Hardcore PRAWN

November 9, 2016
10 mins read

You may remember me. I used to write for this very periodical regularly under the Anne Schindler/John Citrone regime and then returned for a brief time during the Jeffrey Billman era. Among other things, I covered the stand-up comedy scene, wrote political / social editorials, and myriad other #DuvalThings. Those in Duval who don’t remember my writing will almost certainly remember me as “The Dunn Trial Jury Reject.”

Anyway, the first thing I ever had published in Folio Weekly was a Backpage Editorial I wrote in my mid-twenties about my disregard for the overblown reaction to steroids in baseball  – and now here I am again, coming full on-deck circle, writing about the grand old game for FW a little over a decade after my first appearance. 

See, after living on the First Coast for about 30 years and writing on and off while working various day jobs for the latter 10 years of it, about a year ago to the day, I left the Sunshine State and have since relocated to Seattle. I love it here, so, no, you can’t have me back, but I still keep Jacksonville local news cascading through my timeline. Why, you ask? Well, first of all, when you live in a city for the better part of three decades, for better or for worse, it always remains a part of you – it just does – but also because, in The Emerald City, you really just don’t get to experience local gems like the following story.

At 10 a.m. on Nov. 2, the minor league baseball team now formerly known as the Jacksonville Suns, under new owner Ken Babby, unveiled a new team name and logo and will now be called the “Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp.”

While I was still living in Jacksonville, I covered a few of the more notable Jacksonville Suns games, events and topics and, dammit, by rights I should have been there to cover this glorious, pivotal, possibly defining moment in Cowford history. Instead, as I rolled out of bed at 7:15 a.m. PST and took a groggy glance at my Blackberry (I know, I know), my Twitter feed was already blowing up with activity about this Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp name change. Reactions ranged from hatred to disbelief to reports of a few people jumping off of the Mathews Bridge (okay, I made that last part up).

Stanton High School and University of Florida grad Ravin Mahesh (@rawveen) tweeted: “Just when we thought Jax couldn’t take another L, we name our baseball team the ‘Jumbo Shrimp’ smh”

Kelsie from St. John’s County (@KForeeee) tweeted: “Worst team in the NFL and our minor league baseball team is now named the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp….. Wow! Jax is officially a joke :’(“

Alyssa Lang, sports anchor at First Coast News (@AlyssaLang), tweeted: “Between the Jags and the Jumbo Shrimp, Jax may be the angriest sports city in America right now”

Andy Godwin of Duval County (@AndyGodwin904) tweeted: “The most troubling thing I’ve heard in a while is the Jacksonville Suns are changing their name to the Jumbo Shrimp….idk what is life [crying emoticon]”

Responses came from beyond Jacksonville as well.

Graham Marsh of Gainesville (@graham_marsh1) tweeted: “The Suns changing their name to the Jumbo Shrimp is the most Jacksonville thing I’ve ever heard in my life”

Rachel Williams from “Tally” (@Rachel_dw8) tweeted: “Please tell me this is not true please tell me the Suns are not changing their name to the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp GOODBYE” 

Like seemingly everyone else, my first thought was also, “WTF!?” (because that’s how we think now, with social media abbreviations even in our own dumb brains). Why Jumbo Shrimp, of all names? For starters, Jacksonville isn’t on the Gulf Coast. I mean, yes, you can technically get jumbo shrimp there (I used to pick it up fresh off the boat in Mayport in my fish delivery days right after high school), but you can get Philly cheese steaks on Baymeadows Road, too; that doesn’t mean Jacksonville is renowned for it.

If you were going for the cinematic angle, Forrest Gump shot some scenes a couple hours north in Savannah, a city that wants nothing to do with being confused with Jacksonville, as chronicled in the pages of the antebellum city’s bible:  John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. As for the attempt at alliteration, that’s ruined by the “shrimp” part. If you were going for that, it would be better to call the team the “Jumbos” and just imply the shrimp part with the gaudy shrimp logo/mascot. While shrimp may flow delectably down the gullet, Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp does not flow easily off the tongue. (What, was “Jacksonville Decapod Crustaceans” already taken?) In summation, the new name seems kinda … Babby.

All right, so after I and everyone else made our dumb jokes, I decided to give the new name a fair chance and take a look at the official press release, issued via MILB.com, the official site of Minor League Baseball. The opening statement says:

The Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp baseball club, formerly known as the Jacksonville Suns (Miami Marlins Double-A affiliate), unveiled its new identity at a media event Wednesday at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts.

