The owners of the erstwhile New Orleans Zephyrs have earned our gratitude. In the aftermath of the 2016 election, which pitted friends and family against each other, New Orleanians needed a common enemy – a foil so blatantly awful that it would distract from divisive partisan politics and give time to heal the wounds.
The “New Orleans Baby Cakes” will serve that role.
For those of you who aren’t aware of what I’m talking about, it all started this past week when New Orleans’ minor league team, the Zephyrs, announced that it had chosen a new name: The Baby Cakes. The team also released some promotional graphics of a Khrushchevesque baby slathered in eye black, laughing or grimacing while holding a bat.
Blogger Jeff Bostick described the new mascot as resembling Mitch Landrieu in a diaper, which was eerily accurate — and Landrieu didn’t argue, either. Mississippi State Senator David Blount took to Twitter to describe the name as “beyond terrible.” Most people seemed to agree.
The outcry was predictable. The name “Baby Cakes” appears to refer to the traditional plastic baby found in a King Cake. However, that is neither an actual term related to New Orleans, nor has it ever been. As many others crowed in the wake of this travesty, the renaming is downright stupid.
As a word, babycakes exists merely as an antiquated term of endearment. Merriam-Webster defines it as an informal word synonymous with “sweetheart.” Thus, it is basically interchangeable with sweetie pie, honey cakes, baby doll, etc. Yet unlike other terms of endearment, “baby cakes” is both archaic and highly suggestive. It invokes the image of a mobster from the 1930’s addressing his sleazy mistress.
It is difficult to discern the exact origin of “baby cakes” as a single word or a phrase, but it actually does connect a bit with New Orleans. Back around the 17th century, people ate “Yule dough” at Christmastime, which was also referred to as a “baby cake” because bakers would often put them in the shape of a baby in remembrance of Christ’s birth. The tradition, which ostensibly lapsed before New Orleans was even founded, is closely related to that of the modern king cake.
Alas, that interpretation requires a historical leap, and it still doesn’t answer why we’d want a team named after a confectionary. The name is still ridiculous and invokes Betty Boop more than New Orleans tradition.
Apparently, this is part of a national trend where minor league teams try to get attention from using wacky names. Their logic seems to be that any publicity is good publicity – even if it costs the team its dignity.
“Baby Cakes,” however, is not merely worse than most – it’s in the running for the worst minor league team name in the country. The Montgomery Biscuits are probably laughing at us. We’ve at least matched the Savannah Bananas and the Modesto Nuts in absurdity.
Baby Cakes President Lou Schwechheimer released a statement preaching more noble ends. “Our goal was to give the baseball fans of New Orleans a team and identity they can call their own. New Orleans is full of traditions woven into the fabric of the city, and this new tradition will be something local and iconic and celebrate what makes New Orleans and Minor League Baseball so great: family and fun.”
Schwechheimer was blowing smoke. “Baby Cakes” is not “local” and does not is hardly going to become a “new tradition” that is “iconic.” Rather, we’ve abandoned a well-worn moniker in favor of farcical, bandwagon ridiculousness that is so in fashion in the minor leagues these days.
That said, I’m still glad to be discussing this particular brand of inconsequential nonsense than addressing the near constant drumbeat of political agitprop from both sides that has permeated in the wake of this year’s elections. I’m a political sort myself, but the aftermath of the election has devolved into something far worse than mere disagreement.
At least when we argue over stupid team names, friendships are not threatened and people don’t feel personally attacked. This is especially true when the ire is virtually universal.
Therefore, as Thanksgiving approaches, I will continue to express thanks for what the owners have done here. However unintentionally, they changed the context of the debate to something more innocuous. The name may be terrible, but at least all of us seem to agree on that, and perhaps it’s a start.
Owen Courrèges, a New Orleans attorney and resident of the Garden District, offers his opinions for UptownMessenger.com on Mondays. He has previously written for the Reason Public Policy Foundation.