A Team by Any Other Name: The El Paso Chihuahuas
The sports industry is, by and far, a lucrative business. Whenever a small city or town gets in on the action of having their own professional sports team, you would anticipate that such an action would be met with resounding applause and a warm welcome – there’s pride to be had, entertainment to sell, and something new to advertise as an attraction in town. Certainly, San Diego celebrated back in 1969 with the dawn of the San Diego Padres as a major league baseball team. Sure, they had the Pacific Coast League Padres, but the Major League Padres? That’s something to celebrate.
How about a city getting its first minor league baseball team in 10 years? How about El Paso, Texas, future home of the Triple-A Padres affiliate, The “El Paso Chihuahuas?” Apparently, not everyone is so keen to the idea.
Don’t get El Paso wrong, they’re surely excited to have some minor league baseball action back in their town again after a ten year draught following the exit of the El Paso Diablos (Double-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks). And the support for the advent of a Triple-A Baseball team has been resoundingly positive in El Paso, as well. The cheers quickly turned to jeers, however, after it was announced that the mascot for the team would be a creature that is more often associated as a Taco Bell mascot than as a fierce beast to be reckoned with.
Indeed, there has already been a petition started to actually change the name of the team from the Chihuahuas to something a little more fearsome. The petition as of this afternoon already had over 8,737 supporters demanding that Mountain Start Sports Group – owner of the team – change the name to something that “El Pasoans can be proud of.”
Declarations of “inherent racism” and “images of weakness” have been posted online in response to the team name. The outcry is coming from the city where the team will be playing rather than from the San Diego Padres fan base, but the cries have not gone unnoticed. Several other blogs, even an article from the San Diego Union-Tribune, have noted that people are not really digging the new dog on the block.
“It’s racist,” said a commentator on the UPI website. “It’s not even scary.” Another El Paso resident wrote a letter to the local newspaper saying “Wow. How on God’s green earth can anyone take pride in such a mascot? I used to be proud of El Paso…”
Sure, Chihuahuas are small. They’re also pretty nervous looking. They also were the subject of the 2008 box-office flop “Beverly Hills Chihuahua,” starring George Lopez and Drew Barrymore. But let’s not forget what is being named after the little ankle biters here – a minor league baseball team.
Surely, anyone who is willing to follow the Triple-A affiliate of the Padres is also familiar with the Single-A affiliate Lake Elsinore Storm. The Storm take on fierce opponents like the Modesto Nuts. There’s also Double-A San Antonio who sometimes take on the Tennessee Smokies or the Montgomery Biscuits. And let’s not forget the Padres own Single-A Fort Wayne Tincaps, which is an apple with a pot on its head.
But let’s be real here. I’d rather be rooting for a Chihuahua than a biscuit.
The point that the “proud El Pasoans” who fight this name tooth and nail are missing here is that they have a wonderful opportunity to once again embrace a sport and culture into their city. Sure, Chihuahuas may not be ideal fighting beasts but the men on the field will not embody their mascot. If anything, the players on the field will make the mascot fierce. They will make the Chihuahuas competitors, and they will make the city realize that a Chihuahua has a bite worse than its bark.
In all honesty, I love the name. But, at the end of the day, a name is just that – a name. Whether it is the El Paso Chihuahuas or the Hickory Crawdads (Single-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers) on the field at game time, there will be a product on the field that embodies entertainment, showcases a competitive spirit, and yes, will sell tickets. The Tucson Padres played some great baseball in their final season at Kino Stadium, and a lot of those players will be returning to El Paso next season, placing the Chihuahuas as strong contenders for the PCL championship title.
Who knows, maybe in 2014 that Chihuahua will be wearing a crown, too.