COLUMNS

What's in a name

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
Weekly Citizen Sports Editor Kyle Riviere.

In Shakespeare's classic "Romeo and Juliet," Juliet posed the question, "What's in a name?"

Juliet's judgement was obviously clouded by her sudden plunge into the depths of forbidden love. Capulet vs. Montague feuds aside, there is a lot in a name.

They're part of our identity; they're part of who we are. They are unique to us; they make us stand apart from others.

So, what happens when your name is taken, and you're forced to watch someone else pass it off as their own?

That has to be a sick feeling. The Pelicans should know that feeling far too well.

New Orleans has had a business relationship with both the Utah and Charlotte franchises but somehow, both of them have come out smelling like roses, and it's The Big Easy that has drawn the short end of the stick.

Utah has been able to take our "Jazz" name and adopt it as their own for over 30 years now.

The Hornets moved from Charlotte to New Orleans but after last week, the "Hornets" name returns to the city after a 12-year hiatus.

Those two towns got exactly what they wanted, but we're left with the "Pelicans."

I realize it's our state bird and it's on our state flag, but it just hasn't struck me as a great name for a professional basketball team. Of course, with a whole year in the books, it has grown on me, but that still doesn't mean I'm thrilled about it.

I always thought the city should kick themselves for losing the "Jazz" name. It just fit the city so perfectly.

Back in 1974 when the franchise was born in New Orleans, it donned the name and adopted the signature green, purple and gold Mardi Gras colors.

Unfortunately, an 11 percent amusement tax mixed with dwindling ticket sales equalled an economic downturn. They could no longer support the team, so they decided to make the move to Salt Lake City, Utah.

The team was apparently devoid of common sense at the time, so they decided that the "Jazz" name should stay. Along with the lack of common sense, they also lacked forward thinking or respect for the city of New Orleans.

It never crossed their minds that a team could always end up back in New Orleans in the future--allowing the "Jazz" name to come in handy. They didn't care; they took the name for themselves.

Personally, I just think they did it because they were too lazy and cheap to apply for a new name, create a new logo and buy new uniforms and merchandise.

Fast forward to 2002. New Orleans finally got another basketball franchise when the Hornets made the move.

They kept the name until last year when Tom Benson bought the team and decided that he wanted a new name that was unique to the city. The name ended up being the "Pelicans."

With the "Hornets" name gone, Michael Jordan then announced that Charlotte would change their name from the "Bobcats" to the original "Hornets" moniker.

Before Benson ever settled on "Pelicans," he actually asked Utah if they would give New Orleans its name back, but they refused.

I understand that it's been a while so Utah has become attached to the name, but the name just doesn't make any sense in relation to the city and the state.

It is not unique to them; it has no cultural or traditional ties. Why keep it?

Look at New Orleans. They kept the "Hornets" name for 11 years, but they finally decided that it was time to get out with the old and in with the new. They picked a name that had local flair and actually meant something to the city and state.

You don't have to be a music expert to know that Utah isn't a jazz hot-bed, and it never will be. To be blunt, Salt Lake City wouldn't know jazz if the spirits of Duke Ellington, Miles Davis and John Coltrane put on a concert at city hall.

A team in Utah calling themselves the "Jazz" is like a team in New York City calling themselves the "Cowboys" or the "Longhorns."

It's like the Colorado Rockies relocating to Kansas but still calling themselves the "Rockies." It just doesn't work.

Many people laugh that the Lakers kept their name when the franchise moved from Minneapolis (Minnesota is nicknamed "The Land of 10,000 Lakes") to Los Angeles.

Well, at least California has over 3,000 lakes statewide. Heck, I know they're small, but even L.A. has more than 10 lakes. Good luck finding 10 jazz clubs in Salt Lake City.

If it's your garden-variety animal mascot, it doesn't matter if the team keeps the name after a move. In most cases, those names are not unique to the city.

The "Rams," the "Colts" and the "Cardinals" are names that can fit right into any new location.

But the "Jazz?" That has New Orleans written all over it.

New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz and has produced legends of the genre like Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet and Jelly Roll Morton. It is still an integral part of the city's cultural landscape till this day. The same cannot be said about Salt Lake City.

What's in a name? Everything is in a name. Juliet was too blinded by love to see that. As for the Jazz, they've been blinded by pride and steadfast resistance to change.