The new Jumbo Shrimp name celebrates Jacksonville as a big small town – Florida’s largest city, yet in many ways a richly connected and close-knit community. Embodying the city’s determination and resilience, the centerpiece of the new identity is a tenacious Jumbo Shrimp in the shape of a “J” amid the water that is the natural geography of the River City on the First Coast. A Jumbo Shrimp holding the state of Florida is a secondary mark. A third logo is the Shrimp Boil mark celebrating affordable family fun with the resilient Jumbo Shrimp fighting his way out of a caldron. St. Johns Navy, Patriotic Blue, American Red and Shrimp make up the team’s new official colors, paying tribute to Jacksonville’s rich military heritage.

Let’s examine this statement sentence by sentence:

The new Jumbo Shrimp name celebrates Jacksonville as a big small town – Florida’s largest city, yet in many ways a richly connected and close-knit community.

Yes, this is absolutely, 100 percent, without a doubt a true statement. So put the “this name is an oxymoron” jokes aside because everyone who has ever lived in Jacksonville knows that it is somehow, literally, the world’s biggest small town. Jacksonville is the largest city by area in the contiguous United States, and it even deceptively looks like a major metropolis, but make no mistake, it’s a small town.

“On a psycho-spiritual level, Jacksonville IS the jumbo shrimp,” stalwart Riverside musician Shawn Lightfoot wrote to Folio Weekly, “Think about all the conversations we might have engaged in regarding Jacksonville and its potential. How many people do you remember calling Jacksonville a big-little city, or a little-big city? The Jumbo Shrimp is Jacksonville’s spirit animal!”

Now this line from the opening statement:

Embodying the city’s determination and resilience, the centerpiece of the new identity is a tenacious Jumbo Shrimp in the shape of a “J” amid the water that is the natural geography of the River City on the First Coast.

I don’t know, shrimp are pretty much the shit heels of the ocean, swallowed up by large creatures of the sea as they languidly drift across the sea floor, not once looking “tenacious” or “determined” about anything. However, being the cockroaches of the deep blue, they are pretty damn resilient, as pointed out by a recent article on ScienceAlert.com about a hellish “lake under the sea” where “only bacterial life, tube worms, and shrimp can survive,” probably alongside residual crude from the BP oil spill fiasco. Okay, I’ll give them partial credit for that one.

A Jumbo Shrimp holding the state of Florida is a secondary mark.

I disagree here. That shrimp is not “holding the state of Florida.” He’s hate-fucking it.

A third logo is the Shrimp Boil mark celebrating affordable family fun with the resilient Jumbo Shrimp fighting his way out of a caldron.

While I will concede that shrimp are probably in search of “affordable family fun,” what with female shrimp laying 50,000 to one million eggs at a time, the “Jumbo Shrimp fighting his way out of a caldron” is getting a little carried away with the bullshit shrimp symbolism.

St. Johns Navy, Patriotic Blue, American Red and Shrimp make up the team’s new official colors, paying tribute to Jacksonville’s rich military heritage.

This last sentence may be the dumbest sentence I’ve ever read.

My deconstruction aside, there are obviously a lot of fans that are really, really not happy about this moniker modification, spurring the biggest name change protest in the region since the renaming of Nathan Bedford Forrest High School to Westside High School in the form of a “Save the Jacksonville Suns from being called The Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp” online petition started by Brad Lundblom of “Duuuuuuvalllll, FL.” As of this writing, 10,720 people have signed that petition to Ken Babby.

WJXT reporter and Jacksonville Sports Godfather Sam Kouvaris wrote to Folio Weekly, “‘Jumbo Shrimp’ screams ‘minor league.’ Rightly or wrongly, people in Jacksonville don’t consider themselves minor league.”

Kouvaris is certainly right about the first part. The name does scream minor league. Awkward, clunky team names such as Bowling Green Hot Rods, Clinton Lumber Kings, Charlotte Stone Crabs, Hartford Yard Goats, Inland Empire 66ers, Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, and Tri-City Valley Cats litter (pun intended) minor league Double- and Triple-A divisions throughout the country.

