What’s in a name? A lot, apparently. Zócalo has been deluged with proposals for naming a future Los Angeles NFL team that we do not have but that may be on the way soon.
To wade through the inspired nominations is to realize that the quest for a name that fits Los Angeles the way the “Steelers” fits Pittsburgh isn’t easy. Los Angeles, by its very nature, is frustratingly difficult to sum up. Like few other places, L.A. is an open-source platform, a spectacular shared geography where an overwhelming array of identities, cultures, and aspirations coexist. It’s a beacon and refuge for those who don’t want to belong to a place that can be tidily summed up.
There is another challenge to finding the one obvious, all-encompassing name befitting our community: our city’s name is already a noun, albeit a Spanish noun with its own meaning, one that lends itself to team names. So Andreas Kluth votes to call our future NFL squad “Demons,” to provide a contrast; the redundant “Los Angeles Angels” is already taken down in Anaheim. But if we wanted to one-up Anaheimers, Wendy Cook Pedersen’s suggested name, “Seraphim,” and Roberto Luján’s “Archangels” might well fit the bill.
The diversity of nominations you’ll read reflects the wondrous diversity of our community. The nominations also reflect Angelenos’ knack for self-deprecating humor. Mark Hunter and David Gershwin both nominated “SigAlerts,” as in the traffic tie-up, though it isn’t clear what would go on the team helmet. Carmen Finestra offered up the “Los Angeles Bond Issuers,” assuming the team will benefit from some public funding. Time’s Joel Stein offers up “The Smog,” because, despite being a dated cliché, it’s a cool word.
Our city’s Mexican and Spanish roots underlie many of the submissions. Maybe if we end up with two L.A. franchises we can accommodate both the “Aztecs” and the “Conquistadores,” and the two teams could have a bloody rivalry. Other submissions included the “Hombres,” “Pobladores,” “Charros,” and “Toros.” We were especially fond of the “Zócalos,” which Dan Reza said would give a center-less city “a focus and something all fans can get around and support.”
Mark Nakata’s “Los Angeles Lowriders” pays tribute to the city’s car culture. Not surprisingly, traffic, which both brings us together and keeps us apart, loomed large in the submissions. Joe Keehnast suggested we own it: “The Los Angeles Traffic.” Elena Ritchie prefers “The Los Angeles Sprawl.” Kai Kittscher offered up the “Los Angeles Jams” as a nod to the “Rams, West Coast rap, bad ’80s fashion, and traffic.” The “Los Angeles Drive,” submitted by Occidental College historian Thaddeus Russell, bridges the city’s daily flow with its denizens’ striving nature.
Although during a long morning commute it can feel as though the freeways dictate our geography, the natural boundaries–the mountains ( “L.A. Summit”) and the ocean (“L.A. Tide”)–and natural wonders and hazards of our landscape also inspire. Annette Kleiser suggested “The Jacarandas” (the L.A. Jacs for short), whose purple blossoms are quintessentially L.A.: “We love them for signaling the arrival of spring; we can’t stand them because they dirty our cars and swimming pools.” Todd Sullivan recommended “The Seismic Hazard”; Brian Kelly thought “The Wildfire” sounded fun. And as Ventura City Manager Rick Cole noted, “Coyotes” works because “Chicago no longer has any real Bears outside the zoo, and New Orleans is largely devoid of Saints. But L.A. will always have roaming Coyotes.”
A couple of nominations were a nod to our aerospace roots: The “L.A. Bombers,” the “Defenders,” and the “Predator Drones.” One idea in the office, echoing the city’s roguish past, was the “L.A. Water Snatchers.” As was said in Chinatown: “Either you bring the water to L.A. or you bring L.A. to the water.” (“The Nicholsons,” suggested Thomas Tseng–“just give him a seat on the right sidelines already!”)
The darker sides of our sunny city were well-represented. Frank Harper offered up “L.A. Noir,” while Peter Tokofsky’s “Double Indemnities” evokes both the classic movie and the double indemnity the city’s taxpayers may experience. And as writer Gary Phillips pointed out to us, his football noir novel The Jook features a fictional L.A. team called the “Barons,” for which he’ll want residuals. A number of people suggested “The Riots,” in order to reclaim a bleak historical moment.
