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General Topics

Sport Change has just completed six full months of reporting and studying the subjects dearest to Sport Change’s heart.  Much of that work has built to articles that will come within the next four months–the Ideal Leagues.

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The premise

Like most random sports voices on the internet, Sport Change likes to opine and reimagine all sorts of things sports-related.  Though Sport Change has a steady group of followers and daily page-visitors, the voice of the site is just one of many with no actual say or sway.  As such, there is full creative license to reshape teams and leagues through the ever-available medium of fantasy.  The Ideal Leagues are simply what sports leagues (both pro and minor) would look like if Sport Change ruled the world–or rather if the world had independently arranged itself better to Sport Change’s liking.

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Ongoing and participative

Though each Ideal League will be presented as something resembling a finished product, each league could become subject to change due to real-world changes or through the uncovering of previously undiscovered knowledge.  Additionally, Sport Change readers can make their voices heard by posting opinions on our message boards.  These opinions may work to effect Sport Change’s Ideal Leagues, so don’t hesitate to participate.

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The gist

To begin the Ideal Leagues, we will be starting toward the top of the American sports pyramid with the Big Four professional sports (NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB) and top minor-league or semipro leagues.  Each league will exist in a fantasy world of sorts, and decisions made about one league are to be informed by decisions made in another.  The primary topics covered will be realignment, rebranding, relocation, and other forms of reimagining; in the context of both historic narratives and real-world scenarios.

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The schedule

February is for football.  The NFL will be first up, followed by an scenario for a resurrection of the USFL.  Teams such as the Houston Oilers and San Antonio Gunslingers will be mentioned.

March is for basketball.  There won’t be much NCAA March Madness talk, but Sport Change will weigh in on an Ideal NBA and NBA Developmental League.

April is for baseball.  While teams take to the field, Sport Change will be unrolling the Ideal MLB.  Additionally, there will be several posts on Minor League Baseball and independent ball.

May is for hockey.  Expect an Ideal NHL and perhaps AHL as well.

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Throughout all of this, there may be the occasional stray post to weigh in on a hot topic or an idea that just can’t wait, such as a Territorial Mock Draft for the NFL in April.  If you’re curious about the Sport Change take on the New Orleans Pelicans’ logo, all I can say is…meh.

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Sym-meh-try

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Thanks for reading.  Stay alert for the Ideal Leagues–it should be fun.  Have a great day!

SPORT CHANGE

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It hasn’t been long since Sport Change’s last pause for news, but there a few juicy tidbits that cannot wait until the next newsflash.

 

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1.)  It was just announced that Washington D.C. mayor Vincent Gray implied that he would sit down with the Washington Redskins front office to persuade the team to change their offensive nickname prior to moving back to the city proper.  As the team is counting on public support for a new downtown D.C. stadium, they may have extra incentive to change the name.  It’s uncommon for public officials to make that sort of statement about a sports team’s inner workings, so this may be a sign of change to come.  What’s Sport Change’s take?  Change the gosh darn name already!!!  It’s considered to be the most offensive nickname in all of sports by Native Americans from coast to coast.  I’m all for preserving history, but sometimes the need for change is blatantly obvious.  The team should’ve had a new name twenty years ago when they first began to feel the pressure to change.  For years, I’ve thought that Washington Warriors would be a terrific way to retain vestiges of team history, while toning down the disrespect.  The alliteration would be terrific as well.  Washington Wolves would be a great name.  Washington Stallions would work.  Washington Grays would be a nice tip of the hat to the old Homestead Grays, and you can bet that Mayor Gray would be on board with that name.

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2.) In other news, Seattle investor Chris Hansen has contacted the Maloof family about purchasing the Sacramento Kings.  This isn’t exactly shocking news, as rumors of the Kings moving to Seattle have buzzed around for the last year or two.  Hansen is in the process of getting an arena built in Seattle that could house both an NBA and NHL team.  If the city got an NBA franchise, they would play in old Key Arena until the new arena is completed.  What’s the Sport Change take?  Yes, make it happen.  As sad as it is to see any city lose a franchise, the Kings are ready to go.  Sacramento is a second tier sports city that is lucky to have held on to an NBA franchise this long.  As of this writing, they are ranked dead last in attendance among all NBA teams this year, and have been at or near the bottom for several years.  Sacramento is the type of city that should have one of the best Minor League Baseball teams, but no MLB team.  Perhaps they will become the model market for the NBA D-League.  Seattle, on the other hand, is a top tier sports city that deserves a team after OKC ripped the Sonics out the fans’ hands.  If you haven’t seen Sonicsgate, take the time to do so.  It will be great to see the Seattle Supersonics reborn in the near future.  Sport Change’s ideal situation, incidentally, would have the Kings moving back to Kansas City and another team (say, the Magic) move to Seattle.  Or the NBA should roll out two more expansion teams.  Keep an eye out for the upcoming Sport Change Ideal NBA.

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Vote+Or+Die!

3.) One last bit of news isn’t really news at all.  It’s a reminder to take the time to vote in the Sport Change Team Nickname Mega-poll.  The mega-poll was just published in two installments.  Click here for Part 1 (NFL & MLB) and here for Part 2 (NBA & NHL.)  Your vote may be considered as Sport Change embarks on the Ideal League series.  Rock the vote!  Vote or die!  De-vote yourself to democratic action!

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That’s all that’s worth saying for now.  More great Sport Change posts coming up real soon.  Till next time.

SPORT CHANGE

Every once in a while, Sport Change news builds up to a point where we must take a pause to weigh in on hot topics in the arena of sport change.

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The new Dolphins logo?

