The sports landscape is littered with team names that fail to make any sense. Many are antiquated. Others require a precise knowledge of a region’s fauna. And some are relics of cities long since abandoned by the teams in question. It’s that latter situation that gives us sport’s single most bizarre team name: the Utah Jazz of the National Basketball Association. Today, we seek to remedy this travesty by renaming Utah’s sole major professional sports team with a title that more accurately reflects the state that it represents.
With the NBA lockout in full effect and some games already having been cancelled, we have plenty of time to concern ourselves with all manner of basketball minutia. While the owners and players attempt to solve trivial issues such as revenue sharing, we might as well to tend to far more pressing matters, such as nomenclature.
The Jazz started as an expansion team in New Orleans in 1974. During their five years in the Big Easy, the Jazz were the most appropriately named team in the NBA. They were also, however, one of the worst teams in the league. They averaged 32.2 wins per season and struggled financially. With so much to eat, drink and do in New Orleans, you can’t blame people for not wanting to spend their evenings watching horrible basketball.
At the end of the 1978-1979 season, the Jazz took their show on the road…permanently. They moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, a smaller market that promised more financial support from local businesses. The Jazz kept their colors (green, purple and gold, in honor of Mardi Gras) and name after the move to Utah. Thus began their reign as the champions of improperly named teams.
Surely, someone is playing jazz in Utah, but the Jazz name should have stayed in the bayou. If it had, perhaps the New Orleans Hornets, the city’s current team, would not have to suffer the indignity of being represented by a smarmy-looking insect sporting way too much “Creole Blue.”
So, what should Utah’s NBA team be called? Before you even suggest it, let’s nip one thing in the bud: Utah Mormons is not an option. Sports and religion do not need to be combined in any official capacity.
Any names related to the region’s Native American peoples are also off the table. The Anasazi and Navajo have long histories in Utah, but nothing is more belittling to a people then using them as your team’s mascot (looking at you, Washington Redskins, Kansas City Chiefs, University of Illinois Fighting Illini, et al). The Native American history in the region should be studied and celebrated, but it should not be emblazoned on souvenir windbreakers.
Utah has plenty going for it without insensitively focusing on its substantial Mormon population or Native American roots. In northern Utah, you have magnificent mountain ranges that provide spectacular views and some of the best skiing in the world. It’s no wonder that Salt Lake City, the state’s capital, hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics. From Alta to Park City, Utah offers some of the most challenging and impressive ski opportunities anywhere.
However, you can’t name a basketball team after another sport. That’s just confusing. Besides, Utah has more than skiing. In southern Utah, you’ll find the red rocks and magnificent canyons of Zion, Bryce, Arches, Capitol Reef, Monument Valley and Canyonlands National Parks. In these parts of the state, you’ll encounter unparalleled hiking and mountain biking trails, views and landscapes. The arid desert stretches in all directions broken up only by massive rock formations that glow as the sun sets.
Hunting is also quite popular in Utah, with deer, antelope, bighorn sheep, bears and other animals prevalent throughout the state. But, there are already too many teams in professional and college athletics named after animals (especially bears). Besides, no matter how many of them there might be in Utah, no one wants to name the team after the titmouse.
Utah is the Beehive State. You’ll see beehives on road signs throughout Utah. It’s a reference to how early settlers had to work together to create their own industry and community as they settled in what was then a fairly unforgiving region. Honeybees are also the state insect. Now, as we said, we want to avoid animal names, as naming the team the Utah Bees will just lead to jokes about how they took the name Jazz from New Orleans and then gave themselves a stinging insect mascot like the current New Orleans team. Things could get ugly.
So, we want a name that showcases Utah’s culture and raw natural wonder. We can’t just call them the Utah Xtreme because then they sound like a lame deodorant scent from 2004. Still, if they wanted to celebrate local culture, as they did when naming themselves the Jazz in Utah, then it makes sense to reference the adventure lifestyle in their current frontier environs. Even the state motto, “Life Elevated,” reflects Utah’s natural beauty and topography.
With all of this in mind, we have a few ideas for renaming the Utah Jazz. Rather than make this decision on our own, we’d like your help. Below are our suggestions for new names. Vote for the one that you think is best. It’s probably not going to change anything, but we’ll feel better knowing that we did our part to remedy this ridiculous situation.