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I keep thinking about the Capital City Go-Go, and how much I love it.
Capital City Go-Go is the brand-new, not-yet-debuted NBA G League affiliate of the Washington Wizards. (The G League is the latest name for the NBA’s minor league, formerly the NBA Development League. The “G” moniker makes more sense in wordmark form, where the G is clearly lifted from corporate sponsor Gatorade.)
I don’t love the team, because there is no team yet. But, stupid as this sounds, I love the marketing and branding exercise. Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which will run this team (along with the Wizards, Mystics, Caps, et al.), has gone out of its way to build its entire campaign around things genuinely integral to the District.
It’s rare that you read quotes from a VP-level marketing brandbot and find yourself nodding along, but that’s where I found myself during this rollout. The talking points were focused on growing the profile of D.C.’s native go-go music and the neighborhood that’s home to the team’s forthcoming arena and practice facility. It’s brandspeak, of course, but at least it’s brandspeak with a heart and a location and an identity.
Even beyond the specific local pride triggers, I love a team name that sounds like a singular noun—the Miami Heat or the Utah Jazz or the Chicago Fire. And I love a team’s official location being something other than the actual name of its city or state (even if the Golden State Warriors is the only other modern example I can think of. Maybe the New England Patriots, if you stretch, or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are repping the body of water.)
Which got me thinking about the other major sports teams in town, and how all of their names need to change. The ones that aren’t derogatory are boring, and the derogatory one has no direct relevance to, well, anything. So I’ve tried to fix them all.
If we’re willing to set aside questions of offensiveness, the NBA team is clearly the worst of the bunch. Wizards has always been a boring, anodyne name—the anti-Bullets. Abe Pollin had the best intentions in the world in making that change, but took it a bit too far. The other finalists for the name at the time—Express, Stallions, Dragons, and, memorably, Sea Dogs—were all better options. Sea Dogs is stupid, but at least it’s stupid in a bizarre, incomprehensible way. And Express has that singular noun sound that I’m chasing.
But I’m not going with any of those. Instead, I’m compromising what I really want to do, which is go back to Bullets, and combining it with the singular noun format. That removes the shooting spree overtones and honors Pollin’s renaming wish while not totally chucking a really good name. And instead of the generic “Washington,” let’s go with the specific neighborhood that the arena disrupted and/or revitalized and/or sits in. The basketball team should now be the Chinatown Bullet.
The hockey team isn’t nearly so bad off, but they too would benefit from being a singular noun. (Everything would benefit from being a singular noun, even though it would drive copy desks across the nation crazy.) So let’s make the Capitals the Capitol. And if we’re going to do that, I kinda love the hubris created by using the building’s full name as your team name: The Washington Capitals basically declare themselves America’s team (NHL edition) and become the U.S. Capitol. (Everyone will still call them the Caps anyhow.)
The Nats are another one where there’s nothing inherently wrong with the name, it’s just not as good as it should’ve been. When baseball was coming back to D.C., there was a strong push to call the team the Homestead Grays, reviving the name of a team from the Negro leagues that played in D.C. That would’ve been a great moniker, and I think we should keep Grays. (It’s not singular, but the odd pluralizing of Gray has a similar syntactic effect, at least to me.) But the Homestead part referred to Homestead, Pennsylvania, and we don’t need any of that. Let’s again drill down to the neighborhood level and call them the Navy Yard Grays.
Which brings us to the football team. Their place name is easy, if uninteresting: With roots in D.C., a stadium in Maryland, and training facilities and offices in Virginia, there’s really only one possibility. And their singular noun is easy, too: Forever mired and bogged down in turmoil, they’re obviously going to be the DMV Swamp. (The fact that “DMV” also calls to mind the mind-crushing bureaucracy of the Department of Motor Vehicles is a bonus.)
See? Was that so hard? Now implement those changes across four multi-million dollar organizations and our pro teams will sound almost as cool as our minor-league basketball squad that doesn’t even exist yet.