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Tuesday, June 18, 2024
The Observer

Mulvena: The dumbest pro sports mascots

I had a discussion with some friends recently that, while impressively moronic, has been on my mind for a few days now. We were thinking about the worst names and mascots in all of sports, and we each brought up a few teams who we didn’t think would spur debate but ended up being contentious. In the end, none of it really matters, but I think it’s actually kind of interesting to think about how the branding of professional sports teams affects the way we think about them and their respective leagues. To keep this reasonable, I’ll just offer what I think are the three worst names/mascots in sports, and I’m not considering obscure colleges or European soccer clubs — just MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL. All three of my choices happen to be in the NBA, but that’s just because I genuinely think these are below all of the other team names around the four major American leagues.

3. New Orleans Pelicans

I think this one has to be the least contentious one on the list. Of all the avian possibilities — from menacing predators to symbols of the abstract principles upon which our very country was built — you chose the one that creepily loiters outside that dentist’s window in “Finding Nemo”? Interesting play.

There’s also just that indescribable element about certain team names where you can’t really imagine saying a legendary player’s name in that context. “Pelicans” doesn’t really scream elite. I’d say it screams something closer to struggling high school bowling team.

Maybe Zion Williamson will lead the Pelicans to several championships and the next generation of young sports fans will look at this sad beach bird as the lion of the sky, but for now, I think it’s reasonable to say that they botched this one in New Orleans.

2. Brooklyn Nets

Ohh, I get it, because it’s like basketball, and there’s a net by the hoop, and you guys are playing basketball. Classic.

I’ll offer the disclaimer that I’m a Knicks fan, so I’ll always just think the Nets are lame whether they’re playing in that wasteland across the Hudson or the Barclays center. But really, how did this name get past any executive ever? Can you imagine a board meeting where someone says, “Well why don’t we just name it after the thing we shoot the ball into?” and no one stops for a minute to even question that proposition?

Also, that court is just gross. The gray and black just gives everything a strange dreary tint. It makes me feel like I’m watching a documentary on the History Channel instead of a basketball game.

Maybe it hurts that the Knicks have one of the most iconic names in all of sports, but I can’t help but think that whoever decides these things could have found inspiration elsewhere.

1. Toronto Raptors

This one catches the most heat when I bring it up in this discussion, but of all my meaningless sports takes, I’d put this one in my top three most passionate. This is just a terrible name on all fronts, and it hasn’t gotten any better with the new jerseys that say “The North” (gross).

But first, let me address what many of you cool dudes and dudettes who don your throwback Vince Carter jersey to that sick darty are thinking. I get it, Vince Carter is cool, his dunks are awesome and the uniform is colorful. It makes sense; it’s a bright picture. That uniform is one of the ugliest uniforms in the history of sports uniforms. A cartoon dinosaur? That’s what we’ve set the standard at for a classic throwback jersey?

If you asked any given three year old what he or she might name a particular sports team, I imagine at least 70% would draw a picture of that dinosaur and say “raptors” as they drooled all over themselves.

I really genuinely cannot fathom how people can stand behind the idea that the raptors are a “cool” team. Were there an inordinate amount of dinosaurs in the Toronto region during the Cretaceous period that I’m just simply unaware of? Please, someone fill me in on what's going on here.

Honorable Mentions 

Atlanta Thrashers

This is almost unfair because they disbanded, and I'd have to imagine this horrific name had at least a little bit to do with that. Add this one to the list of team names that a drooling three year old would like. Thrasher sounds like what a kid names his action figure or an evil version of one of Santa’s reindeer.

Minnesota Wild

Especially considering Minnesota used to be the North Stars — and they had an awesome name and jersey — this one stinks. What does “wild” even really mean? Is this just an unpredictable group who lives on the edge, or is their mascot just some sort of environmental symbol? Swing and a miss.