1.) Rumors have been swirling for a few weeks that the Miami Dolphins will have a new logo for the 2013 season.  There is even an alleged leaked image that has been making the rounds on some of our favorite websites such as uni-watch and sportslogos.net.   Just yesterday, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross tweeted that yes, indeed, there will be a new logo for the Dolphins next year.  What is the Sport Change take?  Noooooooo.  The Miami Dolphins have had the same basic logo since their inception in the AFL in the sixties.  The logo has been tweaked several times over the years, but has held true to the basic model of a cartoonish dolphin jumping in front of the sun whilst wearing an old-style football helmet.  That’s really about as good as you can get with a dolphin logo.  If the image that’s been making the rounds is truly the new logo, it’s a big step backward.  At face value, the logo is attractive and unique–but it’s not a good NFL logo.  One of the commenters on Chris Creamer’s site said that it looks like a Sea World logo.  So if the Dolphins have a new logo that’s just a minor variation on the old theme–cool.  If they use this new concept–ugh.  I’ve been thinking about the Dolphins lately and how that franchise has taken a bottle nosedive into the turf over the last five years.  Many pundits are quick to blame GM Jeff Ireland–and for good reason–but this logo debacle could make it clear that real culprit is the man who hired Ireland.  Has Stephen Ross been the invisible hand that has turned a once proud franchise into canned tuna?

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Stephen Ross: the man responsible for the collapse of the ‘Phins?

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2.) It was also just announced that the NHL’s Dallas Stars are looking to rebrand their image.  In the foreseeable future, the Stars will have new uniforms and a new logo.  Early rumors had the team colors switching to red, white, and blue, but now it seems as if the Stars will be retaining the color green.  I have so many different things to say about this.  First of all, I don’t think I’m alone in suggesting that the North Stars should never have left Minnesota.  Any team history died that day twenty years ago when the NHL entered Texas.  At face value, ‘Stars’ is an appropriate name for any team in the Lone Star State, but the colors should be red, white, and blue and the logo should be a star badge similar to the Texas Rangers’ alternate logo.  That being said, at least the Stars are changing their current look, which screams 1992, and their Texas logo looks hideous.  There is more to this than meets the eye, however.  Though the Dallas Stars won a Stanley Cup in the late nineties and have had a handful of hall-of-famers on the team, it seems that this rebrand is a reactive measure.  Despite the fact that Dallas is a top-notch sports market, attendance at Stars games has been dwindling over the last few years to a point where the team ranked 28th of 30 in average fans per game in the 2011-2012 season.  Only the Islanders and Coyotes are ranked lower, and both have announced either relocation or rebranding in the last few months.  This rebranding will be a last-ditch effort to keep the team in Texas, but in Sport Change’s opinion, there never should have been a Dallas Stars.  It will interesting to see how this affects the upcoming Ideal NHL project.

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One thing is for sure: it will be good to see this logo go the way of the dodo.

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3.) Bigger changes could be coming to the NHL, as rumors are swirling that the NHL could expand by two teams as soon as next year.  Some say that the two teams will be Canadian, and that would be terrific in Sport Change’s mind.  It’s such a shame that Canadian teams left for the Southern United States in the nineties, and much of that had to do with the economics of the Canadian dollar at the time.  Now, it’s obvious that several cities would be good options for NHL expansion or relocation.  If Sport Change had to pick the top two markets most ready for the NHL, Sport Change would choose Quebec City and Seattle.  After that: Hamilton, Ontario; Kansas City, Missouri; and Saskatchewan would all be good choices.  Look for our upcoming Ideal NHL.

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Here’s a model of the new arena currently under construction in Quebec City. Odds are good that an NHL franchise will call it home within a few years.

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That’s it for this news flash.  Keep checking back for more great Sport Change posts.

SPORT CHANGE

As promised, here is Part 2 of the Sport Change team nickname mega-poll.  Please take the time to read through and make your picks.  If you haven’t had the chance to vote in mega-poll Part 1, here’s the link.

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Background

For several months, Sport Change has been conducting a ridiculous amount of research on sports team nicknames, or monikers.  Please view The Moniker Monitor, our collection of posts on the subject.  We’ve scoured through the Big Four pro sports leagues, all of NCAA Division I, and Minor League Baseball, among other sources.  There have been rankings, visions of reversion, and gazes directed to the past as well as the future.

Much of this work has built to a series of posts that are forthcoming in the next month or two: the Ideal Leagues.  This series will focus on how the Big Four professional sports leagues (MLB, NFL, NBA, and NHL) would look if Sport Change ruled the world.  There will some reimagining, relocation, expansion, and yes–name change.  While piecing these posts together, there were several name changes that could go a number of different ways; with many new choices roughly equal.  As such, it’s time to poll the audience.

An upcoming Sport Change post will share the top fifty sports team monikers that Sport Change has deemed most worthy of consideration for pro sports use.  Many of these are used in the polls below, but each poll has one or two unique choices thrown in to reflect the specific geography.  Each poll below also has an introduction to put it into context, and multiple choices.  Please place a vote in each poll and leave comments.  Each poll box has it’s own separate comment box, and there is also the comment box on the bottom of the post.  Overwhelming poll results will likely be used in the Ideal Leagues, though Sport Change reserves the right to veto power.  Happy polling!

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NBA Poll #1: Should the Pacers get a new name?

