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Archive for January, 2011

Hi everyone:

This blog entry is an offshoot of my recent entry about “singularizing” pro sports teams names. This time, however, I wanted to have some fun and talk about some of the sports team names in North America’s biggest city and largest market – New York. It goes without saying that for any North American sports league to be successful, you must have a presence in New York City and/or surrounding area. In most cases, having just one franchise in a particular league isn’t enough. Two or even three franchises is much better. As we will now see.

For example, baseball has the Yankees and the Mets. Hockey has three teams – the Rangers and the Islanders based in New York and the New Jersey Devils across the Hudson River in New Jersey. Football has the Giants and Jets – although like the Devils both of them actually play over in New Jersey, the two clubs are still known as “New York” teams. Basketball has the Knicks, and the New Jersey Nets. And so on. Have you also noticed that some of those team names actually rhyme with each other? That’s right. We have 3 teams that rhyme – the Mets (baseball), Jets (football) and Nets (basketball).

So for this blog entry, I thought it might be fun to explore how this happened, and to see what happens if you continue this rhyming trend to other aspects of life in New York City. Let’s begin by looking at the three pro sports teams in question in the order I listed them above – first, let’s take a look at the Mets.

To my younger readers, here’s a bit of a bombshell if you don’t know this already. The 2010 World Series champs, the Giants, haven’t always played in San Francisco. Nor have their bitter rivals, my beloved Dodgers, always played in Los Angeles. From the time both teams were founded in the late 19th century until the end of the 1957 season, the Dodgers and the Giants played in New York. The Giants played their home games at the Polo Grounds, located on the northeast side of Manhattan – more about the facility later on. The Dodgers, of course, were based in Brooklyn. The team, along with their famous stadium (Ebbets Field) became an integral part of Brooklyn’s identity. To the point where their eventual departure for Los Angeles was not taken well by Brooklynites – the team’s owner (Walter O’Malley) became the most hated man in town, even more so than Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin or other wartime enemies. As an aside, I have always found it interesting that while many books, Web sites and research studies have looked at why the Dodgers left Brooklyn for Los Angeles, there appears to be very little literature about why the Giants left for San Francisco.

The two clubs moved west to California, and the heated rivalry moved along with them. With the added ingredient that Los Angeles and San Francisco are California’s two largest cities, which in itself is cause for a rivalry – not just in baseball but in many other aspects of society. Today, more than 50 years after they left New York, it’s as strong as ever. For example, as a Dodger fan, I didn’t cheer for the Giants last fall when they defeated the Texas Rangers in the Series. And during those times when the Dodgers have been in the World Series – I certainly would not expect any Giants fans to cheer for us. Both cities have hosted the midsummer All Star Game. When the game was played in San Francisco a couple of years ago, the crowd cheered all the National League players as they were introduced. All of them, that is, except the Dodger players, who were loudly booed. As Dodger fans, we understood their reaction. The reverse has happened when the game has been played at Dodger Stadium. Love those National Leaguers. Except the Giants! All this and more is just part of the rivalry.

But that 1957 move by both teams to California created an interesting problem. Since both teams played in the National League, it meant that the league no longer had a team in the country’s largest city. If you were a baseball fan during the late 1950’s and wanted to support a New York team, your only choice was to cheer for the Yankees. Actually not a bad idea when you consider that this period was a golden age for the Yankees. During the early postwar years (1945 to 1964), they won the American League pennant an incredible 16 times. But it wasn’t long before the Yankees had company again. In 1960 the National League awarded an expansion franchise to the city – the Mets, who began play in April 1962.

As part of their foundation, the Mets took their inspiration from baseball history, especially that of the National League in New York. For example, the interlocking “NY” logo used on their caps was borrowed from the Giants. The official team colours were taken from the Dodgers (blue) and Giants (orange and black). And in a nod to the Yankees, the Mets added pinstripes to their uniforms and the numbers used the same “font” as their American League cousins. When it was time to find a name for the team, the owners chose “the Metropolitan Baseball Club of New York”, better known as the “Metropolitans” – in tribute to a former New York baseball team that played in the American Association from 1880 to 1887. The team had a somewhat rocky existence, and over time, the New York Metropolitans evolved into the New York Gothams, who later changed their name to the New York Giants. That’s right. The team that along with the Brooklyn Dodgers left for California and paved the way for the arrival of the Mets. Or the return of the Metropolitans if you want to take it that way.

