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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

When a sports team moves to a new city, should the team’s history be carried along with it?  Please entertain Sport Change as Sport Change takes a break from rankings and realignment scenarios to wax philosophic on the subtle considerations involved in franchise relocation.

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Kevin Durant and his team moved to OKC five years ago, but did the “Sonics” move with them?

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I’ll quit using ‘Sport Change’ in the third person and I’ll talk to you straight.  This is a topic I’ve been meaning to write about for quite a while, and it was awoken out of dormancy by a recent post written by Chris Creamer on sportslogos.net–a favorite website of mine.  The topic of that post was related to the branding possibilities brought up by the rumors of the Sacramento Kings’ possible relocation to Seattle.  Chris Creamer is primarily curious about whether the Seatte Supersonics brand will be resurrected or if the Kings brand will move with the team.  Chris’s piece raised the bigger question of what constitutes a team’s identity and a team’s history.  Like many other sports fans, Chris’s take on the matter is that when a team moves, a team moves it’s history and vestigial identity with it.  I disagree with this notion, and will attempt to explain why.  There’s a lot of gray area in this discussion, but I’ll try my best to address those questions and articulate an argument.

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If the Sonics retake their history, what does that mean for a franchise that has seen many incarnations since 1945.

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What is a team?

Let’s start with the basic question and build from there.  As far as I can observe, a team is comprised of a few elements: 1.) Players, coaching staff, and team employees.  2.) Trademarks and branding materials.  3.) History.  4.) Fans.

Who really owns a sports team?

Let’s make no mistake here: a sports franchise is an object that can be bought and sold by those wealthy enough to do so.  A franchise is a company that holds the legal rights to any contracted employees and any trademarks.  If a team owner wishes to sell the team, relocate the team, or make the team public property–they have the right to do so.  Of the four elements listed above, the owner has the strongest hold on number 1, and the grip loosens as we move through to number 4.  In my opinion, the order of importance is reversed and the definition of ‘team’ should begin with fans and history.

What is a team’s identity?

Though a team is (in most cases) a private franchise, the team’s identity is harder to pin down.  History and fan support are the core of a team’s identity, but branding materials also factor in.  A team’s nickname, logos, team colors, and uniforms are synonomous with the team, and though they are liable to change over the years–they are part and parcel of the team’s identity.  Besides following the linear path of a team (Chicago Cardinals to St. Louis Cardinals to Arizona Cardinals) there are other unique ways a team can find definition.

An old way and a new way.

Traditionally, when a sports team would relocate, it was analogous to a person moving to a new city. Teams would move their belongings, history, and name with them.  They were the same person, but with new surroundings.  A franchise’s history went with the owner, of course, but so did the branding materials and in many cases–the fans.  Taking a good look at the current era of franchise relocation, it’s clear that things have changed.  It’s gotten more complicated.

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There was a time when franchise relocation meant cold-hearted loss for fans who had identified with the identity of their team.  It also meant no chance to ever regain that identity.

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Here are five categories that relocated teams can fall into:

1.) A team that moves to a distinct new location and retains history and brand elements.  Place name and fan base change, but much of the old identity is left in tact.  Perhaps the best examples of this come from the Big Four’s westward expansion of the middle twentieth century: LA Dodgers, LA Lakers, and San Francisco Giants.

2.) A team that ‘moves’ to a location that is in the same region (geographically and culturally) as the previous city and retains the basic elements of the team–history, fan base, and some brand elements.  To get scientific about it, let’s say a move within 100 miles East of the Mississippi or within the same state if West of the Mississippi.  The Brooklyn Nets are an obvious recent example, and the Baltimore/Washington Bullets would arguably fall into this category as well.

3.) A team that moves to a distinctly new location, establishes new brand elements/team identity, but retains linear franchise history.  This is a common scenario, both traditionally and currently–whether it’s the Washington Senators becoming the Texas Rangers or the Houston Oilers becoming the Tennessee Titans.

4.) A team that moves to a new location, but picks up brand elements and fan base of a former team in that location.  This is a scenario that was common in bygone eras, then essentially non-existent for several decades before reemerging in recent years.  Though they reactivated their franchise through expansion, the Cleveland Browns are good example.

