With Jazz gone, there's no tooting the Hornets

For city of New Orleans, the return of a nickname would be a fine turnover

Sports Plus

April 21, 2002|By Andy Knobel | Andy Knobel,SUN STAFF

We've certainly heard of player trades.

And franchise trades: In 1972, Carroll Rosenbloom dealt his Colts to Bob Irsay for the Rams.

And manager trades: In 1960, the Tigers and Indians swapped managers when Jimmy Dykes went to Cleveland and Joe Gordon was sent to Detroit.

And players traded for baseballs (Tim Fortugno), for turkeys (Johnny Jones) and for oysters (Joe Martina).

And even players traded for themselves: Clint Courtney and Harry Chiti.

But here's a trade we haven't heard of: a swap of nicknames.

Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune in New Orleans suggests that his city's soon-to-be-acquired NBA franchise, the Charlotte Hornets, deal its nickname to Utah for the Jazz.

Language purists have been aghast ever since Mormon Sam Battistone ripped the Jazz out of the birthplace of the musical art form, New Orleans, 23 years ago and plunked it down jarringly into Salt Lake City, home of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Battistone considered changing the nickname, but his name-that-team contest drew fewer than 100 respondents. Among the suggestions he rejected were the Utah Salt Shakers and Salt Lake Sea Gulls. And, believe it or not, New Orleans residents, the Utah Saints.

Columnist Smith's suggestion calls for a simple swap:

"Jazz, after all, fits only in one town," he writes. "And Utah is the Beehive State.

"And it really shouldn't be too difficult. The guy who owns the [Jazz now], Larry Miller, is a car dealer. So, Larry, what will it take? How much for the trade-in? If we take a good-faith check back to your dealership manager, can we negotiate?"

The backup plan

Not everybody in New Orleans wants the name Jazz.

On www.petitiononline.com is an honest-to-God entreaty to Charlotte Hornets owner George Shinn to change his team's name to the Voodoo. (As if the Washington Wizards and Orlando Magic don't provide enough sorcery for one league.)

"In addition," the petition states, "we want the name of our team's dance team to be: The Voodoo Dolls! We also like the idea of a jolly Witch Doctor with a magic basketball in his hands as our mascot."

Keep in mind there is already a team by that name: The New Orleans VooDoo of the Arena Football League.

Not the greatest of Z's

Indoor football used to have a team in Utah: the Catzz of the Professional Indoor Football League.

You may notice the Salt Lake City is a great place to catch some Z's, as in the Starzz (WNBA), the Grizzlies (American Hockey League) and the Jazz.

In December, a minor-league baseball team, the Salt Lake Buzz, changed its name to the Stingers as part of a settlement of a trademark suit brought by Georgia Tech, home of the Yellow Jackets.

So if the NBA nickname trade does go through, Utah's new team probably couldn't refer to itself in jest as the Buzz. Not without stirring up a hornet's nest.

Inane name game

Two other nicknames that don't make any geographic sense:

The Los Angeles Lakers: There aren't any meaningful lakes west of Tahoe, let alone 10,000 of them as Minnesota had.

The Calgary Flames: Alberta didn't burn in the Civil War the way Atlanta did. Then again, both eventually had Olympic flames.

Sold down the river

And what in the name of the Mississippi River is the Utah Jazz doing in an arena called the Delta Center?

Compiled from wire reports and Web sites.

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