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What Your Favorite Teams Were Almost Called

If you're a sports fan, you know the nicknames and mascots of every team in the leagues you follow. If you're a die-hard fan, you probably even know what the teams used to be called. ("Washington Wizards? Please. They'll always be the Bullets to me.") But do you know what your favorite teams were almost called?

When an expansion team enters a league or an existing team relocates, it picks a new moniker, ideally one that will look good on a t-shirt. The process of selecting a new name can be a protracted one, though, and the winning nickname often only gets the nod at the expense of several other less-inspired finalists. Let's have a look at some team names that fans almost got to cheer for:

1. The Toronto Tarantulas

Few team names seem quite as dated as the Toronto Raptors'. The team started play in 1995 with a mascot that was obviously a nod to Jurassic Park, which had destroyed box-office records a couple of years earlier. However, looking at the list of names the Toronto franchise could have chosen, the Raptors seems like a terrific choice. The other nine finalists were the Tarantulas, Beavers, Bobcats, Dragons, Grizzlies, Hogs, Scorpions, T-Rex, and Terriers. "The Hogs" makes sense since Toronto's historic nickname is Hogtown, but it lacks a certain menace and would have been catastrophic when the team picked Oliver Miller in the expansion draft. The rest of the finalists, however, look largely like they were culled from a list of things 13-year-old boys think are awesome, so kudos on picking the Raptors name. (This decision might mark the last time a franchise under Isiah Thomas' direction made a wise choice.)

2. The Vancouver Mounties

When Vancouver got an NBA team for the 1995 season, the franchise wanted to call itself the Vancouver Mounties. The name seemed like a fitting tribute to the bravery of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The plan hit a snag, though, when the Mounties, no doubt skeptical of any cultural crossovers after Dudley Do-Right, made it clear that they didn't want their name slapped on the expansion franchise. The team quickly regrouped and picked the name the Grizzlies as a tribute to the bravery of Canada's many bears. You have to commend the Mounties on their foresight for avoiding this train wreck; the team fled to Memphis in 2001 and had an abysmal .329 winning percentage entering this season.

3. The Baltimore Marauders

When the Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore for the 1996 NFL season, they couldn't bring their name with them. According to the settlement the team reached with the city of Cleveland for swiping the beloved franchise, the Browns' nickname, color scheme, and history stayed put when the team bolted for Baltimore. The now-nameless squad had a series of phone polls and fan surveys to whittle its list of 17 possible names down to three: the Americans, the Marauders, and the Ravens. Over 30,000 fans then voted for the name they liked best, and "the Ravens" won thanks to the city's connection to Edgar Allen Poe. It's probably good that the fans wisely passed on "The Americans," which would have made Kyle Boller's tumultuous stint as starter a national shame rather than a regional problem.

4. The New York Borros

The New York Jets began their life as the New York Titans in the American Football League. When Hollywood honcho Sonny Werblin and oil tycoon Leon Hess bought the team in 1963, though, they decided the team needed a new name. According to a contemporary New York Times story, they considered the Dodgers, but nixed the idea after Major League Baseball didn't like it. "The Gothams" also got some consideration, but the team didn't like the idea of having it shortened to the Goths because "you know they weren't such nice people." (Yeah, but couldn't you just see Vinny Testaverde winning a playoff game, then sacking Byzantium?)

The last finalist to fall was "the New York Borros," a pun on the city's boroughs; the team worried that opposing fans would make the Borros-burros connection and derisively call the squad the jackasses. (Little did the Jets' forefathers know that their home fans would provide all of the booing and heckling a franchise could ever need.) Eventually the team became the Jets since it was going to play in Shea Stadium, which is close to LaGuardia Airport.

5. The Washington Sea Dogs

In 1995 Washington Bullets owner Abe Pollin decided that he didn't want to keep fielding a team with such a violent name and decided to rechristen his franchise. A fan contest came up with five finalists: the Express, the Wizards, the Stallions, the Dragons, and the Sea Dogs. The Wizards wasn't a perfect choice since some fans thought it tied in to Ku Klux Klan mythology, but it was obviously a better choice than the Sea Dogs. One can only assume that this seafaring name got the ax when someone in the team's office realized that the District of Columbia doesn't actually sit next to a sea. Then again, they drafted Kwame Brown first overall, so maybe I'm giving the team too much credit here.

6. The San Antonio Gunslingers

When the ABA's Texas Chaparrals moved to San Antonio in 1973, the team was renamed the San Antonio Gunslingers. The team dropped this name before ever playing a game, presumably because the image was violent even by firearm-related mascot standards. Instead, the owners picked a tamer name that still tapped into the region's cowboy past: the San Antonio Spurs.

flamingo_photo.jpg7. The Florida Flamingos
Florida Marlins owner Wayne Huizenga told the New York Times in 1993 that he had considered naming the team the Florida Flamingos.

8. The Orlando Juice
Before the NBA's Orlando Magic had a name, the other finalists were "the Heat," "the Juice," and "the Tropics."

9. The Charlotte Spirit
The Charlotte Hornets originally had this name before switching to their insect moniker as a tribute to the city's angry resistance of British forces during the Revolutionary War.

