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Originally post 7/20/02 at 6:20 PM
So I'm in my car Thursday morning, listening to Imus in the Morning on WFAN, and they report this odd little tidbit. Somewhere in New York -- I think Brookyln? -- public schools are being asked (forced?) to get rid off Native American-based mascots in favor of neutral ones. I'm not going to comment on this specifically again. What bothered me is that one school chose the name "Thunder."

These singular, cohesive nouns being used as team names bothers me to no end. Not on a political level, but on a aesthetic one. A member of the Yankees is a Yankee. If you play for the Dallas Cowboys, you're a Cowboy. But if you play for the Jazz, Heat, or Magic, what are you? The NBA started the trend. I didn't like it then (although I think "Jazz" was creative enough, given the Nawlins roots.) But the WNBA took it to the next level.

Less than half of the teams are plurals -- yes, that includes the "Utah Starzz" (!??!) and the "Minnesota Lynx". (I realize that the latter is debateable, but we'll give them the benefit of the doubt.) That leaves nine teams whose players one can't really quantify. But let's try anyway. Warning: a lot of my attempts are bitter, bitter failures.

An explanation, going in reverse. Take one Yankee. Then another, and another, etc. In the end, you have the combination of 25 guys, each of whom is a Yankee. In other words, you have Yankees. The same is true if you take a musical note, combine it with another musical note, and well, ten more. You'll have "Notes" at the end. But in New Orleans, you'll have "Jazz." So, yes, Karl Malone is a Utah Note. Get it?


Let's start with the New York Liberty -- one of the better names in the league. But still a pain in the butt. I figure that the U.S. is the "cradle of liberty," so the states themselves must make up liberty. But take an Abe Lincoln quote: "A nation divided cannot stand." Take the members of the NY Liberty apart, and it crumbles. So each player must be a "Subject of King George." ("Lady Knick" is so much easier, though.)

The Indiana Fever? That's going to be a fun one, too. A fever is an "abnormally high body temperature," according to But really, we'd say someone has a fever if they're body temp hit oh, 100 degrees. No, let's say 99.8 degrees (you'll see why). Normal body temperature is 98.6; a fever is an extra 1.2 degrees. There are twelve players on a basketball team. Each player? "Tenth a Degree Above Normal." For those confused with the usage, it'd be like this: "Reggie Miller plays for the Indiana Pacers. He is an Indiana Pacer. Tamika Catchings plays for the Indiana Fever. She is an Indiana Tenth of a Degree Above Normal."

The most troubling is the Detroit Shock, not because of difficulty but rather due to a little pun. WNBA team names are often purposefully similar to their NBA brethren. That's why the Sacramento team is the Monarchs and the Mystics play in Washington. "Shock," in this case, is a play on words with "shocks" the car part, right? That's short for "shock absorber." Boring! The easiest way to get a shock is to rub your feet together on a rug in a humid room and touch some metal. That's really long, but "Humid Carpet Shimmy" works nicely.

For the Miami Sol, I'm going to need some help. "Sol" is Spanish for "Sun," and the Sun is made up of sun rays. (I know, I know. This is a sports blog, leave the physics for those who care.) "Ray" in spanish is "Rayo," which is boring. But until someone thinks of a better synonym that Babelfish can translate, or, if you can just give me the Spanish word, if you're a woman pro-B-baller in Miami, you're a "Rayo." Sorry.

The Charlotte Sting... yikes. Here's my cop-out answer. I assume it's referring to the pain one feels when a hornet (get it?) takes a shot at them. The only Hornet that can shoot is Baron Davis, so for the time being, these women are each a "Baron." Or "Baroness." Yeah, yeah, total cop-out.

Another tough one is the Orlando Miracle. Exactly what comprises a miracle? A lot of magic, perhaps -- that'd be where the name came from. But "Magic" is about as useful as "Miracle," so no luck there. A miracle is an inexplicable event that is usually attributed to a supernatural cause. We'll assume it's due to some sort of deity, and one who is responsive to prayer. But "prayer" has a basketball meaning too. Let's go with "Psalm." It serves them right for picking such a terrible nickname to start with.

The Phoenix NBA team is the Suns, so you'd expect the WNBA team to be the "Moons" or the "Sols." The former can't happen and the latter is taken, kind of. They get stuck with the Phoenix Mercury, and I get stuck with another headache. I'm going to assume that by Mercury, they mean that little planet and not the stuff found in thermometers (and no, not the kind Olympia Dukakis likes to imbibe). The best I can do is this: Mercury has a radius of about 3,000 miles -- that's 250 miles for each of the dozen teammates. That's not much help. I asked Google to provide some assistance, and it came up with just one result: this page. Conveniently, there's a town about 250 miles from Phoenix called "Alpine." For lack of a better option, a player on the Phoenix Mercury is now an "Alpiner."

The Portland Fire is a total cop-out name. 100%. If it were the Chicago Fire (why doesn't Chicago have a WNBA team?), that'd be OK. But this is dumb. No matter; they exist, and are in need of a way to describe the individual Fire member. I was going to try and use the dictionary to deconstruct fire to figure out what it's made of. Too hard. The difference between a fire and flame is simply how many matches you use, with a fire being lots and a flame being one. I could call each Fire player a "Flame," but there's that hockey team in Calgary with the name "Flames," showing that a bunch of flames does not make a fire. You need something else, like kerosene or something. But if you have twelve torches together, that's a fire. Sounds good to me: "Torch."

Last but not least is my favorite -- and not only because Sue Bird is cute! -- the Seattle Storm. What's a storm? A collection of clouds, basically. Black ones. Together, they may be pretty big, but apart, they're tiny. As much as it pains me to admit, Sue Bird is a Seattle Little Black Raincloud.