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dirty birds hat

The Charleston Dirty Birds logo is displayed on a player’s cap.

If the early bird gets the worm, then the Dirty Bird (or Dirty Birds, the new name of Charleston’s minor league baseball team) gets anything from black lung to hepatitis, depending on what that term means to a particular person.

What the Dirty Birds got in their debut under the new name Tuesday night was a drubbing. The first-place team in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, which, until the second game of a doubleheader, went by the name West Virginia Power, fell to the Long Island Ducks, 11-0.

Is it fair to blame the new team name and the accompanying logo for the loss? Probably not, but we’ll say “yes,” just this once.

So why all the fuss about the rebrand? Perhaps part of the argument is best encapsulated by a 2006 review of a restaurant by the same name in The New Yorker. Here’s the first sentence, from author Lauren Collins, when gently questioning why anyone would use the “scuzzy” term as a name.

“‘Dirty Bird’ traditionally refers to any of the following: Wild Turkey bourbon, ‘Canada’s drunkest hardcore band,’ a sex act you don’t want to know about, and the former Atlanta Falcon Jamal Anderson’s end-zone dance.”

Those last two are particularly good arguments against the name, especially considering Anderson’s Falcons got creamed in the 1999 Super Bowl by the Denver Broncos, and the running back tore his ACL the next season. And seriously, don’t Google the term or click on the Urban Dictionary explainer (not at work, at least).

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The real rub, though, is that the new name, along with the logo of a canary in overalls and a miner’s helmet, has some morbid connotations and no strong connection to West Virginia’s capital city.

In a hype video for the rebranding, it’s specifically mentioned that the bird represents a canary in a coal mine. This is supposed to show toughness or the will to get dirty to do hard and dangerous work. Of course, canaries were brought into coal mines because they were more sensitive to lethal, odorless gasses and would start a conniption when inhaling them, indicating to miners there was a leak and they needed to evacuate.

The canary often simply dropped dead. In more modern times, the phrase “canary in a coal mine” can indicate anyone from a whistleblower to someone with a weak constitution.

The other thing is that the team switched from “West Virginia” as its locator to “Charleston,” as every minor league team in the city has used going back more than 100 years. That’s a welcome change, but adding the coal connotation to it is a bit weird. There are more coal lobbyists and attorneys in Charleston than miners. The Charleston Dirty Wheel Greasers might have been more appropriate.

Of course, many diehard fans believe an opportunity was missed in not going back to the Charleston Wheelers or Charleston Charlies. And it probably was.

So, what does this all mean? Likely, not much. Plenty of fans welcomed the change, because West Virginia Power was so bland. Everyone else probably will get used to it, eventually. At the end of the day, there’s still professional baseball in Charleston, and that’s what really matters.

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