Good morning, Uni Watchers! It’s Friday — we made it.
In case you missed it, yesterday the Broncos announced which games they’ll wear their new white alternate helmets.
Today I’m joined by Walter Helfer, who put together a pretty comprehensive (though by no means complete) list of sports team nicknames, spurred by his love of baseball long before social media and the Internet. He pointed me to a couple reference manuals (known as the Green & Red Books) with which I was admittedly unfamiliar, and expanded that into an exploration of nicknames for teams across the major sports.
It makes for a nice, fun Friday read. Here’s Walter…
by Walter Helfer
Before the Internet, the Holy Grail of baseball uniform information was a pair of books known as The National League Green Book and The American League Red Book.
Addresses, rosters, and pronunciation guides filled the rest of the volumes, but the vocabulary was not what sports fans were used to. For example, the entry for the Cardinals read: Team Name — St. Louis. Team nickname — “Cardinals”.
If you’re like me, you’re accustomed to the school of thought where the name of the team is the “St. Louis Cardinals,” and the nickname might be “Cards,” “Redbirds,” or maybe “The Gashouse Gang.”
But instead of wondering why the Red and Green Books didn’t use the nomenclature the rest of us used, I wondered if every team had a nickname in the sense that I was using the word.
Some thoughts: Merely shortening the name strikes me as intellectually lazy, but the sheer number of qualifiers warrants their inclusion. Anyway, some teams prefer the nickname to their “long” name, like the A’s [Also nick-nicknamed the “Swingin’ A’s” — PH], the D-backs, and the Knicks.
Also, some names are so punchy, like the Nets, Rays, Jazz, Reds, and Heat, a nickname seems hardly warranted; though one may exist that lengthens everything, like “The Big Red Machine”. History obviously plays a big part, giving us “The Fab Five,” “The Steel Curtain,” and “America’s Team.”
Not coming from Kansas City, I have no idea what the locals have dubbed the Royals or their NFL team. I *do* come from New Rochelle, but haven’t a clue what Iona University’s alternative is to the “Gaels”.
One person does not constitute a movement, but I was hoping Torontonians would refer to the Raptors as “Torontosaurus”; C’mon!! It was *just made* for that!!
Of all teams, the White Sox appear to beat everyone for sheer number of aliases: “The South Side,” “Chisox,” and the “Pale Hose.” Should they choose to endorse it, they could add the “Black Sox,” after the scandal.
This is the approach taken by soccer teams in other countries, and it’s hard to fault the “Hammers,” the “Rovers,” and the “Wanderers.”
A vital subset of this group are pejorative nicknames to be scrawled on paper bags over the fans’ heads when a team descends into irrelevance. Foremost among these are the New England “Patsies,” the New Orleans “Ain’ts,” the Minnesota “No Stars,” and the Detroit “Dead Things.” These are perhaps the most creative nicknames of all.
A lot of basketball teams have anticipated the lack of space on a tank top, and far-lengthier official names have been shortened to “Sixers,” “Blazers,” “Wolves,” and “Sonics.”
A comprehensive list of all teams would be a mammoth task, and doomed to glaring omissions. So instead, I’ll just do one city and hope to fill in some blanks — Los Angeles:
Sparks — ?
Galaxy — ?
Angel City FC –?
Chivas USA — ?
Dodgers — Dem Bums, The Boys of Summer, Los Doyers.
Angels — Halos, Seraphs.
Lakers — Showtime.
Clippers — ?
Kings — The Triple Crown Line (which refers to three specific players and therefore falls outside my project).
Rams — The Greatest Show on Turf.
Chargers — Bolts, San Diego Superchargers.
So, what do you think? Are there any outstanding nicknames I’ve overlooked?
I’m sure all you Uni Watchers can come up with a bunch of nicknames that haven’t been mentioned. And what really constitutes a nickname? Sure, we may instantly know someone is referring to the Saints if they say “The ‘aints” or “Who Dat” … but are those really nicknames? Should there be any constraints on what qualifies as a nickname?
Readers? Have at it.