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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

I suppose it's better than the "Dry Heaves."

American sporting clubs have the quaint tradition of affixing nicknames to their teams. Other nations do this to some extent as well: Bolton Wanderers, London Irish, Bournemouth Catholic River Wideners Club. (Apologies... that last one was from a Monty Python sketch. I'm 50% certain that's not a real club.) However, in the U.S. the practice is de rigueur, which is French for "...gotta do that Hi!" (Apologies again...that was from Raising Arizona. The actual translation is "cheese in my trousers.")

Most nicknames are related to the region, city or state the club is from. This explains the Nebraska Cornhuskers and the North Carolina Tar Heels.

Some names are the product of over-zealous but undertalented marketing types. This explains the Washington Wizards and the Anaheim Mighty Ducks (now, just the Ducks).

Some names were clearly chosen as a result of the abuse of controlled substances. This explains the University of California-Irvine Anteaters.

Often the names are a source of embarassment. For several years, the Major League Soccer club in Kansas City was known as the "Wiz." This would be the equivalent of naming an English football club in Brighton the "Piss." F.C. Dallas in Major League Soccer used to be called the Burn. Most of us simply assume that the owner of the club named it for the feeling he had whilst finishing the last of the 24 vodka martinis he downed prior to the naming process.

So anyway, I was glancing at one of the American basketball minor leagues recently. The league is the American Basketball Association or ABA. This is not the league that Dr. J played in in the early seventies. If you're interested in how the current ABA fits in the hierarchy, the following list may be of assistance:

American Basketball Leagues in order of prominence:

1. NBA
2. NBA Developmental League
3. NCAA Basketball Division I
4. National Junior College Basketball
5. NCAA Basketball Division II
6. NCAA Basketball Division III
7. NAIA Collegiate Basketball
8. NCAA Women's Basketball
9. Pickup Games, Rucker Park, NY
10. High School Basketball
11. Junior High School Basketball
12. Church League Basketball
13. Drunken Fraternity Basketball*
14. Drunken Sorority Basketball*
15. Playstation 2 Basketball
16. ABA*
17. Beginners' Youth Rec Basketball*

Anyway, the ABA is an American league and thus the teams have colourful nicknames. The problem with the ABA nicknames is that they appear to be scraping the bottom of the proverbial barrel.

In most american sport, it's inevitable that nicknames will be recycled eventually in some way or another. Otherwise, you'd wind up with the same situation that bands now have in the music industry. All the good names, like the Beatles, Aerosmith, U2, and The Monkees are all gone. So, you're left with Death Cab for Cutie and Hootie and the Blowfish.

Well, the ABA chose this latter, seemingly more creative route. Unfortunately, the lack of good original nicknames is readily apparent. For example, here are three team names and nicknames from the ABA:

1. Minnesota Ripknees
2. Arkansas RiverCatz
3. Vermont Frost Heaves

I'm sure you can see what I mean now. Frost Heaves? What kind of chants get sung at a Frost Heaves match? "Our defence will give your shots rejection, because Frost Heaves are good at wretching!" It's an Emily Dickinson rhyme at best, and it doesn't exactly get the fans on their feet, unless of course the seats are where the wretching has occurred.

As for the Ripknees, obviously this is every other club's least favourite opponent.

Given the remarkable names chosen for ABA "franchises," I thought I'd conclude this little post with a challenge. See if you can tell the difference between the real ABA franchise names below, and the fictional ones I've made up and included in the list. No fair looking at the link for the league. Good luck and Wretch 'em Heaves!

Spot the real American Basketball Association (circa 2000-) team names among the fakes:

1. Honolulu Hula Hos
2. Jacksonville Jam
3. Trenton Scum
4. Quebec Kebekwa
5. Oshkosh B'Gosh
6. Strong Island Sound
7. Upper Peninsula Drifters
8. Bellingham Slam
9. Tidewater Bilge
10. Hollywood Fame
11. Regis and Kelly
12. Beijing Aoshen
13. Canton Chlamydia
14. Tennessee Mud Frogs
15. Birmingham Buttocks
16. Sauk Valley Rollers

Answers: All the even numbered ones are real ABA franchises. Number 5 is a children's brand of clothing. Number 11 is a popular ABC morning programme and future NHL franchise.

*There is some controversy about the order of 15 and 16 ...and also 13 and 14.


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