5.) A team that moves to a new location and leaves all elements of team identity with the former location.  This is new idea that occurred notably when the Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore, and the Ravens started a new linear history as if they were an expansion team.

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Ray Lewis was the first draft pick of the Baltimore Ravens franchise in 1996. He has never been affiliated with the history of the Cleveland Browns.

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Let’s look at the last ten franchise relocations that have occurred in the Big Four, and see which category or categories they fall into:

(2012) New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn Nets.  Category #2.  This is a classic example of a team moving to a new location, but still within the same geographic area.  Of course it makes sense for the Nets to retain the New Jersey team’s history–they even kept the team nickname.

(2011) Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg Jets.  Category #4.  Here’s an example of the newer phenomenon of cities being reoccupied by a pro club and picking up an old team’s brand elements.  The new Jets still have Atlanta’s history, though, and the old Jets history is down in the desert.

(2008) Seattle SuperSonics to Oklahoma City Thunder. Categories #3/#5.  This is a unique one.  The Thunder were born with a completely new brand and fan base–essentially all that remained of the Sonics was the players/personnel.  The city of Seattle holds the rights to the SuperSonics name and team colors, though the Thunder own the team’s history.  It’s likely that a new Sonics team would have to buy the history back from Oklahoma City.  It’s a brave new world.

(2005) Montreal Expos to Washington Nationals. Categories #3/#4.  On the surface, this relocation just looks like a classic #3–relocation and rebranding.  However, there have been a few different baseball teams in Washington called the Nationals in bygone eras, and the Nats draw from their history–whether official or not.

(2002) Charlotte Hornets to New Orleans Hornets. Category #1.  A simple relocation that is currently facing a rebrand–reportedly as the New Orleans Hornets.  There has been plenty of talk as well about the Charlotte Hornets regaining their old moniker.  Team nickname relocation is a new topic, and it reflects the trend toward nostalgia that is ever-present in the Big Four.

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When the New Orleans Pelicans fly to town, will the Hornets buzz back to Charlotte? If so, we would have a new precedent for brand relocation.

(2001) Vancouver Grizzlies to Memphis Grizzlies. Category #1.  This is a classic #1 branding gaffe–right up there with the Lakers and Jazz.  Memphis could’ve pulled off a clean #3 and started with a totally new brand, but they foolishly clung to the Grizzlies identity.  I can’t imagine British Columbians are as heartsick watching their old Grizzlies continue play as Brooklyn Dodger fans were over the years–it’s the brand that is the problem.

(1997) Houston Oilers to Tennessee Titans. Category #3.  A rebrand/relocation that was pulled off very well.  The team played as the Tennessee Oilers for a year or two, but that never felt right.  It would’ve been preferable if the city of Houston had somehow been able to retain the rights to the Oilers’ brand and history and transferred them to the Texans.

(1997) Hartford Whalers to Carolina Hurricanes. Category #3.  Not much to say about this one.  It’s a classic number three, done fairly well.

(1996) Cleveland Browns to Baltimore Ravens. Category #5.  This is where things got very interesting for the topic of relocation.  When the Browns moved to Baltimore, the brand was put on hold and the Ravens were reborn as a new franchise.  If only the same method had been applied to the Baltimore Colts move to Indy in the eighties.  Today we would have a team in Baltimore called the Colts that could claim history of Johnny Unitas, Bert Jones, and other old Colts teams.

(1996) Winnipeg Jets to Phoenix Coyotes. Category #3.  This is another basic number three, but with two funny twists all these years later.  1.) The Winnipeg Jets became a team again.  2.) The Coyotes are probably the the NHL team that is most likely to move.  If only they had moved to Winnipeg instead the Atlanta Thrashers–then the history could’ve been retained.  Funny how that works out.

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The Coyotes should’ve tucked their tail between their legs and moved back to Winnipeg a few years ago.

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Looking forward

Now let’s look at a few upcoming relocation possibilities and see where they land:

-Sacramento Kings to Seattle.  This is the hottest relocation possibility in the Big Four currently, and it looks like it may very well happen.  If so, it’s almost a given that Seattle would reapply the SuperSonics moniker/team colors, and look to buy back their history from Oklahoma City.  It’s a shame that the history of the Royals/Kings NBA franchise would reach a dead end, but we’ll cover that in a bit.  This would either be a category #4 (Winnipeg Jets) or a category #5 (Baltimore Ravens).

