What’s In A Name: One Writer’s Opinion On Keeping the Bobcats Alive


March 28, 2012; Charlotte, NC, USA; Charlotte Bobcats mascot Rufus during the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Time Warner Cable Arena. Timberwolves win 88-83. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

I began following the Bobcats in 2004. Being a Connecticut native, I decided it would be a good idea to follow whatever team Emeka Okafor was drafted by, and stick with them through thick and thin.Years have passed, bad drafting, poor trades, and less than adequate management have put the Bobcats in a bit of a bind that they are slowly working their way out of.

Yet I’ve stuck with them through thick and thin. Why? Couldn’t tell ya, but they’re my team and that’s what fans do. Part of me wonders why or how anyone could have stuck around last season, as the Cats were on their way to setting the worst kind of history possible.

But it’s more than just performing my duties as a fan. I, and countless others, understand that there’s more than meets the eye with this team; there’s potential for them to grow and mature and turn into something great. This team is consisted of four starters from last season that were 25 or younger, two of which who are still under the legal drinking age. They still need time to mature, but they’re getting there.

Clearly, I’m not the only one who feels this way, or else the Bobcats wouldn’t have had a single season ticket holder after their abysmal 7-59 season. Clearly, there’s enough hope out there for fans to stick with them through thick and thin.

People in Charlotte forgot about that roughly 13 years ago. The once proud Charlotte Hornets franchise –who once sold out 364 games in a row –was no longer bringing in fans as it used to. Within five years of the fifth longest sellout streak in NBA history, attendance had dropped from an average of 24,042 fans per game to a dismal 11,286, with a steady decline each year.

Yes, the owner was bad; but the fan support was just pathetic.

Now, those same “fans” want their Hornets back. They want to call Time Warner Cable Arena the next “Hive”, and Bring Back the Buzz.

Buzz all you want, but I don’t know if that would really send the right message.

We, as fans, all bought into this build-through-the-draft philosophy when Rich Cho became the general manager a few short seasons ago. We understand that there will be road bumps (and plenty of them) en route to building up a much stranger franchise, but we need to stand by the product that’s on the court.

And that includes the name that appears on the court, too.

For upper management to sit and say that they stand by what they’re working so hard to build and recreate but decide to change the name doesn’t say much about their actual values.

Charlotte isn’t the only fan base to have lost a beloved franchise, but they are one of the few to get a franchise back.

The Hartford Whalers were shipped out of town due to poor ticket sales. They have yet to be awarded a replacement team.

Then there are the few cities that have lost franchises, got them back, and then lost them again. I’m referring most recently to Atlanta’s hockey woes which, after losing the Flames after the 1979-1980 season due to poor ticket sales, were awarded the Thrashers at the turn of the new century. The Thrashers no longer exist either, due to poor ticket sales.

One could argue that the name change would increase ticket revenue, thus reestablishing the Hobcats/Bornets as one of the top ticket selling franchises. I argue, “For how long?”

How long before fans get bored or frustrated with how the team’s performance? Regardless whether the team changes the name or not, Tyrus Thomas is still under contract; pending an amnesty (or a trade), you can’t rid the team of the lack of talent. They’re still going to lose and still going to upset the “Hive” (until they acquire enough talented assets).

Sticking with the team name shows a commitment that I would very much like to see from any front office. They need to show that they stand by their team rather than rebranding it, because it still doesn’t change who’s on the roster; you can rewrap and resell soiled food but underneath the packaging, it still tastes bad, no matter how nice the wrapper looks on the outside.

I’m all for bringing back throwback Hornets jerseys, as I’m sure they will sell like hot cakes.

But changing the identity of the team isn’t going to change its DNA. It will only mask the fact that the franchise is still struggling…

…and if that’s the case, how long would it take before the fans turned again?