A number of entries flexed L.A.’s entertainment muscle. “The Stars” was a popular nominee (ah, but those Dallas Cowboys’ helmets could create brand confusion), while the “L.A. Props” took a different tack. To represent the actors who have failed (or have yet to make it), Conrad Nussbaum suggested “The Waiters.” But in the end, the most distinctive creation of our frenetic, diverse city is creativity itself, and so it was appropriate that not one but two people, including Getty Chief James Cuno, suggested we adopt the “Los Angeles Dream.”
What’s in a name, we asked. Thanks for answering, and consider the alternatives.
Below is a selection of the many ideas and explanations we received.
The Drive. Besides the obvious reference to the activity that occupies much of the lives of all Angelenos (even bus-riders are involved in driving), the name refers to ambition, the impulse that characterizes so much of the city’s history. –Thaddeus Russell, Los Angeles, CA
If team moves to Los Angeles the current name should continued to be used. If it’s an expansion franchise: the Lowriders. Cars signify L.A. What better way to pay tribute our car culture and to recognize the emerging Latino community than to name an NFL team after them? Team colors should be purple/maroon and chrome. I could hear War’s song “Low Rider” blasting over the sound system as the Lowriders score a touchdown and the crowd goes crazy. –Mark Nakata, Highland Park
The Jams. A nod to the Rams, West Coast Rap, bad ’80s fashion, and traffic. –Kai Kittscher, Pasadena
The Gridlock. After all, football is played on the gridiron, and a strong defense is going to “lock-down” our opponents’ offense. Plus, it highlights the folly of putting yet another crowd destination downtown where the inadequate transportation infrastructure routinely causes traffic jams, delaying thousands of people driving to, or through, our fair city. –Andrew J. Leist, Culver City
The Traffic. Downtown is no place for an NFL team. This particular constellation of freeways is already miserably overcrowded. The proposed developers have already said that they plan to use the stadium for many other events, so this is not a question of increasing congestion during a handful of home games per year. … I, for one, would like us to be the only major metropolis in the country that is above having a football team. And I say this as a die-hard, watch-as-many-games-as-I-can, NFL football fan. –Catherine Jurca, Glendale
The Traffic. –Joe Keehnast, Los Angeles
Los Angeles’ pro football teams have been all too transitory–the Chargers went to San Diego, the Raiders went back to Oakland, and the Rams left us for Anaheim on the way to St. Louis. Even the old Los Angeles Bulldogs of the Pacific Coast Professional Football League, our first pro team dating back to 1936, went to Long Beach before being sent to the pound to meet their untimely fate in 1948. Our next pro football team needs to stay here for good. And to keep them here, well, the next pro football team needs to be stuck here. As Los Angeles residents know all too well, there’s no better way to be stuck than in a SigAlert–a traffic incident causing two or more freeway lane closures for two or more hours. SigAlerts cut across race, religion, class, and geography, and even impact those who don’t drive. However perniciously, SigAlerts unify us far-flung Angelenos with a shared experience. I can’t wait to root for the L.A. SigAlerts as we show the rest of the NFL Sunday drivers what real football–and real traffic–is like. –David Gershwin, Los Angeles
Dolphins is taken, although dolphins are probably easier to spot off SoCal beaches than Florida beaches. Beemers would be apropos, considering BMW’s status as a cultural icon here, but the company would probably insist on onerous licensing fees. Prii has the same issue, plus the sportscasters would hate pronouncing it. Freeway Shooters is just too long. All of those two-word names are too long. Commuters is too lame. Bumpers … As in “bumper to bumper,” but it’s also a riff on the main activity in football. Concise, comprehensible. SigAlerts would be great, too, but probably too much of an insider thing. How about Aliens? I wouldn’t add any adjectives in front–let the recipient add their own. You could give it an immigration spin, or a movie-studio spin. I guess eventually someone would have to decide, though, when the time came to create a mascot costume. –Mark Hunter, La Canada
The Jacarandas, because their gorgeous purple blossoms are the quintessential symbol of L.A. We love them for signaling the arrival of spring; we can’t stand them because they dirty our cars and swimming pools. We can call them the L.A. Jacs for short. –Annette Kleiser, Los Angeles
The new L.A. team should be called the Tide! In reference of course to our beautiful and powerful Pacific Ocean. The L.A. Tide would be complimented by the Japanese-style waves on either side of their helmets. –Joe Villalobos Jr., Downey
The Suns! What is more representative of or savored in SoCal than that? Training in snow provides East Coast teams a “home team advantage” in select competitions held late in the season. But training in the Los Angeles sun is its own advantage every day of the year here in the best part of the golden state. –Lynn Rice, Los Angeles
The City of L.A. was founded on the banks of its river–the original settlement party stopped there and named the city and river at the same time. The river flows 51 miles (that’s 102 miles of riverfront), connecting countless diverse urban communities along the way. Parts of the river are natural and beautiful and parts are stark and gritty, but it is going through a resurgence–just like our city. A new team should reflect all of us–challenged and hopeful, dynamic and powerful–a funky, unpredictable hybrid. That’s why I think the name should be tied to the river: Riverpirates, Riversharks, Riverwolves, Riverbarons, Riverraiders, Riverdemons, or Rivertide. Let’s face it–it fits better than Lakers! GO L.A.! –Carol Armstrong, Los Angeles
Because Even Angelenos Don’t Always Love L.A.