-An NHL team to Quebec City.  There have been plenty of passing mentions of the NHL increasing it’s presence in Canada through expansion or relocation.  The most likely candidate is Quebec City, who are still stinging from losing the Nordiques to Colorado in the mid-nineties.  Construction on a new arena has begun, and it seems like a lock that that the league will occupy it.  If so, it’s very likely that the Quebec Nordiques would be reborn as a franchise.  Most likely, this would be a situation similar to the Winnipeg Jets–a category #4.

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If Quebec gets and NHL team, it would be hard to brand them as anything but the Nordiques.

-The Tampa Bay Rays to….?  There is always plenty of speculation about the Rays relocating, and Sport Change has looked deeply into this issue.  If the Rays were to move to to say, Indiana, Louisville, Portland, or Oklahoma City–it would likely be either a #3 rebrand or a #1 brand retention.

-An NFL team to Los Angeles.   It’s very likely that there will be an NFL team in L.A. within a few years.  It’s quite unclear which team this would be, but the most likely candidates are probably the Chargers, Raiders, Rams, Jaguars, and Buccaneers.  Each of the first three teams were once located in L.A. and are in-state/West of Mississippi.  If they were to move, branding materials and history would likely move with them–so category #2, like the Nets.  If the Bucs or Jags moved, it would likely be a rebranding and retention of team history–category #3.

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If the Jaguars moved to LA, can you really imagine them retaining the brand? Well…I guess they did it with the Lakers and Dodgers.

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THE RULES

As we all move forward into a new era of Big Four relocation, we should discuss what the rules of relocation are–unwritten though they may be.  All of this can be grouped into two basic rules:

Rule #1:  

In most cases, the brand should be left behind with the vacated city.  The city would hold the rights to these elements, like in the case of the Sonics.  As stated earlier, it would be a shame to see the history of the Cincinnati Royals/Kansas City Kings franchise come to an end, but the brand should remain available for pickup (through expansion or relocation) by any city that formerly held that brand.  There are exceptions to this, of course.  Category #2 relocations (like the Nets) are perfectly acceptable and the brand/history should be retained.  Additionally, I think that it’s acceptable for a brand under twenty years old and without a championship (like the Rays) to retain these elements as they move.  This is acceptable if the brand is universal–the sun’s rays shine everywhere (well, maybe not Portland) so a team like the Indiana Rays would be fine.  The Grizzlies fall into this exception, but made the terrible mistake of retaining a region-specific identity.

Rule #2:

In most cases, history is put on hold.  In this modern era of relocation, it’s unnecessary for a team like the Nationals to retain the history of the Expos.  That history should be left with Montreal.  If the city ever got a new team, they could reactivate and claim that history–even with a new brand.  A new Sonics team or a new Nordiques team should have full access to team history within the time that the city held that brand.  The history is the story of the franchise’s relationship with it’s city and it’s fans.  When a team relocates, history is vestigial at best and burdensome at worst.  Again, it’s acceptable to carry history if the team relocates within 100 miles East of the Mississippi or within the same state in the West.  On the Eastern seaboard, we could even say 50 miles.  The Baltimore/Washington Bullets and New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets would fall within that rule of radius.

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If Montreal ever gets another team, shouldn’t they have access to the Expos’ history?

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That sums it up.  It’s certainly an adjustment and any change can feel awkward.  However, what feels more awkward is the current methods.  These days, it’s like a Wild West of teams choosing from any of the five categories.  This will make franchise history tracking difficult and lead to identity crises for fans.  Can the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets claim their three WHA championships from the seventies?  Not as long as the Phoenix Coyotes are wearing them like identification tags on a dog collar.

Thanks for reading and please leave comments to get a discussion going.  Keep checking back for more posts as the winter moves along.

SPORT CHANGE

As a follow-up to our previous post about fifty monikers that could work in the Big Four, Sport Change will now take the top half of that list and rank them.  Here’s the top 25.

