If you know me, then you know that I’m pro-just about anything Lakeland.
Downtown Lakeland, local restaurants in Lakeland, shopping in Lakeland, colleges and other schools in Lakeland, government in Lakeland. You name it, and if it’s related to Lakeland, there’s a pretty good chance I’ll support it.
As for sports, I’ve always liked the local pro teams that have come and gone (or stayed for a long time, in the case of the Flying Tigers). I went to Lakeland Ice Warriors hockey games growing up, and even covered a Lakeland Blue Ducks basketball game while in high school. From the Thunderbolts in football to other hockey teams like the Prowlers and Loggerheads, it’s been fun to have pro sports in my hometown.
That’s why I was intrigued and excited to hear we were getting another football team, this time affiliated with the Ultimate Indoor Football League (UIFL). I was looking forward to Thursday’s announcement of the team name and logo.
And then the announcement was made.
The logo isn’t terrible, though it does look like it belongs more on the Madden NFL “Create-a-Team” feature in the video game than on the helmet of an actual pro team. But overall the colors are fine and the logo can be tolerated.
But then there’s the name: Lakeland Raiders. Ugh.
For one, why be associated with one of the most dysfunctional pro sports franchises around, the Oakland Raiders of the NFL. They are a mess, and it devalues the identity of our team to share the name.
And there’s the bigger rub: Why choose a name that is already synonymous with another well-known pro team? There is nothing unique or intriguing about the Lakeland Raiders identity. One of the endearing characteristics of minor-league or lower-level pro teams is the freedom they have to come up with off-the-wall names.
Go back to the Blue Ducks, Ice Warriors or Loggerheads that I mentioned above from Lakeland’s history. Or think about minor-league baseball teams like the Toledo Mudhens, or the Montgomery Biscuits. You have Arena Football teams like the New Orleans VooDoo or the Dallas Vigilantes, or hockey teams like the Florida Everblades.
There’s no limit to the creativity that can be used to come up with a team name, and we get stuck with the Lakeland Raiders? Consider this strike one from my perspective when it comes to this new franchise. It’s been hard enough for pro teams to last long in Lakeland, and a dud of an identity won’t help this one.
They could have gone with the Lakeland Locomotives to highlight our rich rail history, or the Lakeland Squadron to honor our aviation heritage. How about the Lakeland Orange (covers citrus and all the orange that Lakeland Dreadnaughts fans already have)? Heck, if you wanted to steal another team’s name, at least the Lakeland Lakers has some alliteration and pun feeling to it.
Don’t get me wrong, I hope the team succeeds and sticks around and brings some more pride to the city. I’ll be rooting for them.
But as first impressions go, I’ve seen much, much better. And if it’s not too late to change the team name, then by all means, please consider it, guys.