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Richmond Flying Squirrels 40

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Posted 2018 July 8

As I'm sure you all know, one nice thing about the web (is it still possible to call it the "world wide web" without sounding ridiculous?) is that it's easy to quickly find answers to questions which, just thirty years ago, would have taken considerable effort to research. It's definitely made my job a lot easier. Imagine trying to find out in 1988 what the origins of various minor league teams were. Today you can just type "[team name] name origin" into the search engine of your choice and odds are good it'll come right up. It would have taken much longer to find the origin of the Richmond Flying Squirrels name if I had tried in 1988. By my estimate it would have taken about twenty-one years, since that's how much time passed after 1988 before there was such a team. But even if there had been such a team in 1988 it would have taken quite a while.

So what is the origin?

The process started, apparently, with inviting the public to submit suggestions. And they responded in spades. If the team's vice president is to be believed, the stack of papers with all the suggestions is an inch thick. He didn't specify how big the sheets of paper were or how many names were on each piece of paper, but even if we're talking about thick index cards with one name per card we're still talking over a hundred names. And if we're talking normal typing paper with two single-spaced columns of names (which is easily do-able), we're in the tens of thousands. From this, the team picked ten favorites. One team official was quoted as saying "We were looking for controversial. Not super controversial, but something that would shake things up."

I don't know about you, but to me this is the first warning bell. This is baseball we're talking about here. This is a sport that has tolerated such names as "Bridegrooms", "Orphans", and "Mutuals" (and those were all major league teams). This is a sport where naming your team after the color socks it wears (or, in some cases, used to wear) is a time-honored tradition. With traditions like that, "shaking things up" is a recipe for disaster.

Then the team narrowed down their list of ten to a list of five. Then they replaced one of those five when someone pointed out that it was hella racist. In addition to the eventual winner, the other four names on the (revised) list were Flatheads, Hush Puppies, Rhinos, and Rock Hoppers. Remember, they had somewhere between 100 and 20,000 names to pick from, and this was what they deemed the best five. That's warning bell number two. Did they decide that since baseball has traditions going back to the Nineteenth Century, they should aim for some Nineteenth Century inspiration by smoking opium? You could come up with a better list by feeding the sheets of paper with the names on them into a shredder and using the ones that were still readable.

Finally, the team told everyone they were going to let people vote on the name and then pick whatever damn name they wanted. I'm not making that up. They actually told everyone that they were going to let the fans vote but the final decision rested with the team. I suppose I should admire them for being upfront about it, since we all know most of these "name the team" contest are rigged. But it's still weird.

This is a process that should result in a good name. Let people make suggestions, narrow them down to the best five or six, get input from the community on those names, then pick one with the community's pick being one factor you consider but not the only one. This should have resulted in a better name than Flying Squirrels. Or Flatheads, Hush Puppies, Rhinos, or Rock Hoppers, for that matter.

Incidentally, the team that was in Richmond before the Flying Squirrels was the Richmond Braves, Atlanta's AAA affiliate. They moved to Gwinnett County, Georgia (in the Atlanta suburbs) in 2008 to become the Gwinnett Braves, and last year they announced a name change. Like the Flying Squirrels, they let people submit names (they apparently got around four thousand). Like the Flying Squirrels, they narrowed that list down to a small number (six in this case). And like the Flying Squirrels, one of the names they put on the short list was Hush Puppies.

What the hell, people? Seriously: What the fucking hell?

Final Score: 40 points.
Penalties: Humanoid (the teeth), 30 pts; Name, 10 pts.
Bonuses: None.


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