Editor's note: Orginally published Oct. 30, 1994.
Rainiers? The Tacoma Rainiers?
I've got a better idea. Let's be honest about our motives - and just call them the Tacoma Profit Margins. Or the Almighty Dollars. Or Still the Not Quite Seattles.
Barring a change of heart where heart seems rare lately, Tacoma Tigers management will announce Tuesday that the locally beloved and historic feline nickname has been supplanted by the name Rainiers. Much will likely be made of a new partnership between the Tacoma baseball franchise and the eponymous South Seattle brewery.
I have a vision that the cuddly tiger mascot will be replaced by a dancing stubby, a frolicking big brown bottle whose job it will be to entertain fans while simultaneously sowing the message into the heads of adults and children alike that beer is fun, that beer is good, that beer is baseball.
I've had enough beer spilled on my shoes by baseball drunks to know that increased alcohol consumption is the last thing we need to promote at Cheney Stadium. I've narrowly avoided enough post-game parking lot collisions with beer-befuddled drivers to know that team management should, if anything, ban sales of intoxicants altogether.
Alcohol causes enough trouble already.
And a sports team is one of the most potent vehicles by which a community takes its identity. Now, Tacoma is about to find her new identity in a beer. Worse yet, to my taste, there are better beers around. And worse yet, this is a beer from Seattle.
There are those cheerleaders-for-change who champion the new affiliation by looking south, to the majesty of Pierce County's tallest mountain. They say the team is being named for it, and not the beer. But they should know, as most longtime residents do, that the true name of this hero is "Tahoma."
The name Rainier comes thanks to George Vancouver, who in 1792 sought to honor Peter Rainier, a rather obscure English naval captain who went on to become a member of Parliament after serving as commander of the East India station of the Royal Navy. There is no evidence that Rainier ever saw, nor particularly cared one way or the other about, the mountain that bears his name.
There is much evidence that local natives - through countless generations - honored the mountain with the name Tahoma. The battle has long been fought to give the mountain its right and proper name on official maps. But the battle has been lost - or won, depending on how far north your sentiments reside.
I do not suggest, as some have, that the Tigers become the Tahomas. It's bad enough that the mountain has been commercially co-opted at all. Worse yet, it graces the logo of a mediocre beer. Worse yet, again, it's a Seattle beer.
And the Tigers are a Tacoma team. I understand the team management's desire to attract a regional audience. But at what cost?
For too long, in too many ways, has Tacoma played the back-seat, second-fiddle, ugly stepsister against Seattle's assumed superiority. And as much as I'd once again like to blame Seattle for its arrogance, here I can't.
The decision I decry was made in Tacoma, if not necessarily by Tacomans.
Why not the Lumberjacks? The Titlows? The Nisquallys? The Ohops?
If change they must - and change they will - then why not choose a name that speaks to the nature of the town and the region it serves? Why not the Madronas? The Steelheads? The Eagles? The Rivers?
Why take a name that's already been used, and gracefully retired?
The Rainiers belong to Seattle. Always did. Always will.
Worse yet, the Rainiers are about to invade Tacoma.
I've heard that team management has interviewed season ticket holders and vendors concerning the new name. Information/communications director Kevin Kalal tells me that the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
The response I've heard has been overwhelmingly the opposite.
"Sure, it's going to surprise some people, " Kalal says. "And some people are going to be turned off by it."
Enthusiastically, he outlines several ideas concerning new merchandise opportunities that will accompany the new name.
"When they see the new items, they're going to enjoy it, " he says.
Actually, they won't have much choice. So I propose a toast.
The tiger is dead.
Long live the bottom line.