Only the Braves

Back during the summer, the Triple-A Gwinnett Braves announced they were going to change their name, moving forward.  After sifting through the dank and salt for viable candidates, the final ballot was narrowed down to the following six options:

  • Gwinnett Buttons
  • Gwinnett Big Mouths
  • Gwinnett Gobblers
  • Gwinnett Hush Puppies
  • Gwinnett Lamb Chops
  • Gwinnett Sweet Teas

Obviously, none of these were particularly fantastic options, but I figured Buttons would’ve won easily, since it was the least over-the-top campy name, and that there was the historical element behind it, as Button Gwinnett was whom the entire county was named after as well as a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Regardless, at the county level and those who were remotely interested in the distraction of a dumb story like this, there was much debate, but more pettiness when it came to the topic of renaming the Gwinnett Braves, that really could be summed up with the fact that all available options were pretty shitty.

So naturally, the winner of the contest ended up being the Gwinnett Stripers.

What’s that you say?  It wasn’t an option?  By golly, it wasn’t!  The Braves blindsided the fans yet again, with the bat of no-transparency, and went ahead and made choices without the people that sign their paychecks!

My kneejerk reaction to this scenario was a natural wrestling analogy, that this was like Judgment Day 1998 where the vacant World Championship was up for grabs in a match between the Undertaker versus Kane, but ended up being won by Stone Cold Steve Austin, when he smashed Kane with a chair and hit the stunner on Undertaker and slapped the mat three times while they were both KO’d and declared himself the winner.

It’s kind of the same situation here, because the Braves slopped together six shitty finalists for the team’s new name for the public to bicker and debate about, and when it came to announce a winner, they basically KO’d all six options and declared a mystery choice out of nowhere as the actual winner without any input from the people whatsoever.

What really stands out to me in the payoff of this whole shit show is the arrogance of the team’s general manager, and all the things he’s been quoted saying during the release.  From his justification to just change the name because “he couldn’t grasp saying ‘Big Mouths’:”

Ultimately, we loved the concept of Big Mouths. We just couldn’t grasp saying Big Mouths. We weren’t concerned with the connotation of Big Mouths, it just didn’t flow well. You try to say Big Mouths and it just doesn’t flow.

It reminds me of people who get mundane cars due to financial restraints but don’t want to admit that they drive those particular cars, so if whenever asked what they drive, they always respond with accentuating details, trim level, or tryhard chassis codes.

“So, what do you drive?”
“I uh, drive a hachi-roku.”
“So a Toyota Corolla?”

Along the way, the GM acknowledges all the ridicule and criticism the team received for their choice to do this in the first place, and seems to concede to the fact that it’s going to happen no matter what.  But I think the funniest part is when he tries to get all condescending about the financial repercussions of a name change, due to the sheer volume of organizational materials that need to be rebranded and updated due to a complete identity change:

“It’s unbelievable the number, in quantity of thing we have to replace and the cost,” Johnson said. “I think that’s the part that folks who were railing on us don’t understand. It’s truly a big financial commitment to make this happen. … You almost don’t realize how much of it is out there to change until you start looking at it. The number is significant.”

Or, you could just not bother changing the name in the first place, and not run into these financial commitments in the first place.  But let’s be real here, this whole thing probably took place, because all the money being thrown around to make all these changes is the perfect smokescreen for money to be lined into the pockets of those involved, because that’s what professional sports are these days, glorified ATMs for those involved in their operations.

The thing is, in spite of the complete train wreck manner in which all this came to fruition, I actually don’t hate the name Gwinnett Stripers.  Not just because it’s close and easy to mistake as “Strippers,” although I didn’t think of that until I saw reactions, but because it’s not a terrible name, and certainly way better than the initial six finalists.

It’s broad enough to fit in anywhere, and it’s taking steps away from sounding like that preconceived notion of being a yokel redneck name that pigeon-holes it into the South and makes it sound as such.  The colors aren’t garish, the uniforms aren’t trash, and it’s refreshing to see an actual Braves affiliate make the daring leap to not just label themselves “the Braves” and actually embrace what the minor league culture is supposed to be.

Sure, the Stripers will always be owned by the Braves, which is unlike most minor league baseball organizations, which will always be a reason why they’ll always be somewhat vanilla and tempered down, but baby steps.  It’s still a step in the right direction, and despite the convoluted and expectedly crooked means in which the Stripers came to fruition, I think those of us who actually care about the Braves and/or minor league baseball, can take solace in the fact that Gwinnett isn’t going to be the Buttons, Big Mouths or Hush Puppies.

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