You can be sure that even on a barnstorming tour, the Washington Bullets will never play basketball at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence. That’s because the Bullets traded that nickname for a new one years ago, and “The Dunk” has now done the same.

This is all part of a changing world where, from stadiums to brand names to countries themselves, you could say it’s getting hard to tell the players without a scorecard.

The Washington team, opting out of a nickname that reminded folks of gun violence in the nation’s capital city, retired “Bullets” for the alliterative “Wizards” in 1995. 

Now that Dunkin’ decided after 21 years against renewing its naming rights at The Dunk – opened in 1972 as the Providence Civic Center – something different is percolating there, as well. The big Dunkin’ sign above the building is already gone, and the Lincoln-based Amica Mutual Insurance Co. has signed on to acquire the naming rights.

The Bullets weren’t the only Washington team to change their name – the football Redskins, acceding to complaints that the nickname was offensive, have become the Commanders, and baseball’s Cleveland Indians, for the same reason, have become the Guardians.

Elsewhere in the sports world, the New Orleans Hornets are now the Pelicans, the Charlotte Bobcats are the Hornets, and the Fort Myers Miracles are now the Mighty Mussels.

In the business arena, Facebook is now Meta, Google is officially Alphabet, tobacco giant Philip Morris is Altria, and (speaking of “Bullets”) gun maker Smith & Wesson is now the American Outdoor Brands Co. The familiar Aunt Jemima pancake mix and syrup brand, long criticized because both the name and graphic rendition were seen by many as racist, is now the Pearl Milling Co.

Those of us who’ve been around awhile know there’s wisdom in the ancient Greek philosophy that “The only constant in life is change.” And to navigate today’s world, we have a lot of unlearning to do.

The schoolmarms who opened geography to us back in the day would be astonished at the changes. Who knew that Burma would become Myanmar; Ceylon, Sri Lanka; and Southern Rhodesia, Zimbabwe?

Or that East Pakistan would become Bangladesh, Tanganyika and Zanzibar would merge to become Tanzania, and the Gold Coast would become Ghana?

As a result of war or politics, cities, as well, have picked up new names, among them Saigon morphing into Ho Chi Minh City, and Bombay becoming Mumbai.

Here in America, the emcee of a 1950s radio quiz show, Ralph Edwards, promised to air a broadcast from any town that agreed to assume the name of his program. And that’s why even today, you can visit not the former Hot Springs, but “Truth or Consequences,” New Mexico.

Another municipal name change was immortalized in music decades back when a pop singing group, the Four Lads, produced a gold record with the novelty tune, “It’s Istanbul, not Constantinople.”

The lyrics observe that “Even Old New York was once New Amsterdam/ Why they changed it I can’t say/ People just like it better that way.” I suspect that’s true in the Big Apple. 

As for Rhode Island, only time will tell whether we’ll “like it better that way” when the new name brewed up for the Civic Center, the Amica Mutual Pavilion, aka “The AMP,” takes over where “The Dunk” used to be.

Gerry Goldstein (gerryg76@verizon.net), a frequent contributor, is a retired Providence Journal editor and columnist.

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Gerry Goldstein

Gerry Goldstein, an occasional contributor to What's Up, is a retired Providence Journal editor and columnist who has been writing for Rhode Island newspapers and magazines for 60 years