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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Las Vegas Locomotives? Sin City Football Franchise's Lame Name and Lamer Rationale Bode Poorly for Today's San Francisco Unveiling

Posted By on Tue, Aug 11, 2009 at 6:30 AM

click to enlarge When is a name a trainwreck?
  • When is a name a trainwreck?
As we reported last week, the San Francisco franchise in the nascent United Football League will today unveil its name, logo, and uniform design at a 10:30 press conference at AT&T Park. Yes, we'll be there with a camera. But our expectations have now been markedly lowered.


Yesterday, the UFL announced the name of its Las Vegas franchise: The Las Vegas Locomotives. This is a remarkably banal and impotent name for a sports franchise -- in Vegas or anywhere. We can come up with scads of PG-13-rated names better suited for a Vegas football team than "Locomotives" in five minutes (and we'll do so after the jump). But this lousy, unimaginative team name was nowhere near as nauseating as league commissioner Michael Huyghue's bogus explanation for choosing it.

"It was critical for us to select team names that we felt best reflected the local community while simultaneously defining the personality of the team," he said. "Las Vegas was originally established in 1905 with the opening of the Salt Lake, San Pedro and Los Angeles Railroads. We wanted to honor the vast history of the city and the intrinsic benefits that this innovation provided to the community."

Wow. Rosemary Woods was more convincing when she "explained" how she inadvertently managed to erase 18 and a half minutes out of the Nixon tapes.

In what way does Locomotives"reflect" Las Vegas more than it would any other of the literally hundreds of western cities and towns that got their start when the train came through? Let's not waste words -- it doesn't.  

If you were to choose 100 random people and play word association games,

would any of them list "locomotives" as one of the first 10 terms

associated with the word "Vegas"? The Vegas oddsmakers would probably put better odds on the Detroit Lions winning the Super Bowl.

So what you've got here is a generic nickname that has absolutely no special resonance for a Las Vegas crowd. It'll be interesting to see how many of the other team nicknames are alliterate (this'll be a challenge with Orlando, but the chances of San Francisco's name starting with an "S" just got a bump from the bookmakers).

Finally, if the league couldn't think of a relevant nickname, at least they could have found something cool. But "Locomotives" is a term that conjures up mental imagery of hokey 1950s-era announcers introducing Superman cartoons or overall-wearing toddlers playing with choo-choo trains. It's just not a very modern or elegant word.

So what's going on here? I would guess that the strategic use of the term "community" in Huyghue's prepared statement implies that the league is trying to put forward some kind of misbegotten family-friendly vibe -- so no mention of the one thing Vegas has that other cities its size don't: massive gambling, gaming, and party-hearty industries. If this is the goal, it goes without saying that it's a mistake. Las Vegas is fine with its dual identity; its residents long ago came to grips with the fact their hometown is simultaneously the nation's decadent, booze- and gambling-saturated capital yet also a suburban sprawl of 553,000 people living in affordable homes and racking up massive air-conditioning bills. Look, the city's own tourism ads tout the wild, anything-goes nature of Vegas and its mayor is a paid pitchman for Bombay Sapphire gin who told elementary school children that one of his favorite hobbies was "drinking."

Las Vegans get it. They don't need a whitewashing job -- and, frankly, if that's the UFL's notion, it's insulting to everyone's intelligence. And if that's not what the league is doing here -- then they have quality control issues. Either way, it's a shame: it's easy to sit on the sidelines and predict imminent failure for a costly new sporting endeavor in this business environment, but Huyghue and the league have put forth a solid business model and feature teams manned by competent players and former top-level coaching staffs. Why ruin that good work with such a transparently awful team name and ridiculous explanation for choosing it?

Anyhow, here's a handful of Vegas team names that are plenty better than "Locomotives," knocked out in five minutes:

Aces, Blackjacks, Dealers, Dice, Desperadoes, Jokers, Suicide Kings, Hitmen, High-Rollers, Rollers, Fear, Scorpions,  Highwaymen, Heavyweights, Bombardiers, Stallions, Slingers, Convoy ... time's up.

Anyhow, we're now more than a bit wary of what kind of name the league feels "reflects the local community" here. We'll know soon enough.


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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Bio:
Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" is a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly, which he has written for since 2007. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers... more

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