By Daniel Rigney
Several pro sports franchises in the U.S. have adopted guns or gun-related themes as their totems. The NBA’s Washington Wizards, for instance, were originally known as the Washington Bullets -- this in a city with one of the highest murder rates in the United States.
Here in Texas, it isn't hard to find sports teams brandishing gun-related nicknames.
The Houston Astros baseball franchise, launched in the early 1960s, was originally named the Houston Colt .45’s. Owners later changed the name to reflect a more futuristic and less frontiersy image. But as recently as this spring, the Astros wore replicas of their original .45's uniforms, emblazoned with six-shooter emblems, on a day commemorating the 50th anniversary of the franchise.
Major League Baseball questioned the team’s good judgment in the matter, but in the end it relented. According to the team's official website, “The Astros said they heard from thousands of fans who were ‘passionate and virtually unanimous’ in their support of the authentic Colt .45's jersey.” I must have been one of the few people in Houston who thought it was a backward idea.
Following in Houston’s bootprints, San Antonio fielded a USFL football franchise in the 1980’s nicknamed the San Antonio Gunslingers. They didn’t last long. Gunslingers rarely do.
Several collegiate (actually quasi-professional) athletic programs in the country also have well-armed mascots according to a recent "Gun News" report at gun.com. LSU’s Fighting Tigers are named for the Tiger Rifles, a Confederate army unit formed in New Orleans during the Civil War. Texas Tech, Oklahoma State University and West Virginia feature costumed mascots who run or ride around during games flaunting rifles or pistols.
Nothing stirs excitement at a game like someone waving a gun at the crowd – though Texas Tech’s Masked Rider appears to be armed with nothing more lethal than a finger-pistol.
I wonder whether Univeristy of Arizona games are broadcast on local television station KGUN ("KGUN9: On Your Side"), which supplied national and unintentionally ironic coverage of the shooting of Sen. Gabby Giffords and 17 others last year in Tucson.
But here’s the most retrograde case of all. A Dallas roller derby team is named -- I’m not making this up – the Lone Star Assassins. Their commercial catch phrase: “Skate to thrill, shoot to kill!” The team competes in something called the Assassination City league. Nothing says advanced civilization like roller derby in Dallas.