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Each nickname listed below is currently unused by an team in the Big Four (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL) professional sports leagues.  The nicknames are ranked and given suggested uses.  For detailed descriptions of each nickname, read the top fifty post.  

For criteria on what makes a good team nickname in pro sports, consult the Moniker Monitor ground rules. 

Let’s get right into it.  Starting from the top:

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1.  Knights.  Suggested uses: would work well ahead of Indiana, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, or most any city in any sport.

2.  Wolves.  Suggested uses: would work well as a nickname for Washington, Los Angeles, Arizona, or several other markets.

3.  Pilots.  Suggested uses: NHL may be best bet, with Seattle expansion or a rebranding of the Blue Jackets.

4.  Grays.  Suggested uses: Washington sports teams would benefit from historical connection with the Homestead Grays.  Would work for an NHL expansion team in Seattle.

5.  Pioneers.  Suggested uses: Portland would be the ideal landing place due to alliteration and Oregon Trail history.

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6.  Stallions.  Suggested uses: would work with many locations: Arizona, Indiana, Kentucky, Houston, Washington, Baltimore, St. Louis, and many more.

7.  Arrows. Suggested uses: Arizona would be ideal due to alliteration, but Arrows would work for a variety of locales.

8.  Comets.  Suggested uses: would fit the NHL exceptionally well, with Kansas City being perhaps the best choice.

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9.  Snakes.  Suggested use: would make for a better nickname than Diamondbacks.

10.  Mustangs.  Suggested use: Houston and Mustangs sound quite well together.

11.  Vipers.  Suggested use:  If a new team comes to Pittsburgh, the Pitt Vipers would be a pun with teeth.

12.  Cyclones.  Suggested uses: Oklahoma City or Kansas City would be the best bets, but Brooklyn could also transfer the Cyclones moniker to the Big Four.

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13.  Bulldogs.  Suggested uses: would work best in NFL or NHL; perhaps retained by AHL Hamilton franchise if the city joins the NHL.

14.  Huskies.  Suggested use: Toronto’s pro basketball team used to be the Huskies.  Without precedent of that kind, the name remains within the domain of NCAA.

15.  Monarchs.  Suggested uses: Perhaps it would work with Brooklyn or Memphis.

16.  Dukes.  Suggested uses: Again, perhaps Brooklyn or Memphis.

17.  Griffins.  Suggested use: Brooklyn is maybe the only market that could pull this off–perhaps in the NHL.

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18.  Generals.  Suggested use: At this point, Washington is the only market where this could work.

19.  Renegades.  Suggested use:  Something to consider for Tennessee in a rebrand of the Grizzlies.

20.  Miners.  Suggested use: could work as a blue-collar type nickname in the right locale; perhaps Kentucky or West Virginia if they were ever granted franchises.

21.  Scorpions.  Suggested use: Arizona is the only market where this would work, and it could work.

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22.  Blackbirds.  Suggested use: right now there are too many birds in the Big Four, but Blackbirds is better than many of them.

23.  Bisons.  Suggested use: it’s long too late, but Bisons would’ve been better than Bills for Buffalo.

24.  Cougars.  Suggested use: remains a universally acceptable name, though other connotations come into play.

25.  Maroons.  Suggested use: it’s hard to imagine this name coming back to the Big Four, but if Montreal received another NHL franchise this would be a slam dunk.  Or a slap shot.  Whatever.

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Excellent.  The Sport Change Big Four moniker study is nearly complete.  Once votes are collected from our mega-polls, decisions can be made for nickname allocation in our Ideal Leagues.  If you haven’t voted yet, click here and here.  Thanks for reading!  Feel free to leave comments.

SPORT CHANGE

Leagues expand, teams relocate, and franchises change their names.  In the Big Four (NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL) there is usually at least one instance per year of one of these events occurring.  With 116 unique team nicknames (monikers) currently in use in those four leagues, what is left?

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The Seattle Pilots had a brief flight in the AL a few decades ago. Will the nickname someday resurface over the horizon?

First of all, it’s important to define what makes a good nickname for professional sports teams.  Luckily, Sport Change has already done just that.    Many team nicknames are respectable based simply on a rich history of a particular franchise, but we’re talking about new nicknames in this post. New nicknames have to stand up at face value and maintain respectability in good times and bad.

