BAYHAM: The NOLA Pelicans Are About To Take Flight

pelicans logoThe late Vic Schiro was known for dropping some real rhetorical gems during his time as mayor of New Orleans and one of them was the ultimate politically agreeable statement that “if it’s good for New Orleans, I’m for it.”

Having an NBA team is good for the city, creating direct jobs and related employment opportunities. The team has also brought positive attention to the city, especially the 2008 All-Star game that proved to be a major public relations milestone for the Crescent City’s recovery.

It was a successful event particularly in contrast to the highly anticipated yet violence-marred 2007 All-Star Game in Las Vegas.

And having an NBA team has another hidden benefit, as it tangentially helps Louisiana’s Hollywood South movie industry. More so than any other professional sport, basketball is associated with glamor, in no small part because it allows celebrities via-courtside seats to make their presence known.

Actors, actresses and singers like going to NBA games and having a team might help sell a celebrity into weathering the local humidity to do that film shoot in Louisiana.
Until Tuesday afternoon I had never bought a single NBA product in my life.

But I am now the proud owner of a New Orleans Pelicans cap.

The NBA is good for New Orleans, I’m for it and I have the red hat to prove it.

As for the franchise’s new moniker, I’m not yet sold.

New Orleans and Hornets were not a good fit, though the impish Hugo will go down as the most amusing sports mascot the city has ever had.

The “Hornets” name that was imported with the franchise from Charlotte is rooted in the American Revolution when Lord Cornwalis’s declared in exasperation that the North Carolina town was a hornets’ nest of rebellion against the British.

Granted there are worse things for a sports team to be named after than an ornery winged insect whose body contains a venom-loaded weapon (see Stanford Cardinal for the worst possible mascot/symbol) but the connection between New Orleans and bees just isn’t there.

Ironically the place where bees are closely associated with a major city is, wait for it, Salt Lake City, home to Utah Jazz.

Utah’s nickname is the Beehive State and the flying bug housing complex is on the state’s seal and flag and in sculpture form at the state capitol.

When the team’s new owner Tom Benson broached the subject of franchise rebranding, from colors to moniker, New Orleanians forwarded their suggestions to the same black hole Benson files most people’s unsolicited advice.

One television sports journalist seemed to make it his mission in life, if judging by his twitter feed, to have the team named the Krewe (for those cursed with living outside of Louisiana, it’s a colloquialism for Mardi Gras parade organizations), though that idea never seemed to have left the den.

My favorite of the popularly circulated names was the Brass, which has a connection to the city’s rich musical heritage and was the name of the minor league hockey team that played in the New Orleans Arena.

The name I came up with was Soul, as it was a reference to the city’s music scene and is in the same name genre neighborhood of the NFL team. Also it’s something that I find unique about New Orleans. While every city has a heart, New Orleans has a soul, which loomed large even when its pulse was faint after Katrina.

The move towards the Pelicans was reported in December by the blog BehindTheBuckPass.com that an NBA lawyer filed trademark paperwork regarding Pelicans, Mosquitos, Swamp Dogs, Bullsharks and the Rougarou, kind of a Cajun werewolf with a fear of frogs. Needless to say against that competition, Pelicans had no problem winning the beauty contest.

Pelicans effortlessly glide, perch upon dock pilings watching the world go by and paddle about the water like an overgrown duck.

The pelican is a graceful bird pictured in religious imagery and the Louisiana flag tearing its breast open to feed its own blood to its young.

Basketball is not a graceful sport; it’s a fast moving, intense contest and it can be the most self-centered sport in the world as it allows athletes to showboat more than any other.
There’s also the matter that New Orleans’ longtime minor league baseball team was called the Pelicans.

The new color scheme is far more agreeable, which are the same as those on the New Orleans flag.

Pelicans and basketball just aren’t a good fit; but that’s what the Bensons wanted to name their team, so that’s whom I will be cheering for in the cheap seats on Wednesday night at the renamed franchise’s first regular season game.

Go Horne…Pelicans!

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