Training camp in the Canadian Football League has begun. Because of adjustments made to accommodate COVID-19 protocols, the season begins Aug. 5 and ends with its championship game, the Grey Cup, on Dec. 12.
That’s pretty late to be playing football outdoors in Canada, where the usual November date for the Grey Cup can be pretty cold.
Other than the schedule, the big change in the CFL this year is the Edmonton franchise. Formerly known as the Eskimos, the team yielded to pressure on sports teams to eliminate nicknames many people consider racist or offensive. Had the team played last year — the season was canceled because of the pandemic — it would have been known as the EE Football Team. By adopting the name Elks, the team can keep its longstanding EE logo.
All that brings thoughts about team names, and not necessarily about those involving Native Americans.
Some names are so unique that it’s hard to imagine anyone else using them. There can be only one team named the Steelers or the Dodgers. You can add the Yankees, the Red Sox, the White Sox and the Lakers to that list. And the Reds, Astros and a few others, too.
College team names can be unique as well. For every dozen squads calling themselves Bobcats, there is only one Thundering Herd. Or Banana Slugs (University of California Santa Cruz).
Minor league baseball is full of great names such as the Lansing Lugnuts, the Hickory Crawdads and the gone but not forgotten Charleston Charlies.
Some of the best names are at the high school level, where West Virginia has the Poca Dots and Kentucky has the Somerset Briar Jumpers (rabbits) and had the Van Lear Bank Mules. I didn’t have a dog in the fight, but when Cabell Midland High School was looking for a mascot before it opened in 1994, I was kind of hoping the choice would be the Midland Mud Daubers, with a wasp in the logo.
At one time The Herald-Dispatch fielded a softball team called the Deadliners, which was pretty cool.
Sooner or later there will be a movement to eliminate gender-specific names at the college and high school level. Lady Bulldogs? Lady Bulls? The male Blue Hens?
At the professional and college level, team names are important marketing tools, just as color schemes are. It’s no coincidence that when the Florida Marlins and Colorado Rockies took the field for the first time in 1993, their primary colors were teal and purple, respectively. Those colors summed up the decade.
According to the Associated Press, the Washington Football Team will operate another season under that name before choosing a permanent name early next year. The Cleveland Indians are looking for a new name. Once they have chosen the finalists, they will work on options for logos and brand elements. They will also work with Major League Baseball to ensure legal viabilities, according to the AP.
The Cincinnati Reds called themselves the Redlegs for five years in the 1950s, possibly to avoid any problems during the time known as the Red Scare.
After Aug. 5, I guess I’ll be checking YouTube for CFL highlights. It will be kind of jarring hearing “Edmonton Elks” (three syllables followed by one syllable ending with a hard “k” sound) instead of the “Edmonton Eskimos” (two three-syllable words ending with a soft “o”), but change is inevitable.