Time to Mull the Gull
the next time we pick a local mascot, how about the seagulls? (seriously)
The Chippewa Valley is at a zenith in terms of minor league-style athletics. Combine the new Chippewa Steel of the nationally-renowned NAHL with the well-established Eau Claire Express of the top-notch Northwoods League, and you have a nearly-year-long presence of high-quality sports prospects in our environs.
Success breeds success, and one can imagine another nationwide sports league eventually settling a franchise in the Chippewa Valley. We should be ready to give it an identity that truly sends a characteristic postcard of our region to national scouts, talent evaluators, and sports media.
We need to name our next team the Seagulls.
At first blush, you probably think I jest, and depending on where you live in western Wisconsin, the concept of seagulls as a regional calling card seems absurd, if not a ruse. Yet if you drive around certain parts of Eau Claire, you cannot escape the white birds, scattering about in loosely-organized flocks, scrounging for whatever is on the ground. You know Eau Claire is truly different from most land-locked mid-sized cities when you hear the signature yelp of a seagull while walking to your car at some business on Hastings Way, knowing full well that we’re at least three hours from any body of water ordinarily considered seagull-appropriate.
Why are they even here? The species was apparently attracted by our expanse of parking lots – lots that give the resemblance of vast water, in the eyes of a seagull. These gulls found enough food scraps on the ground to survive – including, apparently, dead birds from collisions with the TV tower on the east side of town – and have made a home in the city of “clear water” for reasons that ultimately do not involve water. Seagulls are nothing if not ironic.
Minor league teams are known for unusual names, avoiding the classics like “Eagles” and “Lions” in favor of local signifiers like “Iron Pigs” (an eastern Pennsylvania baseball team) and “Blue Coats” (a Delaware basketball squad making a Revolutionary War reference). Lately, the more idiosyncratic the nickname, the better; nowadays, teams are even adopting single-game name changes for promotional purposes. A “What?” factor is desirable. Thus, a team based far from any ocean or large lake that calls itself the “Seagulls” would certainly qualify for this trend in nomenclature.
Plus, what are the other options to brand a future Eau Claire-based minor league outfit? Trains have been taken, and lumber is already obvious for the northwoods. Mosquitoes – especially this summer – are omnipresent, but would you want to root for something that either drives you indoors or induces spraying and slapping? The more unconventional you go – say, the Eau Claire Bon Ivers, which does have a nice ring – the more likely you are in once-per-season territory. True, “Seagulls” requires some explanation to outsiders, but the story is a good one — again, it is an attention-grabber, and with a lack of well-known stars, minor league teams need to garner attention any way they can.
As far as branding and imagery, I envision using colors akin to those found in the People’s Flag of Eau Claire that we have seen across the area over the past year. The shades of blue and orange simultaneously evoke our community and a shoreline from a large expanse of water where seagulls are supposed to be found. The logo could be either a postmodern creature like that found in the Miami Dolphins’ icon or an “angry seagull” to toughen-up the bird’s look, similar to what we see in many modern animal-based logo iterations. Each time the Seagulls score a goal/point, the call of a seagull would echo across the venue; the team’s intro song would have to be the opening to “I Ran.”
All that awaits us is a team to adopt this concept. When the inevitable “name the team” contest is launched upon the arrival of an expansion minor league basketball or soccer franchise, I propose that the owner(s) consider a unique identity, one that comes with a local backstory and a strand of quirkiness. Perhaps one of those disorganized seagull flocks will even regularly pay a visit to the team’s facility – provided the parking lots are adequately-sized.