Friday, October 22, 2010

Another Ending Likely Saturday

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.


Chris Holzman said...

I don't really get it either. I was a huge fan of the Wichita Wings, in a fantastic time to be a fan, the mid 80s to mid 90s, when my parents had season tickets. The name was silly, the packaging and marketing of the club was a bit silly, but the on field product was fantastic by indoor standards - they won pretty consistently, and had some strong personalities on the team who were very well liked in the community. The name didn't matter, the iconic (and rather garish) orange jerseys and blue shorts didn't matter either. What mattered was the the crowd was loud and large, and the team successful. Poor management in the front office hurt things with yearly 'save the Wings' campaigns, but in a way, they were frenzy-inducing press of their own. Still - the on field product was successful, and we had a fantastic rivalry with the Comets and the hated Steamers - and 10,000+ crowd sellouts were pretty routine.

If the Wizards could put a successful team on the field, they'd be far better off than a mediocre team with a re-brand.

jtreg said...

"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."

Clear, and correct.


drew said...

I agree with everything said, however, Seattle didn't just have 15 yrs to prepare they also had the team's name and legacy from the NASL. Also, Ongoal is the perfect America example of owners and the way the rest of the world is going. Lets exploit the team and make as much money as we can and maybe they'll win. In short this idea of rebranding is papering over the cracks. I have a lovely light blue Wizards scarf I bought at Arrowhead in '07, stating they've won MLS Cup and US Open Cup. Well, I won't be wearing it anymore.

David H said...

Drew, if OnGoal truly wanted to exploit the Wizards for purely money, they could've just built a super cheap stadium (ala Columbus) that allowed to sell a bunch more tickets without breaking the bank. They ARE breaking the bank with this new stadium. If you're going to stop being a fan because of this, you have to question what was that made you a fan in the first place. Is a name change going to change that its still Kansas City's soccer team? No. It'll change a lot, but deep down, its still the Wiz. Its still Kansas City's team and not someone elses, which I really thank On Goal for.

"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."

Look, I'm disappointed about this season too, but you can't say that they didn't scout. I mean, come on, look at how much the team changed in the offseason. It would've been cheaper and easier to just stick to what they had last year and grab some guys from Div 2 and hoped it worked out. They signed players, good players. Its just unfortunate it took them so long to gel. I just can't get over the hate thats being directed at OnGoal lately. I think a lot of people are thinking with their hearts and not their mind. A lot of stuff we've been waiting for years to come is finally coming true. Our own stadium, for example. I honestly believe that, while I really appreciate them, the Hunt family would not have put that much effort, work, and money (despite being considerably richer) into a new stadium. Again, Columbus.

I don't agree with everything OnGoal has done, but I still really appreciate their work.

I will always be a Kansas City fan, whatever the name is. I'm a Kansas Citian and I will always root for the home team. Its all I have to root for.

Mark said...

Well said David H.

I cannot believe either some of the lack of respect being shown for OnGoal. If they were just in it for the money, they could of made a lot different decisions and not decided to own a soccer franchise. It is not exactly profitable to own a MLS franchise right now. Just look at the money they have invested into the team with a training facility, youth programs and a new stadium.

"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."

The bottom line is that "Wizards" is not a national or regional brand, heck it is not even a Kansas City brand. If you can find Wizards' merchandise if different stores you are lucky and this was the case even before this year when the rebrand was evident. Look through national magazines and catalogs and very rarely do you see the Wizards. Frankly the name and logo has always cried out minor league. While Sporting, if that is the name change might not be the best option, I can totally understand why OnGoal wants to start fresh with a new name, logo, ect. They are not wanting to erase the "Wizards" history but add a new and hopefully long and successful chapter to the franchise.

Dan said...

Mark The fact that you can't find merchandise in stores is the fault of the team, it's their responsibility to advertise the team and try to get those things into stores so that they can be seen and bought.

Also Mark, if you want to rebrand (and I don't), why do you want a name that's "not be the best option"? Why go for a name that obviously seems to be disliked by the fan base as much as the Wizards name?

Any way you slice it, they ARE getting rid of some of the teams history. They are saying that they don't really care about what was done as the Wizards, it wasn't big enough for them to keep the name.

David H said...

Look at their online store and look at the fact that its part of the bigger mls store. One has to wonder how much control the team's have over where they sell there merch and if its up to MLS and adidas. I mean, the merch at the games is pretty different (and actually cheaper. The white puma shirt was $10).


Thats really silly. They're not saying what has been done as the Wizards is irrelevant. If someone walked up to Rob and asked him, "Has your team ever won any trophies?", He's not going to respond with, "Not really, we won some stuff, but we had a stupid name, so none of it matters". He's going to get excited and start talking 2000 and 2004. Just because the name changes, doesn't mean all of the history is gone. Its still the same team, same organization, and the same fact that its Kansas City's own soccer team. I want to point out to everyone to take a look at the season ticket holder's scarf the fo put out the beginning of the season. It has new colors, which means a change. But it still says 15 years. It still has that silly old Wiz logo that we all still get a little nostalgic over. It still recognizes our history, where we come from, but it also gives a little taste of the future. Basically they're saying there might be some changes, but we're still Kansas City and the history is still there.

