Toronto at Cleveland, May 5-8

Thursday, May 05 2022 @ 01:00 PM EDT

Contributed by: Magpie

Road trip! It's the Toronto Blue Jays taking on the Cleveland Guardians! For the first time ever!

Guardians, eh. Obviously an improvement, but still - couldn't they have done better? I seem to recollect that one of the popular options suggested while the Great Name Search was going on was Cleveland Rocks. Or Rockers. This both invoked a well known song by the great Ian Hunter - maybe he'd come round and play it on Opening Day - while nodding at the presence in Cleveland of the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame. It was not to be, and anyway Ian's been struggling with tinnitus these last couple of years. And don't get me started on the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame. Its very existence grinds my gears.

What's in a name, anyway? It seemed to me that the nicknames of sports teams fell into four broad categories: a) birds b) beasts c) local reference d) something random. But I looked around at some of the major professional leagues to see if this was the case. And I thought teams named after birds were far more common than they turn out to be. There's just three in baseball. I was surely led astray by the fact that two of them are in the AL East and the other is a famous old franchise that plays in October at regular intervals. There's just two birds in both the NHL and the NBA. The NFL is the league most fond of avian nicknames, with five bird names.

I also looked at the English Premier League, for obvious reasons. Besides Newcastle (that dirty Saudi money does seem to have put the Magpies on the right foot), three other current teams carry bird names. Sadly, Norwich is surely looking at relegation, which seems a shame. We'll miss having the Canaries to kick around. In general, English football fans don't seem to take team nicknames that seriously. It doesn't seem to be part of the marketing. It often seems to have nothing to do with anything (a team's crest might show a roaring lion, and the team is known as the Reds). They just don't seem to get it. You have a team with the official name of Wolverhampton Wanderers, which is wonderful. They're known as the Wolves, which is such a missed opportunity. They just don't seem to have given it much thought. Multiple teams are known by the colour of their kit. And I'll bet I don't even have to tell you what West Ham's nickname might be (that's pretty good, though!)

Back in North America, beasts are always more popular than birds, preferably some mighty and menacing creature that should strike terror into the hearts of the opposition. Baseball teams don't seem to have quite grasped that part - baseball's beasts include a reptile, two sea creatures, and a baby. The NHL has a mythical beast and the NBA has an extinct one, both signs of originality, I suppose. But the NFL really likes large, intimidating beasts. The team names include lots of creatures that could really mess you up, and several that would happily eat you for dinner.

Names with some kind of local reference are also a common enough choice, and as NBA teams usually keep their. nicknames even after the franchise moves to a new city, we all get to contemplate the idea that  Salt Lake City, Utah is the true home of jazz. We are also obliged to consider the many lakes that Los Angeles is known for (or how the residents had to dodge all those trolley cars, Los Angeles being world famous for its public transit.)  And sometimes it seems like they're stretching the point. I assume that the Vikings are so named because Minnesota was settled by a lot of Scandinavian immigrants, not because of a local fondness for rape and pillage. And Philadelphia's baseball team sounds like they ran out of ideas entirely and gave up.  No less than three hockey teams have a nickname that basically says "we're Canadian, eh."

But most team names are just random things, neither beast nor fowl nor connected with the city. Two of them, in the NBA, I find especially  irritating. How can you name a team the Heat? Or the Magic? What is that? And I think the NHL's Avalanche is almost as bad. If you play for that team, what can you say? I'm a Heat? I'm an Avalanche? That can't be much fun. Football teams do like names that suggest trouble, bad dudes like Raiders or Chargers or Buccaneers. Much better, to my mind.

And here in Toronto we've got a bird, we've got a beast (extinct, but scary), we've got a kind of local reference (and Leafs is certainly better than Leaves.) But I think the best local name, by a mile, is Argonauts. It's different, it's unusual, it's classical, it has a handy short form.... maybe I'm just remembering my youth, and the ghostly wail of "ARRR-GOES" rising up from the crowd like some immense sigh of despair, as the hometown crew got pasted, yet again.

I spent far too much time thinking about this, didn't I? I blame Eephus, who texted me wondering what I thought of Trash Pandas as a team name.

I liked it.


Thu 5 May - Berrios (2-0, 4.13) vs Civale (0-2, 10.67)
Fri 6 May - Gausman (2-1, 2.27) vs Bieber (1-1, 2.45)
Sat 7 May - Stripling (0-0, 3.79) vs McKenzie (1-2, 2.70)
Sun 8 May - Manoah (4-0, 1.45) vs Some Guy (---,-.--)