Some time ago, after a particularly annoying conversation in the upper deck of the Cable Box with a couple of buzzed dudes who wanted a name change, I gave up trying to explain why a name change isn't a good idea, and why the downside is actually pretty big for those people who want to tap in to Hornets nostalgia.
[Okay, I'll put it out there: Charlotte rejected the Hornets already... People over about 30 years old (18 at the time of the departure), the ones who were buying tickets and such, abandoned the team en masse over a combination of the organization's demands for a new arena, George Shinn's sexual assault scandal, and Shinn's alleged cheapness with the team payroll -- the Hornets had their chance, and it's still a very real and different kind of pain for a lot of older folks (like my father-in-law, who worked for the Hornets) than it is for the kids who were 12 at the time and don't truly remember why the team left in the first place... People will fill the arena, watch on TV, et cetera when the team is good, like, you know, during the playoff run... And what happens when the New Hornets are a 25-win team next year? Are fans really going to keep coming once they have to face the reality that this team isn't the same one that had a historically successful expansion launch?]
Now, I accept that the name change is an inevitability. So how should the franchise actually carry it out?
I'm of the opinion that the ideal way is to do as Bomani Jones outlined: If you're gonna do it, go hard. Pretend that 2004-2014 never happened. Pretend that we're switching from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar and all those dates in between simply skipped into the ether, and "Hey! We've got a bunch of new players!" At the introductory press conference, bring Muggsy. Bring Dell. Do as the Cleveland Browns did and pretend that the team that left in 2002 didn't go to New Orleans.
Leave the Bobcats as one of sports history's curios. Because that's what the Hornets nostalgists want, and by changing the name, the whole point is to cater to that group as much as possible and bring as many of them into the fold as we can, because that's the whole point.
Ultimately, I think Bobcats fans like me will have to turn a magic trick. I happen to think changing the name is ill-advised because the $3-$10 million it will cost to do so would be better spent on improving on-court performance, which in turn would bring people to the team. But I also recognize that management wants to have a successful team in Charlotte, and if this is the path they want to take, my responsibility as a fan is to make the best of it, not to pout.
Thus, a magic trick: Even if I think people coming to support the New Hornets are doing it for inscrutable or ephemeral reasons, and even if I suspect that the vast majority of them will bail as soon as the team disappoints them, I will welcome them. Because it's also true that every Bobcats fan I've ever met shares the defining characteristic of longing for a larger fan base, a larger tribe, and even if it's a crappy way to go about it, it's still a shot at one, and we've got to embrace it. Because being a good Bobcats fan will mean becoming a good New Hornets fan.