The Smog. We don’t have smog anymore. It’s a tired, Johnny-Carson-era cliché about L.A. And it’s not something we want to advertise. But what a cool word! Smog! This cloud of noxious smoke that destroys all it comes in contact with! Would it be cooler if our team was called the Luchadores, with a logo of a Mexican wrestling mask? Sure. But in five years the Luchadores becomes the El Paso Luchadores, and we don’t have a team again. The Smog isn’t going anywhere. –Joel Stein
The Sprawl. –Elena Ritchie, Los Angeles
The Sweatshoppers. I wouldn’t want our world-class garment industry to go unacknowledged. –Jody Frank, Beverly Hills
The Moguls, after all the wanna-be Ari Golds in Tinsletown. The Kardashahoffs, a mash-up of a few of L.A.’s infamous celebrities. The Dream, because it’s what we manufacture and export around the world. The Sprawlers, because when L.A. finally gets its team, Sundays will become the day all Southland’s sprawlers descend together into the stadium before they sprawl out all over L.A. again. The Nicholsons, after L.A.’s most famous sports fan. Just give him a seat on the right sidelines already. The Fo’ Shizzlez, because there’s nothing more L.A. than Snoop. The Culture, so that no one can ever say we don’t have culture. –Thomas Tseng, Culver City
The Rhino … (wait for it) … plasty. –Harold Woodley, Los Angeles
I asked myself when thinking of a name, what is truly unique to L.A.? Great weather. The flakiest (yes) fans. Let’s finally embrace, package, market, and sell all that is Los Angeles. It’s the ol’ playground trick mom taught us: when someone makes fun of you, don’t fight it, embrace it. Make fun of yourself. Still not enough? The L.A. Buen Tiempos. –Corey Kling, Santa Monica
The Bond Issuers, since the team will probably have public funding for its Stadium and other needs. –Carmen Finestra, Santa Monica
Since Angels Is Taken …
The Seraphim. So many generic football team names are taken. I would love the name to mean something to Los Angeles. Seraphim are of course Angels, from which Los Angeles has her name, but the translation for Seraphim is a kind of angel, “the burning ones,” which I thought would be a great name for a football team as they burn their way through the NFL!! –Wendy Cook Pedersen, Santa Clarita
Root for the Los Angeles Archangels! An archangel is an angel of high rank, or a chief angel. In its plural form, archangels, it’s an order of angels, or an order of high-ranking angels. Living in the city or the county of Angels, it seems fitting that a team which will represent the hopes of Angelenos, whether the county or the city’s communities, of achieving the highest goal in NFL, winning the Super Bowl (or better, many Super Bowls), is shaped by a group of players who are aware that, if they play honoring their name, they will not only trigger the highest emotional response from their community fans and their connection to the team, but will reach glory as archangels are meant to do! –Roberto Luján, Monterey Park
The Cherubs would be the ironic inverse of the Chicago Cubs/Bears situation. The City of Angels would be represented by chubby baby angels. An implicit admission that our official city name is rather over-the-top. The L.A. Demons as in: “Angels and Demons.” ’Nuff said. –Andreas Kluth, Santa Monica
Our Mexican Past and Present
Los Coyotes as in “Los Coyotes de Los Angeles.” It pays tribute to our Spanish heritage; it celebrates our local urban wildlife; and it epitomizes the lack of civic cohesion of our regional culture where every billionaire/interest group/community is constantly on the move in search of weaker prey. Plus, it fits into the predatory nature of the National Football League with its Raiders and Buccaneers–which will reward Los Angeles by stripping another town of its team. Chicago no longer has any real Bears outside the zoo and New Orleans is largely devoid of Saints.But L.A. will always have roaming Coyotes. –Rick Cole, Ventura
L.A. should definitely rename any existing franchise that comes to town to make the team our own. And because of L.A.’s Latino heritage and personality, I think the team name should pay respect to those wonderful characteristics of our great city. Thus, I suggest the Lobos (as someone who lives near Griffith Park, I find Lobos particularly fitting) or the Aztecs. Both names reference the unique Latin culture of LA and provide rugged mascots appropriate for football. Plus, they both sound good! –Greg Mann, Los Angeles
