker Rankings (NHL coming soon!) to weigh in on two fresh pieces of news.

You can bet that there are some baseball fans in Pennsylvania who are fightin’ mad. Or at least confused.

1.)  As predicted by Chris Creamer, the former Reading Phillies (AA Eastern League affilate of Philadelphia) will now be known as the Reading Fightin’ Phils or Reading Fightins.  Alright.  I like the Fightin’ Phils moniker.  It’s a way to stay connected to the Phillies name, but has much more MiLB spirit than the straight copy of the parent club.  The Reading Phillies were the only Phillies affiliate to share the same name.  Followers of this site may know the Sport Change stance on this.  I think that generally speaking, farm clubs shouldn’t have the same nicknames as parent clubs unless all of the farm clubs of a team share the name–like the Braves and Cardinals nearly accomplish.  Got it?  Of course, things are not nearly that simple.  First of all, the idea of calling a team the ‘Fightins’ is laughable.  Can you really see fans following that lead?  My guess is that most of them will call them the ‘Phils.’  Now to discuss the perplexing conundrum that is the Fightin’s’ branding materials.  Their new primary logo is an ostrich.  This is an inside reference to the Phils’ mascot, some dude who rides an ostrich puppet around the field and hurls hotdogs into the stands.  Just let that sink in for a moment.


To make matters even more complicated, the Phils (I’m not calling them the Fightins) have an alter ego.  That identity is simply known as Baseballtown  and that logo features a fierce, baseball bat-wielding hotdog who is squirting yellow mustard into the shape of letters.  All in all, the Fightin’ Phils now have SEVEN different cap designs and one huge identity crisis.  This is ridiculous.  Calling a team the Fightins and having an ostrich logo is brazen enough.  The hotdog thing just puts this over the top.  Rather than opening this can of worms all at once, why didn’t Reading release each concept one by one.  Now, us MiLB fans have to digest this brave new brand all at once.  It’s like a meal of ostrich burgers with a side of hotdogs, and when you’re done…..all you feel like doing is fightin.’

Seven logos. Now that makes sense.


2. In other news, rumors are swirling that Maryland and/or Rutgers could be joining the Big Ten.  If they do, that’s it.  No more Big 10.  If the decision is made to sacrifice history and identity in favor of dollars, it is inexcusable.  If the masterminds behind college football are hellbent on treating the NCAA like a pro league, then why not cherry pick 30 of the top teams in the country, divide them into East and West, and have them duke it out like a minor league NFL.  You can’t have your cake and eat it too.  What’ll it be?  History or money?

Trying to preserve historic legacy and generate maximum profits is two-faced and untenable. If the Big Ten adds Maryland and Rutgers, they’ll be choosing the latter.

That’s all for today’s Sport Change news update.  Stay alert for more moniker rankings punctuated by the occasional newsflash.  Thanks for reading.  Leave comments.


Now that the 2012-2013 NBA season is well under way, Sport Change will reveal the moniker rankings for each team in the league.

NBA: Nicknames Borderline Atrocious

For the Sport Change explanation of what makes a good or bad moniker, click here.  For the purposes of ranking NBA nicknames, here are those criteria:

Factors that make a good NBA moniker: generality, regional relevance, intimidation, alliteration, and history.  The NBA is an interesting mix of nicknames.  It’s not as old or historic as other pro sports leagues, so only a handful get a boost from history.  Intimidation works to some extent, but basketball is still not a full-contact sport.  There’s only one alliterative name, and it’s a textbook example of how not to use alliteration.  On that note…

Factors that make a bad NBA moniker: non-singularable/non-pluralable (NS/NP), overspecification, overdependence on alliteration, blandness, regional irrelevance, and inappropriate cleverness.

There are five very good nicknames in the NBA, and  there are no blatantly disrespectful nicknames.  Make no mistake, however, there is an overabundance of crappy monikers.


Let’s get right into it.  Forget countdowns, we’re starting at the top:

‘Bucks’ is a terrific moniker, but it’s not quite the best.

The Fab Five

1. Bulls.  When done correctly, animal monikers are about as good as it gets.  Chicago scores points for having an intimidating and masculine moniker, a regional tip-of-the-horn to Chicago’s meatpacking history, and a good dash of consistent history.

2. Kings.  General and respectable.  Just a great, solid pro sports nickname.

3. Bucks.  Another great regionally relevant horned-male-mammal nickname.  A moniker that benefits from the nice hard ‘K’ sound.

4. Warriors.  Terrific name for a pro team.  There’s a lot of power behind that word.

5. Hawks.  Neck and neck with Eagles as the best bird nicknames around.  Another moniker with that hard ‘K’ sound.

A bird moniker done right.


The Independent Spirits

6. Trailblazers.  Portland’s team name was going to be Pioneers, but a small, local college had already claimed it.  That’s a bit of a shame, as the alliteration and historical connotation would have been sublime.  This moniker gets by on the very nice shortened version of ‘Blazers.’

