A Team By Any Other Name Would Play As Shit

Been a heck of a week for Canadian soccer. The Whitecaps finally - finally! - forgot to concede a late equalizer against the Montreal Impact in spite of their best efforts and actually beat the turds. The Toronto FC finally - finally! - outplayed and outscored a Central American team in the CONCACAF Champions League. Simeon Jackson's big transfer was made official. Dwayne De Rosario scored against Manchester United, which hasn't got the same ring as "Gabe Gala scored against Real Madrid" but ought not to be ignored.

So I'm going to talk about the Kansas City Wizards for a bit.

You've probably heard that the Wizards are considering rebranding their team. "Kansas City Wizards" has always been a bit of a silly soccer-mom name (better than the old Kansas City Wiz, but oh wooow), and the magical men from Missouri may be seeking a new name to go along with their new stadium. Given MLS's well-known boner for faux-European names, I immediately trotted out old standards "Inter Kansas City" and "Borussia Monchenkansascity", although Sam Bazzarelli wins the title with his suggestion of Kansas City City playing out of City of Kansas City Stadium. But even a bogus European-derived name (Atlético Kansas City? Nah, St. Louis will want that one.) would have to be better than the little-tykes-merchandise-peddling moniker like the Kansas City Wizards, right? Right?

You know what? No.

It's long been a pet peeve of mine that North American soccer culture is too derivative of European football culture. This reflects itself in many MLS fans' pants-crapping worship of the first-class European leagues. It's shown off flagrantly every time someone insists it's called football or that the players put on their kits and run onto the pitch for the match that will be a nil-nil clean sheet draw. You can hear it whenever a crowd in Canada demands to know "who ate all the pies?" when you'd need some sort of satellite network to find a soccer stadium in this country that actually sells them. Every time the goalkeeper is a bastard and the referee's a wanker and the opposing supporters are tossers. Every time.

Above all, above everything else, we see this ravenous inferiority complex in the names of North American soccer teams. Not just Real Salt Lake, but Toronto FC? This is Canada, and Toronto's football club is the Argonauts. Same to you, Vancouver Whitecaps FC, which seems determined to mesh both naming paradigms into a wholly unsatisfying mélange (thank god "Whitecaps" has stuck). D.C. United? FC Dallas? Do we have none of our own traditions whatsoever? Thank goodness for brave souls like the New England Revolution and the Philadelphia Union and yes, even those jokey, comic-book Wizards.

In this country, we waste valuable ink and breath wondering why so many of our native sons go to play for the national teams of England or the Czech Republic or Bosnia or the Netherlands (well, maybe not the Netherlands). Has it occurred to us that the reason Canadians seem to think in droves that European teams and traditions are better than ours is that a significant portion of North American soccer culture is predicated on exactly that? That if a Voyageur in the stands with five or six buddies sang something other than warmed-over EPL chants with "Canada" awkwardly spliced in, that if we were enthusiastic about how English we weren't, and above all if we stopped getting worked up every time a soccer team was given the same sort of nickname as every other sporting club in this country, it might contribute to that elusive "national pride" we're too often seen lacking?

But, sure, you bunch of traditionalists, forget about it. Name your team "Sporting Kansas City" and bellow whatever invective would seem at home in the cheapest, dingiest Liverpool pubs. We were a British colony once, right? Nothing stopping us from being one again, leaping on whatever shards of European culture drift over the ocean, and embracing our role as Europe's farm team.

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