An easy way to maintain respectability is to keep the moniker general and universal.  Save the wacky and novel names for minor league, college, and semipro teams.  Nicknames like ‘Reds,’ ‘Bears,’ ‘Warriors,’ and ‘Stars’ hold up well over the years and are respectable even when the team is struggling.

Having a nickname that is relevant to a particular region can work well (Steelers, Brewers, Cowboys) or it can steer a team (Ravens, Diamondbacks, Heat) into borderline ridiculousness.  Referencing the region in a very specific manner works better at semipro levels.

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Sometimes alliteration works very well. Other times…not so much.

Alliteration can be sweet (Pittsburgh Pirates, Tennessee Titans) or it can steer teams (Jacksonville Jaguars, Washington Wizards) into questionable territory.  At the pro level, alliteration should be seen as a bonus quality to a name that would stand up at face value even if the city changed it’s name.

Intimidation can be effective, but it works best with the full contact sports.  Can you imagine a baseball team called the Predators?  The NBA can go either way.  An intimidating nickname like ‘Hawks’ can coexist alongside a bland nickname like ‘Suns.’

With these ideas in mind, Sport Change spent several months collecting nicknames that are currently unused in the Big Four, but could potentially work.  The nicknames have been grouped into categories and the best will be selected, ranked, and given suggested uses.  Enjoy!

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Gladiators is tough and intimidating, but would it work at the pro level?

Category #1: The Fighting Folks

Warriors, soldiers, or other people engaged in combat is a good source of sports nicknames.  Knights is a great option that is very surprisingly unused in the Big Four.  The Charlotte Knights are a minor league baseball team, and the NCAA has the the Rutgers Scarlet Knights among other variations.  Archers is a nickname that is basically unused in sports, but could work at any level.  Gladiators is a name that is used at semipro levels; where it may be best served.

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Category #2:  Authority Figures

Kings is good enough to have two representatives in the Big Four, but there are several other authority figure names still available.  Monarchs is currently used by Old Dominion university, and former uses include the Negro League Kansas City franchise and the Sacramento WNBA team.  Barons is a great name that was used by the NHL’s Cleveland Barons in the 70s, and is essentially claimed by the AA baseball Birmingham Barons.  Dukes is a name that is rarely used, but could work well in the right situation.  With Albuquerque switching their baseball team’s name to the Isotopes, Duquesne U probably has the most visible use of Dukes.  Generals was used prominently by the New Jersey Generals of the former USFL–a team owned by Donald Trump that drafted Herschel Walker. Colonels was Kentucky’s ABA moniker, and is used by a few colleges.  Captains is a basic name that is seen in baseball’s Midwest Leaguers, the Lake County Captains.  I suppose somebody can be the captain of the Captains.

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The Lake County Captains have a great name that’s so obvious that it was passed over by many other teams. But the Big Four?

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Category #3:  Men at Work

Occupational names are usually good bets for sports teams, as evidenced by the Packers, Oilers, and Steelers.  Lumberjacks is a name that would hold up in the right location, and ditto that for Miners.  Pilots is a very solid moniker that was once used by the former American League Seattle franchise.

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Category #4:  Rogue Spirits

Nicknames like Mavericks and Trailblazers reflect the romanticized American image of the rugged individualist, and they work fairly well in most cases.  Pioneers is an obvious name that is surprisingly unused in the Big Four.  Independents was the name of the old NFL team in Rock Island, Illinois, and has some charm to it.  Renegades is a fun one that’s used by a few semipro teams here and there.  Legends is a bit eyeroll-inducing, but isn’t bad overall.  It works well for minor league baseball’s Lexington franchise.

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The ABA’s Carolina Cougars were one notable use of the moniker in professional sports.

