What’s In a Creative Name?

Posted May 12, 2009 at 4:20pm

Correction Appended

Of all the pressures facing teams in the various Capitol Hill softball leagues — squeezing in time for practice, finding an available field, actually winning a game — perhaps none is more difficult than a team’s first-ever task: picking a name.

[IMGCAP(1)]After all, there’s a long tradition in the House, Senate and Congressional softball leagues of maintaining creative, pun-filled and witty team names.

And the pressure is on to pick the perfect moniker — although doing so can be as complicated as overseeing a Congressional campaign.

Take Scared Hitless, a House Softball League team coached by Henry Kurusz, who works for the National Academies.

Scared Hitless formed out of the remains of the Mullets, a team consisting of staffers from GOP Florida Rep. Jeff Miller’s office and others from the Sunshine State.

That first name originated from Florida’s panhandle, often called “Florida’s Mullet,— Kurusz said. “Also, it’s sometimes called the Redneck Riviera, so the name seemed appropriate,— he joked.

Two seasons ago, the Mullets’ coach left for a new job and Kurusz took over as team leader. Since the core of the team had changed — most had left Miller’s office by that point — Kurusz decided it was time for a name switch and put it to an online vote. (Other options included Cleats and Cleavage, Duck Butter, and the Sparklers.)

“A bitter faction formed and was split,— Kurusz recalled. “I think there was some shady voting because I was getting votes from all over the nation, so I know players were having friends and family vote for their favorite.—

After a tense campaign, Scared Hitless ended up winning. It worked out well — “the logo was easy to form and we get a lot of compliments,— Kurusz said — although he bragged that the team name isn’t very accurate.

“We scored the second-most runs in the league last year, but sadly we also gave up the most runs,— Kurusz said. “It’s all about hitting with us and little defense.—

The team picked up some key off-season acquisitions, and Kurusz is hoping to make the post-season tournament. But the story of the Scared Hitless name doesn’t end here.

Earlier this season, Kurusz got word that another team stole the name — a potential catastrophe because the original Scared Hitless already had jerseys printed.

Kurusz contacted the imposter Scared Hitless and, after “some hard negotiations,— the original crew kept the moniker. “I guess they were just envious after seeing it last season,— Kurusz joked.

Naming and Nagging

Not every team finds picking a name so challenging, however.

When the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network formed a House league team last year, the team knew that, as a rookie crew, it probably wouldn’t win it all, manager J.T. Dean said.

So team members decided to pick a moniker that would symbolize their jobs — What The SPF? — which reminds the team’s on-field opponents that everybody wins if they wear sunscreen.

“We decided to be public health adviser for the league,— said Dean, who works at a federal projects specialist at the society. “We know it gets pretty hot for the summer months, and we wanted to raise awareness.—

Denny’s Team

For teams sponsored by Member offices, tributes to the Members themselves often prevail. Perhaps the most famous is Denny’s Grand Slam, the tournament-winning team named after former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).

Other players on Member-sponsored teams focus on the little quirks that make their bosses stand out.

House league team the Gretzkys features players from the office of Rep. Loretta Sanchez — and the team name is inspired by the California Democrat’s beloved cat, Gretzky (who is famously featured alongside the Member on her holiday cards each year).

“Gretzky’s a much-loved member of our office, and we thought this would be a fun way to pay homage to him and our fantastic boss,— said captain Ajay Abraham, a staff assistant for the Congresswoman. “And so far, he’s brought us good luck — we’re 1-0.—

News You Can Use

Sometimes current events inspire team names, as was the case when Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. staffer Disha Shah and some of her friends decided to form a Congressional league team this year.

At lunch one day, some of the players discussed what might happen should they need to forfeit a game, Shah recalled. One player made the point that the team — with 26 players — is “too big to forfeit.—

Hence, Too Big To Fail, inspired by all those big New York-based financial firms that, unfortunately, did fail. And sadly, Too Big To Fail ended up losing its first game, Shah said.

“We definitely did not live up to our name,— Shah joked. “But that’s OK, we’ll come back.—

Party Time

Party affiliation — and a good movie reference — served to inspire the Kicking Asses, the team consisting of staffers from the office of Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.).

According to Capps spokeswoman Emily Kryder, the name originated at one of the team’s first practices, when players were reciting lines from the movie “Dazed and Confused,— including the famous quip: “I only came here to do two things, kick some ass and drink some beer. Looks like we’re almost outta beer.—

Player Kenny Ames (full disclosure: He now works for the Roll Call Group) suggested Kicking Asses for the name, which seemed especially appropriate since nearly everybody on the team worked for a Democrat. “The name stuck,— Kryder said.

(On a related note, Ames went on to name the Massachusetts’ delegation team, Mass’s Asses, the following year.)

These days, the Kicking Asses is less concerned with, um, ass-kicking, and more focused on being with friends, Kryder added.

“Over the years, several of the team members have married, and we’re even ordering our first Kicking Asses onesie for the daughter of two teammates who will be born any day now,— she said.

A bad joke sponsored the name of the team captained by softballer Charlie Ream.

Ream and a small group of friends wanted to form a Congressional league team this season but were so focused on getting people lined up to play that they didn’t really put too much effort in picking a name.

On the last day of registration, “and without any guidance from the rest,— Ream named the team: Nacho Cheese.

“I came to the snap decision to use the answer to a horribly corny joke — What do you call cheese that’s not yours?’— Ream said.

Correction: May 14, 2009

The article misstated which league “Scared Hitless— plays in. The team plays in the House Softball League.