With all the nation’s acute economic, cultural, and security problems, I hate to bring up yet another. But with the increasing number of sports teams throughout the republic, we’ll eventually have to face up to the acute shortage of vicious animals to name these teams after. Vintage franchises long ago scooped up kick-butt mascots such as Lions and Tigers and Bears and Rams. Others have made do nicely with less vicious but agreeable animals such as Cardinals and Orioles and Dolphins. Remaining pickings are pretty slim.
I was reminded of this while planning a trip next month to visit an old friend in New Hampshire, to celebrate his dad’s 100th birthday, not to mention to beat the Florida heat for a few days. The dad, a tough enough old number to have a team named after him, is of the original, independent Vermont Yankee stock. A combat infantryman on Okinawa during that dust up, and he doesn’t mind telling you. Just don’t tell him you can get him a good deal on a Honda. He’s still sore about it. He is to political correctness what the Indians were to Custer. Very different from the foundation executives and other Ben and Jerry’s types who have lately invaded that formerly traditional state full of red-meat patriots. The venerable dad’s brand helped make mid-century America the envy of the world. And there are too few of his kind left. But I digress…
On one of my New Hampshire days, my pal and I will attend a game between the New Hampshire Fisher Cats (a cat-like carnivore in the weasel family) and the Erie SeaWolves of the AA Eastern League at the Cats’ park in Manchester. (A coupla days later it will be Yankees and Sawks in Fenway.)
So I guess that’s one answer to the shortage of suitable animals. Just make one up. I’m not sure what a sea wolf is, with or without the missing space between the words that the team insists on. But, real or not, it has a suitable ring. Certainly more properly alpha-sounding than other Eastern League teams that could be visiting, including the Akron Rubber Ducks or the Richmond Flying Squirrels. (I will testify, under oath, that I’m not making these up.) I await the memoirs of a literary retired ballplayer that includes a chapter on “My Summer as a Flying Squirrel.” How impressed would the girls down at the Tiny Tap be if you introduced your friend to them in this wise: “This is Derek, he’s a Flying Squirrel?” Under this handicap, young Derek’s love life would be working uphill.
Before the baseball season started, the local Major League (sort of) entry here, the Tampa Bay Rays, made one of their all too frequent bone-headed moves, releasing James Loney, a slick-fielding first baseman who had hit .291 in his years with the Rays, to be replaced by a mobility-challenged guy named Logan Morrison whose projected out season this year will likely end at about .235 with 18 dingers. Loney is now doing well with the New York Mets. But thanks to being dropped by the Rays, he had to spend a few weeks at the front end of this season in AAA ball with the El Paso Chihuahuas. That’s right, the AAA Pacific Coast League entry for the San Diego Padres is named after a small, yappy, ill-tempered, bug-eyed dog.
This is not a new problem. Some years back the University of California Irvine Ant-Eaters played deep into the College World-Series. They did not win it all, but I couldn’t help but pull for a bunch of guys laboring under the burden of playing with such a name. (No. Zot! was not on their uniforms anywhere, though perhaps it should have been.)
Okay, next to the existential threats the country faces, the problem of young men hoping soon to be promoted to the next step after the Flying Squirrels, or a somewhat older man whose daughter, to the question, “What does your daddy do?” can only reply, “He manages the Rubber Ducks,” must be accounted pretty small. Perhaps these can even act as light diversions from the really hard stuff. But I can’t help but feel a bit of sympathy for a man of Loney’s caliber being obliged to play for a team called the Chihuahuas. He was well compensated for it economically, the Rays having to eat the last year of his large contract. But still… Chihuahuas. Damn. Please don’t tell me what’s on their uniforms.