The Conquistadores are historic to Southern California heritage and honor the Spanish heritage of the Latin Americans as they were the first Europeans that established colonies in the New World and explored it. The name invokes a sense of fearlessness, new exploration, and soldier ready for battle–as modern football players are. –Laura Mahaney, Los Angeles
The Compadres or the Zócalos. I choose both names because I wanted Los Angelenos to remember where we come from. Our roots of being a Spanish Pueblo. The Zócalo, because though all of the great cities in the world have a center (the Zócalo in Mexico City, Central Park in New York, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, etc.), Los Angeles seems to be center-less. This gives us a focus and something all fans can get around and support. –Dan Reza, Los Angeles
The Caballeros. “The Cabs have First and Goal on the Raider’s two yard line …” It has a good ring to it. The image of a caballero is one of a strong and powerful man: a knight or even the fictional character Zorro decorated in colorful clothing with a broad-brimmed hat sitting high on a horse ready for action. That image has a lot of possibilities for mascots, logos, etc. The use of the Spanish word is homage to the Mexican-Spanish heritage of our Los Angeles area. (Or maybe the Zorros?) –Stuart Weiss, Los Angeles
The Pobladores were the original Angelenos. If we inherit the Vikings, the name should be the Vikings, just like the Lakers. –Jonathan Kain, Brentwood, CA
The Toros or Los Toros. The team should derive its name from the local heritage and the Spanish/Mexican influence of this area cannot and should not be denied. “Toro” is the Spanish word for bull, and there is no other team in the NFL with this name. Its colors could be red and black and would add an interesting new color scheme to the L.A. scene, which is dominated by Dodger blue and Laker purple and gold. –Ardashes “Ardy” Kassakhian, Glendale
Charros, or the horsemen who compete at charreadas, sometimes travel many miles for the competition, learning to perform rope tricks and fancy horsemanship on finely trained steeds, along with bull riding, bronco riding, and steer roping. The charros say their sport is living history, an art form developed from working on the ranch. … Are not the players of the game of football akin to cowboys: tough, fearless, skilled, competitive, showmen and professionals? They are indeed horsemen, “Charros” in the sense of the great tradition of competition and grandeur. –T.D. Samuel, Gates
The Hombres. In part it honors our Hispanic past (and present), is viewed as a “macho” name-and I would use the Mexican flag colors on their uniforms. More and more, the L.A. market will reflect its changing demographics, providing marketing and TV opportunities. –Curtis S. Reis, Rolling Hills
We’ll Always Have Tinseltown …
The Props is an homage to the film industry. It honors a ubiquitous part of the industry that is evident on the street every day in businesses and trucks that support the making of movies. When out-of-town directors parachute into town to do the Props’ games, they can tape an actual prop supplier supplying actual props instead of the done-to-death view of the Hollywood sign. –Mark Renahan, Springfield, Virginia
For years, a variety of people in Los Angeles have dreamed of bringing a football team back to the Southland. A football team that the rest of the city (if not the world) will fall in love with and root for through thick and thin. Similarly, for years, a number of people have come to Los Angeles and dreamed of becoming actors. Actors that the rest of the city (if not the world) will fall in love with and root for through thick and thin. Unfortunately, the general population doesn’t care that much about bringing a football team to L.A. Or, for that matter, a bunch of failed actors waiting tables on the West Side. The Waiters. Makes as much sense as anything. –Conrad Nussbaum, Hermosa Beach
The Reelers, because it refers to a film reel, which is big here. And because it rhymes with “Steelers.” And because, um, they’d make opposing teams reel. –Dan Turner, Los Angeles
The Dream or the Overpass. –James Cuno, Los Angeles
So We’ll Always Make Stars
