Just my thoughts. I'm sure you have your own.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Creating the Ultimate Fantasy Football Team Name

“Brute Farce.”

This was the name of the league my good friend and partner-in-crime, Marcus, came up with for a new Fantasy Football league he wanted me to be a part of. Read it again to yourself. Read it out loud. Then read it again.

Now, perhaps it’s just me, or even an opinion only the minority holds—but I feel foolish every time that I remind myself that I belong to a Fantasy Football league called “Brute Farce”. (In my friend’s defense, I have heard and seen worse, and it apparently wasn’t bad enough to discourage me from joining it.)

And it is in this spirit that I begin my first editorial/commentary called ‘Desktop Quarterback’. That is, the importance of a name in the realm of Fantasy Football.

Why a good name is needed
Well, the first reason would be so that you wouldn’t belong to anything called “Brute Farce” (Again, I tease Marcus, but I’m sure I will get my own in the weeks to come). However, there are a few compelling reasons to go to some, even many lengths to come up with a pinnacle name.

First, to guys, Fantasy Football is a status competition. (Yes, I acknowledge there are girls that do this Fantasy Football thing as well, but they in general remain far less competitive.) The same reason that office mates compete in a Fantasy Football league is the same biological reason that the actual athletes perform in the game—the need to prove one’s self against his peers. Some of us are more humble than others, and many of us try to better ourselves, but you can be sure when it comes to Fantasy Football, that humility is checked at the door.

Thus, as a competition, a team manager is representing himself by his team. Everything about a player’s team represents the ego he brings to the game. Much more is needed, therefore, than just having Tom Brady, Andre Johnson and Peyton Hillis on one’s roster. Like the advertising business, you have to present yourself properly. After all, you really don’t want to be known by your fellows as the ‘Pac Man Ghosts’ (real team name, apparently).

Not a very good team mascot...

Second, in the same vein, you are not just comparing a series of points and numbers against another person’s points and numbers. In a guy’s (or girl’s) mind, he is in fact the owner, operator, head coach, and talent scout of a real life football team. You actually own Peyton Manning. You pay the check for Sidney Rice. Fantasy Football is called Fantasy because, to a guy, it is a Fantasy as much as he is a virtuoso guitarist or a streetwise ladies’ man. If you doubt this fact, you try and ask the team owner in your league that owns DeSean Jackson if he’s interested in a trade for your backup TE.

There are other reasons I’m sure a good name is important—but that isn’t what this article is here to argue. What we are here to discuss is how to come up with such a name.

Categories of names
First and foremost, a good name is not an exact science. Quick: What is the best meal for supper next Wednesday? There’s no way to know what you’d want then, because your tastes change. Further, you might answer that question differently than even your own spouse or best friend. Comparatively, then, a great team name to a gang of white-collared paper pushers in Seattle might be mediocre to a manufacturing warehouse in central Georgia. There are factors to consider, and even after considering them, it really boils down to personal preference.

However, there are certain things we can take into consideration to make a team name better than most. To come up with a team name that sounds good to you, your fellow owners, and the average listener at work, we will examine four categories of names. Borrowing something from at least 3, if not all 4, of these categories is optimal. We will call them the four ‘I’s.

Intimidation: Imagine you own every player we’ve used as an example so far in this article. Now imagine that your team name is the Brightland Ponies. There might be a certain je ne sais quoi to beating another team in your league with the least masculine sounding team name, but chances are that even if you win out in your league, you still have to go to work the next day and tell your non-football fanatic friends that you won as the Brightland Ponies.

From the get-go, having a tough-as-nails sounding team name sparks a little fear in your opponents. At the very least, it garners respect. It’s a mental game—‘this week, I’m playing the Ponies, but next week, I’m going against the Netherworld Ogres’. World of Warcraft images aside, the latter would, at least to the average mind, be more respectable. This is why you don’t see actual NFL teams named the Gardeners, the Cashiers, or the Fanny Packs. Look at the fans in Oakland—they aren’t wearing rainbow suspenders in support of their team. Image goes a long way in proving a point even before the battle begins.

A comparitively better mascot...

Imitation: One of the fun aspects of Fantasy Football is that we get to personally act on something that we’ve enjoyed watching or grew up sharing with family and friends. Because of this endearing quality of the sport to us, there is an inclination to want to share that heartfelt desire with our make-believe team. Many, many times, you will see a person’s actual ties with football reflect in a team name.

Take my hometown fantasy league—the one I personally take part in with my friends. ‘The Gators’ and ‘Da Behrs’ were two of the teams. (Granted, the Gators are not NFL and ‘Da Behrs’ is a pun on the owner’s last name, but the relation is still there.) You will easily come across mascots of a team borrowed (say, using your hometown as the place and your favorite pro team as the ‘whatever’), and on average, at least 1 or 2 of these exist per league. Some view this as a sense of plagiarism, but in honesty, the homage that is paid makes the team name reflective of that person’s life experience with football, and who are we to turn it down?

Imagination: Creativity is a cornerstone of respect among men. Let’s use my hometown league again. My friend’s last name is Hay. His team? ‘The Haymakers’. See, that’s clever, and uses two of our points so far—a Haymaker is indeed intimidating, and the play on his own name makes it imaginative. Another team goes the same route with the ‘South Georgia Rage’. Anthropomorphizing qualities is always a creative route to go. (Other examples might include ‘The Buzz’ and ‘The Shock’.) While puns are a point of argument among individuals for their value, in Fantasy Football, a well created pun can go miles (see ‘Da Behrs’ and ‘Haymakers’ above).

