So the Phoenix Coyotes NHL team is changing its name to the "Arizona Coyotes." Anthony LeBlanc, the team chief executive, justified the decision at length in this story:
We are very excited to announce that our franchise name will change to Arizona Coyotes for the start of the 2014-15 NHL season. Becoming the Arizona Coyotes makes sense for us since we play our games in Glendale and the city is such a great partner of ours. We also want to be recognized as not just the hockey team for Glendale or Phoenix, but for the entire state of Arizona and the Southwest. We hope that the name ‘Arizona’ will encourage more fans from all over the state, not just the Valley, to embrace and support our team.
As some say in the South: Huh, do what?
This is actually another example of the pathological hatred of the city of Phoenix and the city's name that fascinates, repels and carries significant consequences beyond sports.
On Sunday, the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos will play in the Super Bowl. People all over the Northwest root for the 'Hawks and are somehow not turned off by the city's name. The same with the Broncos and its fan base that reaches far beyond the city of Denver.
Sure, there are such franchises as the Colorado Rockies and the New England Patriots, but more often big league means big city. Thus, Arte Moreno changed the name of the Angels to the Los Angeles Angels with an "of Anaheim" thrown in as a forgettable sop. The Florida Marlins became the Miami Marlins. Winning games and assembling appealing players does more to build a "market" than some amorphous geography of nowhere name.
Indeed, if the Coyotes owners wanted to do right by the place that had gone so far into hock for them, they would change the name to the Glendale Coyotes.
But of course America would say, "Glendale...where?"
When I hear state names attached to city/metropolitan teams, especially from Phoenix, I think the announcer is talking about a college team, as in the University of Arizona Cardinals.
Phoenix is the sixth most populous city in the nation. It comprises a bigger part of its metropolitan population than the cities of Atlanta, Chicago, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, Miami or Pittsburgh do theirs. Yet Phoenix somehow can't be attached to a team name aside from the Suns — and perhaps even that won't last.
Sadly, the fetish to marginalize the name Phoenix in favor of "Valley" or "Arizona" carries bigger costs than stupid team names.
As regular readers know, when I hear "Valley," I wonder: Silicon Valley? San Fernando Valley? San Joaquin Valley? Red River Valley (of the north and of the south)? Hudson Valley? Valley of the Jolly (Ho Ho Ho) Green Giant? All are better known than the Salt River Valley or (gag) Valley of the Sun.
So using "Valley" isn't going to help much in distinguishing your metropolitan area in the global economy.
Using Arizona carries its own problems. It's a big state, and much of it has a very different history from metro Phoenix. Tucson is different from Phoenix. State and city are in conflict on many levels. And there's so much more to Arizona than just the lookalike sprawl, strip malls and parking lots of suburban Phoenix. Much of it in good ways. Some — a reputation for bigotry and crazy right-wing politics — a major turn-off.
The global competition for talent and capital is between cities, not states. Between Seattle and Singapore. Not between this valley and that. And the suburban mandarins' notion that making Phoenix the hole in the donut will somehow enhance their value is magical thinking.
I trace the situation to many sources: The hollowing out of central Phoenix; the death of the old stewards; lack of city economic powerhouses and corporate headquarters; migration of affluent residents to the suburbs leaving more working poor in the city; loss of city political power in the Legislature, and the focus of the Real Estate Industrial Complex on the suburbs. There's the huge influx of people, including those with means, that have no connection to place. I wrote about the reasons at length in this post.
I also blame the media with their fixation on using "Valley" instead of Phoenix or metro Phoenix (a big part of the metropolitan area is not even geographically in the Salt River Valley now). It's too bad, for example, that Central Newspapers or Gannett didn't revive the Phoenix Gazette as an online site exclusively devoted to the city (historically, the Arizona Republic was the state newspaper; the Gazette competed, a healthy thing that, but it was the city paper).
In any event, the anti-Phoenix trend is unhealthy, counterproductive and bespeaks deeper problems.
And to oppose embracing such a magical city name: Phoenix. I can't think of a more beautiful city name anywhere.
What a shame to hate it so.