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SPORTS TEAMS NAMED AFTER MOVIES: A SHORT HISTORY

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SPORTS TEAMS NAMED AFTER MOVIES

In honor of the Toronto Raptors’ continued push to win their first NBA title — narrowly losing to Golden State last night, but holding a 3-2 series edge going into Game 6 — we thought we’d take a look back at their place in history.

No, not as the only Canadian team to reach this stage of the NBA postseason — but as a team named after a popular movie. As you may well know already, the Raptors — an expansion franchise that began play in 1995 — were named as such to coattail off the immense popularity of the 1993 blockbuster film “Jurassic Park”. Nearly a quarter-century later, it’s easy to look back and sneer at this as a foolish choice, attaching a franchise’s future to a piece of pop-culture ephemera. In reality, though, it’s part of a long and proud tradition in North American sports. Let’s take a look!

THE ANAHEIM DUCKS

The first parallel to the Raptors that comes to mind, the Southern California-based NHL franchise was originally named the “Mighty Ducks” in homage to the Emilio Estevez-helmed children’s sports comedy of the same name. Now, unlike Toronto, Anaheim eventually put some distance between themselves and their namesake, dropping the “Mighty” after the 2006 season, once they realized no one was paying attention to hockey anyways.

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA-BERKELEY BEARS

“Wait a second,” you say. “They’re not named after a movie.”

Sure they are! The Cal Bears actually didn’t have a name until 1977, when, in response to the overwhelming popularity of the Walter Matthau vehicle The Bad News Bears, they rebranded. Now, Pac-12 teams have always had an eye for business, and they knew that overtly naming themselves “the Bad News Bears” might bring a lawsuit from Paramount. They found a sly workaround, choosing simply “Bears” and then generating nothing but bad news for 42 years.

OHIO STATE BUCKEYES

“Okay, this one definitely isn’t going to be true,” you protest, having inexplicably not just skipped down to the comments to resume whatever conversation you were having in the last thread. “The Ohio State Buckeyes have been named that for a very long time, and it’s a reference to the state tree, the buckeye tree.”

Well, aren’t you a feisty one. But you’re both right and wrong. Yes, the team was originally named after the Buckeye tree. However, in 1994 — right after the untimely passing of beloved comedic actor John Candy — an inconsolable George Voinovich, then governor of Ohio, demanded that the state legislature change the full official name of the team to the Ohio State “(Uncle) Buck’s Guys”. The legislature agreed, mostly to get him to stop crying and babbling about how “Cool Runnings was underappreciated”, but they quietly agreed amongst themselves to repeal the legislation “once everything died down”. Of course, the Macarena craze happened shortly thereafter, and the repeal effort was forgotten. The name remains on the books.

Is any of this true? Maybe. Could you tell me with a straight face that Ohio wouldn’t do this? You cannot. Moving on.

THE GOVERNOR OF OHIO SIGNS A BILL INTO LAW

ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE

“Wait, wait, I can see where you’re going with this one. You’re going to claim that the team was renamed as a commercial tie-in with the 1995 Hunt For Red October rip-off film Crimson Tide, and you’re going to make some crack about Alabama being run like the Russian army.”

ROLL TAHD

No. Don’t be ridiculous.

The Alabama Crimson Tide were named as such after the 1993 movie Surf Ninjas. Prior to that they were known as the “Auburn Tigers”. If you look on eBay, you can even find merchandise with the old name for sale.

MICHIGAN WOLVERINES

“Just get it over with,” you insist. “I’m not even sure exactly what that is, but this is clearly what you’ve been building to, so just f**king do it so I can get on with my afternoon.”

Are you done?

“Yeah, fine. Whatever. NOTHING MATTERS.”

Okay. Well. No, I’m not going to go so far as to suggest that the Michigan Wolverines -- who I fully admit have been named that for over a century — were named after the group of guerilla-fighting American teens in the 1984 Cold War scare action film Red Dawn. I will fully concede that that is not the case.

You have to admit the parallels, though.

A bunch of scrappy youngsters trying to fend off the efforts of a powerful, menacing, evil red-clad enemy?

[coughs, waits for it]

Also, you know, an unsuccessful remake 20 years after the original.