Okay, SFU fans. I’ve danced around it for the past couple months, but I can’t avoid talking about it anymore. We need to have a chat about the team name.
I do understand why SFU chose “the Clan.” They wanted a name that worked with the Scottish theme they have going on. They wanted a name that conjured up the image of fierce warriors with tight bonds to each other and their community. In a vacuum, it’s a perfectly fine team name. But in our context as a school in North America, when you start talking about the “Clan,” you know what the average guy pictures in his head? It ain’t dudes in kilts. It’s dudes in white hoods.
The Klu Klux Klan has ruined a lot of things, and this definitely includes the word “clan.” You hear “clan,” you think “KKK.” You might argue that because SFU is in Canada, this isn’t a big deal because the KKK aren’t nearly as present here as they are in the United States.1 But remember that SFU plays in the NCAA, and as Canada’s only NCAA team, that means that every other school they play against is based in the United States. I’ve watched the SFU football team playing in Idaho and Oregon (where white supremacist groups are known to roam), and you can tell that the local American commentators are uncomfortable saying “the Clan” over and over again. The word is tainted and it needs to go.
To be clear, I’m not saying that the name is offensive. This is not a “Redskins” situation where the word itself is bad. I’m also not saying that the name is inappropriate, as the name “Crusaders” can be when you consider its historical context. What I’m saying is that calling a North American sports team “the Clan” is awkward. Painfully awkward. I’ve spoken to former players and fellow alumni and they all agree that the name is difficult to embrace. There’s a reason this blog isn’t called “The Old Clansman.”2
It’s time for SFU to change the team name. The nice thing is that this is one of the few occasions where SFU can benefit from having so little attention on its athletics department. I can’t imagine that current students or alumni would make much of a fuss about changing the name. If they renamed the team, it would make it much easier for SFU to use it to label their student and alumni communities. It’s a lot more fun to proclaim “We are all Thunderbirds!” at convocation than it is “We are all part of the Clan!”3
But what could SFU change the name to? Well, here are a couple of suggestions, just to get the ball rolling.
This is the most inoffensive name I could think of that still maintained the Scottish theme, and SFU is already halfway there, since their mascot, “McFog the Dog” is a Scottish Terrier.4 Making the team name match the mascot would be an easy change. Dog names are popular for teams throughout North America, and everyone knows what a Scottish Terrier is, so to me this seems like an obvious choice. You could even have a real terrier show up at games like the University of Georgia’s pet bulldog, and you could sell plush toys in the bookstore.5
This name is my favourite. A former SFU football player suggested it a while ago and I fell in love with it so much that I named my blog after it. Highlanders works for three main reasons: 1) it sounds cool; 2) it’s obviously Scottish; 3) SFU, being on the top of Burnaby Mountain, is literally on the highland overlooking the city. The on-campus student pub is also currently named the “Highland Pub,” so some groundwork has already been done to associate the community with that term. And we could totally steal the “There can only be one!” catchphrase from the movies.6
The Fighting Frasers
I admit this is a goofier suggestion, but I think it could catch on. I like the alliteration and I’m pretty sure the name is unique. Calling a team after one of the larger Scottish clans conjures up the image that “Clan” is supposed to: a group of fierce and loyal Scottish warriors. As an added bonus, given the unfortunately popular habit of mispronouncing “Fraser” as “Frasier,” there’s a big chance that the American commentators would routinely call us the “Fighting Frasiers.”78 Come on, you know that would be great.
Regardless of what name the school would ultimately pick, I really hope that changing the team name is something they consider in the near future. I realize that it probably isn’t high on their list of priorities, and I would certainly understand if there was some concern about blowback from alumni (particularly former SFU athletes).9 The Clan name has been around for just over 50 years now, which is not an insignificant amount of time, and there are always people who will whine about change, regardless of what is changing. But again, WE’RE CALLED THE CLAN. THIS IS A TERRIBLE NAME. I DO NOT WANT TO BE A CLANSMAN. I believe that changing the name to something far less awkward could be a big step towards making SFU sports easier for the student body to embrace. Do it, SFU. Make me a Highlander officially.10
What do you guys think about the team name? Am I making a big deal about nothing, or is it as terrible as I think it is? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter!
NEXT WEEK: Because I’m a masochist (and because I can’t get a refund on my season’s tickets), I return to Swangard to watch the SFU Clan football team host the Azusa Pacific Cougars. It’s gonna be a bloodbath.
- I’d still argue that most Canadians would instantly associate “clan” with “KKK.” ↩
- I almost named this blog “Trevor Joins the Clan” just to make a point, but I was wisely talked out of it. Admittedly, being on an RCMP watchlist would probably bump up my readership. ↩
- “Um, no! No, I’m most certainly not! I swear!” -almost every white person in attendance. ↩
- Of course, I’m only assuming, because he’s seen so infrequently nowadays that he’s become more legend than reality. ↩
- At least, you could if, you know, the bookstore was ever open on a Saturday when alumni could actually visit and buy stuff. Just a thought! ↩
- Of course, given how our football team is doing, it’s the other team who consistently emerges as “the one.” ↩
- “I may not know what do with these tossed salads and scrambled eggs, BUT I’M STILL GOING TO DROP YOU LIKE A SACK OF POTATOES, YOU SCATTERBRAINED IMBECILE!” ↩
- The logo would be amazing. ↩
- My own research indicates otherwise, but I am just one man. ↩
- Or whatever. I’d accept “Hummingbirds” as a team name at this point. ↩