What Would You Rename Pittsburgh’s Sports Teams?

Fortunately, none of Pittsburgh's pro sports teams need a new nickname. But if they did, what would we pick?


From across the border, it’s easy to judge. But still: Cleveland botched the new name.

The baseball team on the shores of Lake Erie will henceforth be known as the Cleveland Guardians, the result of a long and involved search for a new name. There is history to the sobriquet, yes, and a reference to some imposing statues near the ballpark; It also shares five whole letters with the existing name, a fact that likely played a role in the decision. (You save on repainting costs!)

Still, there were many more tantalizing options. I was hoping for the Cleveland Spiders, a revival of a long-gone nickname that would’ve led me to purchase a hat immediately. Cleveland Wild Things, a reference to “Major League” — which, despite being fictional, is the greatest moment in franchise history — was on the table. So was Cleveland Blue Sox, which isn’t great, but is much better than Cleveland Guardians.

Barring a dramatic uptick in nautical crime (or some stunning revelations about Antarctic waterfowl), it’s unlikely that any of Pittsburgh’s teams will have to be renamed. Cleveland’s update led me to consider, however: What would happen if we had to rename each of our three pro squads?

Pittsburgh Penguins

Could Be: I actually like the example set by the newest franchise in professional sports, the Seattle Kraken. It is, as far as I can tell, the only team name that casts the players as part of a singular beast; they’re not individual Krakens, they are parts of one overall Kraken. The team is the Kraken. I like that. So let’s take the old roller-hockey name and become the (singular) Pittsburgh Phantom. Each skater is but one piece of an overall ghoul, enveloping the opponent. Intimidating!
Should Be: Pittsburgh Magnifiques. Not enough franchises are named after their most notable player, and Mario has a perfect nickname. Besides, hockey is best when it’s vaguely fancy. Give me a Senator or a Nordique over a Coyote any day.
Shouldn’t Be: American sports in general have been trending toward vague concepts, like the Oklahoma City Thunder or Minnesota Wild. I don’t want to get stuck skating as the Pittsburgh Furnace. You know, like a blast furnace. It’s just the kind of Cleveland Guardians-esque name that one high-priced analyst would determine was a great idea.


Pittsburgh Pirates

Could Be: Lots of cities and franchises flirt with the idea of reviving an old-timey nickname. Cleveland reportedly considered both the Naps and the Dobys, references to long-ago stars Nap Lajoie and Larry Doby, respectively. The first great Pirates star, of course, was Honus Wagner, owner of one of the all-time great ballplayer nicknames: The Flying Dutchman. I wouldn’t even shorten that; the Pittsburgh Flying Dutchmen is fantastic.
Should Be: It’s a city built by blue-collar labor, after all, so let’s get to work: the Pittsburgh Union. You could call the ballpark the Union Hall for short.
Shouldn’t Be: We all know what would happen: They’d try to rename the team the Pittsburgh Pierogies. No. Foodstuffs do not win ballgames. Footraces, sure, but not ballgames. Just think of the headlines after a loss: “Pierogies Fried.” “Pierogies Devoured. “Cardinals Make Bird Seed Out of Pierogies.” Nope.


Pittsburgh Steelers

Could Be: Few NFL franchises are more popular across the country than the Steelers; one analysis of overall fandom found that only the Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots have more fans. (Texas is very big, and the Patriots claimed a whole region of the country as their own.) So, let’s own it: Just call the team Steelers Nation. When you face us, you’re facing the whole nation, and so forth.
Should Be: Obviously: Pittsburgh Rooneys. This requires no explanation.
Shouldn’t Be: Just no cats, okay? Whenever a high school, college or pro franchise can’t come up with an idea, they pick an intimidating cat. In the NFL, this once happened twice in the same year, as the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars blinked into unremarkable, feline existence. So if any team names themselves, say, the Pittsburgh Bobcats, we’re shipping them straight to Kansas City.


Categories: Collier’s Weekly