Connecticut — my home state, and the finest state in the union — has no professional sports team. So we have to take minor-league baseball very seriously: The closest we get to the big leagues is a Colorado Rockies Double-A affiliate, the New Britain Rock Cats. “Rock Cats” is an awful name; fortunately, the team is moving to Hartford and being rechristened. This is a big moment for the Nutmeg State.
Public opinion has been solicited in choosing the new name. So far, the catastrophically awful “top ten” choices include the “river hogs,” the “screech owls,” the “blue frogs,” and the “yard goats.” If you don’t follow minor-league sports, you probably don’t realize that giving minor-league teams stupid names is sort of a tradition — my local minor-league hockey team is called the “Sound Tigers” — but this “top ten” list goes too far. Something has to be done.
Connecticut is stuffed with history and character; the Rock Cats’ owners could probably find something more appropriate than random combinations of animal names and nouns. For instance: Only one man signed all four of America’s founding documents: Connecticut’s Roger Sherman, who was described by Thomas Jefferson as “a man who never said a foolish thing in his life.” How about the “Hartford Shermans”? There’s precedent for that: The Cleveland Browns aren’t named after the color, but after legendary football coach Paul Brown. How about using Connecticut’s “state hero,” Nathan Hale — the “Hartford Halers”? This would be especially poignant, because Connecticut’s last major-league team was hockey’s “Hartford Whalers.”
Connecticut set the national standard in abolitionism, through native son Henry Ward Beecher, and his sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe. How about the “Hartford Beechers”? “Beecher’s Bibles,” as you may recall, were the Sharps rifles that Beecher shipped to Bleeding Kansas for John Brown and the Free-Staters. Connecticut has always been an arsenal of democracy. We were the birth place of Winchester: How about the “Hartford Repeaters”? Colt was actually founded in Hartford — how about the “Hartford Peacemakers”? (That would be a particularly appropriate baseball name; before NASA moved to Texas, the Houston Astros were the Houston Colt .45s.)
We could even draw from Connecticut’s intellectual arsenal of democracy, and name the team the “Hartford Buckleys.” But it might be better to save that for the day Major League Baseball comes to New Haven.
To my fellow Nutmeggers, I say we have been treated as second-class sports fans for too long; too long have we borne the yoke of stupid sports names. Our history and canon of great men are second to none. Our fauna, however, do not include “river hogs” or “yard goats.”
To the rest of the country, I’ll point out that this is your fight too. Unless you want your next minor-league team to be named the “Puce Parrots” or the “Pond Turkeys.”
The “New Britain Rock Cats,” the team to be renamed, is on Facebook, and on Twitter @RockCats. Don’t let our sports names go gentle into that good night.