Jumbo shrimp

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Want to travel to Jacksonville, Fla., and take in some jumbo shrimp? It’s not what you think. Unless, that is, you are a fan of minor league baseball.

Jacksonville has sported a minor league baseball team as far back as 1962. Many of these teams were quite good, winning championships in their league. The latest incarnation of the sport was the Jacksonville Suns. In November of 2016, the owner changed the name to the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp. Why? Your guess is as good as mine.

Mascots for teams are generally chosen to indicate fierceness, competitiveness, ferocity, and the like. In professional football, for example, there are the Chiefs, the Vikings, the Falcons, the Patriots, the Cowboys, the Eagles, and so on. In college football, one discovers the Wildcats, the War Eagles, the Wolves, the Seminoles, the Yellow Jackets, the Bulldogs, the Tigers, and … well, you get it by now.

Admittedly, baseball has never been known for fierce mascots. There are the Mets, the Blue Jays, the Dodgers (which has nothing to do with draft dodgers who were not at all fierce), the Twins, The Cardinals, the Red Sox, the Padres, and more. There are some exceptions but it is not the rule.

But the Jumbo Shrimp? According to Sports Illustrated, the Jumbo Shrimp is not the only weird mascot name. There’s the Wichita Wingnuts, the El Paso Chihuahuas, the Modesto Nuts, the Fort Wayne Tin Caps, the Traverse City Beach Bums, the Savannah Bananas, the Akron Rubber Ducks, the Albuquerque Isotopes, the Montgomery Biscuits, and the Batavia Muck Dogs. And that list is only a partial one.

Still, the Jumbo Shrimp has to rank as one of the worst. “Who do you play for?” “I play for the Jumbo Shrimp,” he proudly answered. Seriously? As least the Muck Dogs appear to be down and dirty mongrels who might get rabies and bite you.

All of this is not to take away from the young men who play for these teams, all of whom were standouts in high school and/or college. Many of them have gone and will go on to play for major league teams with decent names — like the Braves, the Tigers, the Pirates, the Indians, the Diamondbacks, and … well, that’s about it, as far as fierce mascot names go.

Maybe the Jumbo Shrimp will cause a number of name changes that will bring food to mind. The Macon Hot Dogs could devour the Minnesota Cheeseburgers. Or the Knoxville Bar-B-Q Ribs could play the Houston Hot Wings. A whole new range of possibilities comes to mind: The Carolina Corn Dogs, the South Dakota Frozen Pizzas, the Columbus Crayfish, the Chino Chili Rellenos … the Georgia Grits could play the Jumbo Shrimp. Anyway, it’s just a thought.

I just wonder what is in the minds of the people who name the teams? Is it marketing? There is a T-shirt for the Jacksonville team that reads, “Shrimp and GRIT!” Well, that’s cute. But is cute the image one wishes to portray?

When our church adopted a name for its sports teams, and even its motorcycle club, the name chosen was “Warriors.” I suppose we could have selected the Acolytes, or the Bell Ringers, the Tithers, or the Sheep. But we chose a name that indicated that we were willing and, hopefully, able to fight for victory.

While I salute the young men who play for the Jumbo Shrimp, the Wing Nuts, the Nuts, the Bananas, the Chihuahuas, the Rubber Ducks, the Biscuits, the Muck Dogs, the Tin Caps, the Beach Bums, and the Isotopes, all I can think to say to the owners is … ”What were you thinking?!”

[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org.]