Friday, August 29, 2008

CIS Corner: The name you'd love to touch ... but you mustn't touch

Notes on our teams of interest from The 613 — including a Can-Am Shootout note, a name change at Queen's, and wait for it, more unbecoming whining from southwestern Ontario.

Six letters can mean so much. As part of their big re-branding, Queen's sports press releases this week have referred to varsity teams as the "Queen's Gaels," not the Golden Gaels moniker that's been in use for decades.

Athletic director Leslie Dal Cin and her staff, who frankly, know a lot more about the business and marketing side than I ever hope to, apparently would like to play up the Queen's name — as in Queen's Football, Queen's Soccer, and the like — and downplay Golden Gaels. This isn't happening in a vacuum, since other universities want some clarity with what their teams are called in the media.

It raises the question of how go over with long-time fans. Queen's is all about tradition, that great illusion of permanency, but tradition doesn't always travel well in the modern world.

On some common sense, rational level, it should not make any difference. It's six letters. Logically, it really should not affect anyone's choice to support the school's athletes, or any prospective student-athlete

Speaking as someone who once snarked off that, "Between the Frontenacs (in hockey) and the Queen's Golden Gaels, Kingston is a world leader in sports team names that always have to be explained,"* it would be hypocritical to flat-out oppose tweaking a name that's befuddling to people who never drank the Tricolour Kool-Aid.

(Best non-it-getter question ever: "Gaels? Your school is named after wind?")

On the other hand, imagine the fallout if MLSE started referring to its hockey division as the Toronto Leafs. There would be a huge hullabaloo, even though most Leafs fans, if they're not putting the city ahead of the name, simply say "Leafs," not "Maple Leafs."

My style has always been to use Queen's Golden Gaels on first reference, then drop to Gaels on the second reference, since it helps the ability to write tight. That doesn't mean the Golden part is any less near or dear to this graduate, but if so many of us weren't using it already, you can see there is a rationale for making a change.

(Here's an obvious joke — maybe Queen's can't call be Golden until it wins a national title, something that's happened more recently for the Laurier Golden Hawks and Alberta Golden Bears.)

Point being, this isn't intended to serve as an apologia or a selling job. The right move is the one that the people who vote with their feet (fans) and their donations (alumni) live with. (There's a gold mine, pardon the pun, for the sociologist who wants to delve into the strong connection people feel toward names that derive from ethnicity or nationality — the Gaels name came into being in the same time period as Boston Celtics, Montréal Canadiens and New York Yankees.)

You could argue that putting some distance between a decades-old tradition in part due to the URL of the new varsity sports website is is forest-for-the-trees stuff, especially in the CIS, which has scarcely little of the type of traditions that are sacrosanct south of the border. (Here one thinks of dotting the I in the Ohio State band, Penn State's plain white uniforms; of course, in the NCAA, they prattle on about tradition, which is why Boston College is in the ACC and the national championship is decided in the second week of January instead of New Year's Day.)

The choice here is to keep using Golden Gaels until there's an official change. Speaking strictly as a fan who never played a varsity sport, it doesn't seem worth getting pent-up over. Times change. Lakers coach Phil Jackson is urging his old school, University of North Dakota, to drop the Fighting Sioux moniker. Syracuse went from Orangemen to Orange; the world, remarkably, stayed on its axis.

Hey, I like tradition too.

(One other Gaels link: the Whig-Standard also has video on the contstruction of the Queen's Centre. Tyler King will surely be along do his own demolition work at some point.

Ravens: One Kansas player to keep an eye on this weekend in Ottawa — 6-foot-5 Mario Little, a juco transfer. Here's more KU news. Point guard Sherron Collins is likely a non-starter, and it's the second game for an experienced Ravens team. Is it completely nuts to believe the depleted Jayhawks are vulnerable? The gulf between the OUA and the Big 12 is pretty big.

Gee-Gees: For hoops lovers, Streaming Sports Network is also webcasting Ottawa's game on Sunday vs. the Kansas Jayhawks (7 p.m. tip)

On the football front, Ottawa defensive end Tyler Dawe, who's from the Guelph area, will be taking part in a regular feature at Greg Layson's Big Man on Campus site called "Verbatim." The first installment is online.

It's probably best to bite one's lip, but what the hell: The largest-scale human suffering in Canada this week isn't the listeriosis outbreak — it's that the Western Mustangs are only guaranteed the same number of appearances on The Score's University Rush schedule as Guelph, Laurier, McMaster, Ottawa and Queen's.

It's amusing that after someone noted it would be "hard to complain" about the Mustangs only getting guaranteed a paltry two appearances on The Score, bit the London Free Press still tried to make a mountain out of this molehill.

The Score has always had a hate-on for Western. There is no other way to explain why it Duane Forde was its CIS and CFL analyst fora good many years before he moved up to TSN. Or why another former Mustangs running back, D.J. Bennett, was hired straight out of school for a plum role. The Score hates Western, but there also a bunch of masochists, apparently.

Mustangs coach Greg Marshall didn't let on that he was too put out by it, nor should he be. It bears repeating: Western folk are some of the best folk around. It's easy to lose sight of that when a newspaper forgets they're the ones who are supposed to have some perspective.


Jamie said...

Apropos Golden:
Should womens' sports at Edmonton's University of Alberta feel slighted?
The men are known as the GOLDEN Bears and the women are simply Pandas.

Frankly, I don't think the golden disappearing from the Gaels is such a tragedy. Like your Syracuse example, the world goes on.

sager said...

Perhaps the answer to that is the Pandas are smarter than the average Bear.

Jordie Dwyer said...

But sager, they aren't your average the media out here, they are the 'Golden Bears'...not just 'the Bears' (we leave that to Chicago).
Besides, saying the Alberta Bears just doesn't have that good ring to it...As for the Pandas name, it spawned out of the necessity to make the female teams distinct, different and to have a name that would be a better fit than 'the lady golden bears'....Now my alum T-Birds are a whole other topic...

sager said...

I was referencing the old line "women must be twice as good as men to be thought of as half as good."

Tyler King said...

Damnit Neate, I go away for a day and you leave me too many things to demolish! I'll try and rapid-fire it:

-I told Mike Grobe at the brand relaunching that within our lifetime Queen's would follow the way of the Devil Rays and become simply the Gaels - again I'm the greatest.

-If this is a serious attempt on their part it's pretty stupid. If you want the average fan to think of them by the new name, you should've officially changed the bloody name when you "relaunched" the brand. We'll see where it goes. Everything I've heard from the department was about how the emphasis was intending to emulate Notre Dame - in that people refer to it as Notre Dame but not as the Fighting Irish (conveniently ignoring other big teams like the Crimson Tide, Sooners, etc. who aren't known by the school name). There's no way, however, that Notre Dame would start issuing press releases calling themselves the "Notre Dame Irish". Fans call them "the Irish", but again there's no successful model for this.

-Neate, do you have any idea *why* D.J. Bennett was given a sideline reporter job on University Rush? I can think of nothing other than the jockocracy apparently spreading down to the lowest levels of televised sports.

I'd whinge more were I not at work.

sager said...

I can't think of Notre Dame without being reminded of this.

"Mr. delusional, irrational, hopelessly pathetic Irish fan..."

Anonymous said...

In their beginning, Carleton's women's teams were known as the Robins. A Raven was considered to fearsome to represent the women I guess. Times have changed.

Neate, to your reference about women having to be twice as good as men to be considered half as good.

Ottawa mayor Charlotte Whitton, once added, "Fortunately that is not hard at all."