The Nova. Descriptive of a “star,” it is short, catchy, memorable–and a subtle reference to Hollywood. Win or lose, Novas flare and fade but remain in their constellation. –Linda Morris, Santa Monica
The Stars might seem too obvious, but it simply works. It’s directly relevant, powerful, sexy, and sellable. We are a city of stars–from celebrities to AEG executives to Zócalo contributors. As an alternate name, the Los Angeles Silver Stars if we need to be more distinguishable–plus the online identity is easier to secure. Lasilverstars.com, losangelessilverstars.com, and @lasilverstars are all available. –Derek Hildebrandt, Redondo Beach
Stardom and the dream of stardom is perhaps LA..’s biggest industry; thousands come here every year to see and/or become stars. Certainly “stars” are our industrial output in much the same way steel was once Pittsburgh’s and packing once Green Bay’s. The obvious difference is that L.A. is and will always be in the star-making business. While those team names are sad reminders of the collapse of their cities’ once-healthy industrial underpinnings, the Stars would never be an anachronism. And the inevitable presence of celebrities at L.A.’s NFL games would reinforce the glittering sheen attached to a team called the Stars. –Laura Foti Cohen, Los Angeles
The Stars. No essay. Res Ipsa Loquitur. Personally, I would like the Los Angeles Freeways. Or the Tunetowns. Or the Village Idiots. But those names are as unlikely to win as the Los Angeles Raiders. –George Davis, San Francisco
Okay, Now It’s Just Getting Mean-Spirited
The Seismic Hazard. –Todd Sullivan, Los Angeles
The Drive-Bys? No … Oh, all right, the Wildfire. Because we have them, they get out of control, they create fear, and “The Los Angeles Wildfire” sounds fun. –Brian Kelly, Glendale
This just works: the Riots. Right? Right? Don’t it just roll-off-the-tongue? The graphic on the helmet would be a hand grasping a lit Molotov cocktail. –Alan Michael Farkas, Ladera Ranch
I know this name probably wont go over too well, but the Riots recall so much L.A. history! It’s fierce, it’s close to everyone’s hearts and memories, and it’s rife with puns. –Nicole Lippert, Chicago (formerly of Venice and the Valley)
The Stealth Bomber Paid For Your Lunch
The Defenders is evocative of a golden period in Los Angeles, when the defense industry powered much of the L.A. economy. From our city’s achievements in sports, we also recognize that defense wins championships. The Lakers and the Dodgers have both been title defenders, so naming our NFL franchise the Defenders assumes the inevitable: our NFL team will be title defenders as well. In addition, the City of Los Angeles has historically been the subject of many battles, from the Mexican-American War to the riots to even nature’s earth-rattling tremors. But the town is resilient, and always finds a way to come survive and thrive. The defenders of this town always come through. As an Angeleno myself, I find I am always defending my city whenever I speak with those who just don’t get it. Being from Los Angeles, I beam with pride, and every competitive moment for the city is a chance to echo our rallying cry: nothing can stop us, and we will defend this city to the bitter end. –Hamilton Chan, Hollywood
How about the Bombers in honor of the long history of the aerospace industry in Southern California? How many times has a B-2 flown over the Rose Bowl? The name Bombers also pairs nicely with the Dodgers. –Mark Wallace, La Crescenta-Montrose
The Predator Drones, in honor of our aerospace industry. –T.A. Frank, Beverly Hills
Don’t Forget Raymond Chandler
The Noir conjures up the essence of the city–the mix of glamour, scandal, crime, corruption, tinsel, dreams, and vice. Raymond Chandler, Chinatown, Mickey Cohen, The Black Dahlia, etc. It creates a retro image from the last century’s golden era of sports. –Frank Harper, Topanga
The Double Indemnities evokes the film noir classic, Double Indemnity, linking the squad to the city’s cultural and industrial heritage of movie-making. The team will likely play in Farmers Field. Since our insurers have enough cash on hand to sponsor an unbuilt stadium for a team that does not exist, we should honor them by giving the team an insurance-themed mascot. And taxpayers will have (at least) double indemnity: tax subsidies for the billionaire builders of the stadium, costs associated with infrastructure improvements for the surrounding area, and traffic that will be generated by a stadium adjacent to one of the busiest freeway intersections in the world. If the team struggles, perhaps Fred MacMurray can put some flubber in their soles. –Peter Tokofsky, Los Angeles
