Grand Junction Twitter is not a well-known corner of the Internet, but that changed for a few surprising hours Thursday when the city’s minor league baseball team, the Grand Junction Rockies, issued some strongly worded tweets regarding a federally protected fish.
No, it would not be changing its name, the team asserted, and it would definitely not be changing its name to the Grand Junction Humpback Chubs.
“Suggesting we would be called the GJ ‘Chubs’ is offensive and a slang sexual term for erection,” said one tweet, which has now been deleted along with all other mentions of the humpback chub.
The response from the public was swift, snarky and mostly in the gutter. A Twitter account for the GJ Chubs was born, and by mid-morning, the term “chubs” was trending nationally.
As of publication, the Grand Junction Rockies Twitter account had deleted their tweets on the matter.
It was all going so much better than Ian Lummis could have imagined. The 22-year-old Grand Junction native has been nudging the Rockies to take the new handle for months.
Lummis, who now lives in Boulder, said this all started when he and some friends came across a list of funny, fascinating minor league baseball teams, from the Binghamton Rumble Ponies of New York to the New Orleans Baby Cakes. Surely his hometown team could think of something catchier than copying its parent team, the Colorado Rockies, Lummis thought.
It didn’t take long to settle on the Humpback Chubs, “because it was definitely a crazy name, but also a local endangered fish that they’ve put a lot of effort into re-establishing,” he said. “So it both represents the community well but also could definitely gain some notoriety if the team ever changed their name.”
The humpback chub, named for its prominent Quasimodo lump, lives in the Colorado River, which flows through Grand Junction. Though still endangered, efforts across multiple agencies have brought it back from the brink. In fact, the federal government may soon reclassify the fish as “threatened,” a downgrade from “endangered.”
The humpback chub is a survivor, the kind of quirky creature Lummis thought the Rockies deserved. The team does not see it that way.
“Yeah, I don’t think they like me very much,” Lummis said.
When he first tweeted the name change suggestion in February, the team responded with a playful “no,” saying it liked “twinning with Dad” (meaning the Colorado Rockies). The second time Lummis sent a Tweet months later, the team blocked him.
That’s when his friend picked up the cause. They even began an online petition (whose number of signatures grew exponentially Thursday). After a few weeks, the Grand Junction Rockies had finally had enough, declaring Thursday morning that they would not change their name and also that anyone who advocates for the new name would be blocked.
Many people who didn’t push for the change but simply commented on the Twitter storm were caught in the crossfire and also blocked, this reporter included.
But even though the Rockies’ response was unequivocally negative, Lummis swears his humpback chub campaign was created out of love, not malice.
“I definitely do think it’s a funny name,” he said, “but I’m not out here just trying to troll the team. I genuinely think it would be a great thing if they could switch their branding to that.”
And while the Grand Junction Rockies definitely do not agree, some representatives with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife do, like Tom Chart. When he first heard of the idea Thursday afternoon, he was impressed.
“It’s just really cool that there’s a local who’s interested in shining a light on our Colorado endangered fish,” said Chart, who heads the agency’s Upper Colorado Endangered Fish Recovery Program.
He does have one caveat, however. The humpback chub is just one of four endangered fish in the Colorado River system. And Chart thinks the “Grand Junction Razorback Suckers” has a better ring to it.
“And just so there are no hard feelings,” he said. “Go Grand Junction Rockies!”