But it didn’t take long before people realized that while naming the new team the Metropolitans was a nod to the city’s history and baseball tradition, this was much too long to be useful, especially by the media. So just as the city’s basketball team is really called the “Knickerbockers”, but is almost always shortened to the “Knicks”, the newly minted Metropolitans were shortened to the “Mets” and that’s the name they have gone by ever since. As an aside, I’m not sure if the team is even known as the “Metropolitans” any more. One site I checked noted that the team’s official name really is the “Mets” and has been for a few years now. Regardless of what you call them, the team has enjoyed great success through the years (even if the early years prior to their first World Series championship in 1969 weren’t the greatest on the baseball diamond – Casey Stengel, the team’s first manager, wrote a memorable book about that first 1962 Mets team called “Can Anyone Here Play This Game?”). Hard to believe that the 2011 season will mark their 50th in the National League, and that the team will be 50 years old in 2012. Wow!

Now let’s pass the ball over to the New York Jets. Like the Mets, the team’s origins can be traced back to the late 1950’s and the founding of the American Football League, which at the time was launched as a competitor to the more established National Football League. As I noted back at the beginning of this entry, every North American sports league knows that in order to be successful, you must have a presence in New York and/or surrounding area. The people who founded the AFL in 1959 knew that, and in August of that year, they awarded one of the charter franchises to New York. The team was originally founded as the “New York Titans”, or to be more specific “the Titans of New York”. Like the Mets, they too played their early years at the Polo Grounds, the former home of the baseball Giants – across the Harlem River from the more glamorous Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, now home to a housing development. But the franchise’s early years were not kind to the team, and by the end of the 1962 AFL season, the Titans were on the verge of bankruptcy. Losing the New York franchise would have dealt a major blow to the AFL’s stability, and the team’s original owner realized he had no choice but to sell the team. In March 1963 a new ownership syndicate group took control of the club.

The new owners decided to completely change the team’s identity, including new team colours (green and white) a new logo and uniforms. The most public of these changes was to select a new name for the team. The Titans were no more, New York’s AFL team would now be called the Jets. It was one of many suggestions for a new team name offered to the owners – others included “Gothams”, “Dodgers” and “Burros”. If you check some Web sites that discuss the history of the franchise, it seems that the name was chosen because at the time plans were underway to move the team into Shea Stadium, which was then under construction in Queens and officially opened in 1964. And the stadium happened to be located close to two major New York City airports (JFK and La Guardia). Perhaps too close – given that for many years you could hear the noise of planes taking off and landing at either airport during sports events at Shea. It would still be true today at Citi Field, the successor to Shea Stadium built next door and opened in 2009. Hence the name “Jets”. I wonder if it ever occured to anyone associated with the team back then that not only did the team’s new name pay tribute to 2 nearby airports, but it also just happened to rhyme with Shea Stadium’s other major tenant. That’s right. The Mets.

Now, let’s move from the football stadium to the basketball court and look at the third and last of our rhyming names – the New Jersey Nets. Who were originally known as the “New York Nets”, but that’s another story. Similar to the Jets, whose AFL started out as competion for the NFL before the two leagues eventually merged, the Nets can trace their beginnings to the American Basketball Association, or ABA. It too was a professional sports league designed to compete with a more established entry, in their case the National Basketball Association, before the two leagues became one. The team was founded in 1967, and were originally known as the New York Americans. Although they had hoped to play in New York City itself, the team was unable to find a suitable home and started their existence in suburban Teaneck, New Jersey.

But the team did not stay as the “Americans” for long. When the team opened its second season in 1968, they were now playing on Long Island, and had a new name. Yes, the New York Nets had arrived. And unlike the other two teams, it appears that the Nets indeed wanted their team name to rhyme with the Jets and Mets, who by this time had both become successful sports teams and well established in the New York market. The fact that all 3 teams also played near each other in the Queens/Long Island region of New York didn’t hurt either.

