BOB GREENE: No one will ever name a sports team this way – CNN
Washington, D.C. probably has the strangest history with the nicknames of their sports teams. The NBA’s D.C. team was the Washington Bullets (originally Baltimore Bullets), but owner Abe Pollin changed the name to the generic Wizards because his friend Israeli prime minster Yhitzak Rabin was shot to death.1 Nobody likes Wizards, though the Bullets were not exactly beloved or selling a lot of merchandise in the mid-1990s. The NFL team is in federal court defending their use of Redskins (Robert McCartney column, The Post)2. Now, a CNN columnist points out that neither of those may be as offensive as the the name two incarnations of baseball teams used in D.C.
But I have been talking with sports experts and sports-marketing specialists, and they are in agreement that there is one name — a name that used to belong to a famed big-league baseball team — that would be met with such antipathy by America’s fans that no team today would even think of using it.
I refer, of course, to the Senators.
“Not a chance,” said Rob Fleder, former executive editor of Sports Illustrated and editor of sports books including “Sports Illustrated’s The Baseball Book” and the baseball anthology “Damn Yankees.”
Nice change-up, Bob! Just think if the current Nationals were the Senators, we could say that we needed a Senate the baseball team could proud of…
It was rumored that MLB commissioner Bud Selig wanted the new baseball team to be named Senators, but Mayor Anthony Williams and other elected officials strongly discouraged that since the District lacks its own senators. I wanted Senators too, but was perfectly fine with the Nationals. We can them the Nats anyway, just as fans and copy-editors did in the 20th century whether the team was the Senators or Nationals.
By the way, well into the 1950s, there was uncertainty about the baseball team name. Charlie Brotman clarified it:
One of the first tasks that Brotman took on was putting together the annual press guide.When it came time to do it, he was uncertain what the team nickname actually was, and asking around did not clear things up. For years, the team had been known alternately as the Nationals and Senators and informally, the Nats, but there was no consensus on which one was correct. Brotman decided on “Senators” and asked graphic artist Zang Auerbach, who also designed the logo (still in use today) for his brother Red’s Boston Celtics basketball team, to “animate the name.” Auerbach was asked what he could do with Senators, and his response was, “Not much.” In the end, Auerbach’s design was somewhat similar to the famous Celtics logo, only this time featuring a revolutionary senator, with a cigar in his mouth, winding up from the mound.
So, good job, I guess, on the team name, Bud. How about doing as well on the TV rights?
1Apparently, Rabin’s assassination had more impact on Pollin than the thousands of D.C. residents killed by bullets
2I have already said how I feel about “Redskins.” Also, whatever you do, don’t read the Mike Wise column today — so awful, regardless of your position on the name. He should apologize to the plaintiff in the trademark dispute for including her in such a terrible piece of writing.