The Arena Football League recently approved a Portland-based ownership group’s bid to purchase a majority of the Milwaukee Mustangs with the intent to move them to Portland.
Terry Emmert, CEO of Emmert International, a company based in Clackamas that specializes in heavy haul transportation and rigging services, leads the new owners.
Hopefully Mr. Emmert has a sense of humor, because he has already had the opportunity to experience how hilarious and clever Oregonians can be. When they announced the purchase of the team last week, the new owners also announced that the Portland community would have a hand in naming the team. Fans were encouraged to log on to PortlandAFL.com to suggest and vote on potential team names. Local radio funny-guy Jason Scukanec, or Big Suke, from Primetime with Isaac and Big Suke on 1080 The Fan has issued a call to all Portland sports fans to bombard the website with votes to call the team the Platypi. Or Platypuses, or some variation on that theme. He’s hazy on the spelling of the plural form of the word, but he’s very sure it’s what Portland’s team needs as their mascot.
Big Suke’s logic is that the platypus is a pretty reasonable answer to the question, “What do you get when you combine a duck and a beaver?” The football landscape in the state of Oregon is dominated by Ducks and Beavers, so to make the new team fit in, we should combine our collegiate powers into one ferocious, semi-aquatic, egg-laying mammal of action.
The platypus as a missing link between Duck and Beaver has been exploited before in Oregon’s football history.
From 1959 to 1961, the Platypus Trophy was awarded to the winner of the annual Civil War game between the two schools.The trophy was stolen and lost several times after that, re-purposed for use in the water polo Civil War games for a few years, and eventually resurfaced in 2007 when athletic directors from both schools decided not to resume the tradition. With such an appropriate regional football icon lying dormant, Big Suke may be on to something—maybe we should call the new team the Platypus after all.
Portland previously was home to an AFL franchise, the Forest Dragons, from 1997 to 1999. Forest Dragons is another one of the names currently on the list for fans to choose from when casting votes for the new franchise. Other options include the Grey Wolves, Loggers, Lumberjacks, Reign (groan), Pythons, Pioneers and Cascades. While many of those options reflect Portland and the Pacific Northwest as a whole, none of them have the same connection to the state’s football tradition as Platypus.
Before the potential fan base or the team’s owners reject Platypus as too ridiculous for serious consideration, they should consider the AFL tradition of team names. This is a league that has teams named the New Orleans VooDoo, the Philadelphia Soul, and the recently added Los Angeles KISS. That’s KISS, as in, “I Wanna Rock & Roll All Nite.” Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley of the leather-clad glam band are the principal owners of the eponymous team. KISS owns a football team, and they have been publicly pursuing a contract with Tim Tebow, so this is not a league that is averse to a little bit of playful publicity.
Regardless of what the Portland franchise ends up being named, they appear to be assembling an organization that will field an exciting, competitive team. Emmert recently stated, “Sports fans in this state are used to seeing a high-energy, fast-paced brand of football. The AFL delivers that kind of excitement in a unique and affordable family setting.” That setting will be the Moda Center, formerly the Rose Garden Arena, where the team will play nine home games in their first season starting March 2014. Season tickets start at $99. The football staff that Emmert has assembled includes franchise president Jared Rose, director of football operations Meadow Lemon and recently hired head coach Matthew Sauk.
Sauk comes to Portland from a three-year stint as assistant head coach and offensive coordinator of the Utah Blaze. In his time at Utah, his team set records in nearly every offensive category. Sauk played quarterback for Utah State University before a long AFL career as a player. He moved into the coaching ranks in 2008 but came out of retirement midseason to throw for 928 yards and 21 touchdowns for the Arizona Rattlers.
There are plenty of quality football players who aren’t able to land NFL jobs, so hopefully the coach won’t have to suit up and play in 2014. Many of those players who are looking for work on the AFL level are former Ducks and Beavers, so maybe the platypus nickname could make some sense for Portland. Some former Portland State players are likely to get a look with the new squad as well, so maybe we should suggest they put a Viking hat on that platypus to round out the state’s football representation. Regardless of what Portland’s quirky fans come up with, this new addition to the Rose City is bound to be exciting.