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Let’s be honest: the Indiana Pacers have a highly questionable nickname.  Pacers.  Supposedlyit’s a reference to both horse-racing and pace cars at the Indy 500.  What could be more exciting that pace cars?  Let’s make this a two part poll.  1.) Should the Pacers seek a name change?  2.) If so, to what?  Here are a few suggestions–mostly retreads from our two polls in part 1 that dealt with teams in Indiana.  Knights and Stallions are two solid monikers that are surprisingly absent from the Big Four.  Both would seem to work here.  I’ll also add in Racers–a reference to the Indy 500 that isn’t the most boring car on the track.  It should be noted that while the Pacers have a devoted fan base, they’re right in the basement in terms of ticket sales.  A nice new brand would likely help, and now would be the time to change.  Here goes:

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NBA Poll #2: What about the Nets?

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The Brooklyn Nets are certainly an interesting brand.  The team moved from Newark, New Jersey to Brooklyn amid much fanfare.  In the process, they changed their place name, got new uniforms, and rebooted their roster.  The rebranding experiment has been a big success thus far, but one obvious change was noticeably ignored: the team nickname.  Nets is a very questionable pro team moniker, and was ranked 95th out of 122 unique monikers in the Big Four.  It’s cute how it rhymes with Jets and Mets, but it’s an inanimate object with an air of passivity.  Would you like to be a net?  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Balls would be a better nickname than Nets.  At least you’re the object doing the scoring and not the reverse.  We’ll run this the same way we did with the Pacers.  Other existing teams that play in Brooklyn such as the LIU-Brooklyn Blackbirds and the Mets A-ball affiliate Brooklyn Cyclones have terrific names, and the NBA team should follow suit.  The Cyclones are a reference to the Cyclone roller coaster in Coney Island–visible from the ballpark.  Here are suggestions from the Sport Change 50 unused potential pro nickname list: Knights, Barons, Legends, Bulldogs, Comets, and Arrows.  I’m tempted to throw Balls in there too, but I’m worried that it would win the poll.

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NBA Poll #3: A new identity for the Washington Wizards

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When the Washington Bullets changed their name in the mid-nineties, it seemed like a welcome switch.  ‘Bullets’ was once a moniker celebrated for the players being as fast as speeding bullets, but rising murder rates in DC coupled with nineties political correctness made the name seem dated and dangerous.  Then the Wizards were born.  It was unique, to be sure, and it seemed to fit with the nineties trend of gimmickry and goofiness in the NBA–Wizards lining up next to Hornets, Magic, and (sigh) Raptors.  Shortly after the rebranding, the Wizards came under fire for the KKK connotation.  Oops.  The Wizards team seemed relevant at various times.  Chris Webber and Juwan Howard (40% of the Fab Five) were some of the first to don the Wizard apparel, and then Michael Jordan came out of retirement again.  The team never made it to the top, and as of this writing has hit a new low.  Washington Wizards has terrific alliteration, but it rides alliteration in much the same way as the Jacksonville Jaguars.  Both of those would be outstanding minor or developmental league nicknames, but the Big Four?  Not so much.  The Wizards have attempted to tweak their brand recently, but it’s the name that really needs changing.  But to what?  In this lengthy article on the genesis of the Wizards brand, many names that bubbled up from the name-the-team contest were revealed.  The five finalists were Wizards, Dragons, Stallions, Express, and Sea Dogs. The Portland Sea Dogs baseball team owns that name, so it’s off the table.  I despise ‘Express’ for a nickname, and it always seems to come up in name-the-team contests.  Dragons and Stallions are both nicknames that are on (or near) the Sport Change top fifty unused by the Big Four list, so we’ll carry them along.  Other discarded suggestions from that article include two that are on the list: Cobras and Generals.  Other goofy suggestions that we will not use include Antelopes, Astronauts, and Geckos.  Stars was also brought up, so we’ll include it even though the Dallas hockey team has the name.  I’m tempted to throw Washington Wolves in there, but the T-Wolves claim that moniker.  From our top fifty list, I’ll add two more: Grays, in reference to the old Washington-based Homestead Grays of the Negro Leagues.  The Washington Nationals were nearly called the Grays a few years ago.  I’ll also add a wildcard: the Washington Whirlwinds.  Now that’s riding alliteration!

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NBA Poll #4: When the Grizzlies moved to Memphis

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This is certainly a topic that will be covered in the Sport Change Ideal NBA post, so let’s look at this historically.  The Vancouver Grizzlies were an iconic and terrific brand for a city that was not able to support an NBA team.  When they moved, Memphis was an exciting new choice for a host city.  Rather than hold on to the regionally irrelevant Grizzlies moniker, Memphis should have decided to get a brand of it’s own.  We’ll pretend that happened.  The first question is whether to use Memphis as a place name or to go with the whole state of Tennessee like the NFL’s Titans.  Blues is a good suggestion, but is unavailable due to the NHL’s St. Louis franchise.  If the hockey team changed brands, that could well….change.  To use another wacky color-based nickname, we’ll go with Tans since it sounds like the ABA’s old Memphis Tams.  Memphis is a bit of a cocky city, so names like Dukes and Monarchs seem appropriate.  Renegades is an energetic nickname that seems to fit with the region.  Tornadoes represents the weather phenomena.  To top it off: Catfish, Turtles, and Bees make up the novelty animal nicknames.

