With the summer AAU circuit beginning to wind down, it’s time to address the most important issues at hand: these teams HAVE to find better names. This seems to a very miniscule detail that every AAU coach/manager/obese uncle forgot to take care of before starting their “team”. I use the world team loosely, because most AAU “teams” aren’t teams, rather a conglomerate of talent that can play Dirt Bowl-basketball better than they can get along with one another. The only “teams” that actually know the X’s and O’s of basketball well enough to function together, usually have enough talent to have their name predestined by sponsors (King James’ Shooting Stars, Team Manimal, Indiana Elite, etc. etc.). Those that have to actually pay for their shoes have the choice to pick any name from Webster’s Dictionary, but since AAU took off in the 90s, creativity has slowly fallen to the wayside.
The largest AAU Tournament in the State of Kentucky finished today with the conclusion of Eddie Ford’s Hoopfest. The 16U Division was decided between the Louisville Magic and the Next Level Retros, with the Magic taking home the crown after a 67-64 win. These two teams present us with the most basic philosophies behind name selection: A. The traditional city where you are from, followed by a nickname that is generally used and accepted nationwide. B. An arbitrary combination of slang terms. The only archetype missing from the equation? C. The blankety blank All-Stars (feel free to replace All-Stars with either Shining or Shooting Stars). Upon visiting an AAU Tournament you can successfully match one of these three templates to any AAU team you encounter.
While the names on the front of AAU team jerseys shouldn’t matter that much, the lack of clever originality speaks to how far we have fallen as a society. The world won’t come crumbling to the ground because somebody thought it’d be a good idea to name a team the Iowa Cornsharks Select, but we shouldn’t have to sit back and watch talented basketball players lose credibility because their team simply doesn’t have the “D-I” look. For example, if I asked you what team you’d rather watch play, Team Louisville or the Ville Illness, you’d obviously choose Team Louisville (the last great KY AAU dynasty during the 90s). Coaches may not go through the exact same process when deciding which game to watch, but it’s undeniable that their subconscious will rule out the most ridiculous in the crowd.
Furthermore, we shouldn’t encourage our children to use ridiculousness of this magnitude on a daily basis. In the mid-2000s the geniuses at the University of Louisville hung a giant billboard on the smokestacks off I-65 near campus reading, “The Ville: The Best College Sports Town in America”. The billboard stands to this day, reminding the thousands of esteemed graduates of the University of Louisville that their institution can now be simply referred to as “DA VILLE”. While mocking the lack of intellectual savvy of U of L is easy, it is the indoctrination of a people that is dangerous for society. The fact that my hometown is now referred to by thousands on a daily basis as simply “Da Ville”, embarrasses me. The selection of the term as something official condoned by U of L was originally questioned by a fairly large audience; presently citizens from all ages around Kentucky immediately associate “DA Ville” with U of L, which I quite frankly find pathetic. AAU Teams will never have close to the power that “DA Ville”, but the choice of stupid names continues to reinforce and teach our kids that using awful language and slang is ‘OK’.
I may seem like a crusty old conservative, speaking of the glory days when the most known deviation from basic recreational team names came in Walter Matthau’s “Bad News Bears”; I’d rather like to think of myself as a person that couldn’t look at myself in the mirror if I ever had to break a huddle with the chant of “Illness”. These kids don’t have malaria or smallpox, they’re talented basketball players. Treat them like real people now and later on in life they won’t treat you like you have an illness.
Feel free to yell at me via Twitter @RoushKSR