From a marketing and promotional perspective, given that the Nets were still fairly new back then and trying to establish itself in the New York sports scene, one could argue that rhyming your name with two well known area teams didn’t hurt either. Today, even though the franchise once again plays over in New Jersey (at least until their new arena in Brooklyn is ready – most likely later this year or sometime in 2012), the team is still called the Nets. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that a major piece of basketball equipment is that large hoop located at either end of the court that you throw the basketball through to score points. OK, I guessed I have stalled long enough. They are called, of course, the “nets”. So in that sense, calling any basketball team the “Nets” is a logical choice.

And so we have 3 sports teams in the New York area whose names rhyme with each other. A unique situation to be sure. Although there have been situations where teams in the same city have similar names (the Detroit Lions and Tigers or the Chicago Cubs and Bears come to mind), or even where teams in the same city once had the same names (in addition to the New York baseball and football Giants, St. Louis once had the Cardinals in both football and baseball), this is the only one I know of where we have rhyming names.

Perhaps as you may have done at times, over the years I have sometimes wondered if you could take this concept further, and apply the “…ets” moniker to other New York situations. If you run through the entire alphabet, you may find your options are a bit limited, but to close off this blog entry, I thought it might be fun to try some other “rhyming” options. So in that spirit, I give you the following ideas for some fictitious New York sports teams or other entities that could rhyme with the above 3:

New York Bets: This could work if you’re starting a poker or gambling league and wanted a New York franchise. I realize this one is a bit “out there”, but you never know. Poker is rapidly growing in popularity, especially as a televised sport. So if someday the folks in Las Vegas, Atlantic City or other gambling meccas decide to start a poker league – remember where you read this first!

New York Debts: At various times over the years, the City has had some serious financial problems – this one could have been a nickname for New York City Council as they tried to solve them.

New York Frets: How about a guitar festival based somewhere in the City. Guitars have frets, get it? Or a musical group featuring mostly guitarists playing at Madison Square Garden. So if someone organized a summer concert in Central Park featuring Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, Mark Knopfler, Ottmar Liebert, Jesse Cook and other well known guitarists from around the world, you could call it the New York Frets.

New York Pets: Ever since 1877, the Westminster Kennels Dog Show has been an annual event in New York. Although it’s been held at various locations around the region during that time, today it’s held every February at Madison Square Garden. In fact, it is the second longest continuously held sporting event in the USA. Only the Kentucky Derby horse race has a longer history and it started in 1875. So perhaps we could call the dogs who participate in the show the “New York Pets”.

New York Sets: This one is interesting in that for a while the Sets were a real team. World Team Tennis was founded in 1973 and while it has undergone several changes and evolutions over the years, the league still exists today. And believe it or not, one of the original WTT franchises was – you guessed it! – the New York Sets. In fact, the Sets won the league championship in 1976 before the team name was changed to the Apples the following year. Today’s New York franchise in World Team Tennis is called the Sportstimes.

I find this one really weird. To me calling a New York tennis team the Sets is a no-brainer. I don’t understand why the WTT team changed the name back then, or why the team can’t be called the Sets today. Then again, maybe there were legal or other mitigating issues that meant that team owners couldn’t use the name. Too bad – works for me!

As an alternate commentary on all this, when you consider that New York is the home of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, played every year in late August and early September as the last of the 4 major grand slam tournaments, perhaps the New York Sets could serve as a nickname for the tournament. Just a thought for all you tennis fans out there.

New York Vets: This name could apply to anyone from the US Military (Army, Navy, or Air Force) who is from New York City or from anywhere else in New York State.

And to close, well I couldn’t resist this one. Given that New York is the largest city in the United States and as a result enjoys considerable power and influence across the country and worldwide, here’s one for the cynic in all of us:

“What New York Wants – NEW YORK GETS!!!”

Thanks for reading this lighthearted look at New York sports teams – and in particular the Jets, Mets and Nets. Until next time!!

