The WNBA has some history in Texas. The Houston Comets were one of the league’s founding teams. The San Antonio Stars—which relocated from Utah in 2003—have been repping the state in the playoffs most years since 2003. But North Texas hasn’t had a chance to get into the mix until it was announced earlier this year that the Tulsa Shock would be pulling up stakes and heading down Highway 75 to the DFW-area.
And by “area,” we mean Arlington, though one wouldn’t know that just by looking at the team’s name. On Monday it was revealed that Texas’s newest WNBA team will be the Dallas Wings. (A name that, when Googled, is more likely to bring you restaurant recommendations than a professional basketball franchise.)
It’s the “Dallas” part of the name that’s likely to cause controversy over in Arlington. The weird, intra-Metroplex rivalry between Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas came to a head recently when the Texas Rangers, who won the AL West, were issued celebratory t-shirts featuring the Dallas skyline. Arlington, as fans pointed out, is an entirely different city from Dallas, and the idea that anyone would confuse the two was deemed so offensive that the Rangers’ ballpark refused to restock the t-shirts, igniting a mini-firestorm of local bickering. On Twitter, Arlingtonians declared the decision to conflate an Arlington-based team with Dallas to be “puzzling.”
This is the puzzling postseason Rangers shirt for a team that plays in Arlington and Tarrant County. Dallas skyline? pic.twitter.com/P2P1q5zDBB
— Anthony Andro (@aandro) October 5, 2015
Folks who were confused by how someone could think that the Texas Rangers played in Dallas must be downright baffled by the decision to name the Arlington-based WNBA team the Dallas Wings (and we can assume that they’ve been lobbying Jerry Jones to re-brand his NFL franchise as the Arlington Cowboys, too).
Still, that’s the nature of branding. If you aren’t from North Texas, Arlington probably evokes a city in Virginia. It doesn’t carry any connotations with it, even with attractions such as AT&T Stadium, Globe Life Park, and Six Flags. People know what Dallas is.
Arlington isn’t the only always-the-bridesmaid suburb to host a professional sports franchise (or three) that bears the name of the largest city in the metropolitan region. The Atlanta Braves, for example, are about to start playing their home games a dozen miles from the city of Atlanta in their new stadium in Cobb County. The San Francisco 49ers play in Santa Clara, which is a whopping 43 miles from the city itself. Famously, the Los Angeles Angels are formally known as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, which is the biggest mouthful in all of pro sports. And even other “regional” teams like the Rangers carry some of the same issues—they’re just handled differently. The New England Patriots represent a broader region than just their hometown, but it’s hard to imagine Foxborough, Massachusetts natives opining how “puzzling” it is that their hometown franchise is so closely associated with Boston.
Still, as the North Texas suburbs fight for their own identities, it makes sense that a suburb like Arlington would play the role of the angry teen wanting to strike out against big-D Daddy Dallas. At least, it makes sense in Arlington. In the rest of the state, however, it isn’t cause for much concern.