There is a seriously troubling epidemic rapidly spreading through Australian sport: pathetic team nicknames.
Take last week’s example of the Greater Western Sydney Giants. What, exactly, do giants have to do with Greater Western Sydney?
Sure, all of the potentially location-appropriate names that many of my mates and I put forward – Greater Western Sydney McMansions, Greater Western Sydney Foreclosures, Greater Western Sydney Rugby, Greater Western Sydney Scrum – were relatively facetious, but hey, they simply oozed creativity when compared to the Giants.
And others, such as my brother’s suggestion of the Greater Western Sydney Funnel Webs, would have been perfect.
Giants Chief Executive Dale Holmes has called upon people to understand that “Giants is about daring to dream, having a vision, taking risks, overcoming adversity, believing.” Which only leads one to wonder just how many risks the average giant has to take. Indeed, Holmes is almost implying that every giant has “dared to dream” about being especially tall and their incomparable self-belief caused their astonishing growth. If only I was aware of such biological rules as a child, I wouldn’t currently be the 5-foot-11-schlump at the keyboard, and instead would be earning my $50million contract as I tore up shot-blocking records as a 7-foot-8 centre in the NBA. That being said, at least the Giants’ slogan is less prone to confusion: “Think big. Live big. Play big.”
Many in the Australian media have complained at the notion that the name is very American – one thinks of New York or San Francisco when thinking Giants, they say, forgetting that North Melbourne once had a basketball team with the same name. Mind you, it is a reasonable point, especially as it comes on the back of the Gold Coast Suns, who at least have a geographically appropriate moniker.
More important, though, is the fact that the Giants are not alone: there are so many pathetically ordinary modern names going around. What were the Western Force thinking when the Waratahs, Reds and Brumbies had done so well? What’s with the Melbourne Heart and Melbourne Victory? And if you’re wanting a name that’s shamelessly and embarrassingly American, how about the disgrace that is Sydney’s franchise in the new Australian Baseball League: The Sydney Blue Sox?
Rather than directly stealing nicknames from major American teams, Australian sporting clubs need instead to take heed of how original the Yanks often are in the naming of their sides. In particular, we need to learn from Minor League Baseball.
I first discovered the brilliance of minor league teams in 2002, when a team in the Northern League was relocating to Kansas City, Kansas and held a competition for fans to name the franchise. The team became known as the Kansas City T-Bones, because Kansas is, apparently, known for its awesome beef. The logo contained a bull, who like the team’s mascot is known as ‘Sizzle’, and the team’s slogan is ‘Fun Well Done’. I have kept an interested and most fond eye on the T-Bones’ performance ever since.
Over their time in the Northern League – the T-Bones have just recently defected to the American Association – the T-Bones played against such teams as the Winnipeg Goldeyes (named after a fish usually served as a smoked delicacy) and the especially awesome Edmonton Cracker-Cats whose name is derived from the oil industry term fluid catalytic cracking (“cat cracking” for short), which is especially appropriate for the oil town whose NHL team is the Edmonton Oilers. Amongst others, the T-Bones have played against the RailCats, Jackhammers, Redhawks, Canaries, Saltdogs, and Explorers, and in the new American Association, their rivals will include the Pelicans, Captains, Wingnuts, and the Fighting Pheasants.
Meanwhile, arguably the best nickname of a major sports franchise in the US is that of the Baltimore Ravens, who are named after the famous poem of Baltimore’s most esteemed writer, Edgar Allen Poe.
(Slight aside: the most hilarious nicknames in sport come from relocated American franchises that have chosen not to change their nicknames. There are no lakes near Los Angeles, but the Minneapolis Lakers kept the name regardless. Similarly, the New Orleans Jazz made much more sense before they moved to Utah, as did the Vancouver Grizzlies before they headed to Memphis.)
Of course, Australian organisations have the potential to be clever and unique in their approach – the Brumbies and the Fremantle Dockers are two especially excellent modern examples – but so many recent introductions have just been so frustratingly pedestrian.
Indeed, any level of genuine local creativity appears like a shining beacon amidst The Valley of Ordinary Nicknames. Take another of the new Australian Baseball League franchises: the Adelaide Bite. The moniker was based upon two concepts: the great white shark, and the nearby Great Australian Bight. Sure, it sounds pretty stupid (“Car’n the bite,” anyone?), but hey, at least they’ve given it a crack.
All of which made me realise that there was a much easier and more obvious choice for Greater Western Sydney after all: the Great White Sharks. Sure, they’re creatures who are rarely found swimming around Parramatta, Penrith or Campbelltown – not that one often sees giants roaming the streets of those particular suburbs, mind – but at least the Greater Western Sydney Great White Sharks could simply be known as GWSx2.