What’s in a name
My dad used to often cite the warning that “Perfect is the enemy of the good.”
Instead of waiting until you find a perfect solution, go forward with a good one.
I’m not a fan of the new name for the Cleveland professional baseball team - but it was time to change the old one.
By the way, if that’s not reason enough to change - the fact that Jim Jordan is tweeting out support for us to keep calling them the Indians would certainly sway me.
So it’s time.
I remember back in the 1970s when I was in high school, the mom of one of my high school friends was one of those who would protest outside Cleveland Municipal Stadium on opening day each year.
She was Native American - though I don’t think we used that term back in the 70s - and was offended by both the name and the logo.
For those of you not from here, the mascot was Chief Wahoo.
I’ve read posts from people saying we’ve just realized that there is something offensive about the name and the logo so they need to be changed.
We didn’t just realize this. We’ve known for at least fifty years. It just recently raised to the level where business owners thought maybe they needed to pay attention.
It’s the same reason that “The Jake” became “Progressive Field.” Business reasons. I’d love to say that it was because we realized there was an issue with the name - but it became financially expedient to address the issue.
And so the Indians and Major League Baseball decided it was time to look for a new identity.
The Washington Football Club came to this conclusion a couple of years ago - they just haven’t selected a new name yet.
Those Cleveland Browns I mentioned - Britannica says that they were named in a fan contest for their first coach Paul Brown.
Fan naming contests are never a good idea. That’s how we end up with names like Boaty McBoatface (yes - that’s the name fans chose for a British boat).
In the case of the Browns the history gets more complicated when Paul Brown left to help found and coach the Cincinnati Bengals and eventually become the cross-state division rival of the team named in his honor.
It became more complicated still when the Browns left Cleveland and became the Baltimore Ravens.
As much as that move hurt me - you have to respect the name. A fierce looking mascot and a nod to the city’s own Edgar Allan Poe.
The Ravens went on to win - a lot.
It was difficult for a former life-long Browns fan.
Do you root for them?
One the one hand you despise their owner Art Modell for taking the team away and you don’t want him to have any success.
On the other hand, their general manager was Ozzie Newsome who we’d rooted for as Cleveland’s tight end for years. He helped build and maintain a championship team for years - it just should have been “our” championship team.
As a final complication, the NFL agreed to a new franchise in Cleveland that would again be called the Browns. They told the fans, “you get to keep the colors and the history.”
So the Browns team that picked up and left to go to Baltimore - somehow we’re to pretend that that didn’t happen. That a new team sprung fresh there and the Browns team that was created anew - that’s the one with the legacy.
And somehow that worked. Fans look at this team and talk about accomplishments that haven’t happened in the team’s history since the 60s. There are shots of Bernie standing next to Baker and the years where there was no team here somehow disappears.
Other bad names
In a way, the tale of the Guardians is exactly the opposite of the Browns/Ravens story.
In this case the team is staying the same but the name is changing.
I don’t understand the choice of the name the Guardians - but it’s good enough and good enough beats perfect. It allows us to retire the Indians name at the end of this year.
As always when I write about sports - it’s not about sports.
I was amazed at the arguments that people used in favor of the Guardians as a name.
The most common was that there are lots of bad names in baseball.
People pointed to the Reds, the Red Sox, the White Sox and others.
I never understood that argument.
You don’t defend a choice by pointing to choices you think are worse.
It was a different time when those teams were created and named. They might have been a good choice for the times. Notably absent from these arguments was mention of the Indians or Braves as names.
The other names brought up are the Lakers and the Jazz.
But the Lakers weren’t always in Los Angelos. They were once in the land of a thousand lakes.
And the Jazz weren’t always in Utah. They were once in New Orleans where the name makes more sense.
As to the Braves, this is their third location. They started as the alliterative Boston Braves before moving to Milwaukee and finally to Atlanta.
But none of those choices explain the Guardians.
The right narrator
The name “Guardians” refers to the stone sculptures that tower over the Lorain-Carnegie bridge over the Cuyahoga river. If you’re from out of town, these are the images shown in the opening of the movie “Major League”.
That doesn’t really explain why Guardians is a good name for a sports team or why it is a particularly good name for a Cleveland sports team.
When the Akron minor league team was renamed the Rubber Ducks - that was a good name that acknowledge Akron’s past.
I mistakenly thought they were collectively known as the Guardians of Industry or the Guardians of Transportation. It seems that they are known as the Guardians of Transportation.
We’re told that one of the many stonecutters was Bob Hope’s dad. Bob came back to Cleveland to help say goodbye to Municipal Stadium by singing “Thanks for the Memories” at the last Indians game played at the stadium along the lake.
None of that really matters.
The Guardians is the new name. There’s a new logo that goes with it.
There’s an inspirational video with Tom Hanks narrating.
There’s a long list of things I care about that matter to me.
The name of the local baseball team isn’t one of them.
At least it’s not Batty McBatface.
Essay from Dim Sum Thinking Newsletter 70. Read the rest of the Newsletter or subscribe