7. Mavericks.  Kind of goofy, but it fits well with Dallas.

8. Cavaliers.  It’s a bit amateurish sounding, but the alliteration is nice.  On some obscure level, it represents a rogue, fighting figure.

When weird works.


The Historic Skaters

9. Knickerbockers.  Manhattan’s team has a very questionable, minor-league sounding nickname.  Like the fellow Yankees, however, the Knicks skate by on historic indoctrination.

10. 76ers.  It’s regionally relevant, anyway, and the nickname rolls of the tongue nicely.  That said, this is pretty questionable at face value–just like the 49ers.

11. Celtics.  It would be ranked much higher if it weren’t for the fact that everybody has been pronouncing the word wrong for nearly a century.  I wonder what Irish people think about this moniker.

12. Lakers.  Like baseball’s Dodgers, this is an historic team with a moniker relevant to it’s original region.  Also like the Dodgers, they’ve been in LA long enough to establish their own colorful history. At face value, it’s still pretty terrible.

10,000 lakes?  More like 10 million Laker fans.


The Questionable Critters, Part I

13. Timberwolves.  Why not just Wolves?  I’m baffled that no pro team is just the Wolves.  Maybe a future NFL franchise in LA?  Adding the (admittedly regionally relevant) Timber to the moniker makes it sound a little minor leaguey.

14. Hornets.  I actually like this nickname quite a bit.  It’s the best of the insect nicknames (Bees, Yellow Jackets) that are much more common at college or semipro levels.  I’ll always associate the Hornets with Charlotte, but that’s probably just a generational thing.  There has been plenty of talk over the last few years about changing the nickname, but I don’t think NOLA will come up with anything better.  Also: I bet that there are a few hornets buzzing around the bayous.

I’m not knocking the Hornets as a moniker, but it belongs back in Charlotte.


The Objects, Part I

15. Pistons.  As far as objects monikers go, ‘pistons’ has blue-collar cred and even the word itself sounds a little intimidating.  Very regionally relevant, and one of the best inanimate object nicknames in pro sports.  But it’s still an inanimate object.

16. Rockets.  It’s great how the Rockets were once in San Diego.  When they moved to the home of NASA, it only makes sense to keep the name.  A few nice things are going on here: it’s universal, energetic, and has that nice hard ‘K’ sound that I keep bringing up.

17. Suns.  Regionally relevant and universal, if a little bland.  Just OK.  Makes sense that it’s ranked right in the middle of the pack.

18. Nuggets.  It’s beyond goofy, I know, but it’s just too awesome that a pro team is called the Nuggets.  Very minor-leaguey, but lovable nonetheless.

Who wants to play Tetris?


The Questionable Critters, Part II

19. Bobcats.  This moniker is reviled by many, but I’m actually a fan.  It’s more minor league, granted, but it’s pretty decent.  Cat nicknames are a pretty good bet.

20. Grizzlies.  A great name for a franchise located in Vancouver.  In Vancouver, not Memphis.  They were almost the Memphis Express, so I guess it could be worse.  The perfect name?  The Memphis Blues.

Don’t mean to sound grizzled, but this is an inappropriate moniker for Memphis.


The Objects, Part II

21. Spurs.  I’ve never like this moniker.  Why did naming a pro team after a clothing accessory ever sound like a good idea.  Why not the San Antonio Saddles?  The San Antonio Handkerchiefs?

22. Clippers.  This moniker belongs to the Minor League Baseball Columbus Clippers.  It’s too obscure and silly for a pro team.

23. Nets.  The rhyming of Mets, Jets, and Nets is cute, but Nets is not a good name.  A net is something that gets scored upon.  The Brooklyn Balls would even be better.

24. Pacers.  Maybe this doesn’t qualify as an object, but it’s not clear whether this is a reference to horseriding or car-racing.  Either way, it’s bland, obscure, and amateurish.

I am a Pacer. I will pace myself. Or at least keep a good pace. Pace back and forth?


The Nineties Leftovers

25. Wizards.  It was a great choice at first, but it hasn’t aged well.  This is a textbook case (alongside Jacksonville Jaguars) of a moniker riding alliteration to a point of cringe-inducing mediocrity.  They’ve recently tried to reinvent the brand by changing the colors, but that’s only made it look more pointless.  Time for a totally new name.  Too bad about Minnesota, because Washington Wolves would be a very badass nickname.

26. Raptors.  I have to laugh at every mention of the Raptors.  The story is that market research, surveys, focus groups, etc. really liked Raptors due to Jurassic Park being fresh on the mind.  So if the team had been birthed a few years later, would they be called the Toronto Titanics?  The Toronto Men in Black?  Toronto Harry Potters?  Maybe they should just keep the Raptors moniker but switch the image to a bird of prey.  Not bad.