Also, just look overseas. A lot of teams have changed their names. Many teams in England started from incredibly humble roots and they don't hide its history. There are better examples, but look at Tottenham Hotspurs. Right in their history at the very beginning it says, "1882
Club formed by boys from Hotspur cricket club and from the local grammar school. The name of 'Hotspur FC' was adopted.". They were once a team ran by boys from the a grammar school. But when you ask a fan when the club is founded, they will tell you 1882, regardless of when the club took its now official name and REALLY became a team with offices and bank accounts.

Still not enough? Lets look at this a little locally. Theres this little local team called the Kansas City Chiefs. The team was formed in 1960 in Dallas as the Texans. That was until 1963 when a man most Wizard's fans know, Lamar Hunt, decided to re-located the team to Kansas City. This is not a little none fact in Kansas City, in fact we have embraced it as part of the team's history. The team celebrated 40 years for the 2009-2010 season.

Regardless of what happens. This is still our team. The team we love, sometimes hate, but always root for. And as its been said before, this is Kansas City's team, not Rochester's or any other cities. This is Kansas City soccer and no name change is going to change that fact.

David H said...
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David H said...
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Dan said...

David your renaming logic in England is faulty at best. Those teams changed their name quite often in the late 1800's early 1900's when those teams were formed. When's the last time a team over there changed their name without a move (and MK Dons was because of a move).

As for your local example, the Texans were renamed the Chiefs, that's also incredibly faulty. Are you seriously comparing a team that moved cities to this rebranding? That makes absolutely 0 sense and it would have made even less sense to name the team the KC Texans.

Here's one for you, other than the Washington Bullets becoming the Wizards and the Burn becoming FC Dallas, name another team that has renamed itself without moving cities or ownership changes (Red Bull NY) in the modern era of sports. It doesn't happen in modern sports.

Mike said...

Done David H.

Nathan Martin said...

I don't like the name "Sporting" at all. Seriously, what does it even mean? The Wizards name fell right in line with the theme of Chiefs and Royals plus the Wizard of Oz.

I just don't understand the reasoning behind the change.

How many European expatriates are there that don't attend KC games because of the name?

A culture of winning and as they've been saying "attractive soccer" is much more the answer than a name change.

This doesn't change my support for the team but it does baffle the mind a bit and will take time to get used to.

~LB said...


David H said...

Dan, when I was referring to England the Chiefs I actually wasn't talking about the fact that they changed their names, I was referring to the fact that DESPITE the name change, the history before then hasn't gone away.

I was referring to this: "Any way you slice it, they ARE getting rid of some of the teams history. They are saying that they don't really care about what was done as the Wizards, it wasn't big enough for them to keep the name."

I was stating that despite the change of names, the history is still there and recognized. Look a little more into my comments before calling my logic faulty. I want to keep this respectable, please.

Also, I want to end the argument people have been making concerning that if the name Wizards wasn't marketable, then why did Washington change its name? Look at the history. The name was changed from the Bullets in the first place because, its well, violent. And D.C. IS a violent city. When a longtime friend of the owner was assassinated, he was pushed over the edge and finally made the change. And honestly, with choices like Sea Dogs, Dragons, Stallions, etc, Wizards is like a lesser of bad names.

Also, thanks Mike.

Moop said...

While I'm not a fan of naming your team F.C. for football club (we call it soccer in America, whether you think that's correct or not), I'm even less of a fan of calling a team Sporting.

At least F.C., while trying to sound more international, still references the sport: football/soccer.

Sporting makes it sound like it's a club that plays soccer and dabbles in various other sports, kind of like P.S.V. Eindhoven and S.S. Lazio.

I would assume that part of rebranding is creating a unique, distinct identity for the club that people will remember. Sporting Kansss City or Sporting K.C. makes it sound generic, or at best, like it's a club team for elementary school kid's. If we're fortunate enough, maybe someone will think of Lisbon and then draw the conclusion that it's a soccer team in K.C.

Maybe Sporting Kansas City, Sporting K.C., or S.K.C. will grow on me, but right now, it's seems a very, very, weak and lame "second impression". If we end up getting new colors too (light blue and navy like the S.T.H. scarves), that will give the team a very soft look in my opinion.

Keep the royal blue and either keep Wizards or try something else, ideally with Kansas City first in the name.