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Hi everyone:

So I see the Toronto all-sports radio station – the FAN 590, has now officially “rebranded” itself as “Sportsnet Radio The Fan 590”. I wrote the following on the Sporstnet Web site earlier today and thought it might be fun to share this with my blog readers:

I always cringe when I hear the word “rebrand”. The Blue Jays lost me as a fan several years ago when they “rebranded” away from their wonderful logo and uniform design that they used for the first 20 years of the franchise. Especially during the World Series days of 92 and 93. The current logo and uniform look like something done by a kindergarten class – just awful. Excuse me while I go to my toilet and throw up before continuing. Even thinking about the current logo makes me puke. I suspect many others feel the same – you do see a lot of folks wearing the orignal Blue Jay logo on the streets and I hope someday the team will return to it on a fulltime basis. As an aside, to those of you reading my blog, you may recall that a while back I wrote an entry here about why I no longer cheer for the Blue Jays. That explains my feelings about the team much better than I can here.

Now as for The Fan 590, I also tuned them out a long time ago. I learned to tolerate Don and Gord as a morning show pair, overall the show wasn’t bad, but I often found the humour somewhat juvenile in nature. Probably aimed at the frat boys/Animal House types. Is there a “food fight” coming on here? Maybe the late John Belushi is going to crawl out of my radio wearing a toga and screaming those immortal words many people remember from “Animal House”. I will concede, however, that Don Landry was a master of voices (he did many impressions well) and I do miss that at times. I was disappointed when Mike Hogan’s morning show was cancelled – he did a superb job and I hope 590 finds a way to use him other than as the Argos broadcast guy, as well as hosting the “Inside the Argos” show during the CFL season. Chuck Swirsky had the best afternoon show, although we all respect that he felt he should return to Chicago for what were cited as personal reasons. If someday Chuck ever reads these comments, we miss you buddy and wish you all the best in Chicago! I also miss Norm Rumack’s late night show. That was always enjoyable, and we all can use a Hammerhead Alert from time to time.

I could go on, but for me 590’s golden age is long gone and the station is really not worth listening to anymore. I do enjoy Gord’s “Blue and White Tonight” as well as the Soccer Show. Sometimes I will tune into McCown to see what he is ranting about, but that’s rare too. Perhaps I am showing my age here, but just like my comments about the Blue Jays that I led off with, maybe I just don’t fit into the demographic that 590 is aiming at. It’s not a station that I enjoy listening to – at least not all the time. I used to do that, it wasn’t long ago when my radio rarely moved away from it. But not any more.

Happy New Year 2011 and best wishes to all. So long from Hamilton – the home of another wonderful 590 guy, the legendary Doug Farraway! We don’t hear from him much these days either, which in my opinion is another negative about the station!

Until next time!!

Greg

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Hi everyone:

First off, let me start by wishing all of you reading this a very Happy New Year. That’s right – it’s January 1 2011 and the start of another year. Funny thing, however, is that you wouldn’t know that from the weather today here in Hamilton. It feels more like a warm, rainy, spring day. Doesn’t look anything like winter today, in fact it’s been raining most of the day, to the point that the snow we’ve had here for much of December (and gave us a white Christmas!) has disappeared.

So I hope you’ll understand if I tell you that it really feels more like April 1 or May 1 out there. I am writing this just after 4:00 p.m. and according to The Weather Network, it is now 11 degrees Celsius in downtown Hamilton. For those of you who prefer Fahrenheit temperature readings (such as my American relatives and friends who may be looking in), that’s something like 50 degrees. And it was actually a bit warmer than that earlier today! This morning, I went out to buy some groceries and couldn’t believe how warm it was. When I got back here, I discovered that it was something like 12 or 13 degrees. Hmm – maybe I am really in Hamilton, Bermuda today instead of Hamilton, Ontario.

If that’s not enough I was watching the Tournament of Roses Parade earlier today from Pasadena California. It’s one of my annual New Year’s traditions, especially meaningful in that on July 4 1981 during a visit to Southern California with some of my American cousins, I actually got to see the route the Parade takes every year. I cite all this because it was rather cold out there today. Or at least cold by Los Angeles standards – according to the commentators on both the NBC and ABC stations covering the Parade (I switched back and forth during the commercials!), they claimed it was in the 30’s overnight last night and was only in the 40’s this morning while the Parade was passing by. Certainly not a typical January 1 for that part of the world. In other words, it’s been warmer in Southern Ontario today than in Southern California.

