Sports Franchise Names That Highlight the Worst Part of Their City

Sports franchise names that make their fans want to call a mover.

imaginary teams' football helmets illustrated by Michael ByersMichael Byers for Reader's DigestWhen a group in Minneapolis–­­St. Paul started an Ultimate Frisbee team, it could have chosen a name to honor the two cities, like the Twins. Or something about the region’s heritage, like the Vikings. Or a celebration of the great outdoors, like the Timberwolves or the Wild.

Instead, the Minnesota team in the American Ultimate Disc League is called the Wind Chill.

It’s a curious thing, that some professional teams choose names not from their city’s best features but instead, arguably, from their worst. It doesn’t seem as if the windchill, which regularly dips deep into negative territory in the Twin Cities, would be a local selling point.

Ben Feldman, a team co-owner, has an explanation: “In Minnesota, we experience some of the most brutal windchill temperatures in the winter months, and we want our opponents to feel that very same pain when they step onto the field to play against us.”

pull quote textFair enough. But what about the New York City affiliate of the Premier Ultimate League? With so many great things to choose from in the city, the team picked the New York … Gridlock. Perhaps the logic is wanting opponents to feel pain similar to that of being stuck in stop-start rush hour traffic.

Surely these teams could have done something nice for their tourism boards by trying to sugarcoat their names. But it’s the Miami Heat of the NBA, not the Miami Sunshine or the Miami Delightful Beach Weather.

And then there are the teams named after potentially deadly natural disasters endemic to their regions. The San Jose Earthquakes, the Colorado Avalanche, the Miami Hurricanes, and the Iowa State Cyclones. What attracted you to Ames? The chance of encountering a deadly twister!

There’s the Chicago Fire of Major League Soccer, named after an event that killed about 300 people. It’s not even the first team by that name, as there was a Chicago Fire in the old World Football League of the 1970s.

Perhaps the name refers to something else? Nope. The soccer team’s website notes that the moniker was revealed on the 126th anniversary of the famous fire. But don’t worry; the Atlanta Blaze of Major League Lacrosse assures us that its name makes “no allusion to the burning of Atlanta during the Civil War.”

imaginary team's uniform illustrated by Michael ByersMichael Byers for Reader's DigestPlenty of teams are named after scary animals from their regions. Few people in Florida would relish an encounter with a gator, but the University of Florida chose the animal as its mascot. Names like that and the Arizona Rattlers of arena football might be justified for the fear they theoretically strike in the hearts of opponents.

That doesn’t quite explain minor league baseball’s Savannah Sand Gnats, though. The Island Packet, which covers news in Hilton Head, South Carolina, writes, “Sand gnats leave awful little welts where they rip skin to drink blood.” Go, team!

The old XFL had several odd names, including two that seemed to highlight their areas’ history of organized crime: the New York–New Jersey Hitmen and the Chicago Enforcers.

As teams seek more and more color­ful names to stand out in a crowded marketplace and sell merchandise, the trend of highlighting the worst of a region may continue. Perhaps we can look forward to the Los Angeles Mudslides, the New York Noise, and the San Francisco High Cost of Living.

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