Anonymous said...

you people need to face facts. the original Wiz name and the entire idea behind it was a stupid f**king idea. And coincidentally not even correct as The Wizard Of Oz took place in rural Kansas and not KC (which is in two states irrc). Wizards was just a further mangling of an already stupid idea due to legal reasons.

no matter what you 15 hardcore fans would like to think NOBODY but you associates "wizards" with soccer in this country. they associate it with evil witchcraft and the devil or childish nonsense. your team is in two states where at least half the people would rather burn a wizard at the stake than watch one play soccer. the concept is a HUGE impediment culturally to the team gaining a larger acceptance. not to mention how exactly do you "rebrand" with a new crest and logo when your choices are limited to the genre of "wizard"? you want a magic wand on your crest? a guy in a pointy hat? even the Washington Wizards of the NBA realize their name change was a mistake, they recognize their logo is one of the worst on the planet and there is now a huge push to take them back to being the Bullets.

now is Sporting KC any better? no. there you are correct. it is a europoser name that is only marginally better in that it isn't Wizards. a team name that embodied the region/city like Union or Sounders or Timbers would have been far better. a name that could mean something to the team and the area. Scouts? Pioneers? whatever. it was a chance for the team to go back and fix the mistake that was originally made by MLS marketing gurus circa 1994 but instead they only half fixed it. but i guess half is better than nothing.

you should really quit whinging and be happy they spent 160M on a new stadium. if they don't want a stupid f**king name that people associate with the occult or kiddie fantasy for their investment than who cares. it is their money and their team and they have been excellent owners. STFU and enjoy the new stadium and Omar Bravo and all of the other improvements that have happened since they took over. you could always go back to the good old Hunt days?

Lance said...

Your opinion is not fact, fuck you Anon. I don't give two flying fucks about your opinion, unless your a Wizards/KC/Sporting fan your opinion means jack shit in this discussion and even then I really don't care what the fuck you say.

Wizards Til I Die

Reepicheep said...

Who's hating on Ongoal?

Ongoal is great. My only beef with Ongoal is keeping Vermes, but it could be worse.

The issue at hand is the awful name "Sporting KC".

I prefer Wizards for nostalgia and history, but a name change doesn't rock me. "Sporting KC" is just a terrible, embarrassing mistake. PLease don't name our team something so stupid. Just totally stupid.

Why? Please don't Ongoal! Please.

Whatever the name, I'm still a season ticket holder and pumped about the new stadium. But dang..."Sporting KC" ? Come on, please, no!

J said...

I'll agree -- Sporting KC is terrible. Not wedded to the Wizards either though. Kind of like the suggestion somewhere in here about KC Scouts or Pioneers.

I will disagree that OnGoal should come in for much criticism. Building the stadium is a HUGE commitment. Nobody buys an MLS team to make money; it's for the love of the game and the city. Those guys all have more than enough money, and this venture certainly is not adding to their net worth.

Anonymous said...

Please...anything but "Sporting". That's terrible...even worse than the horrible Real Salt Lake.

Anonymous said...

I've been a fan of the team from the very beginning. The name could've been better, and the logo could definately be better. But when the team changed the colors from rainbow to blue, it was pure class. I hated being the rainbow warriors.
I welcome a new logo, I can live with a new name (they're just Kansas City to me, though there are a dozen choices I would have made over "Sporting"), However I will be VERY sore over a deviated color scheme from the royal blue. There are already Navy (or "Cobalt") colored teams in the league, even powder blue, but we were the only Royal Blue team in the league. I will be sad if that is no longer the case.

P.S. I would not have made some of the same decisions, but fully support Ongoal. I think they have nothing but good intentions for the team and the fans. I hugely appreciate their efforts to raise the bar for professional soccer in not just KC, but the league.

Jaggdd said...

@ David:

The Chiefs changed their team name AND their market (from Dallas to Kansas City). That's more acceptable, because you have a whole new group of people you are introducing yourselves to. Pulling the switcheroo on your current fanbase for marketing reasons is stupid this far into the MLS' evolution (when Dallas did it, the MLS was on life support and everybody was desperate; when San Jose did it, they reverted back to a name with more soccer history in that town).

Mike, I put in my 2 cents on Big Soccer in my usual emotional if not blunt manner -- calling a shame upon the supporters of the change, etc. and so on... I'm not proud of how I verbalized it, but I had to get it down for the record and the hopes that the people in charge are listening and it's not too late. I just feel like "The Wizards" deserve saving. We've always been this sort of fringe rag-tag group -- and I know OnGoal wants to take it to the next level; but change the stadium, uniform, colors, mascot, roster line-up, scarves, dance-team, supporters section, etc...

Just DON'T change our name for the love of God!

Scott Jonesilicious said...

This made me smile too when I came across it in a Google search.

I know exactly where those stickers came from. One ex-patriot Wizards fan in Los Angeles, CA had them printed up and shipped them to friends and fans back in Kansas City. (There were 2,000 originally and about 150 left if anyone wants one.)