The internet loves certain things: rooting for an underdog, poking at humorless institutions, and coming up with ridiculous names.
A flap over the name of Grand Junction’s minor league baseball team has all those elements in spades, which probably explains how it took over the internet this week.
It all started earlier this year when Ian Lummis decided he was underwhelmed with his hometown team’s name and logo. The Grand Junction Rockies, he said, lacked creativity and local flair. He took to Twitter to let the team know how he felt. The name suits the team’s big brother on the Front Range, Lummis said, but didn’t speak to Grand Junction’s unique character.
Inspired by regionally-specific minor league baseball teams like the Albuquerque Isotopes, the Hartford Yard Goats, the New Orleans Baby Cakes and the Binghampton Rumble Ponies, Lummis and friends brainstormed a new name, landing on one of the four endangered fish species that call the Colorado River home: the humpback chub, a grumpy-looking fish fond of swift water canyons.
“Humpback chub for me definitely fit,” Lummis said. “What I was looking for was just a kind of crazy name for Grand Junction to have on its minor league team.”
At first, the team’s Twitter account demurred, joking with Lummis about the name change. But when he kept tweeting about it, the team blocked him.
“They initially thought I was just trying to troll them, which I’m really not,” Lummis said. “I definitely think it’s a funny name and I laugh at it. But I genuinely would love to see them change the name and be a little more unique.”
Having received an influx of tweets asking for a change to the Humpback Chubs, the Rockies’ twitter account Thursday sent out two sternly-worded messages.
“Suggesting we would be called the GJ ‘Chubs’ is offensive and a slang sexual term for erection,” read one now deleted tweet from the Rockies’ account. A follow up tweet stated the team is committed to “family fun entertainment” and that any accounts that encouraged the name change would be blocked.
Those tweets just added more fuel to the internet fire. Articles started popping up almost immediately. By the end of the day “Chubs” was trending on Twitter.
Lummis says he’s happy his effort has garnered so much publicity. A friend has already whipped up a makeshift logo for the nonexistent team, and Lummis said he’s planning to put it on T-shirts. His online petition has more than 2,600 signatures as of publication.
For their part, the Grand Junction Rockies’ seem like they’d just like the whole ordeal to go away. After deleting their tweets about supposed sexual innuendo, it went back to merch giveaways announcements.
In an email, Rockies’ president Joe Kubly dismissed the name change effort.
“We are not changing our team name and will not consider changing it, that is the only comment we have to make for this matter,” Kubly wrote.
Another Colorado minor league team rebranding late last year and drew cheers and jeers from internet commenters. Colorado Springs’ team rebranded as the Rocky Mountain Vibes, with Toasty, an anthropomorphized s’more as its mascot.
This story is part of a project covering the Colorado River, produced by KUNC and supported through a Walton Family Foundation grant. KUNC is solely responsible for its editorial content.