What’s In a Name?

So much to rail against, so little time…

Which means we have no choice but to go straight to Cleveland to kick things off today.

The Guardians?? Really folks? After having all this time to come up with a cool new name that Cleveland baseball fans could rally around during their surprisingly successful 2021 baseball season, this is what they give us?

Yes, I’ve heard all about some bridge called The Guard, and the metal works around it that somewhat resemble wings, hence the winged design in the much ballyhooed rollout of the new name/logo the other day. Sure, and we also get the clever “-dians” connection between Indians and Guardians. Uh huh…

But Guardians still sucks. Plain and simple. It’s just so very, very Cleveland, dontcha think? Keep up the fair work Forest City, and we’ll look forward to that next World Series title coming sometime in the 22nd century, if baseball even remains in existence then.

For the record, I was rooting for the return of the Cleveland Spiders. Spiders would have represented a nice nod to Cleveland’s nearly 150-year baseball history, while also being unlikely to offend anyone (no easy task today). Such a name would have provided a number of cool logo options, while continuing to connect the Cleveland baseball thread that dates back to the late 19th Century.

Heck, I would even take a redux of The Naps, the erstwhile nickname the Cleveland hardballers went by in the early 20th century in honor of their best player, Nap Lajoie. I’m not sure old Nap Lajoie remains a household name in today’s Cleveland, though, so how about a name from the ’80’s — The Joe’s — in honor of one of the more recognizable Cleveland stars of the past 50 years — Joe Charboneau? I mean, the guy even had his own song during his short, happy stint as a rising star for the Indians/Guardians back in the early-’80’s.

Yet I see risk in The Joe’s, too. Who knows if over the next century everybody named Joe in this great country of ours becomes ostracized and ridiculed, spurring a movement to restore dignity to all men (and women) named Joe by forcing Cleveland’s baseball club to once again change names following a particularly nickname-charged Presidential election in the year 2100? Could happen.

WTF…Guardians…

Sticking with controversial sporting topics of the day, am I the only American sports fan out here perfectly happy to see the USA Mens Basketball team get sent home from Tokyo with no Olympic medal?

This is not an anti-American, or an anti-Kevin Durant statement (although KD as the face of this squad certainly does make them even harder to cheer for), but rather an anti-favorites statement. I mean, c’mon. One of the (many) reasons I can’t stand the Yankees is because of their history as huge favorites, seemingly always stacking the deck in their own favor. A team expected to win. Same for the Patriots when Tom Brady was under center. Or any super-team organized around the talents of LeBron James. If the outcome feels like a foregone conclusion, I won’t root for the heavy favorite. Ever.

Give me the underdogs all day long, even during Olympic competition. And if that means rooting for France, so be it. I suspect if I followed soccer more closely I might feel similarly about the USA Women’s Soccer team, but I don’t, so they are safe for now.

Anyway, here’s my proposal — let’s go back to amateurs representing the United States in the basketball competition every four years at the Summer Games. I’m not proposing this become an Olympic policy, just a USA Basketball policy.

Taking this thought one step further, what if we restricted Olympic participation only to rising college seniors, thus rewarding those who choose to stay in school for four years with an opportunity for Olympic glory?

And what of those one-and-done hired Freshman guns that are only enrolled at an educational institution to check the box of NBA eligibility requirements, you ask? Well, passing on the Olympic experience becomes a data point that will factor into their decision to leave school. Early access to the riches of their NBA contracts will surely provide some level of solace for passing on the chance at an Olympic experience.

Let the other countries do as they please and play pros if they choose, that would only add to the USA Hoops underdog storyline.

I’d definitely be able to rally behind a bunch of amateur-status, 21- and 22-year-olds implementing a system coached by a Greg Popovich or a Dawn Staley, while taking on the hoops professionals from around the world. Such a squad may get bounced every four years without a medal, but I’d have a lot more fun remaining engaged as a flag-waving fan under such an amateur-roster scenario.

Instead, today I face the dilemma of rooting against my own country’s basketball team because I find enormous favorites unappealing. Especially a collection of NBA pros led by perhaps the least appealing personality in The Association today, a 6’11, scowling, nonsense-tweeting, super-team-forming poster child.

Just sayin’.

We’re rolling now, so here’s one more from the politically incorrect category. It’s been quite some time since I applauded any policy put out there by the NFL, but this week’s announcement of strict penalties to be enforced should the schedule be disrupted by non-vaccinated Covid-19 outbreaks within teams made sense to me.

And this isn’t a sentiment indicating a pro or con view on an individual’s choices around vaccinations. It’s a statement in favor of businesses establishing rules and guidelines as is their right, and their employees also possessing the right to follow, or choosing to go elsewhere.

It requires a delicate balance for any business to establish a culture and environment conducive to being supportive of the individuality and beliefs of all their employees, while simultaneously remaining committed to their for-profit underpinnings. Promoting fairness and equity for all, while also upholding the responsibilities embedded into a business’s revenue-based core values, all the while doing everything within their power to ensure safety and the greater good of all — well, let’s just say it’s not easy.

At a headline level, it appears to me that in making their decision, the NFL weighed the perspectives of all of their many constituencies — the world at large; vaccinated players; those without vaccines; the extended families of one and all; the league; the teams; and the desires of NFL fans.

In the few days since the announcement went out we’ve seen several players, coaches and front office types make the highly personal decision to remove themselves from their respective teams. An incredibly difficult sacrifice in the interest of remaining true to personal beliefs of the most emotional and private variety. I applaud those individuals for their conviction, and their courage to hold true to their position.

And I give the NFL credit for their strong stand around putting the safest, surest plan in place to deliver a 2021 season for all constituencies involved.

That’s enough for today. Time to take a breath and remind myself of the really important things in the world of sports today — the fact that it’s nearly August and the New York Mets still occupy first place in the NL East.

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