May 1994: Raptors Chosen As Team Name
“What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet."
--Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)
Mr. White: Who cares what your name is?
Mr. Pink: Oh yeah that's easy for you to say you've got a cool sounding name. How about we trade, OK? You're Mr. Pink.
Sorry Shakes, but I’m going to have to side with Mr. Pink on this one. After spending well over a decade cheering aloud a team name with the cultural resonance of a goddamn Rubik’s Cube, you’d understand. (And yes, I agree—this list has gone on for far too long when two Shakespeare quotes appear in one week). Well after 2 months, 11 days, and 49 posts we have finally reached the top of our list and arrived at an inevitable conclusion: The Flagrancy’s #1 Dubious Raptor Moment is the naming of the franchise itself. But alas, this is not a subjective judgment, but a logical decision.
First, it was fixed from the start. On February 10th 1994, while John Bitove Jr. announced a PR-friendly “Name Game” inviting fans to submit a new team moniker, his lawyers were officially registering The Toronto Raptors name. But to ensure the merchandise-buying public remained engaged, the organization went through a charade by floating a number of god-awful alternate names for consideration. Gems like: The Hogs, The Tarantulas, and The Terriers. For the love of God Shamgod, I’ll choose a kick to the groin if my other options are disembowelment or cheering for the Knicks. There was never another choice.
Second, the name has absolutely no connection to the city, let alone anything younger than 65 million years of age. When the Name Game farce started, the popular names that began to surface in the papers were The Mounties, The Towers, and—my personal fave—The Beavers. Still not great, but didn’t the organization realize that fans were interested in a team name with a cultural link to the city? Well, apparently they did, because when the Raptor team colours were announced, the team spokesman went to excruciating lengths to describe the uniform’s “Naismith Silver” accents, commemorating Canadian basketball inventor James Naismith. Forget Toronto, what is the goddamn connection between James Naismith and the colour silver? “Naismith Peach”, I can understand (but in no way support), but “Naismith Silver”? It’s not tacky, it’s insulting. Eh?
Lastly, the name was a painfully obvious marketing ploy to capitalize on the popularity of Jurassic Park. Bitove Jr. admitted as much, wondering aloud: “Who knows how long dinosaurs are going to be hot?” Good question John; the answer: 3 years. That’s when the first of two terrible Jurassic Park sequels came out and turned people off the movie, and Raptor team merchandise accordingly. So while Raptor paraphernalia shot up to 7th most popular in the NBA shortly after its debut, it has displayed the staying-power of a Viagra-fueled erection. Charlotte fans should feel grateful that their owners did not suffer from such short-term gimmicky thinking when they selected Bobcats over fleeting pop-culture icons like The Hobbits, The Sith, or The Brokeback Mountaineers.
If anything is reassuring, it is that the current Raptor regime seems to have learned from its mistake. After 12 embarrassing years, the organization has finally listened to its fans and introduced new team uniforms, replacing the ALF-like dinosaur logo with a claw, and selecting red (you know, like “Canada Red”) as the dominant colour. So in the spirit of making amends for missteps of the past and looking towards the future, we shall conclude The 50 Dubious Raptor Moments. But not before we issue one final warning to Raptor management: do not forget your past—as embarrasing as it may be—for those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it. And if history begins to repeat, and dubiousity rears its humiliating head, The Flagrancy will be there, watching.