10. The Minnesota Blue Ox
The NHL's Minnesota Wild were almost the Blue Ox, the Freeze, the Voyageurs, the Northern Lights, or the White Bears.

11. The New York Skyliners
Before the New York Mets started play in 1962, they considered a list of names that included the Skyliners, the Skyscrapers, the Bees, the Burros, the Continentals, and the Jets.

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History
A Founder of Earth Day Looks Back on How It Began
Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Caruso Affiliated
Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Caruso Affiliated

On the very first Earth Day in 1970, Denis Hayes stood on a stage in Central Park, stunned by the number of people who'd come to honor the planet. Now in his 70s, Hayes remembers it was like looking at the ocean—“you couldn’t see where the sea of people ended.” Crowd estimates reached more than a million people.

For Hayes, who is now board chair of the international Earth Day Network, it was the culmination of a year’s worth of work. As an urban ecology graduate student at Harvard University, he’d volunteered to help organize a small initiative by Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelson. Nelson was horrified by the 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, and wanted to raise awareness about environmental issues by holding teaching events similar to those being held by civil rights and anti-war activists.

Senator Nelson saw a growing disconnect between the concept of progress and the idea of American well-being, Hayes tells Mental Floss. “There was a sense that America was prosperous and getting better, but at the same time, the air in the country was similar to the air today in China, Mexico City, or New Delhi," Hayes says. "Rivers were catching on fire. Lakes were unswimmable.”

Nelson's plan for these environmental teach-ins was for speakers to educate college students about environmental issues. But he had no one to organize them. So Hayes, Nelson’s sole volunteer, took control on a national level, organizing teach-ins at Harvard first and then across the U.S. Initially, the response was tepid at best. “Rather rapidly it became clear that this wasn’t a hot issue at colleges and universities in 1969,” Hayes says. “We had a war raging, and civil rights were getting very emotional after the Nixon election.”

Still, both Hayes and Nelson noticed an influx of mail to the senator's office from women with young families worried about the environment. So instead of focusing on colleges, the two decided to take a different tactic, creating events with community-based organizations across the country, Hayes says. They also decided that rather than a series of teach-ins, they'd hold a single, nationwide teach-in on the same day. They called it Earth Day, and set a date: April 22.

Hayes now had a team of young adults working for the cause, and he himself had dropped out of school to tackle it full time. Long before social media, the project began to spread virally. “It just resonated,” he says. Women and smaller environmental-advocacy groups really hooked onto the idea, and word spread by mouth and by information passing between members of the groups.

Courtesy of Denis Hayes

With the cooperation and participation of grassroots groups and volunteers across the country, and a few lawmakers who supported the initiative, Hayes’ efforts culminated in the event on April 22, 1970.

Hayes started the day in Washington, D.C., where he and the staff were based. There was a rally and protest on the National Mall, though by that point Hayes had flown to New York, where Mayor John Lindsay provided a stage in Central Park. Parts of Fifth Avenue were shut down for the events, which included Earth-oriented celebrations, protests, and speeches by celebrities. Some of those attending the event even attacked nearby cars for causing pollution. After the rally, Hayes flew to Chicago for a smaller event.

“We had a sense that it was going to be big, but when the day actually dawned, the crowds were so much bigger than anyone had experienced before,” Hayes said. The event drew grassroots activists working on a variety of issues—Agent Orange, lead paint in poor urban neighborhoods, saving the whales—and fostered a sense of unity among them.

“There were people worrying about these [environmental] issues before Earth Day, but they didn’t think they had anything in common with one another," Hayes says. "We took all those individual strands and wove them together into the fabric of modern environmentalism.”

Hayes and his team spent the summer getting tear-gassed at protests against the American invasion of Cambodia, which President Nixon authorized just six days after Earth Day. But by fall, the team refocused on environmental issues—and elections. They targeted a “dirty dozen” members of Congress up for re-election who had terrible environmental records, and campaigned for candidates who championed environmental causes to run against them. They defeated seven out of 12.

“It was a very poorly funded but high-energy campaign,” Hayes says. “That sent the message to Congress that it wasn’t just a bunch of people out frolicking in the sunshine planting daisies and picking up litter. This actually had political chops.”

The early '70s became a golden age for environmental issues; momentum from the Earth Day movement spawned the creation of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Environmental Education Act (which was initially passed in 1970 and revived in 1990), and the Environmental Protection Agency.

“We completely changed the framework within which America does business, more than any other period in history with the possible exception of the New Deal,” Hayes says. “But our little revolution was brought entirely from the grassroots up.”

In 1990, Hayes was at it again. He organized the first international Earth Day, with about 200 million participants across more than 140 countries. Since then it’s become a global phenomenon.

Despite its popularity, though, we still have a long way to go, even if the improvements Hayes fought for have made these issues feel more remote. Hayes noted that everything they were fighting in the '70s was something tangible—something you could see, taste, smell, or touch. Climate change can seem much less real—and harder to combat—to the average person who isn’t yet faced with its effects.

Hayes also notes that people have become more skeptical of science. “Historically, that has not been a problem in the United States. But today science is under attack.”

