Hayes: Pelicans as good a team name as any other

Hayes: Pelicans as good a team name as any other

Bob Hayes, Columnist

A week ago, the New Orleans basketball franchise officially began the Pelicans era after switching its nickname from the New Orleans Hornets. Now that we have experienced life in a world with the New Orleans Pelicans and its new mascot I have had nightmares about, let’s take a moment to step back and evaluate the Pelicans as a name for a professional basketball team.

I am sure by now you are expecting me to write yet another one of those narrow-minded, short-sighted columns about how New Orleans now possesses the worst nickname in sports history and is “an embarrassment to the city” — but quite the contrary. The reason the Pelicans have received a critical response to their new nickname is that fans simply lack any attachment and are not used to the moniker.

Take a look at NBA nicknames around the league. I would list about 29 names that are no more fitting for an NBA team than the Pelicans, but I only have 700 words here. As an example, three of the most storied and famous franchises in basketball — the Lakers, Celtics and Knicks — all have nicknames that would make fans lose their minds if they were new. The Lakers name is a product of their former home in Minnesota, and I would argue that even in Minnesota, the nickname itself is rather lame. If you even know what Celtics or Knickerbockers are, you definitely know that they are not the fiercest options for an NBA team name. Similar arguments can be made about nearly every NBA team’s nickname.

Yet, when do you ever hear anyone question those names? The ignorant people calling the Pelicans the “worst nickname ever” must be totally oblivious to the nature of team names in the NBA. In an objective evaluation of nicknames across the NBA, can you make an honest argument that the Pelicans name is any worse than all the others in basketball? If so, please email me or send a Letter to the Editor. If you dislike the nickname because you think birds are relatively pathetic creatures, you must not be an NFL or MLB fan.

In fact if you go to New Orleans, all around the city people proudly sport their new red, navy and gold Pelicans gear. The bird itself represents the city of New Orleans, whereas the previous nickname, the Hornets, was a relic of the franchise’s previous home in Charlotte, N.C. The pelican gives the team and the city an identity that it has thus far failed to establish in New Orleans.

The new Pelicans mascot, Pierre, has quickly become a widely popular meme among sports fans. While it is easy to joke about the appearance of a new avian mascot in a basketball arena, again, Pierre is no worse than the standard NBA mascot. The goal of a mascot, though at the surface may be to appear fierce to the opposition, is really to attract kids to the game and keep the fans entertained. Here in Chicago we have one of the most respected mascots in the league, Benny the Bull, but how is an Elmo with horns dressed in a Bulls jersey any better of a mascot than a Big Bird in a Pelicans jersey?teaming up with Pierre the Pelican, while critics move on to bashing the new nickname of the inevitable Sacramento Kings’ move to Seattle.

Bob Hayes is a Weinberg freshman. He can be reached at [email protected] If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].