Name game

KEITH BRADFORD -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:12 AM ET

It's hard to fall in love with a team called the Cracker Cats.

And it's unlikely too many Edmontonians had the Aviators logo tattooed onto their butts. Which is probably just as well.

But the City of Champions is not alone in dooming its supporters to a life -- or in the case of the Aviators, less than a season -- of ridicule.

As if living in Kansas wasn't bad enough. Soccer fans there are also forced to cheer for a team called the Wizards. And relish the "magic" that goes into every goal. Aaagghhh.

IT COULD BE WORSE

But it could be worse. You could be forced to sing "come on you Earthquakes" on a sunny Saturday afternoon in San Jose. Or to cheer for the "Galaxy" in L.A.

If Canada ever gets its own MLS team, you can bet on us being saddled with something even worse. Like the Toronto Beavers. Or, given the recent history of Canada-U.S. relations, the Canadian Refuseniks.

But change is afoot -- and hope is on the horizon.

The Dallas Burn (ouch!) reinvented itself this year by switching to a more European-style name -- FC Dallas. Salt Lake also meant well by naming itself after the Spanish giants Real Madrid, but I can't help thinking Real Salt Lake should be renamed False Salt Lake.

The problem, of course, is that soccer doesn't have a rich history to fall back on in North America.

So there's no obvious reason to go for a fan-friendly name like the Gunners (Arsenal), or the Red Devils (Manchester United).

And there's also no reason to burden your supporters with a name that's only accepted (like Tottenham Hotspur) because it's too late to change.

Tottenham was founded in 1882 and took its name from a character in Shakespeare named Harry Hotspur, but you won't find many Tottenham fans reminding you of that.

The name probably stuck since the abbreviated version -- Spurs -- is a little easier to defend during a drunken argument.

DEFLECT CRITICISM

European fans have also learned to deflect criticism of their own team names by coming up with nicknames for their bitter rivals.

Southampton fans -- of which I am one -- are called Scummers, a name invented way back by sailors in nearby Portsmouth.

The sailors based in that city's Royal Navy port looked down on their neighbours, who only had a commercial port. So they called them scum -- the naval term for merchant seamen.

Thankfully, Southampton fans came up with a much better retort: they nicknamed Portsmouth fans Skates.

The name had nothing to do with the uncanny resemblance between sailors and the strange-looking fish. Which really is uncanny.

It was coined because Navy sailors spend long periods of time out at sea. And they were known to get a little too sexually frustrated -- and a little too friendly with skate fish.

Suddenly names like the Aviators -- and the Cracker Cats -- don't seem so bad after all.


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