In my noir novel The Jook, about a pro football player back in L.A. for one last shot at the big time, the name of the team I came up with was the Barons. Now of course I’d want some sort of lease arrangement should such a start-up use the name … ha! –Gary Phillips, Los Angeles
Some Final Wild Cards
The L.A. X. A nod to our world-famous airport, and a fill-in-the-blank variable that represents the diversity of our city. –Kristen Kittscher, Pasadena
Named after the famed saber-toothed cats found at the La Brea Tar Pits, the Sabers would provide a direct link to Los Angeles history as well as to a world-famous L.A. landmark. The logo would be a fang-bearing saber-toothed cat pouncing on a football, the Hollywood sign reflected off its eyes. The name “Sabers” is superior to Saber-Toothed Cats and SaberCats as the former is too long and the latter too cutesy. Since the scientific name of the saber-toothed cat is “Smilodon,” the sideline mascot could be a kid-friendly saber-toothed cat named “Smilin’ Don.” That would keep the marketers and PR folks happy. –Victor Estrada, Los Angeles
If Los Angeles gets a team, the local transplanted traditions–Mexico’s Dias De Los Muertos in November, Japan’s Obon Festival in August, and the Chinese Ghost Festival celebrated on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month–can be adapted into a longstanding brand. A team named the Phantom, Souls, or Los Muertos could even prompt locals to be costumed with a skeleton mask (or ghost of choice) in a section dubbed The Haunt. So with that, I propose the Spirit–an NFL team name that represents a city with diverse cultures sharing a tradition. –Ed Fuentes, Los Angeles and Las Vegas
The Jungle. The urban jungle, the wilderness that once was, the geographical location of “the jungle” as well as Axl Rose’s song about L.A., “Welcome to the Jungle,” would piggyback on what the Raiders once represented to L.A. There is nothing too cerebral about Los Angeles. It’s simultaneously the canopy of Hollywood, gathering the light, and the laissez-faire social experiment of the ghetto. –Joshua Parr, Los Angeles
If we could build a stadium that was not downtown and with an organization that was not AEG, that did not buy off the L.A. City Council, mayor, and union leaders, and did not get a free pass exemption from Air Quality Management, I would call the team the Wookies. –duVergne Gaines, Los Angeles
The name 51 Percenters obviously relates to the Northern California team of the 49ers, and it follows a time-honored sports tradition of one-upping a neighboring sports franchise (e.g. the Chicago Bears trumping the Cubs). Furthermore, it has the advantage of alluding to the fact that the majority of expense in bringing the franchise to L.A. will be borne by the public through subsidies, while the majority of profits will accrue to already wealthy owners, developers, and investors. Finally, the name will serve as a refreshing counterpoint to the majority of team names … It will be the only one which is authentically American in that it implies democracy (51 percent defeats 49 percent, regardless of merit), and it hints at the transfer of wealth from the many to the few, which is perhaps the one enduring characteristic of recent U.S. history, and of which the NFL is just one of many examples. –Erik Mar, Culver City
I couldn’t care less if there is an NFL team in L.A. I have been just fine since the Raiders left, thank you very much. The potential for the waste of huge amounts of public money is very great. I am totally opposed to any public financing or subsidy for any such thing. If it has to be, I would favor calling them the Rams, just as a gesture toward maintaining some sort of a sense of tradition in a region famous for not doing so. –Noel Park, Rancho Palos Verdes
Football players are strong, fierce warriors, and naming a team Gladiators will remind these men exactly who they are. I love watching football, but I am not in favor of a team in downtown L.A. because of the traffic it will create. However, if we had a team, I like the strength of the word Gladiators. –Renee Ackel, Los Angeles
*Photo courtesy of riptheskull.