Byzantine logothete

I apologize in advance for the Bleacher Report-esque topic.  I'll write about the actual sport someday.  Until then, there's Matt Doyle.  (Actually, read and listen to him instead of me, you'll be glad you did.  One thing to think about when watching that - is your team making those runs?  If not, why not?  Cf. wide receivers dogging it on routes where they're not the primary receiver, ballplayers refusing to run out fly balls, etc.) Longtime readers - do I have any?  If so, why? - might recall a bit I used to do called "Crummy Soccer Logo of the Week."  I remember three off the top of my head - Arsenal's redone logo, one I'll get to below, and Partick Thistle's mid-2000's train wreck.  I got hate mail from Jags fans over it, but I was proven right in the end, and now they have a perfectly acceptable crest.  You're welcome.

In any case, it takes all of my might to avoid yammering about logos and team names.  This week, I read two separate articles vaguely touching on the topic, and I have fallen into the rabbit hole.

I love the Uni-Watch Blog, but they abbreviated this piece about Real Madrid way too much:

Real Madrid has dropped the Christian cross from its logo in order to have greater appeal with Muslim fans  ....

But, as we see from the link, Real are dropping the cross from their promotional materials in the Middle East in order to have greater appeal with Muslim fans.

My reaction was possibly like yours - "There's a cross on the Real Madrid logo?"  Circle, stripe, interlocking letters, crown - that's it, right?  It's a masterpiece of brevity.  The link provided in the article took me a while to figure out, too - let's see if you do better.

...you saw it instantly, and can't figure out why I'm such a cataractic, unobservant lump of algae.  Fine, Hawkeye, here's your sniper badge.  For those just as dumb as me - that teeny little bit on the top of the crown.

In any case, if you're worried about this, for want of a better word, circumcision - fret not.  The cross lives on in every image I see on the actual Real Madrid website.  Which, when it comes to appeasing internationally-minded but religiously-sensitive fans - well, like a stealthy orca ambushing an unwary dolphin, it defeats the porpoise.  But, despite the hysterics of the link's headline, it's not newsworthy.

The other post I hoped to riff off of was this rating of the all-time Best XI North American soccer logos from Sergio Delgado, a professional designer.

First of all, as he admits, he gave short shrift to much of US and Canadian lower division history, and all of Mexico.  Well, that's something I can help with.  The USL and NASL sites have their teams' current logos, which covers the US and Canada today.  And, as with anything else, there's the Pillar of Scholarship, Wikipedia.  Dive in.  Enjoy.  They even have a collection (sadly, not exhaustive) of Mexican logos.  It took me some Google dark arts, but I managed to find other sites that have avoided the long arm of copyright law.  (Mao's revolution may have ruined untold millions of lives, but it sure ended up providing a haven for historical soccer logos.)

My main critique of Delgado's list is how weak it is on corporate dullness.  Take, for example, the Seattle Sounders MLS logo.  Remember the contest they ran?  The original candidates were - I'm going from memory - Seattle Alliance, Seattle Republic, Seattle Horseshit, and some other painfully generic piece of crap.  Anyway, the point is, take the current Sounders logo, and see if you can get it to work using any of the other proposed names.  Or, in fact, any other name.  I would go so far to say that the logo was created with a blank INSERT NAME HERE space, so generic it is.

As far as his winner - well, I think I'm on record a few places on how I feel about logos designed to be bland and inoffensive.  It was better than what it replaced, and it's about what we've come to expect from that particular marketing-driven dollar-crazy entertainment corporation, but that's about all I can say for it.  Colors are pretty good.

Which are my favorite and least favorite logos?  I thought you'd never ask.  And I was right.

(I tend to do links these days, because apparently I have a memory limit on my blog, a lot of these images are copyrighted, and anyway the good logos deserve a visit to the sites in question.)

ELEVEN CURRENT AMERICAN LOWER DIVISION LOGOS THAT ARE BETTER THAN THE CRAP YOU'RE CHEERING FOR (unless you're a Fire fan, and maybe not even then)

