The Cleveland Baseball Team let its guard down - - name change to Guardians is minor league.

Let's start this article off by saying what it is not.   I'm not here to whine about the Cleveland baseball team moving away from the "Indians" nickname.  True, I'm somewhat skeptical about who it really was that decided the use of that nickname was offensive to the vast majority of Native Americans -- but that is now all water under the bridge.

Guardians of Traffic | Erik Drost | Flickr

Speaking of bridges, your Cleveland baseball team is now named after one -- or at least a few Art Deco statues located on one.  Maybe you even noticed the "Guardians of Traffic" driving in to a game if you are from the right part of town.   If you are from outside of Cleveland, however, I'm sure you've never seen or heard of the "Guardians of Traffic".  And while it's kind of impressive, it really is not cool enough or unique enough where it would make a lasting impression.   

flikr image

The Guardians of Traffic is not the St. Louis Archway or the Golden Gate Bridge or the Empire State Building.  It's certainly not Mount Rushmore or the Statue of Liberty or the Eiffel Tower.  It's not even the Terminal Tower.

Nobody thinks of the Hope Memorial Bridge or the "Guardians" statues when they think of Cleveland.  If polled, I'm sure a stark minority of people living in the area would be able to identify the statues, much less tell you that they were called something with "Guardian" in the name.

As far as monuments associated with the city or region, the Guardians of Traffic are at best second rate.  And do we really want something that is second rate associated with a team that -- well -- is trending ever further toward a minor league proving ground?

Quick comparison.  Our neighbor down south in Cincinnati has a statue of a flying pig overlooking its beautiful Riverwalk.  Flying pig statues litter the city, in fact.   There is real history there that is rooted in the Cincy's past -- not just the statues themselves.  Cincinnati grew up as a pork slaughterhouse capitol.   

How hard would we laugh at the Cincinnati baseball team though if someday the Reds succumbed to a movement to change their name because it was offensive to communists or xenophobic and chose the "Flying pigs" as a replacement?  Yes, it is perfectly okay to name pubs and marathons using the "flying pig" mascot, but the Reds are a source of civic pride and deserve a more thoughtful nickname.   Minus the real history tied to the city, "Guardians" sits at about the same level.

Probably more Clevelanders are familiar with the iconic "Free" stamp located downtown than the Guardians of Traffic. 

flikr image

Pigeons are well known to congregate on the Free stamp.  Why not the Cleveland "Free Birds" then?  It would have a tie to the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame too.   Of course this is a joke, but the "Guardians" is only slightly less frivolous.

There were, of course, other and better nicknames available.   The "Spiders" would have been fine.  It's an historical team name and lends itself to many potentially cool graphic designs.   

Speaking of graphic designs, what 5th grader just learning to use photoshop put together the logo used for the Guardians roll out?

Compare the Spiders mock up that appears to have been created by someone who actually cares.


Sure, "Spider" is in the national slur database as a derogatory name for Italian-Americans, but nobody cares about that.   If they did there would be an uproar about the stereotypical, short, big-nosed Italian plumber who has entertained kids for decades without anyone ever raising a fuss.  Italian-Americans would be thrilled to have a team named after them, I'd guess.   The "Fighting Irish" certainly are.

 

Three hats with caricature imagery that doesn't seem to be all that different to me.

Even better, how about the Cleveland Blues?   That was the name of Cleveland's first professional baseball team.   It would provide symmetry with the Reds and Blues being Ohio's two professional baseball teams.   It ties in to the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame without being too silly like the Rockers, Rocks or Rox. And it pays homage to the Toledo Blue Stockings who had the first black professional baseball player to play in an all-white league: Moses Fleetwood Walker.   He did it decades before Jackie Robinson. Walker was a native Ohioan too!   The Reds were the Red Stockings before they dropped Stockings and became the Reds, by the way.

The Blues was perfect!  So why force something far inferior like the "Guardians"?   I can only guess that "Blues" was rejected because it might be considered by someone to be a "dog whistle" supporting the men in blue: policemen.   If so, it is a shame that this is the time in which we live. 

The "Tribe" would have been something that the team's fans could get behind, but the Indians steered a wide berth around anything that could possibly be related to Native Americans.   The idea that "Tribe" would offend seems preposterous for a team playing in a county named after a Native American tribe, near a lake named for another Native American tribe, and in a state whose name is an Native American word meaning "it is beautiful."  "Tribe" isn't even a term that is used exclusively to describe Native Americans.  

While I can accept that the word "Indian" has become to be considered derogatory -- it is a mistaken name used by Europeans based on their racial misidentification of Native Americans -- "Tribe" is not arguably offensive by any reasonable standard.

Guardians was the low-hanging fruit -- the safe choice.  A name with connections to a successful Marvel franchise, a liberal-leaning British daily newspaper and a failed XFL franchise that Cardell Jones quarterbacked for a hot minute.  Oh -- and a Cleveland roller derby team too.  

To boot, the moniker is based on the root word "guard" despite the fact that baseball is one of the only American team sports where no player is actually guarded.

Cleveland ownership knew that the team's long-standing fan base wouldn't particularly care for "Guardians" -- they had to.  The name is not a compromise -- instead it is a boring, ill-fitting capitulation to corporate pressure.   The name was chosen precisely because it is divorced from the baseball team's most recent 100-year history and is so meaningless as to guarantee that it does not offend.

In retrospect, it seems obvious why they didn't let the fans have any voice in picking the replacement name -- Guardians would have gone over like a lead zeppelin (one of the only nicknames I could think of that would be far worse).    In the end, the Cleveland baseball team's management proved that it is more concerned with the people standing outside Progressive Field than the fans who occupy its seats.  

Now we can look forward next year to buying a ticket to see Bradley Zimmer hitting .209 and playing a little man's game while still striking out like a prolific slugger -- but at least his jersey will still end in "dians".

Don't be surprised if you don't see a lot of Guardians gear in the stands in years to come -- or butts for that matter.





The Cleveland Baseball Team let its guard down - - name change to Guardians is minor league. The Cleveland Baseball Team let its guard down - - name change to Guardians is minor league. Reviewed by AT Dawgger on 6:58 PM Rating: 5

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.