Recently, two teams I have a lengthy history of supporting decided to change their names.
That fact alone is not that surprising. In recent years, teams changing their names has been a rather common occurrence with the reasoning behind the name changes running the gambit from bowing to pressure from outside forces, to wanting to freshen a brand to sell more merch.
In keeping with that tried-and-true model, in the latest example of the name game, one team changed their name due to outside pressure from groups who considered their old name to be offensive, and the other team changed their name for what can likely be called a money grab to force their fans to buy new merchandise and to put their special seal on a new asset.
In both cases, the new names left me feeling less than excited to continue rooting for either team.
The first example of rebranding gone bad is the Sugar Land Skeeters becoming the Sugar Land Space Cowboys.
Because when I think of a great name for a Minor League Baseball team I think, “hey let’s find a title from the Steve Miller Band’s catalog and go with that.” I suppose it could have been worse and they could have called them Maurice.
But all tributes to the Joker aside, Skeeters was a name that reflected the fact that this side of Texas is ground zero for the blood sucking insects.
The rebranding trying to tie the Space Cowboys to actual aerospace workers and the “old west” history of a Houston suburb just falls flat on so many levels.
If the team really wanted to pay homage to the Sugar Land past, they could have gone with calling the team the Imperials in honor of the rich history of Sugar Land as a producer of Imperial sugar.
Better still, they could have left well enough alone and built on the legacy of the Sugar Land Skeeters instead of feeling the need to create a new brand.
In many of my marketing and management classes the value of building on an existing brand was front and center in lessons on what good marketeers do.
Instead, of following those tried and true principles the team decided to rebrand mirror the Astros lest we forget that they are an affiliate of the Major League cheaters.
In addition to a really lame new name, one of my favorite mascots, Swatson, is being sent on an imaginary trip around the world with another former Skeeters mascot named Moe and being replaced by a blue space dog. Call me crazy, but wouldn’t the sidekick of a space cowboy be a space horse and not a space dog?
I mean I get that dogs are man’s best friend and all that, but a horse, or a cow, really would have sold the whole space cowboy theme a bit more unless the space dog is meant to corral all of the sheep into buying into the new name.
As part of the rebrand launch back stories were written for the new mascot as well as detailed descriptions of how the team colors and logo were designed. When a marketer has to spend several paragraphs justifying their actions one really has to question their own buy-in on the project.
Talk about the pompatus of self-righteousness.
Shortly after the news broke that the Houston Astros bought the Skeeters, I wrote a column noting that they would likely take something I considered special and turn it into something fit for a metal trash can, and in a little over a year they did just that.
Sorry Space Cowboys but this is one fan who will not be joining you on your new quest to get money from the citizens of Space City. I would rather cling to my good memories of Swatson and the Skeeters while taking my money and running away from your rebrand.
The second example of rebranding gone bad is the Washington Football Team becoming the Washington Commanders.
As noted before in several other columns, I was born outside of Washington D.C. and was a fan of the burgundy and gold from a very young age. I even have the Hogs nose to prove it.
While I will certainly concede that the team needed to move past their use of Native American branding, the Commanders just makes me think of a bad G.I. Joe cover band.
It also creates the issue that one usually would have a single Commander in Chief versus multiple Commanders. Or as the old saying goes, too many chefs ruin the soup.
I am not alone in thinking that the Commanders name fails to capture the imagination. Former players and fans alike have not been afraid to unleash the full fury of their displeasure about the new name on various social media platforms.
I get that the team needed to find a name that they could trademark and make money off of. One of the early favorites for a new name was the Washington Red Wolves which would have allowed fans to keep singing a certain song by replacing the word “skins” with the word “wolves.”
Sadly, for that football team in Washington, Arkansas State University already held the trademark for Red Wolves. So, any thoughts of singing Hail to the Red Wolves in D.C. were quickly dashed.
I get that the Red Wolves fell out of the pack of potential names, but are we to believe that after nearly three years of trying to find a name that was not offensive and could be trademarked, the only options was Commanders?
The anticlimactic reveal of Commanders follows the news last year of the Cleveland Indians becoming the Cleveland Guardians which is another name that falls short.
As I noted last year in a column about the Guardians, there was already a team in Cleveland named the Guardians. So, not only did the Cleveland Indians brain trust come up with a less than stunning name based on some monuments on a bridge, they did not even do enough research to realize that the name was already in use in their own town.
One certainly hopes that after three years of searching the Washington Football Team at least verified that there wasn’t already a Washington Commanders franchise in town.
I realize that there are likely people who think that the Space Cowboys and Commanders are good team names. Some of those people may even not be employed by the two franchises that chose those names.
But for me and my time and money, I am not planning to give any thought to the Space Cowboys or the Commanders, since they are doing me wrong, doing me wrong.
I am not ruling out a return to the Ballpark in Sugar Land since my desire to see live baseball will likely overcome my disdain for the Space Cowboys name and a desire to not give any money to anything owned by the Astros.
But, if I do return to Constellation Field, I will either be wearing my Skeeters gear, or showing support for the Round Rock Express or Albuquerque Isotopes.
As far as the Commanders go, I will remember the glory days of my youth in a Maryland suburb where I led the Super Bowl cheers in elementary school. Those are enough Lovey-dovey, lovey-dovey, lovey-dovey all the time memories without tarnishing them by going commando for the Commanders.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a strange urge to listen to the Steve Miller Band.
Copyright 2022 R. Anderson