Having said all this, however, the weather forecasters are saying that we shouldn’t get used to this preview of spring. There’s a cold front due through here later today and tonight, and by this time tomorrow, we should be back to more normal temperatures for this time of year, such as 0 Celsius or minus values. And that it will stay that way for the foreseeable future. In other words, winter is still very much with us – just taking a short break. It won’t be long before it’s back with us, and likely to stay until sometime in March or April when we say hello to Spring 2011. But as I sometimes do with my blog entries, I am disgressing and not addressing what I really wanted to talk to all of you about today.

Now on to today’s blog subject. This is actually something that I have thought about for some time, and that’s pro sports teams names. We could really have some fun with this, and over time I just might do that. Including today’s entry. Here goes!

For example, have you ever wondered how sports teams get their names? It’s fun to look at. For example, our local NHL team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, took their name from Canada’s national symbol. Their first owner, Major Conn Smythe, had served in the Canadian Army during the First World War and was a very proud Canadian. Not only that, but my understanding is that he served in what was known as the Maple Leaf Regiment. So when he purchased the National Hockey League team known as the Toronto St. Patrick’s in 1927, he immediately changed the name to “Maple Leafs”. It’s also been said that when he changed the team colours from the green and white that the St. Patrick’s used in tribute to Toronto’s Irish community to the blue and white that the Leafs still use today, he was inspired to do so by the blue Canadian sky and the white Canadian snow. I’m not sure I buy that one, but it sounds like fun, and also sounds very Canadian.

The Minnesota Vikings football team was so named because many Minnesotans can trace their ethnic roots to Norway, Finland and the other Scandinavian countries. And what more famous Scandinavian image than those famous seafarers, the Vikings. Their major league baseball team, the Minnesota Twins, were named in tribute to the state’s two main cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul, located across the Mississippi river from each other, and collectively known as the “Twin Cities”.

Arguably the most successful pro basketball franchise is the Boston Celtics – named in tribute to the city’s most numerous and famous ethnic origin, the Irish. Although the Los Angeles Lakers might want to argue about who has the most successful NBA team. By the way, the Lakers actually took their franchise name from their first home. You guessed it. We’re back in Minnesota again. Perhaps it’s understandable, given my Minnesota heritage – my maternal grandmother and a couple of the other Hayes siblings were born in Robbinsdale (one hundred years ago, a suburb of the Twin Cities, but long since absorbed by Minneapolis). Before moving out to Los Angeles, the team was known as the “Minneapolis Lakers”. After all, Minnesota is often nick-named as “the Land of 10,000 Lakes”. So calling a sports team based there the “Lakers” would make sense. Even if they only stayed there for a few years before heading west.

We noted that the Toronto Maple Leafs took their name from Canadian patriotism. As did the Montreal Canadiens and the Vancouver Canucks. For our friends across the border, American history has served as inspiration for a few sports teams names, such as the New England Patriots of the NFL and the Philadelphia 76’ers of the NBA. Or the San Francisco 49’ers, supposedly named for the 1849 Gold Rush that took place in Northern California. The Chicago Blackhawks hockey team were named in honour of an Native American tribe known for their bravery that once lived near present-day Chicago. The Houston Astros baseball team took their name from the fact that Houston became the home of NASA and thus the headquarters of the American space program, especially during the 1960’s race to the moon. The same inspiration also led to the naming of another Houston sports team, the Rockets of the NBA.

American history could also have inspired the New York Liberty of the WNBA women’s basketball league? Or the New England Revolution, who are part of Major League Soccer? The Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL took their name from the “Blue Eagle” program that was part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “New Deal” of the 1930’s. You get the idea!

