It’s Football February here on Sport Change, so let’s all take a look at the brand new logo for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

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Gettin’ jaggy wit’ it.

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Yep, there it is.  The Jacksonville Jaguars football club just announced that they will have this as their new logo starting in the 2013 season.  There has been plenty of commentary from Shad Khan over the last year about rebranding, and this logo appears to be the first manifestation of that…or should I mustachiofestation.  (Shad Khan jokes never get old.)

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Khan has stated his wish to make black the primary color of the Jags, and I assumed this would translate to taking a minimalist approach and potentially even completely dropping the nineties era teal.  Alas, no.  Though the logo is sharper and clearer, it’s essentially the same thing–a jaguar head with a teal tongue faced to the right.  For comparison, here’s the Jaguars “old” logo:

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I’ve always appreciated this old logo.  Sure, it’s a cruder rendering of a jaguar, but it has an simple, artistic feel to it.  I liked how the tongue was the only bit of blue–as if the cat had just downed a blue-raspberry slushie.  The new logo, however, added teal to the nose and eyes.  This was to make it look more like a realistic jaguar, of course.  What a strange choice.  Incidentally, the new logo looks quite a bit like IUPUI (NCAA D-I) Jaguars’ logo:

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It’s interesting that the Jaguars slight logo change follows on the heels of the Carolina Panther’s recent slight logo change.  We all remember how both cats entered the NFL fray in the nineties–two new teams from the South who were both represented by large wild cats and variations on the color teal blue.  Two cats linked in destiny; yoked together in the annals of NFL history.  Go figure.

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This cat is signing off for now.  Till next time.

SPORT CHANGE

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

What if Roger Goodell and his ilk were to get their way and the NFL were to expand internationally?  Just how would that work?  Time to drink the Kool-aid and take a ride on the Sport Change roller coaster of organized imagination.

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Background

For several years now, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has publicly stated his wish to expand the  league internationally by placing franchises abroad.  London is the most immediate target, and Wembley Stadium plays host to an NFL game each season as part of the NFL International Series.  In addition to London, the International Series hosted an NFL game in Mexico City in 2005.  Each time the London match rolls around, Goodell waxes romantic about how wonderful it would be to have an NFL franchise across the pond.  Rumors swirl about expansion teams overseas and/or relocation of a current franchise.

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Backlash

Though most responses to the International Series fall somewhere between indifference and eye-rolling, there is also a considerable amount of criticism from sports press and fans alike.  Common refrains include: “It’s the National Football League…National!,” “NFL Europa and the World League both failed,”  and “this is just another way for the greedy NFL to make more money.”  There has also been backlash from some players, who complain about long plane rides, wacky scheduling, and loss of a home game.  British fans of American football often laugh at the notion and share doubts about a franchise’s success in London–most are already fans of an existing NFL franchise, and have no plans to change that.

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The World League/NFL Europa was an interesting experiment, but it didn’t last.

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The Sport Change Take

As previously stated here and here, Sport Change is adamantly opposed to NFL international expansion or relocation.  If rich guys really want to see the NFL take flight overseas, go for it.  Just leave our National Football League out of it.  There’s too much history, too much interest, and too much success to risk losing or harming the league in an action rooted in hubris and greed.    There are more pressing concerns–perhaps a team in L.A. would be nice?  A team in Toronto would be a tough enough pill to swallow, and that’s barely international.  

Despite all this, Sport Change cannot help but wonder and ponder how an international NFL scenario could play out.  Let’s do this in Q&A form–here we go!

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The Basic Premise of the Preposterous Proposition

Two NFL teams are added as expansion franchises–one team in London and one team in Mexico City.  Neither team would belong to a division, but the London franchise would be a member of the AFC and the Mexico franchise would be a member of the NFC.  Each team would play a full slate of games, but each game would be a home game.  Read on to learn more.

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Why London?

The question of whether or not London is actually ready for an NFL team hasn’t stopped league brass from trumpeting their mission.  As such, we’ll entertain it.  The team would play games at Wembley Stadium for the time being, and perhaps Olympic Stadium down the line.

Why Mexico City?

As mentioned earlier, the NFL International Series began with a bang in 2005.  The Arizona Cardinals played a regular season game against the San Francisco 49ers at the colossal Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.  The game drew a whopping 103,467 spectators, which broke the NFL attendance record at the time.  Looking back to a preseason game played by the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Oilers at Azteca in 1994, the attendance was a ridiculous 112,376–standing room only.  Mexico City is the third largest city on Planet Earth, and interest in football is surprisingly high.

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Mexico City is the planet’s third largest city and has hosted two NFL games that drew north of 100,000 fans.  Is the NFL ready for vuvuzelas?

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What would the brands look like?

Sport Change recently polled readers to ask what the best names for teams in these locations would be.  It’s important to consider that the name would have to be accessible to fans both in that country and here in the U S of A.  In London, Dragons and Griffins fought tooth and nail, with the fire-breathers having the last laugh.  In Mexico, Aztecs was the clear leader, but Sport Change contributor and political correctness zealot Maria Maccamini-Cowan articulated why Aztecs may be an offensive moniker.  Maria is the expert in these matters, so Sport Change gave her the benefit of the doubt.  There was a tie for second place between Lobos and Toros, and we chose Lobos due to the relative lack of wild dog related monikers in the Big Four.  So we have the London Dragons and the Mexico Lobos.  (I guess Lobos de Mexico D.F. would be more appropriate, but as stated, the brand must be decipherable to America.)  For uniforms, I’m going to say black/green for the Dragons and white/orange for the Lobos.  For helmet logos, imagine something similar to the Dayton Dragons for London and New Mexico U for the Lobos.

