The Columbus Crew—sorry, Columbus Crew SC, that’s going to take a while to get used to—unveiled a new logo and name last night. Over on Empire of Soccer, I wrote about how that’s part of a much larger turnaround in Ohio’s capital, but now for some deeper thoughts on the logo itself.
On the whole, I really like it. If I were re-ranking the MLS Crests, it’d fall easily into the top 10, possibly the top five. It’s symbolic in the right ways and, most importantly, it looks nice.
But there is that SC. That wasn’t there before (neither was “Columbus,” a significant problem with the old crest). In the buildup, the Crew talked about how people seeing the original crest were often unable to discern that it referred to a soccer team. So rather than throw a soccer ball into the design, we now have Columbus Crew SC. If there’s a controversial element to the redesign, it is this.
American teams are not named [sport] clubs. We don’t have the Boston Red Sox BC or the Green Bay Packers FC. Isn’t tacking an SC (or worse, an FC) on to a name an admission that we’re just copying the way things are done elsewhere?
Well, yes. But that’s not a bad thing. This is how traditions in any sport (and any culture) are made: by imitating what came before. Major League Baseball teams didn’t all decide to go with [city name] [nickname] at once; one team did it and others followed. There are at least three NFL teams whose names are plays on the local baseball teams at the time. And soccer may feature the most imitations and knockoffs of any sport.
There’s a Corinthians in Brazil, an Arsenal in Argentina, and an Everton in Chile. There are clubs named Barcelona in Belize, Brazil, and Ecuador. Barcelona themselves use FC rather than the Spanish CF because it was founded by Englishmen. Juventus’ black and white stripes exist because they got their kits from a Notts County supporter. Even in historic England, Tottenham’s white shirts were originally an homage to Preston North End. Soccer is rife with copycats.
So if North American clubs seek to imitate and replicate the traditions and identities of clubs elsewhere, they’re hardly alone in that. In a way, they’re aping yet another long tradition.
American soccer culture has this obsession with authenticity, and there are people who find both the “Football Clubs” and the “Revolution” to be as inauthentic as it gets. The New York Times had an article just this past week, proclaiming David Villa, Frank Lampard, and NYCFC as messengers of authenticity to MLS. Everyone, naturally, freaked out. “What do you mean? Aren’t we already authentic?” These are the concerns of a 19-year-old league. Every teenager worries about “fakes” and demands “realness.” But nothing is more real than the passion, the support reflected by the checkered pattern in Columbus’ new crest.
Consider Real Salt Lake. That name was mocked when it was chosen in 2004, and often thought of as the most egregious example of MLS’s copycat nature. But RSL are now in their tenth season, and they draw more than 20,000 fans per game. They have claimed claret and cobalt (and sometimes canary) as their own, and they have that catchy song everyone sings along to after goals. They also have an MLS Cup and a star above their crest. That—all of that—is Real, in every sense of the word.
American soccer culture, with its odd mix of European, Latin American, and, yes, North American influences, is authentically our own. It’s authentically American, the melting pot in action. It is unlike anything else, anywhere else. And we are building traditions that belong to us.