Toronto's New NBA Franchise Harks Way, Way Back for a Name

TORONTO'S new National Basketball Association franchise won't put a team on the court until the 1995-96 season, but the organization has just taken what it hopes will be the first major step toward financial success: It has chosen a prehistoric identity. Dinosaurs are ``hot'' right now, and one assumes marketing considerations were the prime consideration in picking Raptors as the team's nickname.

For anyone who missed the movie ``Jurassic Park,'' Raptors is short for velociraptor dinosaurs. They may seem a strange, overly trendy choice, but the sale of Raptors merchandise - with a dribbling-dinosaur logo - could help in recouping some of Toronto's $125 million league-entry fee.

Some people, however, might say that associating with an extinct species may send the wrong signal about the franchises's prospects.

A name-the-team contest elicited more than 100,000 entries, with Raptors, Bobcats, and Dragons the finalists.

Among the suggestions that didn't make it were Toronto Sauras Rex, Toronto Mighty Dunks, and Canadian Eh's.

The Toronto Towers, a logical candidate given the CN Tower that graces the city's skyline, was already registered to a competing group that bid for the league's 28th franchise.

Now Vancouver, which also has been awarded an expansion team, must come up with a nickname. ``Mounties'' is out: The Royal Canadian Mounted Police own the rights to the name. Perhaps if the Vancouver folks had gotten to velociraptors first, they could have staked a claim to Velos. Silver Bullets fire baseball blank

THE Colorado Silver Bullets, the women's baseball team that is touring the country playing men's teams, was outscored by a cumulative 40-0 in its first three games. Last Sunday the Northern California Community College All-Stars no-hit them, 14-0.

So what's all this prove? Not much, really, other than the promoters of this tour were off base in using baseball as a showcase. The Silver Bullets really should be playing softball, a sport women have been seriously engaged in for many years. Some of the players aiming for the inaugural women's Olympic softball competition in 1996 should play men's fast-pitch teams. That would create a more nearly level playing field. Touching other bases

* Presumably, one reason for the American League's designated-hitter rule is that it creates more offense and removes an almost sure out - the pitcher - from the batting order. Maybe so, but every time a National League pitcher comes through at the plate, it's a surprise worth the wait. Take Chris Hammond: At the same time the Florida Marlins hurler was extending his streak of scoreless innings to 22 on Sunday, he was collecting a double and successfully executing a suicide-squeeze bunt. These efforts more than make up for his .133 batting deficiences.

* For a glimpse of the passion that grips World Cup soccer, consider this: In Bangladesh, college students want final exams postponed so they can watch live televised Cup matches during this summer's US-based tournament. They have mounted street demonstrations to register their displeasure with the government - and Bangladesh doesn't even have a team in the tournament.

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