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NBA Poll #5: a move to Baltimore

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In the Sport Change Ideal NBA, the Orlando Magic will be relocating to Baltimore, Maryland.  Once upon a time, Baltimore had the Bullets–then they shot off down the Beltway to DC.  With the successes of the Colts and Orioles, the Charm City has proven that it’s a first tier sports market with good potential for supporting an NBA franchise.  In the Ideal NFL, the Colts never moved from Baltimore, of course.  Of course, the Magic moniker has seen better days.  It was very rad twenty years ago, but Shaq and Penny are long gone.  The Charm City needs it’s own identity.  What about Charms?  It’s a small step up from Magic.  Baltimore is the city that inspired the Star Spangled Banner, so let’s suggest Stars and Banners.  If St. Louis gave up on Blues, this could be a good reference to the blue crab–a regional delicacy.  Since the NFL’s Colts remained in place, the clever Poe reference–Ravens–remains available.  As a final thought, we’ll trot out the trusty old Stallions.  Baltimore has a rich history of horseracing, and the Canadian Football League once had a team in Baltimore called the Stallions.  No joke.  They even won a Grey Cup.

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NBA Poll #6: an expansion team in OKC

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In the Sport Change Ideal NBA, the Supersonics never left Seattle.  Rather than attempt to steal a franchise from another city, Oklahoma businessman Clay Bennett whines and pleads until David Stern allows an expansion team for Oklahoma City.  Some fans like Thunder, but Bennett must be careful.  Without any young stars on his team, they could flounder with a poor-quality nickname like that.  Entertaining the weather aficionados of OKC, he offers up Cyclones and Tornadoes as possible choices.  To fit with the Wild West imagery, Aces, Barons, and Mustangs are suggested.  One more alliterative nickname, the Owls, is thrown in for good measure.  What’s it gonna be?

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NBA Poll #7: an expansion team in Pittsburgh

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To balance out the NBA conferences, David Stern also grants Pittsburgh, PA an expansion franchise.  Many nickname suggestions were dug out of the past.  The NBA once had a team in Pittsburgh called the Ironmen, the ABA had the Pittsburgh Condors, and the CBA had the Piranhas.  Presently speaking, the new ABA has a team called the Phantoms.  Stars is suggested as a reference to the iconic Pittsburgh symbol of the four point star.  Another suggestion, the Vipers, has teeth and cleverness.  The Pitt Vipers.  Let your voice be heard now!

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HOCKEY TIME

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NHL Poll #1: a new identity for the Islanders

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It was recently announced that the New York Islanders would be relocating from Long Island to Brooklyn in a few years.  This came as good news, since the Islanders are unable to sell any tickets in their current locale.  However, much to the chagrin of Sport Change–it was announced that the complete New York Islanders nickname would continue to exist.  I’m all for preserving history (however minimal) but this is like the Colorado Rockies moving to Nebraska and keeping their nickname.  Islanders was a specific reference to Long Island, and their logo even has a rendering of the island.  Moving to Brooklyn is a terrific chance to keep the team alive, but it’s something even more rare: the chance to be the ideal Big Four brand.  So…the Islanders need a new nickname.  The ‘New York’ place name can remain in place, or it can be Brooklyn.  Both are acceptable.  To rhyme with the Jets, Mets, and Nets; I humbly suggest Vets–which can be used as a reference to both war veterans and animal doctors.  (half kidding)  A legitimate name, Knights, would work nicely here.  If the New York-Penn League’s baseballers changed their name, Cyclones would be nice as an allusion to the famous Coney Island roller coaster.  Monarchs has a nice air of authority to it, and would be a counter to the L.A. Kings.  Cockiness can be taken to a whole new level with Legends.  To top it off, Arrows and Comets would work well, and how about an outlier–Griffins.  What do you think?

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NHL Poll #2: There’s an NHL team in Kansas City

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In the Sport Change Ideal NHL, there is an NHL team in Kansas City, Missouri–either via expansion or relocation.  The NHL once had a team in Kansas City called the Scouts, so would that be a logical name choice?  A defibrillation?  Monarchs is a nice authoritative name that references the old Negro League Kansas City club.  But would that be a misuse of history?  Kansas City Cyclones has a nice ring to it, and that region is certainly famous for twisters.  The television graphic that gives a tail of light to the hockey puck looks like a comet, so how about Comets?  Let’s throw an animal in there, too.  Cobras, it is.

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NHL Poll #3: There’s an NHL team in Saskatchewan.

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Let’s finish this off with another from the Ideal NHL.  In the Sport Change world, the province of Saskatchewan has a new NHL franchise located in either Saskatoon or Regina.  It seems like a long shot, and probably is, but there’s more of a chance than you might think.  All will be explained in that upcoming post.  For now, we need a name.  The place name will be Saskatchewan; to represent the entirety of the province much in the same as the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders.  Saskatchewan is known for agriculture and wildlife.  I’ll throw in Ranchers for the ag side of things.  Animals are interesting here.  The Saskatchewan coat of arms features a whitetail deer and beaver, among other animals.  Both are fair game.  We’ll also throw in Huskies and Bobcats, which seem to fit the region somewhat.  Let’s mix in two generic names that work for hockey–Arrows and Comets.  What would be the best fit for our neighbors to the north?

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And that, my friends, concludes the Sport Change two-part mega-poll.  If you haven’t voted Part 1 yet, here’s the link.  Thank you for participating, and stay alert for more great upcoming posts.

SPORT CHANGE

Now is the time that Sport Change is calling on loyal followers and newcomers to make your voice heard through democratic action.  The team nickname mega-poll has arrived.

Background

For several months, Sport Change has been conducting a ridiculous amount of research on sports team nicknames, or monikers.  Please view The Moniker Monitor, our collection of posts on the subject.  We’ve scoured through the Big Four pro sports leagues, all of NCAA Division I, and Minor League Baseball, among other sources.  There have been rankings, visions of reversion, and gazes directed to the past as well as the future.