But they should be absurd, right? If you want decorum, go to an Armada game. Truth be told, a minor league baseball game is a more akin to a carnival than a sporting competition. It’s about chugging dollar beer and bobble head doll giveaways and goofy, clumsy mascots and trashy promos like “Tanya Harding Bat Night” and “Toilet Seat Cushion Night” and “Mike Tyson Ear Night” (all of which are real) and pretty much everything – except baseball. It’s supposed to be ridiculous.

In the second part of his statement, Kouvaris suggests that perhaps this name change has opened up the old wound of civic inadequacy often felt by those native to Jacksonville, a city often panned on a national level by sportswriters. That very well could be, but perhaps the real problem is not the Suns’ new name, but that Jacksonville is taking their minor league baseball too seriously (which is rich for a city that doesn’t even take its Human Rights Ordinances seriously). The Suns’ name is not exactly historically cemented – remember the Jacksonville Expos (Jaxpos) from 85 to 90? – and maybe the Jumbo Shrimp represents a hard turn in the fork in the road where Jacksonville finally gives up on its delusions of grandeur and fully embraces what it really is and for Christ’s sake puts their existential angst aside and tries to have a little fun with their reputation at beautiful Bragan Field.

Think about it, from a business point-of-view, this could be a brilliant idea. The logo looks like an 80s video game cover, so the never-get-enough-of-nostalgia Gen X crowd will, naturally, love it. Millenials will think it’s a new Pokémon. It’s by far the kitschiest thing to happen to Jacksonville since Ash from Ash vs. the Evil Dead TV series called the city his personal utopia. Add in a little Springfield hipster-driven ironic pentameter and, who knows, maybe this new owner is suddenly seen as a marketing genius. After all, this announcement did have Jumbo Shrimp trending nationally alongside Hillary email quips and Trump bombast for a spell. So, is it so crazy it just might work?

The name change may even bring in new spectators who weren’t previously interested in lower league hardball at all.
“I never went to a game but I do know it’s supposed to be fun and family oriented so I am assuming that is what the new owner is trying to accomplish … sounds absolutely idiotic but creating a buzz nonetheless. He did this in Ohio as well … renamed the team the Rubber Ducks … when something is so dumb and silly you just have to go and see it to believe it I think,” Renee Carter of Mandarin, who described herself as “not at all a sports fan at all,” wrote to FW.

Jacksonville based stand-up comedian Chris Buck, host of Hot Potato Comedy Hour at Rain dogs. in Five Points welcomes the name change.

“Who doesn’t like big delicious shrimp? Better than named after some KKK leader or a Civil War general,” Buck wrote FW.

Still, not all are convinced, traditional minor league zaniness be damned.

“The Jacksonville Suns owner argues that lots of minor league baseball teams have ridiculous names. That’s not an excuse,” Argyle’s Matt Flowers said in a series of tweets shortly following the announcement, adding, “It’s awkward when you root for a sports team with a mascot you would also eat. As a #Gators fan I understand this well.”

The ultimate decision, of course, will be left to owner Babby, as tweeted eloquently by former Suns owner, Peter Bragan Jr.

“When I saw the announcement today I was shocked. But Mr. Babby bought the team & he can name it whatever he wants. Good luck to the Shrimps!”

As for Babby himself, as part of the press release he says:

Today marks a new chapter for baseball here in Northeast Florida. Jacksonville’s incredible history as a baseball city dates back more than a century. That history carries on and is now matched with an identity epitomizing family entertainment that our fans have come to learn Minor League Baseball is all about.

As someone who is now an outsider and merely entertained by the crazy ass shit that happens in Florida with no real skin in the game, I hope that Babby sticks to his guns (Florida loves guns, btw). But there is a deeper element at issue here. If you learn anything living in Seattle, it is the virtue and power of tolerance. Here we would welcome with open arms a Sun who now wants to identify as a Shrimp. So, if I could impart a bit of wisdom from my new home in the Pacific Northwest to my many friends back in Jacksonville, it would be to learn to accept your city for what it is and practice tolerance towards your new team: The Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp.

Go Shrimp. Oh, and can someone down there Fed Ex me an official team hat?

Follow RDS3’s Seattle adventures and his usual witticisms, criticisms, & twitticisms on Twitter: @rdS3attle

Folio is your guide to entertainment and culture around and near Jacksonville, Florida. We cover events, concerts, restaurants, theatre, sports, art, happenings, and all things about living and visiting Jax. Folio serves more than two million readers across Jacksonville and Northeast Florida, including St. Augustine, The Beaches, and Fernandina.

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