Last month Portland learned we'd be getting an expansion franchise in the NBA's D-League. The new team starts playing home games at the Expo in the 2009-2010 season. The most important thing to know about the D-League is that the D stands for developmental, not the league's level of remove from the NBA (there are no B or C leagues). It's the official NBA minor league. This is a welcome development for local sports fans, but the new organization has a problem: their Name-The-Team contest. The possibilities are so bad that the team is liable to get saddled with a real stinker. Here are the choices, with my own thoughts, in alphabetical order.
MAINE BEACONS This isn't too bad, but team names should sound tough, and a beacon is something you'd be relieved to see. Nobody ever said, in a panicked voice, oh no, it's a beacon! What would the team logo be, Edward Hopper's watercolor of Portland Head Light? As weak a choice as Beacons is, it's the second-best option.
MAINE CRUSHERS Four of the seven potential names have a lobster connotation. I'm all for pimping local products, but isn't four of seven choices too much glory for the lobster? What about blueberries, the paper industry? (Maine still has one, right?) And, if the team is called the Crushers, it will be too easy for sports editors to write snarky headlines mocking them when they lose.
MAINE CLAWS This reminds me of Dr. Claw, from Inspector Gadget, or of professional wrestler Blackjack Mulligan's submission hold, the Iron Claw. Had this potential name been a paean to either of those sources, then maybe, but, sadly, it isn't. Therefore, it's a terrible idea. Opposing fans will wave sticks of butter and those ubiquitous plastic lobster bibs at our guys when they're shooting free throws. We can't have that.
MAINE DESTROYERS Now we're getting somewhere. Celebrating Maine shipbuilding and naval history is better than continually flogging the over-exposed lobster. Plus, Destroyers sounds tough. Lobsters can only hurt people allergic to shellfish. A destroyer can anchor in a harbor and shell a city until the burgh is smoldering. Plenty of people have said, Oh no, it's a destroyer! I'm sure that sailors did all the time during World War Two, right before pooping themselves. The team could blast the great Kinks song "Destroyer" during warm-ups, ignoring the lyrics, which concern the further adventures of Lola, the transvestite. In my opinion, Maine Destroyers is the best of the seven possibilities. The only negative connotation is that Maine Destroyers sounds like a back-up to George Thorogood's backing band, but I can live with that.
MAINE RED CLAWS Bad for all the same reasons as the Maine Claws, but made worse because it's a reference to Red Auerbach. It's corny. It sounds slightly commie, too. If the team wants to honor Auerbach, call them the Stogies. Take that, Partnership for a Tobacco Free Maine!
MAINE SWARM Apparently, Maine's official state insect is the honeybee. This is hardly unique. Sixteen other states also officially honor the honeybee, but I always thought that Maine's state insect was the black fly. If it isn't, it should be. As a little kid I had a T-shirt that claimed the black fly was Maine's state bird. Funny stuff, but either way, a bad team name.
MAINE TRAPS Can you really name a basketball team after something that tourists top with glass to make vacation-home coffee tables? Only with your vote, sports fans. To do so, call 207.210.6655, or go to www.nbamaine.com, but please, please, nothing insect- or crustacean-related.
Rick Wormwood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.