SALT LAKE CITY – I'm irritable. I'm irrational. My frustration is spiking.
No, I'm not in line at the DMV.
I'm trying to resolve something that has been annoying me for 33 years: How the Jazz can acquire a nickname that makes sense. Now is the most obvious time in the last three decades to make that happen. Elk, Spruce, Saints, Moose, Forest, Brine Shrimp, Peaks, Seagulls, Mountain Bluebirds ... you name it, I'm in favor of it.
Anything that has nothing to do with New Orleans is fine with me, as long as it doesn't end in "zz."
What's wrong with Trout? Mule Deer? Pheasants? Bighorns? Geese? Canyons?
How about the Utah Have-a-Nice-Days or the Salt Lake Oh-My-Hecks?
I bring this up because stories say the New Orleans Hornets are changing their name to the Pelicans. I love it. It's regional, different and Hornets never had a doggone thing to do with the Crescent City. The team moved there from Charlotte and the rest is bad nickname history.
It's none of my beeswax, of course, but in my mind the Big Easy became the Big Bees-y.
Meanwhile, here in the thin air our team is named after the music of the South. Good idea. I hear Jazz in the streets of Salt Lake as often as I hear yodeling. When the New Orleans Jazz moved to Utah in 1979, the team retained the existing name, thinking it would provide credibility and continuity. It mostly added ridicule.
To this day I see jokes by national writers about the Jazz and jazz music. After so many years, it makes me tired.
I'd settle for Wagon Masters, Crickets, Salt Shakers, Mountain Bluebirds or Sage, at this point.
When the Jazz first moved here, I was disturbed to learn Utah had kept the nickname. What would have happened if Utah had lured the 76ers? The logic was that by keeping its nickname, the franchise could maintain the integrity of its records section. Any future records could then be all-time Jazz franchise records, not just Utah era records.
Still, it was awkward from Day One. There's never a Mardi Gras parade in this town. I'm not even sure I've seen a trombone.
Seeing how New Orleans is willing to get a new name, why can't Utah?
I can only think of three reasons, and they're debate-stoppers: Stockton, Malone and Sloan.
There's too much history to change things, as much as I'd like.
Changing names would have been feasible for a long time — until 1997, to be precise. That's when the franchise became Utah's Jazz, not New Orleans'. It marked the first time anyone named Jazz made the NBA Finals. Now there are two players (Stockton, Malone) and a coach (Sloan) who went into the Hall of Fame, thanks to careers with the Utah Jazz. Deron Williams played for the Utah Jazz, as did Carlos Boozer and Adrian Dantley. The All-Star Game was hosted by the Utah Jazz.
Michael Jordan shot down the Utah Jazz. Kobe Bryant dominated them. Rony Seikaly, Derek Harper, LaPhonso Ellis and a few others rejected them. Phil Jackson implied they were a dirty team.
All while the Jazz were in Utah.
Changing the Hornets to Pelicans after a few years in Louisiana is one thing. That franchise was due for a new identity. But the Utah Jazz hosted the NBA Finals.
New Orleans doesn't host anything except bowl games with super and sugary names.
As much as I want a different name for Utah's NBA franchise, I realize it's too late. That train has left the station. (Speaking of which, what about Golden Spikers?) We Utahns are consigned to a lifetime of explaining that we really didn't pick the nickname. It basically came in the mail — just before the Mailman himself arrived — no charge.
No return to sender, either.
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