Amy and I were playing Ticket to Ride. Amy was black. I was yellow. Amy commented that we had bumblebee colors. I said it was Iowa Hawkeye colors. Amy asked why the Hawkeyes weren’t the bumblebees. “Bumblebees are scary,” she said.
Maybe. But not on the football field. Some names must remain static.
I imagine the crowd at Kinnick Stadium on game day. The stands shake like a fault line has opened up underneath, people jumping up and down like they’re blood-thirsty attendees at a Colosseum event in ancient Rome (and in a way, they are), beer flowing like geologists have found the mother lode of all hidden resources, and it’s beer. All this raucous activity is in anticipation of the home team bursting through the tunnel, breaking through the barrier, and barreling out onto the field.
They do all that, but instead of Herky the Hawk leading the charge, it’s Barney the Bumblebee.
Instead of screeching bird sounds blasting from the stadium speakers like shouts from an angry god, an annoying buzzing flies on sound waves through open space. (Full disclosure: I haven’t been to a Hawkeye game in a while, so I’m taking license with the audio effects and stage blocking.) Everyone pokes their fingers in theirs ears, working out the tickling sensation assaulting their eardrums. Also, Barney isn’t running; he’s hopping like he’s trying to play the world’s biggest game of hopscotch. It is, in a word, sad.
It’s not football. It’s not the Hawkeyes. It’s not what you love or expect, so it is sad.
Names matter. History matters. I realize certain groups take umbrage with the historical connections some sports teams’ names have with blighted human activity. But I think it’s better to remember the bad and learn from it—continuously learn from it, for we humans are dreadfully fickle creatures—than to paint over it with fresh lacquer and bestow upon it a new arrangement of letters. The paint will never cover. The letters will always retain the impression of typeset and the ink from a million headlines.
This opinion is predicated on a team’s name having real meaning, real verve. If, however, your name is a few spectrum wavelengths off from a primary color, as in the Moline Maroons, perhaps a renaming committee is in order.
I don’t hate Moline, IL. I lived there for eight years and in two houses, but I dislike a team name that inspires me to think of fall landscaping and apples growing their Death Star concavities.
I like both of those things. Fall landscaping is delicious, almost as good as the hot apple cider one sips while looking out one’s window and ogling the neighbor’s verge with envy. Rotting apples explode with pernicious pugnacity. Much better than fresh Granny Smiths, which are barely less structurally sound than new Rawlings baseballs. The miniature collapsing George Lucas wannabee orbital ordinance do a wonderful job of chasing off youths who like to loiter, or suitors who like to lavish themselves with a dream lover’s cape. (Just to be clear: all suitors of my daughters look like fire-breathing dragons to me. Their capes? Just a bunch of dirty scales.)
Do you see what I mean about a bad sports team name? It takes you down paths you don’t want to go. It cancels enjoyment in sport and opens wide the throttle of out-of-context neighborhood arborous jealousy and assumed future generational philandering of those who have barely begun to shave.
We can’t have the Iowa Bumblebees. We can only have the Hawkeyes. We must stay with what we know, with what keeps our minds straight, with what feels right.
We must assign black and yellow the course of running parallel lines.
While a bird of prey circles.