He warns, “This [anti-science sentiment] is something that could impoverish the next 50 generations and create really long-term devastation—that harms not only American health, but also American business, American labor, and American prospects.”

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entertainment
13 Great Jack Nicholson Quotes
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI

Jack Nicholson turns 81 today. Let's celebrate with some of the actor's wit and wisdom.

1. ON ADVICE

"I hate advice unless I'm giving it. I hate giving advice, because people won't take it."

From Esquire's "What I Learned"

2. ON REGRETS

"Not that I can think of. I’m sure there are some, but my mind doesn’t go there. When you look at life retrospectively you rarely regret anything that you did, but you might regret things that you didn’t do."

From an interview with The Talks

3. ON DEATH

"I'm Irish. I think about death all the time. Back in the days when I thought of myself as a serious academic writer, I used to think that the only real theme was a fear of death, and that all the other themes were just that same fear, translated into fear of closeness, fear of loneliness, fear of dissolving values. Then I heard old John Huston talking about death. Somebody was quizzing him about the subject, you know, and here he is with the open-heart surgery a few years ago, and the emphysema, but he's bounced back fit as a fiddle, and he's talking about theories of death, and the other fella says, 'Well, great, John, that's great ... but how am I supposed to feel about it when you pass on?' And John says, 'Just treat it as your own.' As for me, I like that line I wrote that, we used in The Border, where I said, 'I just want to do something good before I die.' Isn't that what we all want?"

From an interview with Roger Ebert

4. ON NERVES

''There's a period of time just before you start a movie when you start thinking, I don't know what in the world I'm going to do. It's free-floating anxiety. In my case, though, this is over by lunch the first day of shooting.''

From an interview with The New York Times

5. ON ACTING

"Almost anyone can give a good representative performance when you're unknown. It's just easier. The real pro game of acting is after you're known—to 'un-Jack' that character, in my case, and get the audience to reinvest in a new and specific, fictional person."

From an interview with The Age

6. ON MARRIAGE

"I never had a policy about marriage. I got married very young in life and I always think in all relationships, I've always thought that it's counterproductive to have a theory on that. It's hard enough to get to know yourself and as most of you have probably found, once you get to know two people in tandem it's even more difficult. If it's going to be successful, it's going to have to be very specific and real and immediate so the more ideas you have about it before you start, it seems to me the less likely you are to be successful."

From an interview with About.com

7. ON LYING

“You only lie to two people in your life: your girlfriend and the police. Everybody else you tell the truth to.”

From a 1994 interview with Vanity Fair

8. ON HIS SUNGLASSES

"They're prescription. That's why I wear them. A long time ago, the Middle American in me may have thought it was a bit affected maybe. But the light is very strong in southern California. And once you've experienced negative territory in public life, you begin to accept the notion of shields. I am a person who is trained to look other people in the eye. But I can't look into the eyes of everyone who wants to look into mine; I can't emotionally cope with that kind of volume. Sunglasses are part of my armor."

From Esquire's "What I Learned"

9. ON MISCONCEPTIONS

"I think people think I'm more physical than I am, I suppose. I'm not really confrontational. Of course, I have a temper, but that's sort of blown out of proportion."

From an interview with ESPN

10. ON DIRECTING

"I'm a different person when suddenly it's my responsibility. I'm not very inhibited in that way. I would show up [on the set of The Two Jakes] one day, and we'd scouted an orange grove and it had been cut down. You're out in the middle of nowhere and they forget to cast an actor. These are the sort of things I kind of like about directing. Of course, at the time you blow your stack a little bit. ... I'm a Roger Corman baby. Just keep rolling, baby. You've got to get something on there. Maybe it's right. Maybe it's wrong. Maybe you can fix it later. Maybe you can't. You can't imagine the things that come up when you're making a movie where you've got to adjust on the spot."

From an interview with MTV

11. ON ROGER CORMAN

"There's nobody in there, that he didn't, in the most important way support. He was my life blood to whatever I thought I was going to be as a person. And I hope he knows that this is not all hot air. I'm going to cry now."

From the documentary Corman's World

12. ON PLAYING THE JOKER

"This would be the character, whose core—while totally determinate of the part—was the least limiting of any I would ever encounter. This is a more literary way of approaching than I might have had as a kid reading the comics, but you have to get specific. ... He's not wired up the same way. This guy has survived nuclear waste immersion here. Even in my own life, people have said, 'There's nothing sacred to you in the area of humor, Jack. Sometimes, Jack, relax with the humor.' This does not apply to the Joker, in fact, just the opposite. Things even the wildest comics might be afraid to find funny: burning somebody's face into oblivion, destroying a masterpiece in a museum—a subject as an art person even made me a little scared. Not this character. And I love that."

From The Making of Batman

13. ON BASKETBALL

"I've always thought basketball was the best sport, although it wasn't the sport I was best at. It was just the most fun to watch. ... Even as a kid it appealed to me. The basketball players were out at night. They had great overcoats. There was this certain nighttime juvenile-delinquent thing about it that got your blood going."

From Esquire's "What I Learned"

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