But here’s the aspect of sports team names that I wanted to explore today. Have you ever wondered why we don’t have a lot of “singularized” sports team names, or what would happen if you did “singularize” a team name? Perhaps it doesn’t occur to us, but when you look at team names, not only in pro sports but also in college and university sports, they are almost always pluralized. There are some exceptions – such as Stanford University in California, where their teams are known as the “Cardinal”. Not sure why they don’t use “Cardinals”, but that’s their decision. And there are the aforementioned New York Liberty and New England Revolution that could be interpreted either way. Same thing in the NBA for teams such as the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Orlando Magic, the Miami Heat or the Utah Jazz. But I wonder why we don’t have more “singularized” team names? Or why it seems that the vast majority of team names have always been pluralized? That’s what I wanted to look at today, and why I chose the title that I did for this blog entry.

All this first came to my mind back in the 1970’s with the arrival of the World Football League (one of several attempts to compete with the National Football League). Two of the most prominent teams in the league were the Philadelphia Bell and the Southern California Sun. I can understand the inspiration – in that I figured the Philadelphia team was named in honour of the Liberty Bell, and the California team in tribute to the warm sunny weather that’s typical of Los Angeles (where the team was based).

I couldn’t help but wonder, however, why their names were “singular” in nature. Why the “Bell” and not “Bells”? Maybe people felt that if you plurarized it, you could get “Belles”. OK – I can hear the laughs from here. That name would certainly be interesting for a professional men’s football team. Why the Southern California Sun? After all, the pro basketball team in Phoenix is known as the “Suns”.

So I wonder what would happen if you take some pro sports team names and drop the plurization. Could be fun. You can have baseball teams like the Minnesota Twin, the Toronto Blue Jay, the Seattle Mariner, the San Francisco Giant, the New York Yankee, the Philadelphia Philly, the Kansas City Royal, the Chicago White Sock or the Boston Red Sock.

In the NBA you could find yourself cheering for the New York Knickerbocker (or “Knick” – they tend to use the shorter form of the name), the Houston Rocket, the Los Angeles Clipper, the Golden State Warrior, the Sacramento King, the Dallas Maverick, the Toronto Raptor or the Minnesota Timberwolf. And of course, as we noted earlier, you could have the Phoenix Sun. After all, if a Southern California football team did it, how about an Arizona basketball team?

How about going to a hockey game and supporting the Los Angeles King, the Philadelphia Flyer, the Edmonton Oiler, the Washington Capital, the Pittsburgh Penguin, the Ottawa Senator, the Carolina Hurricane, the New Jersey Devil or the Buffalo Sabre.

And lest you think I forgot pro football, how about NFL team names such as the Chicago Bear, the Seattle Seahawk, the Pittsburgh Steeler, the Cleveland Brown, the Miami Dolphin or the Carolina Panther? For those of us here in Canada, try the B.C. Lion or the Edmonton Eskimo on for size.

In American (or Canadian) college and university sports, you could find yourself in Pasadena on some future New Year’s Day not only watching the Tournament of Roses Parade, but later that same day, going to the Rose Bowl game and cheering for the UCLA Bruin football team. Or their Los Angeles crosstown rivals the USC Trojan. Next time you’re in Seattle, why not cheer for the University of Washington Husky. Or their Connecticut namesakes? For my fellow Canadians, let’s all cheer on the University of Toronto Varsity Blue or the Western Ontario Mustang. The University of Alberta Golden Bear or the McGill Redman perhaps?

And those are just a few examples. Given the many sports teams scattered across North America, you could really have some fun with this idea. Which is what I wanted to do on this New Year’s Day. Write something fun and light-hearted to start off 2011. Anyway you look at it, all this is no bull. Or should I say Chicago Bull? I will now throw it over to all of you, my readers, and see if you want to go any further. In summation, I thought this might be something fun to write on New Year’s Day 2011. I hope that all of you reading this enjoy a wonderful, happy, healthy and prosperous 2011 and beyond.

Until next time. Or since I was listening to another edition of Casey Kasem’s famous “American Top 40” on a local Hamilton radio station as I wrote this entry (in this case, a special New Year’s Day edition counting down the top songs of 1985 – no. 1, by the way, was “Careless Whisper” by the British rock group WHAM), maybe I should end this the way Casey ended every AT 40 broadcast:

“Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars”

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