A person might also take a hobby and convert it into a team name. In my personal case, I’ve taken a land and character class from a Fantasy story that I particularly love and made it into my team—The Ivalice Dragoons. Though I got some snickers at first for using a video game as my team name, no one questioned my creativity, and once the initial laugh was over, no one thought ill of it again. (The same certainly could not be said of the T’Rizzle T’Bolts—actual team… so learning the fine line on this point is important.)

Idiocy: Normally, I would be very against this category in coming up with a team name. Then again, as I’ve alluded to a few times, the concept of a team name is left to interpretation as to it’s worth. Take a look at these two pictures—the team names of two leagues I’m in. Notice that both of my team names—the Ivalice Dragoons and the Narshe Returners—are on par as far as their style. Which one seems out of place? (Hint: The one that is surrounded by goofy team names.)

If one’s league is full of zaniness, that’s absolutely fine. After all, competitiveness is just one aspect of the male psyche; the ability to goof off and be illogical at times is clearly another. Naming your team the ‘Hungry Big Macs’ or ‘I EET YOUR HEAD!’ is certainly acceptable if this week you’re playing against a team called the ‘Captain Rons’.

Coming up with the name
Well, I went way too long in describing the types of names. If you’re still reading, you either have far too much trust in my advice or have skipped ahead. If you have read everything up to now, you can start to see that coming up with a name is based off of a few variables that must be considered first—the league’s average disposition, the league’s make-up, and the level of shame you can endure.

There are many procedures for coming up with a name, but the one that I have found the most effective is to brainstorm on paper. (I can claim experience in name-creation, as I have come up with 4 band names, countless album names, and even was responsible for naming a human being. I used the same procedure for all of these, fantasy football team included.) How is this accomplished?

Simple. Grab a piece of paper. Go ahead—I’ll wait. Now, take a writing utensil. In this case, a pen works best, because even if you think an idea is stupid, you want to leave it on the page until the bitter end—a pencil is too impermanent and you might be tempted to erase. For fantasy football, you will want to make two separate columns: one for ‘places’ and one for ‘mascot/things’.

Depending on your desire to be realistic or to cater to the fourth above category, your places might not actually be ‘places’. To sound like an actual team, it would be best that it at least makes some sort of sense—if you care to go the fourth road, you simply need to come up with a phrase or group of syllables, and thus separating into two columns is not necessary. For anyone who wants to sound halfway realistic, the two-column approach is best. For column two, you might want to expand beyond just animals or tangible objects (thus achieving creativity or Imagination). Coming up with my most recent team names, I wrote such tangibles as ‘Paladins’ ‘Templars’ and ‘Ballistas’, along with intangibles that sounded cool, such as ‘Blitz’ and ‘Rebellion’. (Notice that I was going heavy on the Intimidation factor this time around.) Next, randomly pair up column one with column two, going one at a time to see how they sound out loud and how they physically appear. Your team will be read and said aloud multiple times throughout the season—it has to make sense in both forms.

If after trying all of your selections, you find nothing that sounds and looks pleasing, put the paper down for a little bit and come back after some time. Creatively speaking, you can run out of figurative ‘think juice’ if you try too hard. Later when you’re more calm and relaxed, you might add more to the list. Do not erase your old choices—because on a fresh mind, they might sound better than the first go-through.

Say the name out loud to a close friend, preferably somebody who is also a fantasy football player (though not necessarily in your league, though it is fine if they are). How do they react? A smile? A shrug? A nod? Any three of these are alright. A laugh, followed by a “I’m just kidding” can work as well. You would want to think twice if the initial reaction is a head slap, an eye roll or a friend deletion off of Facebook. Have a backup ready just in case when testing out your name.

There also is (usually) no hard rule on keeping the same name all season. Usually a person can incorporate all four of the above categories by having a ‘default’ team name that sounds intimidating and serious, but switch off during specifically timely times. For instance, one of my fiercer rivalries in my hometown league is the Cougars. One week, I had changed my league name mascot to the ‘Cougar Hunters’. Goofiness and innuendo aside, I was pleased with it for the week, and changed it back right after. At the end of last year, my team was doing so poorly that I had changed my team name to ‘The Glass Joes’ and my mascot image to Glass Joe from Punch-Out fame. So, the lesson here is also don’t feel that you are permanently tied down to the name (unlike the case with my daughter). If it comes down to crunch time and the league is about to start, just throw something generic up until you have a chance to come up with something better. That said, however, it takes some of the fun and ‘fantasy’ out of being a team owner if you are constantly changing the name of your team.

Fantasy football is supposed to be fun. Keep that in mind. The name is not the most important part of the experience, but like a sprinkle of salt or a cool frosty Budweiser, it adds to the overall experience. Consider the creation of a team name as the first step to building your franchise, nay, your empire in the realm of fantasy football. Build your way to the top so that everyone will quiver in fear as you trample their worthless teams game after game in the realm of make believe stats, rising to the top of the league known to all as ‘Brute Farce’.

Or… maybe not.