This sticker has brought me plenty of joy since I first saw it across the street from Lee's Summit North High School. It makes me smile with the great memory of the fact that the Wizards were saved. For those that don't know the story of those stickers, back in 2004 after Lamar Hunt put the Wizards up for sale, a group of fans got together and former the Heart of America Soccer Foundation, with one of the primary goals being to help keep the Wizards in Kansas City. The group can take some responsibility in helping find the members of OnGoal and getting them to purchase the team. Part of the early things the organization did was make up those stickers. One person decided to put their sticker up on the traffic pole, and almost 6 years later it is still there.
Lately that sticker has been sticking in my mind for different reasons, and that's because of the, what looks to be impending, rebranding of the Wizards. By now most people have heard or read the rumors that the Wizards will rebrand next year, with the leading candidate being Sporting KC. According to fans on Bigsoccer from the Pacific Northwest with contacts with Adidas, that name has already been selected and will be the team's name next season. From other places and sources I've heard the same thing, and in all honesty the thought of it sucks. Saturday's game appears to not only be the final game at CAB and the final game of the season, but the final game as this team being the Kansas City Wizards.
Sadly, I more or less expected this to come sooner than later, most likely when the stadium opened, but it doesn't mean I have to like it, want it, or be happy with it, especially with a Euro-centric name like Sporting. I had told friends earlier in the season when it looked like rebranding was in fact going to be a reality, that really the only way to save the name would have been for the Wizards to go on to win MLS Cup, with KC out of the playoff hunt that is certainly out of the picture. The name Sporting though, just does nothing for me. When I think of Sporting I think of Sporting Lisbon, the Portuguese club, not anything to do with Kansas City or this region, which Robb Heineman and OnGoal seem to want with the new name. Heineman has said that "to us [OnGoal], we’re not sure if [the Kansas City Wizards] is something that can be a regional or national brand."
I don't understand how they can see Sporting KC as having any more potential of being a regional brand or national brand than KC Wizards is. At least the Wizards have the history of not just MLS Cup 2000, 2000 Supporters' Shield, and 2004 US Open Cup, but more recently they have a very high profile win over Manchester United. Even if it was just a preseason friendly for Manchester United, you can't buy that type of brand recognition no matter how much money you throw at it.
What about Sporting makes it a better candidate for a regional and national brand than Wizards?
And I know people's responses to many of my opinions here, "if they're Sporting you can still keep the nickname as Wizards." While that's true, it still won't be the official name of the club any more. "Changing the name won't erase our history." You're right it won't, but it changes it, it changes the 15 years of development of the Wizards name (and as Matt Schofield said in the Star, changing from Wiz to Wizards was not rebranding). "Wizards brings up thoughts of Harry Potter, LOTR, etc, and a name like that isn't going to bring in any respectable soccer person." If people aren't coming to games now because they think the name of the team is childish or geeky, those are the type of people that will just come up with a different reason to not come to games if the team is named Sporting.
Those mythical American soccer fans in KC who are begging to come watch an MLS team not named the Wizards aren't going to show up just because this team has changed it's name to Sporting. Seattle and Toronto's success in the league is not because of their names, it's because their front offices have had 12-14 years of experience learned from watching what failed to bring in fans in markets like New York and KC. Those markets have treated the game more professionally and haven't had to overcome the stigma of the early years of the league when it pandered mainly to the soccer mom crowd.
As for Wizards being a silly American name, look at some other names we have in sports in the US and how silly they are or the connotations behind them, the Anaheim Ducks, named after a kids movie. Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, named after the color of their socks? Seriously if those names didn't have the history behind them you would consider those fairly silly names for a sports team.
Bigger than anything, the best way to build a regional and national brand is very simple, win. Get 3 points in the standings, and trophies in the trophy cabinet and all of the sudden people forget what they consider the silliness of the name. Maybe if OnGoal put some of this money they're putting into rebranding into scouting or something, maybe this team wouldn't have missed the playoffs for the second straight year.
So the Save the Wizards idea has come up again, unfortunately this attempt appears to already be lost as it doesn't have the universal backing of the fan base that the original attempt did. And yes I know this article comes across a little bitter.