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Chicago is getting a charter franchise next year in the new Women's Professional Soccer league, and it's looking for help in picking a name, so the time is now to prevent one of the namby-pamby nicknames so prevalent in our city's recently launched sports teams. I mean, come on, the Chicago Fire? It's barely better than the Sting, if only for not being so 70s trendy. As for the WNBA Chicago Sky, that's the sort of wishy-washy people's choice we're trying to avoid. Color it up all you want with a robin's egg blue, most days the Chicago sky is gray and dreary. What, are they expecting us to be all musing on profound thoughts like Tolstoy's Prince Andrei while gazing at the Sky?
Naming a Chicago sports franchise does present unique challenges, especially where a women's team is concerned. If we're going to name it after Chicago women, then how about the Gun Molls? I know, I know, Mayor Daley is trying to get us all to transcend that old stereotype. So I guess the Everleighs, elegant as it is, ringing of fin de siecle Chicago and the White City of the Columbian Exposition (as well as the punning "ever lays," befitting the Everleigh sisters' renowned whorehouse) is out too. The Ladies in Red, after Dillinger's Biograph Theater betrayer? No, connotes the same thing. It's hard to come up with something else womanly that symbolizes Chicago. The Riveters, after the World War II workers? The Broken Nosers or the Hawk Profiles, after Nelson Algren's line that loving Chicago is like loving a woman with a broken nose? I think not. And let's not even go into the Byrnes -- much less the Burn. (Fire parallels to the contrary, what Chicago social disease would that connote?) Better the Tillmans, with all players required to wear hats.
The thing I keep wondering is what's wrong with the old standards -- animals and such? The Bulls have certainly benefited from their original choice, even if bulls are not normally associated with Chicago, and ditto the minor-league-hockey Wolves. So how about the White Stockings? It worked at first for both the Cubs and the White Sox. No, I guess that does seem to send us back to the dress at the Everleigh Club (although the potential appeal of players in thigh-high soccer socks shouldn't be denied). Well, then what about the Robins? Faintly feminine, seasonal, ringing of fond associations with spring, not to mention how the orange-and-black color scheme (or let's use a little license and say navy blue) lends itself to tie-ins with both the Bears and the Fighting Illini. Or hey, what about the Hawks, resonating with that hawk profile? Not bad, I say.
It turns out the team has already put names in nomination, and there's one good one: the Red Stars, after the four red stars on the Chicago flag, mixing both the triumph and tragedy of the city's history. It was the early leader in online voting, and it even lends itself to one of my above suggestions: the Ladies in Red. Unfortunately, this week a new leader presented itself: the 1871. I know it's the year of the Great Chicago Fire, but what kind of a nickname is the 1871? What is an 1871, anyway? Geez, better the Char Women (if not the Charred Women) if we're going to hark back to the Chicago Fire.
So, in the great Chicago tradition, get online and vote early and vote often, to keep our women's soccer team from adopting a humiliating nickname. As for me, I'll take credit for any write-ins for the Robins or the Hawks, not to mention the unmentionable White Stockings.