Category #5: Raining Cats & Dogs

Moving on to the ever-popular animal category, let’s take a look at some cat and dog monikers that are widely employed just about everywhere except the Big Four.  Wildcats is a great nickname, but it’s too overused in the NCAA to work in the Big Four.  It would also seem redundant to have Wildcats when so many other wild cats are used as monikers.  Cougars is a great name (at face value) that has popped up a few times in the Big Four and other pro leagues, but two factors come into play here: 1.) Several colleges use Cougars.  2.) there’s the other meaning of ‘cougar’ that would cause Twitter to overload if a new team was called the Cougars.  On the canine side of things, Wolves is certainly one of the most underutilized monikers out there.  Timberwolves comes close, but there’s not use of just ‘Wolves’ in either NCAA D-I or Minor League Baseball.  And that’s 500 teams!  There’s Wolfpack and Seawolves, but no just ‘Wolves.’  The most visible use of just ‘Wolves’ is probably the Chicago Wolves of the AHL.  Huskies is a name that would be hard for a Big Four team to pull off, considering the prominence of Uconn and Washington U.  The Toronto Huskies were once a team in NBA, and there’s even a push to change the Raptors name to Huskies.  Another doggy moniker, Bulldogs, is very widely used in colleges and high schools, but may find it’s way back to the Big Four.

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Category #6:  Bird Words

The Big Four is basically an aviary of bird-based monikers, some good (Eagles, Hawks, Penguins, Falcons), some acceptable (Cardinals, Ravens, Blue Jays, Orioles), and some questionable (Pelicans, Ducks, Seahawks).  Is there room for any more bird nicknames?  If so, Blackbirds would be a simple and effective moniker that would be easy to color-coordinate.  Owls is fun and fierce, though Temple may have staked their claim.  Roadrunners is a bit minor-leaguish, and would only work for a team in the Southeast United States.

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Bisons (or Buffaloes) is a good all-American nickname that could be better represented in the Big Four.

Category #7:  Prairie Critters

There are some nicknames that take inspiration from the old American image of animals grazing on open prairie.  Buffaloes/Bisons are represented in NCAA, Minor League Baseball, and elsewhere, but would work well as a Big Four monikers in some areas.  The Buffalo Bills only peripherally use the creature as a mascot.  Stallions is a nickname that seems to appear in nearly every name-the-team contest that comes up, and it’s solid through and through.  Mustangs is another horsey nickname that could work in the Big Four.

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Category #8:  Serpents

Diamondbacks is the only snake-based moniker in the Big Four, and I don’t think it has to be that way.  Snakes itself is a solid nickname.  Getting more specific, Rattlers is an effective nickname that shakes it’s tail in NCAA and MiLB.  Cobras is another good one, though it may be best on the semipro level.  Vipers is another nice one with extra teeth that could work in Big Four.

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Could Vipers work for a team in the Big Four? Only in the right situation.

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Category #9:  Creepy Critters

Some nicknames take it to a level that is even creepier than snakes.  Spiders is effective, if repellent.  It works well for Richmond U.  Scorpions would work well for a desert team, and is largely unused.  Bats works great for Louisville’s AAA affiliate, and may only work if Louisville had a team in MLB.

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Category #10:  Mythical Creatures

Mythical creatures are borderline acceptable for the Big Four, but could work if given the right chance.  Griffins is a cool name that shows up here and there on the Minor League and collegiate circuits.  Dragons is another name-the-team contest staple, but Dayton and Drexel are already making terrific use of the moniker.  Thunderbirds is a powerful beast that could work in an appropriate location, but it may be a moniker that some would take offense to.

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With all the weather-related nicknames in sports, it’s strange that the most visible use of Tornadoes is the independent Worcester club of the Can-Am league.

Category #11:  Weather Report

There are plenty of weather-related nicknames out there, and it’s hard to imagine more being added to the Big Four.  That said, Tornadoes and Cyclones are obvious choices for weather monikers.  Cyclones is prominently used by Iowa State, but I’m not sure that would exclude the Big Four.  A wildcard would be Whirlwinds, but it’s hard to see that nickname working well at the pro level.

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Category #12:  Active Objects

Another category of monikers is the animate (but not living) objects.  This isn’t quite like the inanimate monikers like Spurs and Nets, and is more like the Jets or Sabres.  Arrows is a solid nickname, especially if used alliteratively.  Comets is another good one, and with the folding of Houston’s WNBA franchise, it is underused.  Aces would be a fun one for a Wild West type team, like AAA’s Reno Aces.  The Las Vegas UFL team uses Locomotives, and that’s a nickname that could work in the Big Four.  Another could be Racers, a more active name than Pacers.

