When a team changes its name, there’s so much potential for creativity. Obviously, there are some aspects that need to be avoided. You don’t want to pick a name that will marginalize or stereotype any groups. You also want to choose something that represents the city, state, or area you’re playing for. Even with those guidelines, there are seemingly endless possibilities for new team names.
I wasn’t too keen on the Seattle Kraken when it first got announced, but it’s grown on me. I think it’s a splendid name that represents the coastal city and its seafaring ways well, while also being something menacing that strikes fear into the hearts of opponents. The Washington Football Team has the...opposite effect. That’s the worst name I’ve ever heard, and Washington doesn’t even think it’s that bad. They’re considering making that name permanent. But, I’ll be honest, that would be a fitting move for such a historically dysfunctional franchise.
The Cleveland Indians are next in line in coming up with a new team name. They will rid themselves of the name “Indians” once the current season has finished. Already, the organization has been holding focus groups, brainstorming new potential names and they’ve released some of their early favorites. The Spiders, Guardians, and Avengers are the most popular names being pushed by fans on social media.
I understand the Spiders. There’s history there. In 1889, the Cleveland Spiders were the second National League team to play in Cleveland. They won the Temple Cup in 1895 and were the team that Cy Young (yes, the guy who’s name is synonymous with pitcher excellence) started off his career. That being said, the Spiders’ tenure in Cleveland didn’t end well. The team’s owners wound up moving all of its best players to St. Louis, and the team wound up going 20-134 in 1899, which would be the final season of Cleveland Spider baseball.
I like the Guardians as well. Just outside Progressive Field (where the Indians play) is the Hope Memorial Bridge which connects Cleveland to Ohio City. The bridge is most famous for its two “Guardians of Traffic” that sit at the edge of the bridge. The giant statues of the Guardians have become popularized in recent years in Cleveland, and were even the inspiration for the Cleveland Cavaliers’ ‘City Edition’ uniforms.
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Then we get to the Avengers. I can’t stand this name. Yes, parts of The Avengers movie were filmed in Cleveland. That’s the only tie Cleveland has to that name. I understand that the MCU has become a cultural phenomenon and a defining characteristic of American cinema in the 2010s, but at no point in The Avengers movie does the film reference the city of Cleveland. Not only that, but any team named the Avengers is going to have a lot of expectations. I would expect that team to win the World Series every year. I would expect that team to blow out their opponents every time they took the field. Could you imagine the backlash and mockery on social media if the Avengers ever finished last place in their division, or got swept by a rival team? That would not be a good look.
I’m just frustrated is all. There are so many good options the Indians could go with to honor the city’s baseball history. There is a great opportunity for MLB and the Indians organization to pay respect to the Negro Leagues and name their team the “Buckeyes.” We know how beloved that name is in Ohio already. MLB has been under fire in recent years after fans dug up the league’s past on its treatment of the Negro League. MLB has attempted to rectify the issue with small gestures here and there like adding Negro League records to the official MLB record book, but that hasn’t been near enough in most people’s eyes. Bringing back a Negro League team to replace a controversial team name would — at least in my eyes — be a big step forward for the league.
If the Indians organization wanted to steer away from the “Buckeyes” name though, there’s always the “Naps” as well. Named after one of the most influential baseball players in Cleveland history, Nap Lajoie. Making them the Cleveland Naps would not only honor an all-time franchise great and a team from Cleveland’s history, but would be a fun name in a sea of bird and cat names you can find everywhere. How many Tigers can you think of? A ton, right? How many Cardinals? Now, how many Naps are there? That name would be a breath of fresh air, and if you think it sounds ridiculous, so does “Hoosiers,” but that name has stuck around in Indiana and thrived. I’m sure it would grow on MLB fans around the country.
The Washington Football Team set the bar pretty low with how they renamed their team. But just because WFT set that precedent does not mean that Cleveland has to settle for anything less than great. There are so many different paths the team could take to honor its history while paying respect to the city itself. Avengers is not the way to go.