In a matter that has already provoked plenty of bilious reactions, nothing stirred up more public resentment than Bud Adam’s decision to hang onto the Oilers’ name after originally promising Nashville fans a change.
Speaking after the move’s initial excitement wore off, Adams said that he was too fond of the team’s old name to see itand the history of sporadic competence to which it alludedso quickly discarded. Many Nashvillians regarded the change of heart as just another sign of Adams’ penchant for perfidy.
Lingering resentment over this issue was such that Adams finally threw in the towel last summer and promised to change the name for the next season. Since then, there were plenty of suggestionssome serious, some sillyabout what the name should become.
On Saturday, he changed it. Now that the moment of decision has passed, traditionalists will argue that “Oilers” made more sense to keep, while revisionists will deconstruct the choice of “Titans” and suggest other, more appropriate names.
But the more I ponder the question, the more I think Bud changed the wrong name. While I never had a problem with “Oilers,” other than a continuing impulse to relapse into “Houston Oilers,” what’s done with “Titans” is done. But the real problem lies with the “Tennessee” part of the name. “Tennessee Oilers” may have been a pretty stupid name for a team from Tennessee, but at least it had the virtues of being so dumb as to be unusual and distinctive. It wasn’t chosen in a focus group with an eye to selling the most souvenir merchandise, and it was no more stupid than most of the names being considered.
That said, what hurts with both the use of “Oilers” and “Titans” is that the city of Nashville paid the price to get the team but is not mentioned in its name. The Oilers/Titans want to affix themselves to “Tennessee” to generate higher interest around the state outside of the home city. That means corresponding benefits for attendance, ratings, and merchandise sales. It’s a formula that has worked elsewhere. Consequently, the Phoenix team is called “Arizona,” the team from the Twin Cities is called “Minnesota,” and the team from Charlotte is called “Carolina” (outdoing the others by being named for not one, but two, states).
The experience in Tennessee has mostly been one of general ennui, except in Memphis, which is going through its typical Memphis-like distortions of the spirit.
Nashville has paid a hefty price to get the team here, for better or for worse. The monetary price, however, has been relatively insignificant compared to the price extracted from the community in terms of political divisions created. Those divisions have not been totally non-constructive: It’s worthwhile for any community to discuss priorities and the best ways to reach them. But it has been a painful and rending process with considerable recriminations, ones persisting even now, when the city has passed the point of no return.
The best thing Bud could do to help repair those divisions would be to let Nashville have the team. How ’bout those Nashville Titans?
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