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Murray State uses a name that the Indiana Pacers wish they had.

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Category #13:  Colors!

Finally, we’ll talk about the most colorful monikers of all: colors!  Colorful nicknames were once the standard, especially in Major League Baseball–where a team’s nickname reflected their socks.  The Big Four currently has three: Reds, Browns, and Blues.  Blues is more of a music genre nickname, but it’s a color nonetheless.  Cardinals also have their roots in the color Cardinal red rather than the bird.  Taking a look at other available colors reveals a lack of possibilities.  Oranges is tough to separate from the fruit, and Syracuse already uses Orange.  Yellows sounds like cowards.  Greens sounds like a salad.  Purples…it just doesn’t work.  Continuing in the Browns tradition of neutral colors, Grays is perhaps the best possibility of all.  The old Negro League Homestead Grays nearly influenced the name choice of the Washington Nationals a few years back.  Tans is short and to the point–I could see it.  Another muted color nickname is Maroons, which has been used in the NFL and NHL.  The metallic colors also have promise, with Silvers taking second place to Golds, of course.

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Grays is a terrific old name that was nearly chosen over Nationals when Washington was naming their baseball team.

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There are the fifty.  Next up on Sport Change will be the rankings of the Top 25 Potential Big Four team nicknames.  Stay tuned.

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.

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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

Which North American sports markets are the best?

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Philly might not be number one, but it’s home to four solid teams in the Big Four.

While researching for the upcoming Sport Change Ideal Leagues, it became necessary to pinpoint which markets might be ready for expansion or relocation.  The next logical step was to take the assembled data and compile a rankings of the best sports markets in North America.  The “First Tier” is the Top 30 markets.  Thirty was chosen due to the fact that there are that many teams in three of the Big Four.  Those three leagues (NBA, NHL, and MLB) all have less than 30 unique markets, while the NFL has 31 unique markets.

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How is market defined? There is certainly some gray area here, but we’ll be using similar definitions to those that have been used in previous Sport Change posts.  As a refresher, here a few notes:

-Though the San Francisco Bay is one condensed area, we’re considering San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose to be distinct markets.  The Golden State Warriors will be considered as representatives in each city.

-Baltimore and Washington D.C. are viewed separately.

-All teams in any borough of New York City are viewed as one.

-Anaheim is considered to be part of the Los Angeles market.

-The Texas Rangers are rolled into the Dallas market.

-The New England Patriots are certainly part of the Boston market.

-The Green Bay Packers are combined with the Milwaukee market and are referred to as Wisconsin.

-Due to it’s relatively recent emergence in the Big Four, the entire state of Tennessee is viewed as one market.

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What determines a market’s ranking?

Number of current teams.  If a market has three or more teams represented in the Big Four, it’s obviously a very strong market.  Only one market (Tampa) with three teams did not make first tier.  Beyond the Big Four, having a strong showing in secondary, minor league, or collegiate sports can also boost a market’s ranking.

Quality of current teams.  Generally speaking, factors such as attendance and TV markets were considered to be a much more reliable gauge than wins or losses.  However, there has to be some leeway.  The Chicago Bears, for instance, draw near the bottom of the NFL in average fans per game.  It’s not because the Bears are unpopular–it’s because Soldier Field is the smallest stadium in the NFL.

History.  A rich and storied history can boost a market’s rank, and the reverse is certainly true as well.  Defunct teams within a given market were examined as well.  Some markets that once had a pro team were usually ranked higher than markets with no notable history of professional sports.  Conversely, markets that were unable to hold on to particular teams can see their ranking slide.

Attendance.  Ticket sales is a fairly good marker of team success, and was used extensively in this study.  Factors such as quality of stadium/arena, TV market, etc. can skew the results, so all was taken with a grain of salt.

Population.  When measuring markets that lack sufficient data to rank their suitability for pro sports, populations of cities and regions were considered.  There are exceptions, of course, but population can certainly play a major role.

Let’s get started from the top.  For the record, I did not create any of these logo combinations–they were added by members of sportslogos.net–primarily someone who goes by name ‘Firefly.’