Much of this work has built to a series of posts that are forthcoming in the next month or two: the Ideal Leagues.  This series will focus on how the Big Four professional sports leagues (MLB, NFL, NBA, and NHL) would look if Sport Change ruled the world.  There will some reimagining, relocation, expansion, and yes–name change.  While piecing these posts together, there were several name changes that could go a number of different ways; with many new choices roughly equal.  As such, it’s time to poll the audience.

An upcoming Sport Change post will share the top fifty sports team monikers that Sport Change has deemed most worthy of consideration for pro sports use.  Many of these are used in the polls below, but each poll has one or two unique choices thrown in to reflect the specific geography.  Each poll below also has an introduction to put it into context, and multiple choices.  Please place a vote in each poll and leave comments.  Overwhelming poll results will likely be used in the Ideal Leagues.  Happy polling!

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Poll #1: An NFL expansion franchise for Arizona.

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Suspend your disbelief for a moment and put yourself in the year 1985.  The city of Phoenix, Arizona has been pushing hard for an NFL team, and they’ve even suggested that the St. Louis Cardinals should move to the desert.  The city of St. Louis pulls together to keep the Cards in Missouri, but the NFL recognizes the need and decides to award an expansion franchise to Arizona.  The question is: what will the team be called?  One fan suggests the Arrows, a nice alliterative nickname that suggests speed and precision–even if it is an inanimate object.  The General Manager likes color-based nicknames like Browns and Reds, and suggests Golds–a reference to the star on the Arizona state flag.  The team fullback suggests Rattlers, a regionally-relevant name with teeth.  A local reporter likes another name in the same vein–Scorpions.  The owner’s wife suggests Stallions, a powerful masculine image.  A child offers Thunderbirds, a legendary symbol of the region.  To top it off, some guy on the street says, “What about Wolves?  There’s no team called the Wolves.”  What do you think?

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Poll #2: An NFL expansion franchise in Indiana.  

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Once again, the year is 1985.  The NFL has just granted the NFC an expansion team in Arizona, but there needs to be a team in the AFC to balance the conferences.  The obvious choice is Indianapolis, who’s attempt to steal the Colts from Baltimore was narrowly averted a few years prior.  Now Indy gets a team of their own.  But what to call them?  Four suggestions are offered.  The crusty old equipment manager suggests the Independents as a reference to his favorite NFL team when he was a kid: the Rock Island Independents.  “They can be the Indy Indies for short,” he says.  The local newspaper suggests Knights, a solid, simple nickname that may be subliminally influenced by Bobby Knight’s success with the Hoosiers.  A teenager likes Racers–an active name to pair with the NBA’s Pacers and a reference to the Indy 500.  The team owner’s wife heard the Arizona team owner’s wife mention Stallions, and she liked the idea as well.  What’s your take?

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Poll #3: A major league baseball expansion team in Arizona

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The year is 1997.  Major League Baseball has made the decision to expand the field of teams to thirty by awarding franchises to Tampa, Florida and Phoenix, Arizona.  Tampa chose the nickname Rays–a reference to the Sunshine State.  They briefly considered Devil Rays, but religious zealots and marine biologists were offended.  Arizona announced their name choice–Diamondbacks–but it was met with public outcry.  Despite the cleverness of the baseball diamond reference, the common refrain was, “that sounds like a minor league team nickname!”  Arizona’s front office and marketing team went back to the drawing board.  They found old newspaper clippings from 1985, the year the NFL came to Phoenix, and decided to retread the suggestions: Arrows, Golds, Rattlers, Scorpions, Stallions, and Thunderbirds.  (Wolves seemed inappropriately aggressive for baseball.)  While watching Saturday morning cartoons with his daughter, the marketing manager thought of Roadrunners–a good fit for a speedy baserunner.  The team owner said, “well, why don’t we just simplify Diamondbacks and go with Snakes?”  Your take?

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Poll #4: A new identity for the Houston Astros

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The year is 2012.  New Astros owner Jim Crane announced that he would like to completely rebrand the team–including a new nickname.  Crane feels that the name was a lazy reference to the old  Houston Astrodome, and he also doesn’t like the ‘far-out’ nature of the name.  That, and the first syllable is basically ‘ass.’  Astros fans who were afraid of change went ballistic on ESPN message boards demanding that the name be kept.  Crane conceded by offering to include Astros in a name-the-team contest.  An old timer remembers when Houston had a minor league team called the Buffaloes, which was a reference to the Buffalo Bayou–the major waterway of Houston.  Another old gun-toter wants a reversion to the Colt 45.’s, but will take Colts in it’s place.  Crane decides against it due to the NFL’s Baltimore Colts having rein (ha!) over that moniker.  The local paper comes up with a few more suggestions: Aces (a wild west reference), Barons (oil barons, that is), Cyclones, Legends, Mustangs, and another horse–Stallions.  Crane assembles the name-the-team choices, but it’s up to you to vote.

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Poll #5: The Rays have moved.

Indianapolis Clowns

The year is 2014.  On Bud Selig’s last day on the job before retirement, he forces the Tampa Bay Rays to pack up and leave St. Petersburg.  Cities around the US and Canada scramble to claim the Rays, but eventually the city of Indianapolis narrowly beats out Portland and Louisville to offer the best new venue for the club.  (click here for an assessment of the cities.)  The team must make a decision of whether to keep the decent ‘Rays’ moniker or start afresh with something new.  The Indianapolis Star newspaper holds a name-the-team contest.  In an effort to ensure that the paper won’t have to change names, they cleverly withhold ‘Stars’ from consideration.  Instead, they recycle old name suggestions from the NFL’s expansion team in the eighties–Independents, Knights, Racers, and Stallions.  They also added ‘Clowns,’ as an homage to the old Negro League’s Indianapolis Clowns.  ‘Rays’ was also thrown in for good measure.  The people must be heard!

