Way back in 1963, the professional basketball franchise known as the Chicago Zephyrs, formerly the Chicago Packers, moved to Baltimore. This necessitated yet another name change: The Baltimore Bullets. A new town, a new mascot. And who wouldn't want to have a bullet for a mascot? Speedy. Accurate. Deadly. Eventually, to reflect their expanded fan base, they came to be known as the Washington Bullets. There they established a record of relative ignominy, rarely rising far enough above the middle of the pack to become a truly notable member of the National Basketball Association.
Then, in 1995, team Abe Pollin owner announced that he was changing the team's name yet again, since the Bullet part had made him increasingly uncomfortable, in large part due to the high murder rate found outside his arena in the Washington D.C. area. Magically, they were transformed into the Washington Wizards. This name change did little, if anything, to alter the course of the team's success, but it's likely that Mister Pollin slept better at night.
Which brings me the other side of the country, where I live. Out here we have a basketball franchise called The Golden State Warriors. Not to be confused with the Oakland or even the San Francisco Warriors, since this team has bounced around near the bottom of the western conference of the NBA for years, and after playing in various venues around the Bay Area after moving here from Philadelphia in 1962, they settled into the Oakland Arena in the late sixties. Now they're on the move again, looking for better digs across the bay. While they await their new home being built, the Warriors will continue to hang out in Oakland, where they are currently promoting themselves through the school district there with the line, "Warriors - Come out and play!" I walked past that poster in the hall of my school a few times before I stopped and listened to the voice in my head. It was the voice of Luther in the 1979 Walter Hill film, which was loosely based on a Greek poet Xenophon's "Anabasis." It's also a pretty gritty movie about inner city gang warfare. This weekend, Oakland experienced their 111th homicide of the year. The Warriors beat the Mavericks in overtime. This year, Washington D.C. is on a pace to have fewer than one hundred homicides. I wonder if the results would have been the same if they had been the Oakland Optimists.