Charleston Battery - by now even hallowed by tradition.  The best cannon-oriented logo in the world, now that Arsenal has f***ed up their badge. Detroit City - I was so struck by this one, I wrote their communications department.  I was  relieved of my ignorance - that's a depiction of a real statue, the Spirit of Detroit.  It just happens to look fantastic in a soccer logo, in the tradition of teams like Ajax and Olympiakos.  So they didn't design it, but they took a civic logo and didn't fall back on wheels or motors.  Plus the color scheme is gorgeous.  If and when Detroit gets an MLS team, they should throw in a few bucks for this logo. EC Aris (Eau Claire, Wisconsin) - busy as all hell, and not quite as good as the Greek original, but extra points for not slavishly imitating the inspiration. Fort Lauderdale Strikers -  don't tell anyone, but the new logo is better than the NASL version. Long Island Rough Riders - the Teddy Roosevelt imagery works wonderfully - but are they trying to phase it out?  Team and league website downplays this something fierce.  Unfortunately, "Tea Men" nickname temporarily not available. New Orleans Jesters - nice mix of Mardi Gras and the traditional fleur-de-lis. Northern Virginia Royals/Majestics - just a really nice, down-home, old-style logo.  Note the rare accomplishment of a logo with no letters or numbers on it.  (Which excuses recycling the logo for the women's team.) Pocono Snow - a team this far down the pyramid with this silly a name is lucky to have a logo that works this well. Quad City Eagles - yet another NPSL logo above and beyond the call.  Note how the Q, C and E all combine with a minimum of fuss.  Also understand why the women use this one, too. Rochester Rhinos - back to old school - "Raging" = one of the best American logos ever. San Francisco Nighthawks - one of the longest-lasting teams and logos in the WPSL, this one works even without bonus points for not being the Lady Whatevers you see way too often.

ELEVEN GREAT (BUT DEFUNCT) NORTH AMERICAN TEAM LOGOS

Canton Invaders - "Day the Earth Stood Still" version Chicago Sting - the best logo named after the best movie. Memphis Rogues - I liked the font, and that elephant was pretty badass. Miami Tango - although they may live on below the national radar. Minnesota Kicks - maybe the most family-friendly name and logo in US history. New England Tea Men - that was one beautifully-rendered ship. New York Cosmos - on this list for many, many good reasons. Tampa Bay Rowdies -  the original, with Ralph.  Accept no substitutes. Toledo Slayers - maybe the least family-friendly name and logo in US history. Tulsa Roughnecks - what the Houston Oilers should have been. Wichita Wings - but I'm a sucker for anthropomorphic airplanes.

NOTABLE AMERICAN LOGOS THAT NEVER SAW THE FIELD

Snarky MLS historians call the current DC United logo the "Trans Am" logo, and the one before it the "Nazi" logo.  However, snarky MLS historians are wrong.  The late 90's DC United logo was not Nazi imagery.  This one, however, is a different story:

Apart from the bald eagle head superimposed like a rosebush on an old photograph where a dead cosmonaut used to be, this was pure "Tomorrow the World!"  Announced alongside the rest of the original (and highly dubious) MLS logos, this was the only one that never even made it to day one.

MLS teams used to have "secondary logos," a practice borrowed from the J-League.  There would be the official badge, and then another symbol usually built around a mascot.  This pretty much came to a halt when Toronto FC said to themselves, "What's Liverpool's secondary logo?", or words to that effect.  Until then, you had alternate trademarks of wildly varying quality throughout the league - New England was about the only exception.  The angry cab of the MetroStars wasn't the best of them - Dallas' winged horse was - but it was a lot of fun without being hauntingly stupid.  (The word "Twizzle" still causes shudders among pre-Beckhamite Galaxy fans.)  The public transit conceit of this team nearly went even farther - I remember a pin featuring the Metrostars logo flanked with two signs reading "NY" and "NJ" with two identical, but differently-dressed, toll booth workers, each holding a cup of hot coffee.   So close MLS came to boasting the most fearsome mascots in the world.

A re-imagined logo Bumpy Pitch made up for the legendary team - although it never made the field, it did make the ice, thanks to "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" (although why wasn't Mac wearing a Bethlehem Steel shirt?).  This logo bears resemblance to, but I'd be surprised to hear was inspired by or stolen from, Botswana's Extension Gunners FC.

"Hey, that logo was used all the time."  Yes, but it might have actually made it outdoors, were it not for...The great MLS expansion cautionary tale.

"Bert Wolstein becomes our third new investor in Major League Soccer in the last four months, something which we are obviously very excited about," said Garber, referencing the additions of Jorge Vergara (August) and Kroenke Sports Enterprises (September) to the MLS investor lineup. "Bert represents the best in what we look for in an MLS owner – a gifted businessman with a dedication to quality in all his endeavors, combined with a passion for our sport. We are proud of the foundation we have built for professional soccer in the United States during the last eight years, and look forward to a bright future for MLS, empowered by the commitment and vision of our investors, fans, players and administrators."

