By Bernie Petit
The Charlotte Hornets name is more than a cool mascot for the local sports team.
It recalls the Revolutionary War, when British General Charles Cornwallis referred to Charlotte as “a veritable nest of hornets” because of the resistance he faced in Mecklenburg County.
The name encompasses the “independent spirit I think has been in Charlotte for a long time,” said Charlotte filmmaker Rusty Sheridan.
“That’s why we have Independence Park and Independence Boulevard and Freedom Drive and Freedom Mall.”
For the past two years or so, Sheridan followed the grassroots movement to return the Hornets name to the city’s National Basketball Association (NBA) franchise, with the idea of creating a documentary. (The name went with Charlotte’s first NBA team when it moved to New Orleans in 2002 and the current team, founded two years later, was named the Bobcats.)
Relying on borrowed equipment to video “Bring Back the Buzz” gatherings and last-minute interviews, he’s compiled hours of footage for what will be his first professional documentary.
Making it easier for Sheridan to document the events leading up to what will be a historical moment for Charlotte – the Charlotte Bobcats announced in May that the Hornets name will return for the 2014-15 NBA season – is a 2014 Arts & Science Council Regional Artist Project Grant. Sheridan received $2,000 to purchase a Canon 6D camera for his film.
“A documentary is chaos. You’re running all over the place,” he said. “Now that I got the grant, I bought my own camera so I’ll be able to more easily run very quickly due to the chaotic nature of the documentary and go and get that footage in the spur of the moment.”
Though not born in Charlotte, Sheridan attended elementary through high school in the local school system before graduating from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 2002. He left Charlotte to complete his master’s degree in film at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and returned in 2007.
“In my opinion, if you were here before the Hornets were here, you’re a Charlottean,” he said.
He grew up a Hornets fan and remembers how the community embraced its first major sports team following its inception in 1988.
“I saw what it was like,” he said, “that spirit, the energy, the excitement. We saw Muggsy Bogues driving down the road one time and everybody in my family started clapping.
“That doesn’t happen today.”
Bogues, a 5-foot-3 fan favorite on the original Hornets team, drove that point home in an interview for the documentary.
“Muggsy said, ‘Yeah, I think this (name change) should happen. There was a spirit in town in the 80s and the 90s when the Hornets were here and that spirit is not here now,’” Sheridan said.
So Sheridan kept recording, even though naysayers said the name change wouldn’t happen because it was too expensive – it’s estimated to cost the team about $4 million – or because the Bobcats brand was too entrenched in the community.
“I had a feeling it was going to happen,” he said. “I was passionate about the Hornets when I was a kid, so I had the sentimental aspect where I wanted to see it happen, but I realized as a filmmaker, this is a great story… it should be documented so that people can see it.”