Using team nicknames correctly

Here’s another AP Sports quiz that focuses primarily on letters H-P, but the aspect I will hit hardest is the proper use of pronouns related to schools, cities and nicknames – a problem that arises frequently in stories. In the quiz, I erroneously inserted ‘their’ for ‘Eastern Illinois University.’ I also slipped in references to pitches (knuckleball, fastball), postgame/pregame, and horse racing distances (furlongs).

The rule for team pronouns is rather simple: school names and city names receive an ‘its’ while team nicknames are replaced by ‘their.’

Thus:

  • Ole Miss won its second straight college football game over Alabama on Saturday night.
  • LeBron James helped carry Cleveland to its second NBA Finals.

And further:

  • The Rebels won their second straight college football game over Alabama on Saturday night.
  • LeBron James helped carry the Cavaliers to their second NBA Finals.

Don’t be fooled by nicknames that sound singular such as these for several NBA franchises: Magic, Heat, Jazz, Thunder. Treat them as plurals as well, meaning they deserve a ‘their.’

In addition, remember to use the corresponding singular verbs with city, school names and plural verbs with team nicknames.

Thus:

  • Ole Miss is ranked No. 3 after its victory over Alabama last week.
  • Chicago is probably going to clinch one of the two National League wild-card spots.

And:

  • The Rebels are ranked No. 3 after their victory over Alabama last week.
  • The Cubs are close to clinching a wild-card berth in the National League playoffs.