In 2004, the Syracuse Orangemen and Orangewomen lost their genders and became known simply as the Syracuse Orange. It's a generally-accepted error to think that recently-deposed athletic director DOCTOR Daryl Gross made the decision, but in fact the wheels had already been in motion for years and the decision made before he ever arrived on campus.
Still, the rebranding fits with the Gross ethos, sacrificing tradition in the name of marketing. Changing something that made a modicum of sense...the idea that we were certain kinds of men and women...and remaking us as some kind of asexual collection of genderless #BRANDbots.
So, now that Gross has shuffled loose his directorial coil, there's been a lot of chatter about taking many of the changes made during his tenure and throwing them out. Restoring No. 44 to it's full and proper glory. Wearing some God damn orange uniforms, or at least shelving the platinum ones. Bringing important football games back to the Dome. Looking to tradition instead of market share.
And of course, returning to the Syracuse Orangemen(women).
I'll be the first person to tell you that we should never, ever do that.
First, let's take into account that it's been eleven years since the change was made. While you will certainly see some folks still refer to us as the Orangemen from time to time like an old reflex, being the Orange is pretty much a part of who we are now. It's a bit like being in the ACC. You might like the idea of going back to the Big East, but, there is no Big East to go back to. Not really.
Second, this is one of those rare times Nike actually had a good idea in mind, though I'll admit I'm not sure it's for the intentions you'd hope. Purposefully or incidentally, Syracuse University has actually been somewhat progressive when it comes to taking outdated traditions and morphing them to fit modern times.
I mean, we all know what Orangemen came to represent, right? It's not from a bunch of chaps in the 1920's who dressed up like oranges. It's a Native American nickname. Maybe it didn't start that way in 1890 but as soon as we made our mascot a Native American, it sure fit. I mean, we were actually cool with this...
But...back in the 70's, before most of the schools with Native American nicknames figured out that it might be a good idea to change the connotation, Syracuse did it. The Orangemen now meant something else. Eventually, it meant an anthropomorphic orange who loved doing front rolls.
I remember attending the Orange Bowl between Syracuse and the Florida Gators in 1999. As I was walking into the stadium, I was approached by two Florida fans who asked me what in the hell an Orangeman was. I explained it to them but the fact that they didn't even put two & two together meant one of two things:
- They were dumb as a bag of hammers, which, is entirely possible.
- The "rebranding" of Orangemen, which turned it from a word with meaning into a word with little meaning, worked.
By the time the name changed from Orangemen/women to Orange, it had just as little meaning as the new name. If asked to picture an Orangeman, you'd probably pictured Otto. And now, if asked to picture "The Orange," you'd still picture Otto.
Right now, the Washington Redskins are in the midst of a PR nightmare that will only end when either Dan Snyder sells the team or they change the name like they should have done years ago. There's a lesson on what could happen to us staring us in the face.
By changing the name back to Orangemen, even though we've scrubbed away the initial connotation, we would be bringing it right back into the discussion. Intentional or not, you'd be inviting a whole slew of public concerns, protests and drama that you simply don't need. Especially not with all the bad PR already floating around the school.
Oh and I mentioned that bit about how Syracuse was progressive even if it wasn't meaning to be. Well that's part of the decision to shorten to Orange as well. Orangewomen always felt tacked on and awkward. A variant version of the "real" school nickname. Something we did "for the ladies" to make them feel better.
And I gotta tell you, in the year 2015, this really isn't a place for separate Orangemen and Orangewomen anymore. There's no reason to go back to a time when we separated the two. We're all Orange together. One group of us doesn't need to be one thing while the other is something else.
Lastly, and again I hate to agree with Nike or the basic tenants of the DOC Gross Bible, but this is one instance where branding makes sense. You wanna promote Syracuse? No matter what sport or athlete or coach or program...we're the Orange. Print the t-shirt. Boom. Done. It makes fiscal sense and it makes business sense.
Really, I think that's all there is to it. Yes, there is nostalgic value in the Orangemen name. And Orange certainly isn't the most straight-forward concept in the world. But maybe that's part of what makes Syracuse unique.
Would you rather be one of the dozens of Tigers or Wildcats or Bruins or Cougars or Huskies? No one else can lay claim to being called the Orange and no one else can claim to have a mascot as weirdly wonderful as Otto. Sure, it doesn't make any sense that a school in Upstate New York has a mascot and nickname that recall a fruit that doesn't grow within 3,000 miles of the campus, but, there's a beauty in that.
It's the same way new professional team names don't have the same weight as names like the Dodgers, Lakers or Red Sox. None of those names make sense today, especially where some of those teams are located, and if you were starting from scratch, you wouldn't even consider any of them. But there's a beautiful absurdity to the fact that we accept that there are two professional baseball teams named after the color of their footwear (three if you count the Reds). It sounds so silly.
And yet...here we are.
Gotta hear both sides, tho. Here's Jeremy's rebuttal.