This year’s Super Bowl truly represents a matchup of economic misery. You’ve got the Pittsburgh Steelers, who were named for the city’s once world-leading steelmaking industry, facing off against the Green Bay Packers, whose handle was inspired by the Indian Packing Company, which dominated the canned meats business in the early 20th century. With both steel and meatpacking suffering long-term declines in the U.S., the two conference champion football teams are faring far better than the industries they represent. For these two gridiron squads, the misery of their monikers has provided ample motivation to achieve athletic excellence. Which leads one to wonder, what other dying U.S. industries should get professional sports teams named after them?
1. Auto Manufacturing: Sure, both Ford and GM have crawled back from the brink, but they’re mere shadows of their 1950’s selves. The car-making future belongs to Korea, so we Yanks ought to get one last bump from the rust belt before it’s dust. Perhaps if the Detroit Lions changed their name to the Detroit Auto Workers, they’d find redemption for their 0-16 record in 2008.
2. Video Rental: When’s the last time you dropped by a brick-and-mortar video shop? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Once synonymous with a popcorn-laden evening of home film viewing, a “Blockbuster night” now involves losing all your money to a rival you once mocked. The Biloxi Blockbusters will win the American League pennant in 2019.
3. Tobacco: Forget cocaine, it’s nicotine that’s a hell of a drug. Smokers hung in there through cancer, emphysema, and the $16 pack, but a full-court press by the government outlawing practically all indoor smoking is finally having an impact. Smoking rates are down, and tobacco farming, which financed the very founding of our nation, is on its way out. Look for the Sarasota Cigarettes to dominate basketball throughout the 2020’s.
4. Newspapers: While print media is hardly printing money these days, newspapers are suffering the worst, because readers simply refuse to pay for the damn things. In a future dominated by lowest-common-denominator cable news and websites filled entirely with user-created content, America’s once-proud newspapers have no place. The New Orleans Newspapers seem poised to dominate hockey as early as 2017.
5. Music Publishing: Sure, a few honest, angelic people are paying for legal downloads, just like my 68-year-old mother-in-law still purchases compact disks from an actual store. But the rest of the world knows how to type Soulseek into Google and access every song, instantly, for free. And what burgeoning artist needs fancy recording studios and big budget promotion when Logic Studio and Twitter can accomplish the same thing? The success of the Raleigh Record Labels during the 2014 MLS season will finally convince Americans to sit through a soccer game and like it.