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Bonus Poll!  The International National Football League

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This one could be hard to explain, but results will be incorporated into a separate upcoming Sport Change post.  All will be explained then.  For now, please humor Sport Change and bear in mind that Sport Change has clearly stated it’s opinion on the NFL expanding internationally here and here.  Suffice it to say: Sport Change is vehemently opposed to the very notion.  That said; let’s talk about it.  If NFL teams were placed in the cities of London, England and Mexico City, what would their ideal monikers be?  Bear in mind that the brand would have to be relevant not only in each location, but accessible to American sports fans.

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London

NFL team in London.

If an NFL team were in London, what would the nickname be?  Since the idea of putting an NFL team abroad is gimmicky and novel, the moniker should have some leeway with a novelty gimmicky nickname.  It should also reflect and represent London effectively.  For starters, let’s look at the beast featured throughout British folklore and even represented on the crest of London–the Dragon. While on the topic of mythical beasts, how about the Griffin?  To continue with the tradition of Big Four nicknames that are non-pluralable forces of nature (Heat, Thunder) how about the London Fog?  OK, now I’m being a cheeky chap.  Let’s throw in a stoic one–the Knights.  Any others that Sport Change hasn’t thought of?

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NFL team in Mexico City.

If an NFL team were to call the ridiculously huge Azteca Stadium home, what would the moniker be?  The most visible national symbol of Mexico is the golden eagle that is featured prominently on the nation’s flag.  The translation for golden eagle is Aguila Real, and Sport Change thinks that Aguilas Real is a little much for an NFL team moniker.  We’ll throw Aguilas on the poll, though.  Good competition for Philly!  San Diego State may use Aztecs, but no city can claim it more than Tenochtitlan itself.  Another national symbol of Mexico is the horse-rider, or Charro.  Crowns are also a symbol, so let’s thrown in Coronas–no beer sponsorship allowed.  There are no Wolves in the NFL, so Lobos is a fair suggestion.  We’ll top it off with Toros.

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So there’s part one of our two part mega-poll.  Next up, we’ll look at the NBA and NHL.  Thanks for participating and thanks for reading.  Until next time.

Here’s the link to Part 2.

SPORT CHANGE

Which North American markets are second tier?

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My city is second tier, baby.

In the last Sport Change post, we revealed the rankings for the first tier of sports markets in North America–the top 30.  Now we’re taking a good look at the second tier–the next 30.  The second tier is perhaps more interesting as it reveals the general lack of viable unused pro sports markets.   The original plan was to rank the top 100 split into three tiers, but the dregs were hit just trying to fill out the top 60.

For information on what defines a sports market and our criteria for selection, please read the introduction in our previous post.

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Let’s get right into it::

31. Indianapolis.  Indy just barely missed the first tier, so it’s a bit of a disappointment to think of this market as a secondary option for pro sports.  Let’s think of them as a C+ market–just about as good as a B-.  The Colts have a promising team and a sparkly new stadium, though attendance is middling.  The Pacers have trouble filling seats as well.  That said, I think Indy is a viable pro sports market.  If not, there is always the Hoosiers.

32. Montreal.  Ignore the Expos debacle for a moment and consider this: the NHL’s Canadiens are probably the most historic, supported, and successful hockey team on Earth.  I doubt any other Big Four league will come knocking, but there’s an outside chance at a second NHL team.

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The Canadiens are synonymous with pro hockey. Just ignore that whole baseball thing.

33. Tampa Bay.  The Tampa/St. Petersburg area boasts three teams in the Big Four.  So why is it a second tier team?  For starters, the Rays and the Buccaneers are unable to fill seats despite having exciting teams.  Within a few years, it’s likely that one or the other will have relocated.  The NHL’s Lightning do better, but was putting a pro hockey team in Florida a good idea in the first place?

34. Portland.  The Trailblazers are the lone rep on the pro circuit, but they are a simply outstanding smaller market franchise that (as of this writing) draws 4th best of all NBA teams.  It remains to be seen if the state of Oregon can support another pro team, but the Oregon Ducks football team is also a powerhouse–both on the gridiron and in the ticket booth.

35. Utah.  Salt Lake City is similar to Portland in that the city only supports an NBA team in the Big Four.  The Jazz draw surprisingly well–just a shade below the Blazers.  In other athletics, the AAA minor league baseball Salt Lake Bees fill seats.  Brigham Young’s basketball and football teams also enjoy success.  That said, I think the Jazz will remain the lone Big Four rep indefinitely.

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The Spurs have earned their keep, but Texas is a bit crowded.

36. San Antonio.  San Antonio is a very large city that is often brought up in relocation/expansion talks for MLB and the NFL, despite Texas having a good foothold in pro sports.  The NBA makes it work with three successful Texan franchises, but I’m unsure about baseball or football.  Both sports are popular in Texas, but the Cowboys have a wide-reaching influence and the Astros make it clear that a team in a large Texan city can struggle.

37. Oklahoma.  The newish Thunder were extremely fortunate to begin their run in the NBA with such young talent.  We’ll see how it plays out over time.  Oklahoma is well represented on the amateur levels by the AAA RedHawks in baseball, and the Sooners and Cowboys in college athletics–particularly football.

38. Vancouver.  The Grizzlies idea took a faceplant, but the Canucks hold steady in the NHL.  Vancouver is a decent-sized city that has an appetite for sports.  The B.C. Lions are a top draw in the Canadian Football League.

