Time teaches us all some pretty stern lessons—our bodies decline, our children start using slang we don’t know, the New York Yankees continue to exist—but reserves one of its stoutest batches of whoop-ass to serve when American soccer fans come by for tea. After about a century in the global and domestic sporting wilderness, Yanqui futbol lovers tend to exhibit forms of post-traumatic stress syndrome: we’re touchy, paranoid and tend to willfully take the losing side of every argument. We stick up for our half-bad domestic leagues and keep insisting that the national side could win it all someday. We bore our “normal” friends with lectures about stuff they don’t care about; meanwhile, fans in “real” football countries consider us a pretty good laugh. So when something good actually happens, we tend to retreat to our darkened private altars and sacrifice a couple perfectly good chickens, no matter how small the event. (Hell, we still get sorta psyched when one of Our Boys signs for Derby County.)
Look out, poultry: a minor but real miracle just went down in Chicagoland. A new American soccer franchise picked a name, and it doesn’t suck. The city’s new women’s team, under the able direction of demi-legend Peter Wilt, will be called the Chicago Red Stars, a name that both honors Chicago’s awesome municipal flag and makes light allusion to football tradition in the form of Red Star Belgrade, et al. Again, it doesn’t suck.
Understand that team-namin’ time traditionally provides an opportunity for fans to gnash our teeth and eye the nearest high window. The corporate-marketing geniuses who get North American soccer in their clutches have given the world the likes of Real Salt Lake, the Kansas City Wiz, the Montreal Manic, the Jacksonville Tea Men, the Caribous of Colorado (!)…and as for the tawdry wilds of the indoor game, let’s not even go there, except to say that “Arizona Sandsharks” marks a highlight of the art.
In their own still-formative league, the Red Stars’ name easily outdistances the “Washington Freedom” (the notional mass-noun name: so ’90s) and the “Boston Breakers” (also the name of a USFL franchise, which is either really cool or a really, really bad idea). What scares me, and should scare us all, is that five WPS teams haven’t even picked names yet. Look out for the Los Angeles Sizzle, the New York/New Jersey Greater Metropolitan Areas and the Philadelphia Liberty Belles.