May 12, 2008

The Toothpick Wizard Revisited by Jon Carroll

The San Francisco Chronicle's Jon Carroll just got wind of the story of Jim Piculas, the Land O Lakes, Florida substitute teacher who was fired after a complaint that he was practicing "wizardry" by making a toothpick disappear in class. Funny stuff, but he mentions something in his column that I hadn't heard before.

Florida is big on stamping out supernatural bad things. There was once a professional baseball team called the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, named for a fish that lives in the local waters. The representatives even sedated five devil rays, put them in a tank in center field, and offered to contribute money to charity every time a player hit a home run into the tank.

The rays did not thrive, and the experiment was abandoned. Meanwhile, there was some agitation in the community about the word "devil." Surely a citizen would not want his or her baseball team toying with satanism. (Although, in the case of the Giants, any help at all would be useful. Flying monkeys from hell, we welcome you!) So the Devil Rays became the Rays, representing, according to principal owner Stuart Sternberg, "a beacon that radiates throughout Tampa Bay and across the entire state of Florida."
I didn't know until just now that the Tampa Bay area baseball team had changed its name; as far I knew, they were still the Devil Rays. I always thought it was kind of a dumb name and figured they'd eventually drop either the "devil" or the "rays" and become either the Devils or Rays and not both. I never followed them too closely. While I was living in Florida, they were a lousy team and the only time I ever saw them was when the Yankees were in town. This is the first I'd heard that there were Floridians bothered by the "devil" in Devil Rays, though. It wouldn't surprise me if it were true.

Anyone know anything about this?

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