If you thought Tom Brady was petty for being scooped by a few national NFL reporters over the weekend about his impending retirement and drawing it out until an Instagram post on Tuesday morning, at least he didn’t take the lazy approach and ignore what we now know to be fact. The former Washington Football Team’s efforts of switching to its new nickname, the Commanders, was sloppy, disorganized and puzzling from the jump.
The Washington Commanders now play at FedEx Field in a Maryland suburb five miles from the nation’s capital. And there was much rejoicing. Yay, except there wasn’t, you’d hear more cheers during the cartoon sketches during 1975’s Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Team owner Daniel Snyder, who has a horrible reputation among Washington fans and the NFL at large, even joked at Wednesday morning’s press conference that it was “not the best kept secret.” He’s in charge of the loose cookie jar that incompetently held the lid on the leaks, and he wants to joke? Priorities buddy.
The nickname “Commanders” first emerged as a top contender for the franchise in early January, when it was mentioned on the team website alongside other possibilities, such as “Admirals,” “Armada,” “Brigade,” “Presidents,” “Red Hogs,” and “Defenders.” But Twitter noticed on Jan. 26 that the “Commanders.com” domain name had been transferred to MarkMonitor, the company the NFL and its teams use to administer most of their official websites.
On Monday, legendary Washington quarterback Joe Theismann said in a radio interview that he hoped the name would be embraced: “Commander, basically, is Washington D.C. A lot of commanders in Washington D.C., in the Pentagon and a lot of different branches of the service,” Theismann said. Again, this interview took place prior to the name’s official debut. And on Tuesday, a helicopter driver for Washington’s NBC affiliate, WRC, caught a glimpse of Commanders’ signage already being displayed at FedEx. Again, prior to any official announcement.
Snyder will never acknowledge he didn’t get his first choice among new teams, but the efforts of a random actuary from Virginia may have successfully blocked the Washington Football Team from some more desirable team names, per sports attorney Dan Lust. The already-trademarked choices include Red Wolves, Tribe, Redtails, Renegades, Herald, and Justice, which are all better fits than the Commanders.
Now the NFC East contains the Eagles, Giants, Cowboys and… Commanders. The nearly two-year wait to complete a rebranding away from the previously known Redskins yielded this result? “Underwhelming” doesn’t feel like an underwhelming enough word. It was like the rollout of New Coke. That’s the best you could do after all that time and deploying all those resources? The Commanders swap should also complete a near-three-decade image change for The District’s professional sports scene, with color-scheme changes and other nickname swaps like the Bullets to Wizards.
Washington should’ve followed the playbook set out by the former Cleveland Indians, who now have the nickname the Guardians. They retained a similar sounding name from the predecessor, rid themselves of all racist overtones and honored a unique part of the city’s history. The Commanders at best does part of that, at worst, accomplishes none. It’s a team based in D.C. wearing red and yellow that can be shortened to “Commies,” which didn’t make Snyder nor anyone that works for him hesitate with the choice? Let’s make sure Native Americans feel better, but why don’t we tip our cap to Stalin instead?
Keeping the “Red” part of the name would’ve been a huge win for the fan base. Now must they sing “Hail to the Commies,” or is that well-known fight song being scrapped too? Change isn’t a bad thing, especially if it leads to better pastures at the end of the tunnel. Going in it was crap, coming out the other side, still crap. The fledgling franchise is a shell of its former self. A quarter century ago, Washington had one of the NFL’s most raucous and loyal fanbases, an owner’s dream. Wednesday’s commanding turbulence is another example in a long line of scathing decisions.
Winning cures everything. And is the franchise in a place to do that? No, in maybe the NFL’s easiest division to win. When you resort to taking the name of the defunct AAF team from San Antonio and try to give it a grand meaning out of the gate, it comes off as lackluster. With time, everyone will get used to it, I guess. You wouldn’t find anyone at Ben’s Chili Bowl seriously talking about current-day basketball and have a Bullets slip-up. You’d hear the name when passionately talking about the team’s history. But that’s it. These Freudian slips in regards to the Commanders are going to happen for a while.