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   Bernardino

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Cedar Rapids Kernels 128

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Posted 2015 August 9

Somehow, for the second week in a row, I find myself talking about corn.

I'm kind of getting used to this sort of thing, to be honest. A few weeks ago I had three consecutive reviews for teams whose names were pirate-themed. That was followed by three teams with the exact same name — the Cardinals. Then I had a few weeks of unrelated reviews, and now here I am, writing about corn two weeks in a row. Very exciting topic, corn. Yessiree, out of all the things to name your team after, nothing is as fascinating as corn. Nothing is as fascinating, nothing is as awe-inspiring, nothing is as interesting. I can hardly contain my excitement.

If you're wondering why it would even occur to these teams to name themselves after corn in the first place, you have only to look at the name of team from last week's review again. Illinois and Iowa are in the heart of the Corn Belt. But that doesn't really explain it, because there are lots of regions described as the "______ Belt" in America, and most of those belts don't get teams named after them. Whether this is because corn is more interesting than those other things or because cities in those other places have better things to name teams after while cities in the Corn Belt don't is left as an exercise to the reader, but here's a hint: it isn't because corn is more interesting than those other things.

I got curious about just how many "belts" there are in America, and found a list that included the following:

The Bible Belt: A region of the country known for higher church attendance, social conservatism, and evangelism. It roughly corresponds to the parts of the country that tried to form the Confederacy, and I'll let you draw your own conclusions about that. In any case, there aren't really any teams in the Bible Belt named after Christianity; indeed, the handful of baseball teams that do have names that relate to Christianity (Saints, Padres, etc.) are in other parts of the country.

The Black Belt: This refers to a region of the country running roughly from the Arkansas-Louisiana border east to around South Carolina, then northeast through eastern North Carolina into southeastern Virginia. Depending on who you ask, the name comes from either the fertile, black soil in the area or the large number of African-Americans who live there because their ancestors were enslaved and forced to work in the plantations that were placed there specifically because of all the fertile, black soil. Perhaps because it could easily come across as racist, no teams in the region are named after the Black Belt.

The Cotton Belt: The region of the country that specializes in cotton production. For obvious reasons relating to the soil, this overlaps heavily with the Black Belt, although it stretches a little farther west into Texas and doesn't reach quite so far north. I can't think of any baseball teams named after being in the Cotton Belt, but several years ago there was a hockey team called the Lubbock Cotton Kings.

The Frost Belt: The Northeast and northern Midwest; i.e., places where it gets cold as shit in the winter. You get a lot of hockey teams throwing the word "ice" into their names in the Frost Belt, but then again you get hockey teams in places like Louisiana and Florida doing the same thing. No baseball team in the area talks about being in the Frost Belt, perhaps because baseball is a summer game and the teams don't want to remind anyone of the dark times ahead.

The Jell-O Belt: Utah. So called because apparently Mormons love Jell-O. I know this sounds like horrible stereotyping but the state of Utah has designated Jell-O the official state snack food and apparently per capita Jell-O sales in Salt Lake City are twice the national average (a fact made even more impressive when you consider that in people in Salt Lake City are much less likely to be buying Jell-O so they can make Jell-O shots). So if you're going to get mad at someone for perpetuating a stereotype, don't look at me. Anyway, there are more teams in Utah named after jazz than Jell-O.

The Rust Belt: Roughly the same area as the Frost Belt but not going quite so far west, and reaching a bit farther south. So named because the area used to have a lot of industry and now has lost a lot (although not all) of it. You do actually get teams named after industry in this area, but one gets the definite impression they're trying to emphasize the glory days when they did make things, not the present day when they don't make as much.

The Salt Belt: Areas that put a lot of salt on the roads during the winter, which is to say the same damn place as the Rust Belt and the Frost Belt. Really, hasn't this area got enough names? Anyway, I don't know of any teams named after salt, which is probably a good thing because that would be a really dumb thing to name your team after...almost as dumb as corn.

The Snow Belt: Oh, for fuck's sake. Just stop it already, Northeast and northern Midwest. You've got enough "belt" nicknames. You're like the kid at the birthday party who's already eaten so much cake that he's about to throw up but is still crying for another slice.

The Stroke Belt: The region where strokes are more common than in the rest of the country. Again, it corresponds roughly to the Confederacy. Okay, so maybe I should quit getting on the Northeast and northern Midwest's case so much. Seriously, aren't there any belts in Colorado or Oregon? Every damn one of them so far has been in the eastern and/or central part of the country except for the Jell-O Belt.

The Sun Belt: The southern portion of the country where there's lots of sun (and thus way too much heat) in the summer. Basically the states that touch either Mexico or the Gulf of Mexico, plus South Carolina and Georgia, and minus the northern part of California. Unlike most of these "belts", the "Sun Belt" is unequivocally seen as a good thing by a lot of people, so you actually get a few teams using that as inspiration for their name, such as the Southern League's Jacksonville Suns and the NBA's Phoenix Suns and Miami Heat.

The Wheat Belt: Places that grow a lot of wheat. Split into a "Winter Wheat Belt" in Kansas and some surrounding areas and a "Summer Wheat Belt" in northern Minnesota and North Dakota. Not a lot of baseball teams named after wheat in these areas, largely because there aren't a lot of baseball teams in these places to begin with. There is, however, a junior hockey team in Brandon, Manitoba called the Brandon Wheat Kings.

But the Corn Belt clearly isn't like most other belts in the country, because here we have two teams named after corn. And both teams have corn feature prominently in their logo except for one minor detail, which is that there isn't actually any corn in the Cedar Rapids Kernels logo. Sure, you've got the leaves from an ear of corn in the logo, but if you look closely you'll notice that isn't actually an ear of corn inside those leaves. It's a baseball bat. With a face and a baseball cap. Wow. Just wow. That is truly dropping the ball in the logo department.

There's one other area where they truly drop the ball in my opinion, and that's their mascot. Their mascot is a "Mr. Met" variant, a humanoid with a baseball for a face. The mascot is wearing a Kernels uniform, and is named Mr. Schucks. Come on, people. You know what this mascot should be. The mascot should be a tall ear of corn wearing a military uniform, and his name should be Colonel Kernel. In fact, now that I think about it, the team should be called the Cedar Rapids Colonels instead of the Cedar Rapids Kernels, and the ear of corn in a military uniform should be in the logo as well as being the mascot. Yes, it's an over-the-top, dreadful pun. Yes, anthropomorphized vegetables are just the sort of thing that inspired me to start the Bush League Factor in the first place. But sometimes, you just have to aim for so-bad-it's-good territory. And if you're going to name your team after corn, I think so-bad-it's-good is definitely the way to go. Because when you name a team after corn, you're definitely not going to make it into so-good-it's-good territory.

Final Score: 128 points.
Penalties: Equipment (egregious), 27 pts; Humanoid (egregious), 61 pts; Irrelevance, 39 pts; Name, 10 pts.
Bonuses: Local, -9 pts.


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