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The London Dragons–clad in black and green. Classy.

Who would play for these teams?

Initially, the rosters for these two teams could be stocked with free agents and standouts from the CFL, UFL, Arena League, etc.  There could also be an expansion draft of some kind; wherein each team must declare a player or two for eligibility.  Working the teams into the NFL Draft could be tricky–we’ll explain more in a bit.

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Why AFC and NFC?

Sport Change has placed the London Dragons in the AFC and the Mexico Lobos in the NFC.  This is a bit arbitrary, but there’s some reasoning at play.  For starters, distance is inconsequential.  The geographical layouts of the AFC and NFC are nearly identical in the bigger picture.  Yes, the Raiders, Chargers, and Broncos would have long flights to London.  So would the Seahawks, Niners, and Cardinals.  The reasoning behind the conferencial placement stems from cultural factors.  A cumulative poll over the last five years reveals that the Patriots and Dolphins are the two most popular NFL teams in England.  Couple that with Jacksonville signing on to play games in Wembley for the next few years and the answer is clear: AFC to London.  To make things easy, the NFC holds the edge in Mexico.  The Cowboys seem to be the most popular team on a consistent basis over the years.  AFC teams are popular South of the Border as well (Steelers, Dolphins, Raiders) but the 49ers, Packers, and Giants also have broad bases in Mexico.

The NFC carries the torch...er..flag for Mexico.

The NFC carries the torch…er..flag for Mexico.

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How would scheduling work?

Here is where this proposition gets a little unorthodox.  As alluded to earlier, each international team would play a full slate of sixteen games, but play only at home.  Each team in the AFC would travel to London once per season, and each team in the NFC would play in Mexico once per season.  There is no point in having a team abroad if they are travelling to play in the US.  To ensure a sustainable revenue stream out of the gate, it makes sense to have a sold-out stadium each week.  It’s also the only fair way to do it.  If a London team were placed in the AFC East, for example, Bills fans may blame their losing ways on the travel demands of the international game each year.  They already blame Canada!  If 16 games remained the standard in the NFL, the international game could replace a regularly slated game on a set schedule by taking the place of one of the three conference-non-division games each team plays each year on a rotating schedule.  For instance, the last place Lions would be scheduled to play the last place NFC East and West teams one year, East and South teams the next year, and West and South teams the year after.  Another way to do it would be to add a seventeenth game of the season for each team–either replacing the last preseason game or replacing the bye week.  That would be 17 games for each team, with the international teams squaring off once per regular season (alternate stadiums year to year) to fill the schedule.  No doubt Goodell and gang would salivate at that notion–the NFLPA?  Not so much.  Either way, the premise remains the same: each AFC team travels to London for a game each year, and each NFC team travels to Mexico City for a game each year.

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The AFC in London. It’s already happening.

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What about playoffs?

I don’t think there would be any fair way to include the Dragons and Lobos in the playoff hunts of their respected conferences.  With only home games and in-conference match-ups, the playing field wouldn’t be level.  Imagine your favorite team losing the wild card spot to an international team.  That would probably be the quickest way to slay the Dragons, so to speak.  That said, the international teams would need some sort of postseason to play for.  I think the best solution would be to simply have the Dragons and Lobos play each other in a World Bowl–similar to a college bowl game.  The World Bowl could be played in the football-starved time vacuum that is the weekend prior to the Super Bowl.   The team with the best overall record hosts the World Bowl–a huge incentive to stay competitive all year long.  In the event of matching records, there would no special tiebreaker needed to determine the host site–the Dragons and Lobos would have that one regular season head-to-head matchup each year.

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Time to resurrect the World Bowl?

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Potential problems?

You betcha.  For starters, the players would likely be opposed to both extending the season and adding travel.  The international teams would likely have a hard time finding enough quality players to field a competitive team.  Money would certainly be available, but it may be a tough sell to convince players, coaches, etc. to pack up their families and settle in a new land.  That could lead to more players/coaches from the homeland of each nation–making for exciting but low caliber teams.  There could be issues of all kinds relating to gambling, throwing games, stadium security, etc.  Another concern would be the economic impact of these games.  Hosting an NFL team would likely be a boon to the economy of a particular city, but it’s hard to be sure.  If the international games were able to consistently draw a significant amount of American fans, that would certainly be an influx of revenue to the foreign cities.  The teams would likely be employing locals to run just about everything as well.  However, make no mistake: the NFL and NFL team owners would be eating the biggest piece of the pie.  At the end of the day, if the games were taking loose change from the pockets of ordinary citizens in a foreign land and depositing them in a Swiss bank account, something is off.  That said, I guess that’s no different than taking the loose change of fans in Buffalo, Oakland, or Jacksonville.

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What is this proposition?

As stated ad nauseum, Sport Change is opposed to the NFL expanding internationally.  However, if it were to happen, this idea may be an equitable and interesting way to make it work.  What do you think?  Please share your comments.  Thank you for reading.

SPORT CHANGE

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

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