They're considering a new name for the Fort Wayne Wizards when they move to Harrison Square, and I already have a few favorites:
• Fort Wayne Questionable Investments.
• Fort Wayne Downtown Revitalizers.
• Fort Wayne Empty Condos.
Sorry. I had to get my sarcasm out of the way right off the bat, so to speak.
There remain a lot of questions about the $125 million Harrison Square project, much of it resting on whether the public/private financing leans a little too heavily on the public's backside.
But that debate is not for this column. Feel free to visit “The Rant.”
Today, we're talking team names, a topic both frivolous and essential. It's frivolous because it doesn't affect the way a team plays and primarily serves as a marketing tool. It's essential because fans have to feel a sense of pride in their team's name. No one wants to wear a T-shirt that says Fort Wayne French Impressionists.
The owners of the Wizards plan to change the Class A baseball team's name when the franchise moves from Memorial Stadium to the new stadium downtown. They've invited fans to submit their suggestions until June 30 at Harrison. Some lucky fan will win season tickets by submitting a name the owners undoubtedly already have in mind.
But has there ever been an improvement when a team name has changed?
I preferred the Fort Wayne Flames over the Indiana Kick.
I preferred the Fort Wayne Freedom over the Fort Wayne Fusion, although the Fort Wayne Confusion would have fit the franchise well.
I preferred the Washington Bullets over the Washington Wizards, who copied our then-unique name.
Name changes that have worked out usually had some downtime between the switch. I'm thinking Milwaukee Braves to Milwaukee Brewers, Seattle Pilots to Seattle Mariners and Bobby Knight to Bob Knight (his downtime being the Richard Mandeville era).
When Fort Wayne landed the baseball franchise from Kenosha, Wis., in 1992, a contest to name the team settled on five finalists: Wizards, Kekiongas, Sandbaggers, Cavalry and Summit City Pioneers.
The only one worth revisiting is the Kekiongas, because that was the city's first known pro baseball team in 1871. In fact, the Wizards wore throw-back jerseys with “Kekiongas” across the chest occasionally in the 1990s. However, naming a team with an Indian association might be a tough sell in politically correct times. It would be done as a tribute, but designing the mascot would be impossible.
Looking back, did someone seriously think Sandbaggers was a viable option in 1992 or was that simply to make “Wizards” more palatable to the magic-averse? Summit City Pioneers? Cavalry? None of those lame names deserve a second chance.
Fort Wayne Falcons was a popular, if bland, choice in those early days of name debate. It might still be popular. It's still bland.
I like Fort Wayne Generals, with apologies to Wayne High School. I like Fort Wayne Forts, because it's quirky. I like Fort Wayne Johnnies, with a nod to Appleseed. And, while it doesn't tie into history, it'd make us feel hip and alliterate: Fort Wayne Funk, anyone?
The measuring stick should be: Is the potential new name better than Wizards? If not, it shouldn't be changed simply for change's sake.
Renaming the Fort Wayne Wizards could be filled with potential regret. (Keep in mind the Fusion logo that looked like an eye after a late night at Piere's.) However, a name change guarantees one thing in my cynical mind: Merchandise sales.
Fans will snatch up the going-out-of-style Wizards apparel first, for keepsakes and memories. Then, when the new name hits the caps and jerseys and T-shirts, they'll put some coin down for that, too.
One lingering thought: It's too bad we aren't building a stadium west of Jefferson Pointe. Then we could rename the team the Fort Wayne Annexers of Aboite.