With the furor over the Washington Redskins' offensive name growing louder, it's looking more likely that despite owner Daniel Snyder's adamant denials, the team will eventually end up with a new mascot. But what will that mascot be?
Fans in our nation's capital are no doubt a bit nervous about ending up with a new nickname that's inoffensive but embarrassingly lame. (And understandably so, given that their last trip down the renaming path ended in them having to cheer for the Washington Wizards.) Finding a less offensive mascot doesn't have to be a harrowing task, though. Just appropriate one of these incredible names that another professional team has abandoned for some reason.
1. THE JAWZ
Long Island's Roller Hockey International team went belly-up after only playing the 1996 season, so its amazing shark mascot is up for grabs. In fact, if you're a team looking for a mascot with some '90s-nostalgia flair, the defunct Roller Hockey International is a good place to look, as it was also home to the New Jersey Rockin Rollers and the Calgary Rad'z. (All these gratuitous z's let you know that this league was edgy and every bit as wild as the roller hockey community portrayed in the 1994 documentary D2: The Mighty Ducks.)
2. THE LIZARD KINGS
Jacksonville's Lizard Kings stuck around the East Coast Hockey League from 1995 until 2000, and since then, no professional sports franchise has had the guts to step up and fill the void of Jim-Morrison-inspired mascots. Do it, Dan Snyder. The jersey sales to stoned teenagers alone will cover most of your 2014 payroll.
3. THE DRYBUGS
Piedmont, WV and Westernport, MD shared the Drybugs for the 1918 season in baseball's Blue Ridge League. When the league disbanded on June 16 due to a shortage of players brought on by World War I, the mighty Drybugs mascot became available for any team with enough vision to take it.
4. THE PATROONS
Albany's representative in the Continental Basketball Association was backed by a mascot that would strike fear in the heart of any opponent: A Dutch landholder with rights to a tract of colonial North America. Pretty fierce, right? Although the team kicked the bucket in 2009, its legacy lives on — George Karl coached the squad in the late '80s, while Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks and Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle both suited up for the team in 1987.
5. THE TRIANGLES
Dayton's entry into the embryonic NFL didn't need an intimidating name. Instead, it took its moniker from its home stadium, Triangle Park, and let its play on the field do all the talking. Unfortunately, the team's play didn't say much, as the team sputtered to a 18-51-8 record before folding after the 1929 season. Still, there's something to be said for the kind of calm self-assurance that leads a team to use a shape as its mascot.
6. THE OLYMPIANS
What? Washington has never hosted the Olympics? Neither had Indianapolis, and that didn't stop the city's NBA team from claiming this mascot for four seasons during the early 1950s.
7. THE APOSTLES
In 1884, the Apostles took the field for baseball's doomed Union Association. The team may not have lasted, but the St. Paul Apostles is as tremendous as team names come. Just think of the tasteful puns the headline writers at ESPN.com could make with an NFL team called the Apostles.
8. THE DARTS
The old North American Soccer League may have lost millions of dollars before folding in 1984, but it was blessed with an embarrassment of awesome team name riches. Major League Soccer has revived some of the best, like the San Jose Earthquakes and Portland Timbers, but other great names like the Tea Men, the Rowdies, the Roughnecks, the Manic, and Washington's own Darts are all just looking for a new home.
9. THE HAYMAKERS
We know, we know. Teams don't want violent mascots. But according to our office's lone slang dictionary, "haymaker" didn't come to mean a powerful punch until around 1910. When baseball's Troy Haymakers took the field in 1871 and 1872, they weren't threatening to strike their opponents — they were simply boasting about their skill at growing and harvesting hay. U.S. farmers produce over 100 million tons of hay each year — that's a giant built-in fan base for any team brave enough to take the plunge.
10. THE WHY NOTS
For one glorious summer in 1917, the town of Minot, North Dakota was home to a minor league baseball team called the Why Nots. We admire the game-for-anything spirit of this name and think it's due for a comeback.
11. THE PRANCERS
Forget Blitzen. Whenever anyone — or anyone associated with Peoria, Illinois's 1982 International Hockey League startup — lists Santa's toughest reindeer, Prancer is inevitably at the top of the list. It's difficult to imagine what motivated the team to change its name to the Rivermen just two years into its existence.
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