Clever girl. (Jurassic Park reference, anyone?)


The Non-Singularable/Non-Pluralable Dregs

27. Heat.  I am a Heat.  Me and the other Heat will burn you next game.

28. Magic.  Can you get any more campy?  It was cool twenty years ago.  Now it’s just embarrassing.

29. Thunder.  In some ways, it’s not terrible.  What is terrible is that this is a new brand, and they weren’t able to learn from the mistakes of others.  It sounds more like a semipro nickname.

30. Jazz.  It had to be Jazz.  A trailblazer in NS/NP use, but doesn’t New Orleans always break the rules?  Then a move to Utah and a retention of the name.  Unbelievable.  The laughingstock of pro sports monikers.

Bring ’em back to NOLA and we can talk.


So there you have it.  Feel free to comment, disagree, etc.

I think I’ll stick with basketball for the time being, and serve up some more creative posts about the NBA.  Once the NHL season starts (if it does) I’ll give you their moniker rankings.  So aside from the occasional newsflash, expect more hoops!

For NFL moniker rankings, click here.

For MLB moniker rankings, click here

For NHL moniker rankings, click here


Breaking News:  The AAA-level Yankees affiliate based in Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania just announced the results of their name the team contest.  The newest nickname in Minor League Baseball is…the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.  (sigh)

Wow.   Wowed by mediocrity.


Railing Against the Riders

Followers of Sport Change may remember a post on this topic back in August.  S/W-B had announced a name the team contest, and gave six options: Blast, Black Diamond Bears, Fireflies, RailRiders, Porcupines, and Trolley Frogs.  In that post each nickname option was analyzed using specified criteria and then ranked.  The rankings went, from best to worst: Trolley Frogs, Fireflies, Porcupines, RailRiders, Black Diamond Bears, and Blast.  In these rankings, RailRiders was fourth of six, and was certainly the most bland, mediocre, generic of the pack.  As such, the S/W-B fans voted it right in.  Here’s the Sport Change description of the RailRiders option from that post:

RailRiders.  That is about as mediocre of a nickname that they could come up with.  You can’t fling a jockstrap in America without it hitting a MiLB team with a similar name.  In PA, there’s already a railroad nickname: the Altoona Curve.  RailRiders reminds me of a mashup of two Rangers affiliates: the RoughRiders and the Round Rock Express.

So it’s not that it’s a terrible nickname (like Blast) but it’s not inspiring or interesting in any tangible way.  Let’s assess what we can from the logo spread:

-It’s no surprise that the lengthy Scranton/Wilkes-Barre place name is still attached.  That was never a part of the contest, though it should have been.  With a longer double name like RailRiders, this is the second most long-winded nickname in the minors; only behind the cheeky Angels affiliated Inland Empire Sixty-Sixers of San Bernardino.

The S/W-B RRs are the second most annoying-to-type nickname in the Minors.


-RailRiders is not only a generic train (trolley?) related name, it has the always-annoying two word, double-caps fusion effect that is far too common in the minors.  Why not Railriders?  Or Rail Riders?

-Moving on to the logo….wow.  I knew it was porcupine instantly due to the fact that Porcupines was a contest choice, but that animal could also pass for a ground sloth, gerbil, muskrat or any number of common rodents and prehistoric megafauna.  It’s a bit bizarre that another contest option was co-opted into the new moniker.  Why not just be the Porcupines?

-I’ll quit railing for a second to see what is redemptive here.  The color scheme is nice, the script in the logo looks good, and at least the name doesn’t stand out as being terrible.  Bland nicknames are common in AAA, and as the level closest to the Majors, the name shouldn’t be too far out.

The RailRider porcupine doing his (her?) best Janet Jackson impersonation here.


What Could Have Been

I’m shocked that Trolley Frogs didn’t win.  It’s instantly fun, if a little corny.  A trolley frog is part of a trolley track mechanical system, and Scranton is apparently famous for trolleys.  The Everett AquaSox have largely moved away from their old tree frog logo, and it would be fair game.  Many other fansites I came across were also in favor of the nickname, and even the local paper in Scranton endorsed the T-Frogs.

Fireflies could’ve also been an excellent and unique name.  Imagine twilight blue or black jerseys with glow-in-the-dark graphics.  Yes, glow-in-the-dark is tacky, but a name like Fireflies really justifies it.  The logo could’ve been a cute looking fly catching a pop fly or something to that effect.

Suffice it to say: I’m disappointed, but not outraged.  This nickname is just OK, and will quickly fade into the MiLB background.

In other MiLB moniker news, the Reading Phillies will be announcing their new name change very soon, so stay tuned.  Rumor has it that the two possibilities are the Reading Fightin’ Phils and the Reading Railroaders.  You know what would be better than Railroaders?  The Reading RailRiders!  Oh, wait….