In 2020, we are seeing athletes ask their teams to make a real change in their image across the sports landscape. One easy, simplistic way to begin that change is through language. More specifically, seeing the names we use to refer to schools, mascots, and team names as carrying weight. Changing them may be a tangible step in the right direction. But what about teams that move? If their name doesn’t make sense, should they also change? Insert: The Birmingham Bayhawks.
Ok, that is admittedly not their surefire name. The Lake Eerie Bayhawks, the G-League affiliate of the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans, are moving south. There’s nothing wrong with the Bayhawks. They have a cool mascot, cool colors, and are far from morally problematic. But… there’s no “bay” in Birmingham.
Birmingham and Alabama both offer a multitude of directions for this one. Luckily for the front office, we at Belly Up are here to help out. Here’s what we came up with.
Parker: The Alabama Mockingbirds
Currently, there is no major professional sports franchise in the state of Alabama besides the University of Alabama. There are baseball teams in the AA Southern League, two Southern Professional Hockey League teams, a Gulf Coast Premier League soccer team, a United Soccer League team, and an Independent Women’s Football League team. They may not pass the Crimson Tide in the pecking order, but this G-League team may be the most prominent pro sports team in the Yellowhammer state. So why not represent the whole thing?
The Alabama Mockingbirds not only makes an effort to speak for the state but harkens back to one of the best representations of it without referencing Bear Bryant or Nick Saban. To Kill a Mockingbird, a book read by students all over America, is the way in which Alabama impacts the most people outside ruining their Saturdays each fall. Scout, Atticus, Tom Robinson, and Boo Radley are more memorable names than many of Big Al’s quarterbacks.
Mockingbirds fall into the same avian family as the Pelicans, but they are still distinct enough to be their own. The grey and white feathered mascot would fit in well with some well placed crimson trimmings, but could also play off of the red, blue, and gold the Pelicans rock.
Kevin: Birmingham Sabans Presented by Belly Up Sports
I could have gone a lot of directions with this mascot. While professional sports are limited in Birmingham currently, there is a substantial history to choose from. The Iron, Fire, Thunderbolts, and Baraccuda all called the Pittsburgh of the South home. Could they go with the history of the state, calling themselves the Birmingham Dega to pull on Talladega, or even the Birmingham Bears, pulling on Bear Bryant. However, I am going to go with the name I actually submitted: The Birmingham Saban’s Presented by Belly Up Sports.
Yes, I actually submitted that. While you may alienate that cow college on the other side of the state, the proximity to Atlanta will make them Hawks fans. By calling yourselves the Sabans, you will lock up western Alabama, with small pockets across the north and south. So, why Saban and not Bear?
Alabama football had their dark ages from 1982 to 2007. Yes, Gene Stallings won a Natty (suck it Miami), and yes, Ray Perkins and Bill Curry were fine. But it was the decline of Rome. Mike Dubose and Dennis Franchione continued this decline, and Mike Price’s stay for a cup of coffee was the death blow. After that, the barbarians overran Tuscaloosa, with Mike Shula and his .303 win percentage (.208 in the SEC). Then came our white night: Nick Saban. Saban brought hope to Alabama to the tune of five National Championships in twelve years. The Birmingham Sabans would give basketball fans in Alabama something to root for, and would give hope to future professional franchises in Alabama.
Shannon: Alabama Pitbulls
First of all, screw Kevin and his idea. Don’t even give him the satisfaction of considering a Roll Tide-themed mascot (#WarEagle). Now, onto my pick. The Bayhawks will act as the G-League affiliate for the Pelicans and New Orleans natives. If you are not an Animal Planet aficionado like myself, you may not be aware that the show Pitbulls and Parolees takes place in NOLA (after originating in CA). Villalobos Rescue Center is the largest pitbull rescue in the world, and they do amazing work; not only for the adorable little furballs, but for ex-cons as well. They moved to Louisiana after realizing that not only is the New Orleans animal population wrecked every time there is a major storm, but animal neglect and over-population is actually a huge issue in the South. I have never lived South of the Mason-Dixon, so this was news to me.
Before I get into why this is a great name option, there are 23-million animals currently living in underserved communities, 87-percent of those are not spayed or neutered (hence the overpopulation issue), and 77-percent of those have never seen a vet.
This is a great name option for a couple reasons. There is the tie to the Pelicans because of Villalobos, even though the team is located in Alabama. Animal neglect and overpopulation is a huge issue throughout the South, and this is a huge opportunity to advocate. On a more granular level, and an issue that is quite close to my heart (because I have my own), pitbulls are supremely misunderstood and are very rarely seen in a positive light on the national stage.
Did you know that the American Kennel Club won’t even recognize the American Pit Bull Terrier as a breed?! I promise they’re a breed, mine is currently snoring next to me. This is an amazing opportunity for the G-League and the NBA to advocate for an issue that is often overlooked. As well as a way to tie into the roots of the franchise they’re affiliated with.