The Game of the Name What's in a name? For those trying to pick just the right words for the Baltimore un-Browns, a lot must be taken into consideration.

February 15, 1996|By KEVIN COWHERD | KEVIN COWHERD,SUN STAFF

February in Baltimore is no picnic. The skies are the color of dishwater, the air is cold and the mood is grim -- and that's on a good day.

Now, to make matters worse, you can be standing on any street corner and have a stranger rush up and blurt in a jangled, five-cups-of-Folgers voice: "I don't know . . . I kinda like Baltimore Ravens. Do you like Baltimore Ravens? Or what about Clippers? Clippers isn't bad. Am I right or am I right?'

Hoo, boy. Clearly, it's in our best civic interest that we get on with the naming of our new football team, the former Cleveland Browns, now that every columnist and sports talk show host is weighing in on the subject and we're all this close to going out of our minds.

Arriving at a good team nickname is tricky business, incorporating as it does grueling scientific research, studied market analysis and what sounds good in a barroom at 1 in the morning.

4 Nevertheless, here are some factors to consider:

Intimidation factor: Pittsburgh Steelers, Oakland Raiders, New York Giants -- these are classic, high-testosterone names that evoke a certain buckle-your-chin-straps-boys image so popular in the NFL.

The Green Bay Packers have a great name, too. On the surface, a portly Wisconsin meat-packer would not be considered

intimidating, although if he were waving around a 10-pound meat hook he certainly would.

(Conversely, of course, you have the Miami Dolphins, named after one of the most gentle creatures in the sea.)

Here in Baltimore, Bombers, Marauders, Rhinos and Knights have been suggested, and all have the requisite hint of menace many feel belongs in a good nickname.

WBAL-Radio morning sports anchor and talk-show host Pam Ward reports that one caller to her show suggested the name Commandos and faxed a picture of what the new uniforms should look like.

Unfortunately, the uniform could best be described as classic Vietnam-vet-goes-berserk regalia, complete with camouflage pants and jersey and a parachute logo on the helmet.

All that was missing was an automatic weapon slung over one shoulder, which would, of course, be carrying the intimidation factor a bit too far.

Ominous footnote: In a stunning move that rocked the sports world, it was announced the other day that the Savannah (Ga.) Class A baseball team has named itself -- honest to God -- the Sand Gnats.

Yes. The Sand Gnats.

Asked for the reasoning behind this remarkable name, the club's director of marketing was quoted in USA Today as saying: "With all the humid weather, we've got those gnats."

Ohhhh-kay.

Relevance-to-Baltimore Factor: Baltimore Bays, makes sense.

Baltimore Clippers, OK. Same with Baltimore Skipjacks.

But Baltimore Bees? And Rhinos? Ex-cuse us?

Baltimore Knights? Jousting is, inexplicably, our state sport. But this isn't exactly Ivanhoe territory.

Baltimore Ravens? This is a big favorite, with its connection to Edgar Allan Poe. Although the fact is that Poe's mind was often so addled by drink he probably didn't even know what state he was in, never mind what town.

Then there's the fact that the Raven is a rather homely looking bird, a scavenger to boot. Although the slogan "Baltimore Ravens: We'll Peck At Your Corpse This Sunday" is both wonderfully intimidating and a terrific read on T-shirts, banners and other team merchandise.

Of late, the name Baltimore Blues is being suggested with more and more frequency.

But what's the connection here: blue crabs? Bluefish? Or the musical form?

Or are we referring to the mild depression that comes with finding your basement -- lovingly decorated with dark wood paneling, Ping-Pong table, Bud Light sign, velvet Elvis painting -- under 2 feet of water during the thaw?

Equine Factor: According to WBAL sports director Josh Lewin, a vast majority of callers to his show want the Colts name returned by the "Evil Irsays" in Indianapolis.

As that is unlikely to occur before the next Ice Age, these callers favor names that are horse-related: your Stallions, your Mustangs.

Ms. Ward says that one of her callers suggested that all other horse names were inferior to Colts except one: Equus. This is Latin for horse.

One caller even proposed calling the team the Baltimore Omega, the 24th and final letter of the Greek alphabet. It looks like an upside-down horseshoe.

Current Cleveland safety Eric Turner suggests Baltimore Posse, because of its rather tenuous connection to the old Colts name and because it is, in his opinion, "cool."

Political-Correctness Factor: A lot of people are down on Bombers.

In the wake of the terrorist bombings of New York's World Trade Center and the federal building in Oklahoma City, they feel the name would be ill-advised, inappropriate, insensitive, etc.

The Baltimore B-16's and Baltimore Marauders would also no doubt fall in this category, which is subjective at best.

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