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Vancouver is a fixture in the NHL, but I don’t think they’ll be in any other Big Four league after the Grizzlies debacle.

39. Columbus.  Ohio’s largest city gets ranked this high mainly due to the presence of the Ohio State Buckeyes.  The NHL’s Blue Jacket experiment hasn’t panned out very well, so Columbus will need to work hard to hold on to it’s only Big Four team.

40. San Jose.  Against all odds, the Sharks have been a staple in Californian hockey for over twenty years.  There has been talk of the Golden State Warriors relocating to San Jose, which would be essentially unnoticeable in the bigger picture of sports.  They wouldn’t even have to change their name.

41. Calgary.  The Flames are a successful NHL franchise, but that will remain the lone Big Four representative.  That’s fine–there’s the CFL’s Stampeders.

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Calgary stamps on the competition.

42. Jacksonville.  It may be Florida’s largest city, but I’m not so sure the J-Ville is much of a sports town.  Shad Khan is trying to breathe new life into the Jaguars, and hometown hero Tim Tebow seems likely to return.  We’ll give that some time and see how it pans out.

43. Orlando.  Despite the relative support for the Magic, I do not consider Orlando to be viable or acceptable pro sports market.  Too much about the city is contrived and newfangled.  I expect the Magic to wear off as the team plummets further into mediocrity.

44. Sacramento.  The Kings are at the forefront of every whisper about NBA relocation.  They are likely to move–probably to Seattle.  Mayor (and former Phoenix Sun) Kevin Johnson has been trying to lure the Oakland A’s to Sac-town, but for the foreseeable future the biggest ballclub in town will remain the AAA Rivercats.  At least they’re one of the top draws in the minors!

 

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More like the kings of a group of cities that have no business hosting a pro sports team.

45. New Jersey.  For the record, this doesn’t include the Meadowlands.  The lone representative in the Big Four is the New Jersey Devils of Newark.  Jersey is still stinging from the Nets’ departure, but the state as a whole enjoys a good measure of success in minor league and collegiate sports.

46. Ottawa.  The Senators are fairly respectable, but there is a marked lack of a CFL team–at least for now.  As such, Canada’s capital is our fifth ranked Canadian market.

47. Edmonton.  The Oilers have shown a remarkable ability to maintain a presence in Edmonton despite many obstacles over the years.  The CFL’s Eskimos round out the market.

 

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The Oilers keep it greasy in the NHL.

48. Winnipeg.  The Jets happily returned to Manitoba recently–hopefully ticket sales will pick within a few years.  The Winnipeg Goldeyes, an independent pro baseball team in the American Association, do very well.

49. Kentucky.  The last section of our list features teams that do not currently have even one team in the Big Four.  This is where things get interesting.  The state of Kentucky doesn’t have much precedent for pro sports, but the ABA’s Kentucky Colonels come to mind.  On the collegiate level, UK and Louisville dominate fan interest in basketball.  The schools both have successful football programs as well.  In Minor League Baseball, the Louisville Bats are typically the 2nd biggest draw in all the minors, and the Lexington Legends rank around 25 out of about 150.  Louisville is a sizable city with more denizens than dozens of cities in the Big Four.  Even Lexington has more people than Cincinnati, Buffalo, or Orlando.  The Bluegrass State should not be overlooked in discussions of pro sports relocation or expansion.

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I’m Kentucky. Hear me roar.

50. Alabama. The Crimson Tide and Auburn are two of the top draws in college football.  There is peripheral interest in basketball and baseball as well–but if Alabama could support a pro team it would have to in the NFL.  The question is whether or not Alabamans would split allegiance between Saturday and Sunday.

51. Virginia.  It may be a little broad to use the whole state of Virginia as a market.  The Virginia Beach/Norfolk area in particular hosts millions of people and is sports-crazy.  Richmond is also worth mentioning.

52. Nebraska.  Omaha, specifically, is a large enough city to support a pro team–at least in theory.  The Lincoln-based Cornhuskers dominate the state’s sports attention at present, but I could see a pro team in some league sticking in Nebraska.

53. Iowa.  This is a long shot for pro sports, but Iowa’s dedication to baseball, football, and basketball is undeniable.  The Iowa Cubs are a very popular MiLB team, and the Hawkeyes draw fans to the gridiron and the court.

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The Hawkeyes are popular, but would a pro team fly?

54. Las Vegas.  This is the city that is always brought up in any talk about expansion or relocation.  The main reason is that Las Vegas is the largest metro area in the US without a team in the Big Four.  Here’s the problem: Vegas is not a major sports city.  They can barely support a minor league baseball team.  The best they can muster for football is the UFL’s Locomotives.  The UNLV Rebels do well, so if any league goes to Vegas I’d say the NBA has the best shot.

55. Arkansas.  The Razorbacks are wildly popular in college football and basketball.  I’m not so sure that the state could support a pro team, but it’s worth mentioning.

56. Hamilton.  Hamilton, Ontario is a large city in a very densely populated area on Lake Ontario’s west coast.  The city currently hosts the CFL’s Tiger-Cats and the AHL’s Bulldogs, among other teams.  Hamilton is possibly the best candidate for relocation or expansion in the NHL.

57. Quebec City.  Quebec is presumably still hurting from the NHL’s Nordiques leaving for greener pasture in Colorado nearly twenty years ago.  I could see the league returning at some point–but the language barrier remains an obstacle.

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The Nordiques fled Quebec City for Denver nearly twenty years ago. Will the weird N thing return?

58. Saskatchewan.  The two largest cities in the province are Saskatoon and Regina–fairly close to each other.  Saskatchewan has hosted the CFL’s Roughriders for many decades, and has an outside chance at a future NHL team.

