Whatever happened to team nicknames? I understand, as a society we're attempting to get rid of those which are considered demeaning or racist, but I'm totally unimpressed by the replacements.

Take the new United States Football League (USFL) which has some of the most ridiculous names to kick off their season.

The Houston Gamblers? Well, I guess they'll be going for it on 4th and long. How about the Pittsburgh Maulers, the Tampa Bay Bandits or the New Orleans Breakers? At least the Breakers has some history, albeit not a success story, dating back to Boston in the 1950s and in New Orleans in the 1980s in the original USFL.

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When the Washington Redskins were pressured to change their nickname it took them months to come up with the replacement, Commanders. It is a bit interesting that they chose to go away from what some thought was a nickname demeaning to Native of Americans to "Commanders" which ironically, are the military leaders who beat them down throughout American history. At least it's a name that isn't racist and is considered a triumphant nickname which leads the team to victory. Unlike the former Cleveland Indians of Major League Baseball which were quietly named the Pittsburgh Guardians during the off-season. The Guardians seems a bit Sci-Fi to me, ie: the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Teams used to come up with names that meant something to their community's history. Names like the New York Metropolitans or Mets and the New York Yankees and Knickerbockers. Even the nickname Dodgers dates back to 1896 when fans would be forced to "dodge" the trolley cars of Brooklyn. These were names that had significance too neighborhoods. Even the Miami Dolphins referenced the fact that Miami was oceanside and known for amazing majestic dolphin sightings. Everybody loves dolphins, right?

To be fair, history also has plenty of crazy, baffling sports nicknames, like the ones featured by Stadium Talk in a 2019 article. These are all real nicknames in case you've never heard of them:

  • Hartford Yard Goats
  • Indiana State Sycamores
  • Montgomery Biscuits
  • Hamilton Tiger-Cats
  • Webster University Gorloks
  • South Dakota School of Mines Hardrockers
  • Modesto Nuts
  • Binghamton Rumble Ponies

I guess it's possible that if these new USFL teams survive and become legendary, we'll just accept the wacky nicknames. Case in point, I'm a Buffalo Bills fan and some people might find it odd that the Bills are named after western frontiersman Buffalo Bill Cody, who was popular black in 1947 when the AAFC Buffalo Bisons changed their nickname to the Bills following a "rename the team" public contest. Later, when Ralph Wilson formed his new AFC team in Buffalo in 1960, he stuck with history and went with the Bills.

By the way, Buffalo Bill Cody was born in the Iowa Territory and had no real ties to Buffalo, New York. His nickname referenced the fact that he was a midwestern sharpshooter who was known for slaying Buffalo. Buffalo Bill did, however, bring his Wild West show to Buffalo for the Pan American Exposition. It happened in August of 1901 and I'm pretty sure it had nothing to do with the Buffalo football team being named after him.

Maybe these USFL names aren't so crazy by comparison, after all.

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