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What the Crap is a Sporting Anyway?

Live as a half-baked imitation. LiveStrong.
Live as a half-baked imitation. LiveStrong.

A very long time ago, I wrote a very lousy article ranking the crappiest names in Major League Soccer. The Kansas City Sportings, you'll be unsurprised to hear, scored badly. They are currently wearing the worst name in franchise history, which is saying something when you used to be called the Wiz.

In the months since that name has become no less hateful. The Sportings have got a lovely new stadium, some interesting players who are bringing them mixed success, but they're still carrying around that godforsaken albatross of a name, a name which turns the soccer gods against them as surely as burning a picture of Franz Beckenbauer while shouting "the Hand of God was legit!" When Camilo Sanvezzo and Nizar Khalfan fed the Sportings their own poop chute in our home game last year, it felt like the Norse dieties of soccer's pantheon were blowing a thunderous raspberry at Kansas City, a city so unable to form its own identity that it can't even decide which state it's in.

Wikipedia tells us (the phrase "Wikipedia tells us", incidentally, is the new "the dictionary definition of") that several clubs around the world begin with the word "Sporting". To go with their list, because I'm too lazy to compile a proper one, we see the obvious Sporting Lisbon as well as other clubs in Portugal, Lebanon, Greece, Spain, Belgium, Peru, and India. These clubs have a few things in common. Most are steeped in history and were formed before the Second World War. The sole exception, Sporting Clube de Goa, is a cheap Indian knockoff of Sporting Lisbon right down to an imitation crest, so a high standard there.

And then there's Sporting Kansas City, established 1995, renamed 2011, screaming "please take us seriously!" You're not serious. You're like a U-12 boy's ninth-division club calling itself "Arsenal" because their shirts are red. I wouldn't say you're bringing down the standard of Major League Soccer because, I mean, Real Salt Lake still exists. But all decent clubs have a duty to beat you into the dirt until you're so depressed you change your crest for the fifth time in thirteen years.

It's a pity that Sporting Kansas City's image remains so comical because, in recent years, they've been doing so much right. Their uniforms are subdued and distinctive; they're ugly but there's nothing wrong with that. LiveStrong Sporting Park is supposedly an excellent facility but, ah, there's that stupid word again: maybe the Vancouver Canucks should play in Rogers Skating Arena. Kansas City must have thought people would show up with their dogs and frisbees. "But this is a park!"

Snakes on a Plane was a stupid movie even before it was released. The Eye of Argon was always going to be awful with a name like that. These things are self-fulfilling prophecies and so it is natural that, no matter how pretty their stadium is or how many well-known players they sign, Sporting Kansas City will be a pimple on the butt of the universe.

Statisticians tell us that a team's performance can be predicted off mathematics. All else being equal a team which runs more, which shoots more (and shoots on target more frequently) will be the better team. But more important than athleticism is a soul; an identity based off more than "boy, don't you wish you were someone else?". It's the difference between Manchester City and Manchester United. One of them is Manchester United and the other one is Store-Brand Manchester United, so both of them spend a billion dollars and one of them wins the league.

Sporting Kansas City, you wish you were Manchester City (judging by your throbbing European inferiority complex, probably literally). Manchester City at least has a history, even if it's being dissolved in the solvent of "SPEND MOAR MONEY, BUY MOAR PLAYERS, FAIL TO WIN MOAR TROPHIES". You guys were formed in 1999 and still don't know what you are.

So you do things like draft forwards who transform into increasingly slow traitors and cut loose legends like Jimmy Conrad to end their careers in obscurity rather than showing a trace of loyalty. Why show loyalty to a player when you can't even show loyalty to yourselves?

Then you slump, winning a few games but never quite hitting the mark. It's not a matter of Peter Vermes finding more players, or the front office finding some big designated players, or Teal Bunbury finding a treadmill. It's a matter of a team finding a soul rather than a glitzy new stadium and a logo designed by some marketing executive to appeal to the European-centric football community in the great city of blah blah blah kill yourself. Say what you will about "Wizards" as a nickname, but that name invoked your team rather than a bunch of better clubs you're trying to morally suck dry.

You guys are flying high right now, perfect through six games. Congratulations. And the MLS Cup-sized hole in your trophy cabinet at the end of this year will be because of that wizard-size hole in your heart.