Hand off team name to astute committee before going to NFL

John Steadman

August 16, 1993|By John Steadman

Trying to affix a proper nickname, aligned to Baltimore traditions or merely one that has appeal and a short letter count -- five or less is preferred, such as in Colts -- creates enormous fun and fascination in contemplation of the pending birth and naming of a National Football League expansion franchise.

The Baltimore Sun is leading the way with a write-in, call-in contest, inviting readers to submit suggestions in what no doubt will elicit a momentous response.

After all the selections are recorded the culling should be turned over to a responsible committee for evaluation and even a recommendation. Often the public needs to be assisted. Majority support for a particular name doesn't guarantee the reflection of a true opinion poll because of the type system being utilized. It's not an entirely tamper-proof survey.

The overall effort, however, can be of immense help in amassing a substantial list of names to constitute a starting point and also as a guideline or a measure of control. Toward this end, a committee should be selected to weigh the nominations, study the pros and cons and make a two- or three-name proposal to the NFL.

State and city governments should be left out of the process. Same with the Maryland Stadium Authority. They aren't capable of making a proper decision -- as witness the Camden Yards baseball park debacle when the governor named the facility after a street and railroad terminal that had their origin with a British subject, the Earl of Camden, who never set foot in America and died before baseball was ever played.

The second and most important move in the name-that-team concept is to pick a committee that may include such astute Baltimore sports observers as:

Announcers Chuck Thompson, Vince Bagli, WBAL-TV; Jim West, WBAL radio; Gerry Sandusky, WBAL-TV; Tom Davis, WQSR-FM; and Keith Mills, WMAR-TV. All were either born here or have lived in the area for at least 25 years. That's important for a point of reference.

Included with them, by all means, and offering the same degree of input, should be sports editor Sam Lacy, of The Afro-American; Sun columnist/WJZ commentator Michael Olesker; Colt band president John Ziemann; and Norman Anderson, representing the Council of Colt Corrals.

Only one or two meetings would be needed for the aforementioned to become attuned to the process. A similar mix of sports personalities in 1947 came up with the Colts' name in what was a gem of a selection.

Back then, the attitude of The Sunpapers, under a different management philosophy, was to be overly protective of college football. It would not permit any of its reporters to participate in the naming even though Baltimore was about to get its first bona fide major-league team.

Sun sportswriters such as Walter Taylor, Jim Ellis and Cameron Snyder, all devotees of pro football, could not offer opinions. So the lone sportswriter involved was the late N. P. "Swami" Clark, of the then-News-Post. Now The Baltimore Sun is in the vanguard, trying to make the effort work effectively in a grand public service concept that gets you, you and you involved.

Any selection that's made this time around should be predicated on one thing and made abundantly clear to the league: The choice or choices being sent along for approval will not be made until every effort has been made to have the Colts' identifying name returned to Baltimore, where it originated in 1947 and prevailed until 1984, or until the franchise heist was carried out under the cloak of darkness.

You might be surprised to know at one point, in either 1985 or 1986, the Indianapolis club was considering taking on its own name. We were told an ad agency had even started preliminary work in how it could be handled. Yet for obvious selfish reasons, the Colts stayed the Colts, even in Indianapolis -- where the team holds a Baltimore identity.

The way the Colts were plundered out of Baltimore, along with their birthright, has been an embarrassment to even some citizens of Indianapolis and the NFL. Paul Tagliabue is fully aware of this.

A three-stage "game plan" could be easily implemented in Baltimore: Solicit the name selections, let a committee do its work and then carry the name to the NFL at 410 Park Ave., New York, by courier. Maybe even put the messenger on the back of a colt.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.