The Omaha Royals have started their "Rename the Team" contest and have filtered down over 1400 submissions to a list of 24 candidates. If these are the 24 best, I'd almost hate to see the list of rejected names. Here's a bunch of the names they actually had the nerve to put on the ballot: Omaha Cattlemen, Omaha Commanders, Omaha Diamond Dogs, Omaha Force, Omaha Funnel Clouds, Omaha Hailstorm, Omaha Locomotives, Omaha Meadowlarks, Omaha Omahogs, Omaha Prairie Dogs, Omaha Prairie Thunder, Omaha Pride, Omaha Sizzle, Omaha Slayors, Omaha Sodbusters, Omaha Storm Chasers, Omaha Thunderbolts, Omaha Thunderbats, Omaha Twister, and Omaha Windwalkers.
The only nonembarrassing names? I'd suggest the Omaha Blue Bombers, Omaha Monarchs, Omaha River Rats, and Omaha Royals. Monarchs is one of those names that's intriguing, but could be a disaster down the line. It's an play on the "Royal" lineage, and ties back to the Kansas City Monarchs of the old Negro league as a tribute. It also could be viewed as a message that they've abandoned the city of Omaha for Papillion, where the Monarch is the symbol of the city and the high school. (Remember what happened to the Omaha Lancers when they changed their name to reflect that they weren't "just" Omaha? I don't think the Lancers ever recovered from that debacle until they moved back inside the city limits...)
I think Tom Shatel has it right. Just leave the name alone, if that's the best you could come up with.
Meanwhile, over at Rosenblatt, things seem to be hitting high gear with the Omaha Nighthawks. The infield has been sodded over, and it sounds like they've sold over 10,000 tickets at least for the opening game. I'm intrigued to see what they actually draw to the first game next week. I'm guessing that it will push 20,000 fans, and I wouldn't be completely surprised if it sells out if the weather is good. I don't know how much Omaha is going to know about the other teams in the league yet, but as far as the Nighthawks go, it's hard to ignore a roster that features former pro-bowlers Jeff Garcia and Ahman Green. This organization has done just about everything right since coming to town, and if they can make a franchise work averaging 15,000 to 20,000 fans each game, it'll work in Omaha.
But before Hartford comes to town, we've got the Huskers heading out to Seattle. I'm going to plead guilty to overconfidence on this game; I think Nebraska is markedly better than Washington. Yes, I know Jake Locker is a potential #1 selection in next season's NFL draft. Yes I know that Chris Polk and Jermaine Kearse are solid players. But I also know that last season, Washington's offense ranked 69th in scoring. That Nebraska offense that was all thought was so inept for whatever reason? It ranked 75th. Washington averaged 26.08 points a game while the Huskers averaged 25.14.
I think Nebraska's offense has improved by more than one point this off season. And even without Ndamukong Suh, I think Nebraska's defense is still better than Washington's, which finished 70th last season in scoring defense. All this doesn't matter once the game kicks off, but if Nebraska plays their game and doesn't make a bunch of mistakes, I think this is a game Nebraska can win rather convincingly. That's easier said than done (remember Iowa State last season?), but I think the point spread is surprisingly low.