59. Connecticut/Rhode Island.  They’re pretty much the same state, so I lumped them into one.  College basketball jumps to mind, with Uconn, Providence, and Rhode Island U leading the charge.  Providence and Hartford are fairly large cities with a short history in the Big Four.  Notably, the Hartford Whalers used to call the NHL home and the Providence Steam Roller (or Rollers) had incarnations in the NFL and NBA.  Minor League Baseball teams in both states are quite successful as well.  Occasionally there’s talk of a pro ball team in Hartford, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

60. New Mexico.  We’ll round out the second tier with an underdog that has yet to sniff the pro leagues.  Albuquerque, New Mexico is the 32nd largest metro area in the US, and is larger than about half of the markets in the Big Four.  The AAA baseball Albuquerque Isotopes (named after a Simpsons episode) draw in the top ten of all ~150 minor league clubs.  The New Mexico Lobos are a very popular college basketball team.  We’ll call New Mexico the the distant wildcard in Big Four discussions.

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I’ll show you second tier.

So there is the second tier.  You can see how the list gets thin at around 50 and then the wildcards come out of left field.  We’ll be referencing this study in several future posts, including our upcoming Ideal Leagues series.  The Ideal Leagues are an in depth exploration of what the Big Four pro sports leagues would look like if Sport Change ruled the world.  Stay posted.  Thanks for reading.

SPORT CHANGE

Time for another quick check on current events that interest Sport Change.  It’s the early December Newsflash!

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His Airness airs some intriguing news.

His Airness airs some intriguing news.

1.) Last week, Michael “Air” Jordan of the Charlotte Bobcats let an intriguing comment slip past his teeth.  When asked if the Bobcats would consider a reversion to the Hornets moniker of old in the event of a New Orleans rebranding, Jordan said more than ‘no comment.’  Here’s an excerpt: “It’s definitely an interest down the road, but right now it’s the New Orleans Hornets,” Jordan told the Charlotte Observer. “We would definitely entertain the opportunity. That’s as much as we can say right now. We’ve heard the community ask the question, and we would listen.”  Aha!  Now that’s music to Sport Change’s ears.  This announcement came fortuitously only one week after a Sport Change post that suggests the same thing.  In fact, the timing of that post led to a significant spike in site hits and page views.  That’s great, because Sport Change is quite proud of that post.  Of course we want to see this taken even further and expanded into a four-way moniker swap that give the Hornets back to Charlotte, the Jazz back to New Orleans, the Raptors to Utah, and the Bobcats to Toronto.  It might happen…..

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2.)  In other pro sports moniker news, it was announced that the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes will now be known as the Arizona Coyotes.  Excuse me…I just yawned so loudly it sounded like a coyote yip.  Word is that they are also changing their logo as well, which is kind of a shame considering that their current logo is about as cool as a coyote logo can possibly look.  If you’re wondering, this does nothing to change the team’s status in any of our recent moniker rankings–for the record, Coyotes ranked 105th of 116 unique nicknames in the Big Four.  Ouch.  Considering that the Coyotes have the worst attendance of any NHL team in recent years, it may be fair to assume that this is a last-ditch effort to revitalize a team that is likely destined for relocation.  As painful as relocation can be for fans, I can’t say that I shed any tears over a hockey team leaving the desert.

Coyote ugly?  Actually it's hard to imagine an improvement.

Coyote ugly? Actually it’s hard to imagine a logo improvement.

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3.)  In lighter news, three interesting new logo sets for Minor League Baseball teams were unveiled recently.  First up, we have the West Michigan Whitecaps; a single-A Midwest League affiliate of the Detroit Tigers based in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area.  The Whitecaps are a popular team, in no small part due to the fact that they play in the home state of their parent club.  The Whitecaps came out with a few new logos that reflect their ties to the Tigers, none more memorable than their transformation of their current logo (a wave with eyes) into a wave-tiger.  This is one of the many reasons why Sport Change loves the Minors.

A wave created by a tail-wind.  (ha.)

A wave created by a tail-wind. (ha.)

Next up is the Aberdeen Ironbirds, a popular Maryland-based short-season A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles.  The Ironbirds are owned by Cal and Billy Ripken, and the name Ironbirds is a reference to “Ironman” Cal.  The Ironbirds formerly had a cartoonish logo with Cal’s #8 on the wing.  Their new logo is much more…serious.

Fear the bird.  He's made of iron.

Fear the bird. He’s made of iron.  He’s literally an iron bird.

Finally, we have the Eugene Emeralds.  The Ems (as they’re affectionately known) have always had a nice classy brand with a great minor league moniker.  That said, they’ve never really had a logo to speak of.  Their former logos were simply a letter ‘E’ or ‘Ems’ with some stylistic embellishments.  They always looked good, but were lacking something.  Goofiness reigns supreme in the Northwest League, with the Everett AquaSox and the new Hillsboro Hops leading the charge.  So the Emeralds hired a design company that completely reworked their image; changing colors, fonts, and logos.  Their new logos feature our old cryptozoological friend Bigfoot (also known as Sasquatch) in a variety of poses wherein he his running while clutching a tree, swinging a tree like a baseball bat, or simply chewing on a tree.  Ah, life is good.

Is he swinging it like a bat or trying to open it like an umbrella?

Is he swinging it like a bat or trying to open it like an umbrella?

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Yes, life is good today here at Sport Change.  Good news all around.  Check back or become a follower of the page to stay updated on some of the great new posts in the hopper.  Thanks for reading.  Leave comments as you leave.

SPORT CHANGE