As name game kicks off, be careful what you call the Baltimore ex-Browns

February 12, 1996|By Mike Littwin

IT'S TIME TO name the football team. As you may have heard, the old Cleveland Browns are actually coming to Baltimore, but they've left the name (Browns) and the colors (brown and orange) behind.

This is good news on several counts.

First of all, could there be a dumber name or more boring colors?

Secondly, could there be more boring colors or a dumber name?

So, Cleveland keeps the Browns. And what of Baltimore? Baltimore Football Club owner Art Modell, who apparently doesn't like Baltimore Robber Barons or Baltimore Thieves or Baltimore Midnight Ramblers or Baltimore Extorters or Baltimore John Dillingers, is going to let the people choose. This is dangerous. Just look to the People's Choice Awards, or Congress, if you doubt the dangers inherent in the popular vote.

But before we begin on our quest, we need something to call them in the interim. I suggest this: XXX (the team formerly known as the Browns).

And then we need to address this question first posed by Shakespeare, who was briefly -- and this is not commonly known -- a member of the Dawg Pound: Would a rose, in fact, by any other name smell as sweet?

What if, instead of a rose, it was called, say, a rush limbaugh.

As in, "Mmmm, that rush limbaugh smells good."

Or, "Mmmm, I'm gonna send a dozen rush limbaughs to my sweetie."

Of course, nobody's going to name a football team the Roses. There's been a war of the roses, but never a first down of the roses. As it happens, very few football names use flowers as nicknames (Baltimore Black-Eyed Susans? I don't think so.)

Names do matter. The last time they thought a football team was coming here, they wanted it to call it the Rhinos, which suggests that every other animal (short of llama and banana slug) had been taken.

A city that calls itself the Rhinos (why not hippos? why not head lice?) has lost its way and doesn't deserve a team, meaning the state of Maryland could spend the $200 million on something we really need, like a third baseman.

There is a school of thought that a team name should reflect the city, which brings up the choice of the Ravens, named for the Edgar Allan Poe poem. Poe, of course, spent the night in many of Baltimore's finest gutters before dying of drink.

I have some problems with Ravens. We already have a bird name in town. And, you name a team the Ravens, and every headline is going to have Quoth the Raven in it somewhere. For example, "Quoth the Raven: 'We got our brains beat in today.' "

Ravens? Nevermore. Although it does beat Baltimore Drive-By Shootings.

A better possibility might be the Baltimore Blockers, named both for The Block and for any offensive linemen who might find their way there.

The Baltimore Hons, with a beehive on the helmet? For a football team, the Baltimore Huns might be better, with Attila on the helmet.

Or, for the post-punk hip generation, the Baltimore Dead Menckens would be perfect. Although you may run into some problems with the helmet design.

There are some great city names: Philadelphia 76ers, Detroit Pistons, New York Knicks. But a city name that is too area-specific isn't always so great. For instance, it can create a problem if the team moves. In Los Angeles, where they have no actual lakes, they have the Lakers, who came to L.A. from Minneapolis. The Utah Jazz (stop it, I'm dying) were once the New Orleans Jazz.

So, maybe another direction. One name you hear a lot of support for is Bombers, football being a war game, although, if you notice, no one ever suggests we send the Cowboys to Bosnia.

It's alliterative (Baltimore Bees, Baltimore Buzz Saws, Baltimore Beetles) and it's scary.

I was OK with Bombers till I gave it the name-game test.

Sing along:

Bomber, bomber, bo bombers.

Banana, fana, fo fombers.

Fee, fie, mo mombers.

Bombers.

Does that work for you?

Actually you don't need to be quite so aggressive as Bombers. In fact, I think you'll find that if you put "Fightin'" in front of any name, you get the same effect.

Try Fightin' Buicks. Or Fightin' Stay-Puff Marshmallow Men. See what I mean.

Of course, if there were any justice, we'd get the Colts name just like Cleveland gets the Browns. The National Football League licensing police wouldn't let us do Ponies either or Stallions or even Triggers or, for the gun/malt beer crowd, Colt 45s. But how about Cults? That's a happening '90s name.

On the other hand, any name can work if you have the right spirit. At Swarthmore College, the sports teams are called the Quakers. And yet, there is this unofficial fight song there:

Fight fight for the inner light/

Kill, little Quakers, kill.

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