Garber also announced Wolstein's commitment to construct a soccer-specific stadium in the Cleveland area. Wolstein is continuing to accept proposals from communities in the Cleveland metropolitan area to serve as the home to the new team and stadium. Along with John McGill, Wolstein is a principal in the Heritage Development Company and was represented at the MLS Cup Weekend by Cleveland Force President, Paul Garofolo. To date, Garofolo has handled the negotiations on behalf of Heritage Development with Major League Soccer, the City of Cleveland and the County of Cuyahoga.

The Great Man Theory is out of fashion in historiography, but it's hard to argue with it in MLSography.  Perhaps today, the league would survive Phil Anschutz waking up tomorrow and saying "You know what?  Demolition derby.  Screw soccer," but every MLS team in the early 'Noughties lived or died at the whim of a CEO.

This one actively pisses me off.  Instead of being saddled with one of the most half-assed badges in international soccer, the United States could be wearing this.  But, it's owned by Nike, not the USSF, so it's unlikely we'll ever see the transition.  Bits of this design have appeared on jerseys, but not the entire crest.  Infuriating.

You remember this one.  A couple of MLS Cups and a nice-looking new stadium has finally put an end to hard feelings about this, but it was touch and go there for a while.  Finally, after a stormy month of protests, AEG gave in to Houston's enormous Ukrainian community and renamed them the Dynamo.

Will the reaction to this ever not be funny?  The protests did get a mild cosmetic upgrade out of it, in the "spot the differences!" sense.  But in the storied history of American soccer fan panics and overreactions, Portland fans introduced themselves to MLS with a performance unlikely to be equaled, or even approached.  Better to have passionate fans than indifferent ones, but best of all is a total lack of perspective.  What, you wanted that crappy 2001 logo?

THE MOST UNLIKELY RIPOFF LOGOS IN WORLD FOOTBALL

We're not counting all the repurposed Barcelona or Juventus badges out there.  We're talking about the logos where the sources would surprise you.  This compliment/theft comes from Belize:

Club Lobos in Mexico has since changed this, because stealing the Mexican wave from Washington was apparently enough.

But you never know who or what will provide inspiration - like this logo for the Albanian Third Division:

If you saw an Italian team and a New Zealand team with remarkably similar logos, you'd assume that the former inspired the latter.  In the case of CTL Campania, you'd be wrong.  No sooner did the New Zealand Knights go out of business than the newly formed Campania club helped themselves - see if you can spot the similarities:

There is one example of logo theft that ended up far transcending the original, like the time Juventus borrowed their jersey look from Notts County.

The Atlanta Chiefs were named after the Atlanta Braves, although those involved would probably sooner go to their graves than admit it.  Their impact on American soccer, despite an early NASL title, was negligble.

Their impact on African soccer, on the other hand....

The 1968 NASL Rookie of the Year was Kaizer Motaung.  After he returned to his homeland in 1970, he formed a team named after himself and his old club.  Jomo Sono did the same thing in 1983, but he declined to name his team the Jomo Blizzard or the Jomo Caribous - probably because no one in South Africa would have had any idea what those were.  Sono also had played for the Atlanta Chiefs, but that name had been taken.

It's worth remembering exactly how famous people like Motaung and Sono were in South Africa.  This was the low point of apartheid, and it's difficult to overstate the impact of black South Africans playing against and alongside the likes of Pele, Beckenbauer, Eusebio, and Best.  Both Motaung and Sono became national heroes, and remade the face of South African soccer.  It was the NASL's most significant, most far-reaching, and most overlooked legacy.  Not surprising that Pele's Cosmos were memorialized - but the Atlanta freaking Chiefs?  Down to the old logo?  (When the Kansas City Chiefs logo would have fit perfectly?)

But there is one tribute logo that is even stranger than that.  The new team hasn't yet surpassed its legacy team, but I consider it inevitable.

Meet the MetroStars Soccer Club.  From Adelaide, Australia.

And yes - these MetroStars have actually won trophies.

I've sent an email to Oz asking, with I hope a minimum of incredulousness, why they picked the MetroStars name, as opposed to LITERALLY ANY OTHER NAME IN THE HISTORY OF SOCCER.  I'll let you know what I hear.

Gah.  What say we take a break, because I'm trying to narrow down a list of - inevitably - my favorite and least favorite logos.  Like I said, total Bleacher Report.  Suggestions welcome, and by welcome I mean I've pretty much made up my mind and I'm just humoring you.