Naming the new team: Coats? Clots? How about the Humidity?

February 15, 1996|By Peter A. Jay

HAVRE de GRACE -- Everyone who writes in the local press, it seems, feels a responsibility to help Baltimore name its new professional football team. This is a laudable sentiment, but the results to date have been disappointing.

Most of the names which have been floated fall into at least one of three categories. There are aggressive names (Bombers), equine names (Mustangs) evoking the Colts heritage, and names with a local connection, however tenuous (Crabs, Crabbers, Crabcakes).

Alliteration is popular too, which means a name beginning with a B, but a lot of those have already been taken (Bays, Blast, Bullets).

There's no doubt that a name already linked with Baltimore in common usage would be splendid, but there were only a few of those to begin with, and the Orioles already have the best one. What's left over is pretty sad.

A Baltimore chop is a baseball term for a high-bouncing ground ball that often results in a cheap single. A Baltimore steak is an out-of-date and derogatory term for beef liver. Face it, the new team's deeds may one day make Baltimore famous, as the Colts did, but right now if you were to ask Americans nationwide to free-associate with the name of the city, the first response you'd get in most cases would be a giggle. That's something else we have in common with Cleveland.

Expand the horizons of the name game to include more of Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay, however, and many more potential names appear. Philadelphia may have the Eagles, but other raptors are available, including the Ospreys and the Screech Owls. The Kestrels or the Kingfishers might be too ornithological, but how about the Buzzards? Much better than the Ravens, which aren't even native.

The Blue Crabs would be appropriate, and euphonious as well. But the Oysters, on the other hand, may convey too sedentary an image for professional football, except perhaps for a team from the Rocky Mountains.

The Chesapeake Bay's piscine category alone offers enormous naming opportunities which the various would-be team-dubbers have hardly begun to explore. But unfortunately, except in Miami where the Marlins play, there seems to be something of a bias in big-league sports against fish. Only in the law is cold- bloodedness currently appreciated.

Even so, I'd think a good case could be made for a Baltimore team called the Eels, the Shad, the Silversides, the Darters or the Croakers (well, perhaps not). The Bullheads would be alliterative, as would the Bluefish -- as swift and nasty an emblem as any team could hope for.

The Rockfish doesn't have a ring to it, but the Bass does. (''Of all the fishes in the seas, the finest is the bass./ He slithers downfield, if you please, to catch a forward pass.'' Tennyson, I think.) If the Baltimore team were named the Bass, headline writers searching for synonyms could refer to players as the Largemouths, or, affectionately, as the 'mouths.

And then of course there are the Mummichogs, Hogchokers and Squid. The Weakfish I guess would be out of the question.

Inspiration from the land

Going back on land, there are various mammals in the vicinity with admirable native qualities, though perhaps not the ones Art Modell wants his players to emulate. The Foxes, or for that matter the Foxhounds, might seem too gentrified, the Groundhogs too subterranean. The Otters would be too playful. The Squirrels? No. The Rats? NO!

Maryland is still a farming state, and there are a few possible names available from agriculture. The Boars and the Broilers both sound like winners to me. The Ovenstuffer Roasters, though, is too commercial, and wouldn't do at all for the highly-principled National Football League.

Well, it seems to be third down, and the clock is running out. Invoking writer's privilege, I've left my own personal favorites for last. They are either the (Maryland) Mules or the (Baltimore) Burros, and the arguments in their favor are overpowering.

These names are euphonious. They are equine, but not horsy. And they are certainly appropriate to football, as they belong to modest and hard-working animals of great strength, sagacity and patience. (A mule, William Faulkner observed, will willingly work for you for 20 years in exchange for the chance to kick you once.)

The Burros, especially, would evoke Maryland's and Baltimore's proud Democratic heritage. Fans could wear caps with long ears attached. And there would be wonderful opportunities for special cheers -- heeHAW! heeHAW! heeeeHAW!

Let us bray.

Peter A. Jay is a writer and farmer.

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