On Renaming the Wizards

Sunday, August 01, 2010 | View Comments
In addition to opening their new purpose-built stadium next year, the Kansas City Wizards are apparently headed for a re-brand. That's per Wizards president Robb Heineman, who appeared on Kansas City radio in the aftermath of the club's "landmark" victory over Manchester United two weeks ago. The club's image will be remade with the stadium opening as a natural pretext. The only promise Heineman made was that the new name would include the words "Kansas City."

Wizards bloggers have already tackled the possibility, and while it's not my place to make any demands of the Wizards organization as they look (or already have in mind) a new name, I'm going to do so anyway.

Please, please, please, no "FC" or "Football Club."

I ask that not because I have any serious objection to the label (though I am, as you all know, a proponent of "soccer" over "football" in an American context), but because we have too many of them as it is. This isn't England, where every club's name comes echoes across time from the 19th Century and represents a link with a glorious past; if Kansas City is going to dump "Wizards" as we expect, they have the freedom to go in almost any direction they choose.

Of course, that freedom gave us a decidedly non-royal "Real Salt Lake", so it is a dangerous thing. The solution, and the easiest way to avoid a ridiculous name that trades on a Euro club for no legitimate reason, is to throw any suggestion in that vein right out the window. No "Sporting", no "Racing", no "AC" (no offense, St. Louis) - none of those are particularly terrible, but neither are they right for an American club. In fact, if the city-mascot combination must be dumped (which is by all rights the most appropriate convention for professional soccer clubs in the US to follow), then the simplest approach is clearly the best approach.

And since "Football Club" and the resulting acronym "FC" have been done to death in a bid for fake legitimacy, there's only one way to go: Kansas City Soccer Club.

KCSC has a certain ring to it, and the name avoids any of the obvious pretentious pitfalls. There's no need to dress it up; the game is called "soccer" here, the club represents Kansas City, and I can't imagine they'll be replacing one silly mascot with another. Euro-inspired nonsense is a terrible idea in Middle America anyway.

Kansas City wouldn't be the first soccer club officially named as such in the league (Chicago's full name is "Chicago Fire Soccer Club"), but they would be unique as the only one without an accompanying mascot.

There's really nothing wrong with the Wizards name, though I can understand the itch felt by OnGoal (Kansas City's owners) to change the club's image as they head into a shiny new home. The stadium represents a fresh slate after years of playing in an over-sized NFL stadium followed by an under-sized minor league baseball stadium, and a new name might reboot the perception of the club in the minds of potential fans. If MLS was fifty years in, this wouldn't even be an option; but at fifteen, owners and the league aren't married to the '96 names (or shortly thereafter in the case of the Wizards) and forge ahead with a proactive corporate mindset. That's not to say it's always necessary or advisable to make a change.

Time shifts our appreciation of sports clubs' names; think for a moment about some of the odder mascots attached to NFL, NBA, and NHL teams, and consider how often fans (not just of the team in question, but fans of other teams around the league) make a stink about the "terrible" name. Even if, when directly posed the question, fans recognize that "Jazz", "Mets", "Nets", "Phillies*", just to name a few, are at the least somewhat ridiculous, enough time has past since their inception to give them an air of respectability. Usually, we just accept that those are their names and never give it a second thought.

That's where I was with "Wizards." Another fifteen years with the name, and the overwhelming majority of us would cease wasting our time worrying about it. I expect most of the Wizards fans themselves have embraced the moniker, either becoming fond of it or simply accepting it for what it is. It's the name of their club. Period.

So if this must happen, as it appears it will, my only request is that Kansas City forgo the poseur-y for a simple and America-appropriate name. Maybe KCSC will start a new trend of "soccer clubs" to balance out the "football clubs" popping up across the country.

Kansas City Soccer Club.  Make it happen.

Just know, that more than likely, I'll still think of them as the Wizards.  At least for a few years.

*Forgot this note. I love the name "Phillies", and I know I'm playing with fire bringing it up because their fans are passionate; but admit it, it's weird.

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