This week, as part of a larger rebranding, Toronto Metropolitan University changed the name of its sports teams to the Bold.
“Every legacy begins with a bold decision to start something meaningful, lasting and memorable,” the school’s president, Mohamed Lachemi, said in a statement. “This is a team name that we can cultivate, own and celebrate.”
If it’s legacies they were hoping to capture, the Gainfully Employed might have been a better choice. That’s the only thing I wanted to cultivate, back when it was called Ryerson.
I’m not sure how people perceive it now, but when I went there it was a bit of a punchline. That’s why I liked it. I’d already been to other, better universities. All I’d learned is that it is possible to never get out of bed before 2 p.m. and still pass courses for an arts degree.
At Ryerson, you had to show up. Nobody wore sweatshirts with the name of the school emblazoned across the front. That was a major improvement.
I suppose my classmates and I suspected that Ryerson had sports teams. Most postsecondary institutions do. But I don’t think we knew it to be a certainty.
We’d have been as likely to attend a school game as we would a Satanic mass – which is to say that if it had a liquor licence, that would have been a definite maybe. One of the inconsequentially nice things about Canada is that the only people obsessing about collegiate sports are collegiate athletes and maybe their parents. We could do it the other way, but then we’d be halfway to becoming Texas. I like our plan better.
I also like the name Bold or The Bold or whatever it is. It isn’t terrible. It’s much worse than that. It’s ludicrous.
It’s just barely a noun. It manages to be silly and self-righteous all at once. I defy you to come up with a name more insufferably pompous than ‘the Bold.’ Where’s that poll?
There is one small chance of redeeming a name this bad – if, and only if, the University of Toronto agrees to change its team names to Beautiful.
But it won’t do that because the U of T I remember took itself extremely seriously. That isn’t a school. It’s an institution, like the Rolling Stones. Old, expensive to attend and less fun than you’d heard.
Like university, sports is an unserious business we manage to take far too seriously. I suspect that in a hundred years, our descendants will sit around the solar-radiation-proof caves watching old Dallas Cowboys footage thinking, ‘This is what they were doing?’
For that reason alone, sports team names must continue to be ridiculous. The more unintentionally laughable, the better.
The Anaheim Mighty Ducks. That’s a great, stupid name. Maybe the greatest.
After years of being made fun of, the club – a multimillion-dollar corporate entity with access to a phone book and outside lines – changed the name to Ducks. Because that’s better.
You just know how they got there – ‘We’re tired of being mocked. But man, that’s a lot of stationery to replace. Anyone got any ideas?’ – at which point one visionary genius rose from her seat holding a bottle of Liquid Paper.
The new focus on offensive team nicknames has created a lovely laboratory for high-octane name generation. Nicknames used to be organic afterthoughts. Now we get to see what happens when immense capital and a diverse community of creative professionals come together to find that one, indispensable word that captures the essence of our shared passions.
I give you – the Cleveland Guardians.
What are they guarding? Because I refuse to believe it’s Cleveland. Is it baseball? Is it the Galaxy? It’s the Galaxy, isn’t it? Isn’t it?? Someone was flipping around on Disney+ and then this happened. Prove I’m wrong.
The Washington Commanders.
Every time I read a headline about this team – ‘Commanders do X’ – I think, ‘Aw man, I guess I’m going to have to keep digging out that bunker.’ What does this name celebrate? Washington’s rich history of martial success? Which part? Vietnam or Iraq?
You could run with this gag forever, because nearly every team name is bad without realizing it. We lose sight of this fact through repetition. Blue Jays. Blue Jays. Blue Jays. Keep going. You’ll get there eventually.
What’s a perfect university team name?
Texas Christian University. The Horned Frogs.
There’s a name that recognizes, grapples with and accommodates the absurdity inherent in American collegiate athletics. If it isn’t already, studying this truth should be worthy of a chair at the TCU faculty of philosophy. The person in that chair should be called Philosopher King of the Horned Frogs, and have to wear horns in public at all times.
But unless TCU graduates are hoping to hibernate under a soft, wet layer of tundra, I don’t believe it’s a name the school community believes reflect its values or aspirations – two words Toronto Metropolitan University used in its news release about the Bold. It’s just a dumb name for a fun thing.
Good team names defy progress because they exist out of time. The best of them – Yankees, Dodgers, Canadiens – have been in use long enough to co-opt their own literal meanings.
What is a Yankee? A baseball player from the Bronx.
What is a Raptor? Not a basketball player from Toronto, but the best actor in the past couple of Jurassic Park movies.
Iconic nicknames are done. They had their moment.
Now it is the era of the marketing department, the plebiscite and the terror of alienating the most easily offended person in your audience. Our only role in this wonderful farce is to enjoy it.