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1. New York City.  It’s not much of a debate at number one.  Between Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island, the New York market boasts two teams in each of the Big Four.  Most of these teams draw well, have vast TV networks, and rich history.

2. Los Angeles.  The lack of an NFL team is certainly a gaping hole for now, but the other five teams enjoy relative success.

3. Philadelphia.  Philly might be the most solid all around of the 4-team markets.  The Phillies are the top draw in baseball, and the Eagles, Sixers, and Flyers are no slouches.

4. Dallas.  With one representative in each of the Big Four, Dallas makes a strong case.  The Cowboys, Mavericks, and Rangers are all respectable franchises.

5. Chicago.  The Windy City has five teams in the Big Four–all with considerable success.  Middling to low ticket sales in baseball and football are what keep Chi-town from the third spot.

Boston 6. Boston.  The performance of teams in the Boston market has been tremendous over the last decade, and Boston boasts four of them.

7. Washington D.C.  Even when separated from Baltimore, the Capitol makes a strong case with a team in each big league.

8. San Francisco.  The Giants and Niners are both powerhouses in all regards, and the Warriors fill out the roster.  

Detroit 9. Detroit.  An historic team in each league, with mixed success.  The Red Wings are the strongest of the bunch.

10. Colorado.  Four solid franchises that represent each of the Big Four.  The Broncos are the workhorse of this market.

11. St. Louis.  Three franchises, with varying histories and success.  The Cardinals are inseparable from baseball, while the Rams struggle to keep their football team.

12. Miami.  The Heat are the hottest of the four, while the Dolphins, Marlins, and Panthers all have their share of quirks. Miami 13. Minnesota.  Four underachievers call the Twin Cities home, but there are four nonetheless.

14. Wisconsin.  The Packers and Brewers are model small-market franchises, while the Bucks struggle to make bucks.

15. Houston.  The Texans have built something nice for Houston, while the Astros and Rockets are perennially playing catch-up with stronger markets.

16. Toronto.  Toronto makes Canada proud with three Big Four franchises.  The under-performing Maple Leafs are the strongest of the three within a given league, and nearly out draw the Jays. Toronto

17. Pittsburgh.  A tough, historic sports town with three representatives.

18. Atlanta.  The Braves, Falcons, and Hawks are all fairly solid franchises, and ATL represents a vast swath of area in the Deep South.

19. Cleveland.  Despite the worst luck of any sports city, Cleveland still draws fans to see the Browns and Cavs.

20. Baltimore.  The two black birds both represent the Charm City quite well.  Can Baltimore host an NBA team once again?

21. Kansas City.  The Chiefs are a very popular team for fans in several states.  The Royals blend into the woodwork a little more.

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22. Seattle.  Losing the Sonics hurts, but Seattle is a large market that amply supports the Seahawks and Mariners.

23. Arizona.  This one is tough to gauge.  There’s a team in each of the Big Four, but none are very successful–both in games and at the gate.

24. Oakland.  The A’s and Raiders have a devoted following, but that doesn’t equate to ticket sales in the dilapidated O.co Coliseum.  The Warriors still officially call Oakland home.

25. Carolina.  The Panthers have the most promise here, but it looks like the Bobcats and Hurricanes are safe for now.

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26. Tennessee.  Tennessee has three relatively new teams that are generally middling in play and pay.

27. Buffalo.  The Bills have an historic fan base, and the Sabres are surprisingly popular for a smaller market.

28. New Orleans.  The Saints are a top draw in the NFL, while the Hornets (future Pelicans) are looking for a foundation to build a franchise.

29. Cincinnati.  The Reds are rock solid, but the Bengals bungle their way to the bottom of the pile.  Perhaps on-field success will turn that around.

30. San Diego.  With underachievers in baseball and football, San Diego makes a weak case for any more pro sports teams. San-Diego

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And there is the first tier.  If you were building an ideal pro sport league from scratch, perhaps you would look to these thirty teams.  The NBA and NHL contain several markets that didn’t make it to first tier.  The NFL has three and MLB has only one team not represented in here.  Look for those markets in the Second Tier—coming soon!

SPORT CHANGE