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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Renaming the Brooklyn Nets

New New Jersey Nets owner Yakov Smirnov Mutant Russian Marked Cuban Mikhail Prokhorov says he is open to changing the name of the team when they move to Brooklyn in 2015 (which is what Google Translate says "2012" means when you go from developer-speak to English).

It's a brilliant idea. Since the team is not exactly going to win games anytime soon, and is already moving several physical miles and several hundred thousand cultural miles, you don't risk alienating faithful fans who are attached to the old name. And nothing sells merchandise like a completely new logo and color scheme, especially one associated with Brooklyn.

In the new economics of American sports, Brooklyn could be a lucrative place to base a team, because it has cachet all around the world. No one in Indonesia is going to buy a Miami Heat jersey unless three of the top ten players in the league, including the most famous working athlete in the world, join the team in a suspicious backroom deal. But people in Indonesia will buy a jersey for the Knicks, as they will for the new Brooklyn team, even if they suck.

When the Boston Red Sox paid $51 million just for the right to sign Daisuke Matzusaka, the move made little sense when considering how much more cheaply they could sign pitchers already proven in the major leagues. The next highest bid, by the filthy rich Yankees, wasn't even close. But consider the long-term value of millions of Japanese fans, who now might raise their children on Red Sox merchandise and pay to watch Red Sox games featuring Japanese language ads -- a formula the Yankees perfected with Hideki Matsui -- the deal makes much more sense, and has probably already proved worth the money.

But you don't need a big rebranding plan to know it's exciting to think of new names for a major sports team, especially one that will be in a place that conjures so many associations. I'm praying that the owners will see the folly of choosing a generic mascot like the pathetic Bobcats or (shudder) Raptors. Leave those names to cities where the movie shoots pretend they take place somewhere else.

Here are my proposals:

The Brooklyn Brownstowners -- evokes what is special about Brooklyn, its brownstone soul. One big problem, though: you pretty quickly start thinking about stoners, and stoners who are brown.

The Brooklyn Red Hooks -- connects clearly to Brooklyn by referring to a neighborhood not far from the arena (which I vehemently oppose building, though I will happily go to games once it's built), and sounds kind of cool to boot. But only kind of.

The Brooklyn Blues -- keeping with the alliteration theme. The "Blues" is a bit generic, and I don't think anyone would argue Brooklyn is especially connected to blues music or jazz, though it certainly is a capital for gospel in the North. But the name has a powerful ring to it. Say it to yourself a few times.

The Brooklyn Breakers -- alliteration plus a reference to Brooklyn's Atlantic coastline, famous thanks to Coney Island. The aerial shots before games begin could show the Coney Island beach, with its numerous lines of rock wave breakers. The name is tough without being overly violent; this is, after all, the league of the Wizards.

Eponymous -- That's right, just call the team Brooklyn. Not the Brooklyns, just Brooklyn. There is no law that says every team must have a mascot-type name; names like the Heat and the Fighting Irish already caused fans and announcers to refer to the team in a different way than they do most other teams. You can be sure the team name would be widely discussed and argued about, and you can also be sure they would sell a bajillion shirts and caps with the logo and the single word "Brooklyn". And they can always be called the "Brooks" as a nickname.

The Brooklyn Hoops -- generic, but playful, evocative of street ball, and provide some continuity to the Nets name. Good but not great, it would disappoint no one and look great on merchandise.

The Brooklyn Basketballers -- parallels the old-timey feel of the New York Knickerbockers, and could be shortened to just "ballers". It works because the formality of the name calls your attention Brooklyn's long history and deep roots, rather than to its more recent associations with crime and hipness. As American cities go, Brooklyn is ancient; but the fact that it is also known for being cool and culturally relevant means that highlighting its age works for Brooklyn in a way it doesn't quite for Boston and Washington. The only drawback is that "ballers" can be read sexually.

I'm ready to give these names away for the good of humanity. Call me, Mutant Mark!

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Anonymous Anonymous on Tue Dec 14, 08:01:00 PM:
The last one is easily the best.