Let’s start with the Big Ten.
Having finally achieved its long-stated logical mission of having twelve teams, the Big Ten Conference has split into two divisions and will (in football, anyway) play a conference title game. Little Earthquake supports this; conference championship games offer opportunities for grudge matches, upsets, and all-around excitement. This will also allow the Big Ten to offer a clear cut BCS contender, or – if there truly is a God – playoff tournament qualifier.
Having cleared the first hurdle of splitting up the teams among two divisions, the conference weathered predictable criticism by necessarily breaking up some regularly played, classic match-ups. Fans of the storied and heated Minnesota-Indiana rivalry, for instance, will have to wait every couple of years for that cauldron to reach a boil. Nevertheless, when you split up a group, not everyone will be happy. I think the Big Ten did the best it could.
It’s with the unfortunate christening of these divisions where the conference has whiffed. One division (I cannot say which because they did not heretofore exist, nor are they broken down geographically) will be Legends, the other, Leaders. That’s Legends and Leaders. No, it’s not a senior golf circuit, and it’s not a DC Comics limited edition series of action figures (admit it, my nerd friends, you thought of that too). These will be the names of divisions for whose pennants collegiate athletes will valiantly tussle on fields and courts, with balls, goals, pucks, and the like. No word yet on whether the championship game trophy will be named after Alexander the Great or Hercules.
Thanks to the glory of the Internet, the backlash was swift, merciless, and widespread. Big Ten commissioner Jim Gordon, er, Delany has already announced that they may “reconsider” the names. In other news, Scarlett Johansson recently “reconsidered” Ryan Reynolds.
Because I care about the monikers people will be impelled to utter, I am offering, free of charge, a few common sense, alternative realignments and divisional names:
Eastern Division: Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue.
Western Division: Northwestern, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska.
Generally Capable of Winning Conference Title or At Least Making A Bowl Game Division: Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Purdue, Iowa.
Generally Capable Of Losing to Sarah Lawrence: Illinois, Indiana, Northwestern, Nebraska, Minnesota, Penn State (which periodically switches with Purdue or Iowa in the other division).
Campuses Located in a City I’d Live in If I Were Paid Enough Money: Minnesota (Twin Cities), Wisconsin (Madison), Northwestern (Evanston, close to Chicago), Ohio State (Columbus), Michigan (Ann Arbor), Penn State (because they call it “Happy Valley”).
Campuses Located in Cities I’m Pretty Sure Would Make Me Put a Gun To My Head if I Lived There, But Don’t Quote Me On That: Iowa (Iowa City), Illinois (Champagne), Purdue (West Lafayette, Ind.), Indiana (Bloomington), Michigan State (East Lansing), Nebraska (Lincoln).
Animal Division: Badgers, Gophers, Wolverines, Hawkeyes, Wildcats, Nittany Lions.
People and and One Tree Division: Spartans, Cornhuskers, Illini, Hoosiers, Boilermakers, Buckeyes.
See how easy that is?
As for the NBA, word has leaked that the New Jersey Nets, set to move to downtown Brooklyn – when is it now, 2012? – are toying with changing their names to the Brooklyn New Yorkers. Because nothing says where you’re from better than using the term to describe the people from there. We’ve already been through this maddening type of unimaginative nicknaming, when the NFL’s expansion franchise in Houston went with “Texans” in 2002. I understand that “Knickerbocker” technically connotes a New Yorker, but that is an outmoded term steeped in curiosity, history, and culture. And anyway, it renders the nickname “New Yorker” not only redundant, but a lame attempt to win over the hearts and souls of actual New Yorkers.
As for the logo mock up, I like the incorporation of the Brooklyn Bridge. But what’s with the faux-hip-hop graffiti letters? As Cain said in the drive-thru carjack scene in Menace II Society, “You’re a baller, huh? You a baller??”
I haven’t come up with any alternate logos, but I’ve been trying to think of a better nickname. (They could stay the Nets, as the team long ago was the New York Nets. It’s not such a bad nickname.) Sports nicknames today are vapid and inoffensive (see: Oklahoma City Thunder). Rarely do they get away with paying homage to any one group of people anymore. But Brooklyn’s history, from the natives to the settlers, is its people. I’ve been thinking about a segment of people, something signifying toughness, industry, history.
I’ll get back to work.