American sports franchises have always attached nicknames to their city to identify themselves. MLS 1.0 followed suit with the Dallas Burn, San Jose Clash, and Kansas City Wiz, usually picking an exciting concept over the more traditional animal. Soccer has since moved on from there. The Champions League and EPL seem to be the path that a lot of Americans follow into soccer so clubs are in a middle ground between traditional American sport and European club model. They are currently tipping more towards Europeanisms with all the new franchises and old franchise rebrands having FC or United in their names, Atlanta United Football Club being the most blatant example (as a personal aside, naming your team ‘United’ when it wasn’t made by multiple clubs joining together, ‘Real’ without a royal grant, or ‘Sporting’ without acknowledging that it’s a shortening of ‘Sporting Club’ aka a football club is kinda lame but that’s another article).
FC Cincinnati chose a rather simple name to keep in line with this modern trend. So did Louisville City FC, LAFC, and pretty much every other recent team. The challenge of picking a name like that is that it doesn’t lend itself easily to branding or a nickname. The club has to create a logo but without the direction that a name like the Cincinnati Lions would have provided, one ends up with the question, “What connection does a winged lion have with the club or Cincinnati?” Louisville City had that exact issue with their initial branding. What does this logo say about our city? Not much. What did LC add to fix it? Their city’s skyline. It is worth noting that their supporters don’t feel a need to pick a nickname for their club, referring to it as LC, Lou City, or Elsie.
FC Cincinnati have said from the beginning that they want the fans to create a nickname and an identity for the club, although they pointed them in a direction with the aforementioned griffin. But the club failed to realize that the city IS the brand. By calling it FC Cincinnati, you wrap yourself in the city’s traditions as opposed to a tiger or eagle or other external mascot. They chose the style but the club didn’t quite follow through with the reason to pick that kind of brand. Because of this rather blank canvas, fans are left searching for a name to identify with the club.
Before you say I’m a euro-snob that is anti-nickname, European clubs always have a nickname as well. The difference between the American kind and the overseas version is that the foreign clubs derive them from a rich civic or club history and are always unofficial. Everton are known as the Toffees because there was a toffee shop near the ground and they still hand out toffees at games. Likewise, Chelsea are known as the Pensioners because that part of London was famously home to retired army veterans and Southampton are known as the Saints because they started as a church side. Almost every side has a nickname that refers to their history or colors.
An interesting fact that I’ve always found very foreign is that most European cities developed individual industries in which they specialized and excelled. I’ve travelled St Etienne, a small city in France, and their civic museum displayed the specialties of that particular town, guns, bicycles, and ribbons. Stoke makes pots thus the club became known as the Potters, Atletico are known as los Colchoneros (the mattress-makers), and Schalke are known as Die Knappen (the miners) because of the region of Germany that they’re from. We in America do have a bit of this tradition as well, but usually to a lesser extent, with Silicon Valley, Hollywood, or even nearby Kentucky being famous for bourbon. Cincinnati itself is also known as Porkopolis, not the richest of fodder for fans to find a nickname. Nasty Nati is also not so good.
My favorite example of fan developed culture is close to home in Columbus. The word ‘massive’ means a lot to fans who follow the Crew. It started as a joke and developed into a point of pride, a shared buzzword with a hidden meaning for the initiated to rally behind. You should definitely read this longer version of the story but the TL;DR version is Crew fans used to joke about their club being the biggest in the world, capable of signing any player. When that star didn’t show up at training, it was because he was worried that he couldn’t hack it at such a massive club. What was self-deprecation became a source of Crew pride. It’s such an awesome story that no one planned and wouldn’t exist if the fans took themselves too seriously.
That’s why I don’t want to pick a nickname for FC Cincinnati. So much about this club has been half-thought through. The colors, the marketing, the name ‘Fútbol Club’, do we really need a to pick a nickname for the club? Drawing from the city’s past is great. The “we don’t mess around” chant is exactly what we need. I think chants and tifo are great mediums for that sort of thing. It’s a perfect way to ground the club in authenticity but ‘The Royals’? I’m not a huge baseball fan but Kansas City will always be the Royals and Milwaukee are the Brewers (until those owners decide to move their team that is). Also our Royals played in the city from 1957 to 1972, so almost none us of actually saw them play and 15 years in a city almost 45 years ago is hardly a strong connection. Die Löwen draws from the city’s German history (cool) but then mixes it with the club’s lion that has zero connection to the city (less cool). Also that ends up being pronounced “Dee Loo-ven” which seems… less than aggressive and exciting. To me, any of these names feels unnecessarily forced.
It will take time but we will develop our own traditions and connections with the club. Moments will happen in games that are hilarious or deeply significant. We could continue our run of scoring at the death of the game and develop a nickname from that. Those memories will be opportunities to create club lore. I think it’s a mistake to pick a nickname before we’ve even started playing real games and before almost every single one of the fans has yet to see the club play in person. I don’t think we should be too quick to define what we think about our team because we might miss who they actually are. We could lose the opportunity to have our own “massive.”
What do you think?