The Great NYCFC Fan Base Naming Scandal

Overreaction to a “City Voice” survey question to fans leads to an ethical and informative exploration into the origin of sports fan’s nicknames
by Nick Chavez   |   Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Yesterday, New York City FC’s survey question to its fans regarding what they should call themselves (with suggestions) via its “City Voice” initiative sent some fans and soccer pundits predictably into an uproar.

Blue City – column on New York City FC (NYCFC) & the NYC area soccer scene.

How can NYCFC be so “plastic” by “forcing” nickname suggestions on the fans, when a nickname for fans should be organically developed by the fans?

This in itself isn’t true since nothing was actually “forced” on the fans.

In reality, there were some names suggested to vote on, as well as an “Also, let us know your suggestions” section and “Please click the ‘next’ button to be taken to a discussion where you can suggest as many names as you would like.” But, don’t let that get in the way of a good pitch-fork rally, right?

This sort of thing is what “City Voice” was created for, to have open dialogue with fans on a much larger scale and obtain some quantifiable data regarding what they want, believe and expect. It probably wasn’t the most tactful way to go about it by NYCFC, but it also didn’t merit the outrage directed at it.

As expected, this particular survey question was met with the ridicule and condemnation of the good citizens of the internet, as publicized NYCFC Front Office actions often seem to be. Critics claimed that the origin of a nickname for a team’s entire fan base is to be done organically by the fans themselves.

Although I’m sure this is frequently the case, history has taught us that names for fans often come from a completely different source – The Media. Here are some examples:

Journalist Ernest Edwards referred to parts of Liverpool’s famous fortress Anfield in one report as, “the giddy heights of the Spioenkop”, a nickname that has since stuck and became shortened to “The Kop.”

A Spanish journalist named Matías Prats of Radio Nacional de España is frequently credited with giving Real Madrid (as well as its fans, who also proudly take on the moniker) one of their favorite nicknames in 1913, “Los Merengues”, most likely for the teams’ all-white appearance, like the top of a Meringue (“Merengue” in Spanish) pie.

In “America’s Past Time”, the phrase “Red Sox Nation” was first coined by Boston Globe’s Nathan Cobb in 1986, who interestingly enough, didn’t even remember coining it!

And hitting awfully close to home are the New York Yankees, whose famous “Bleacher Creatures” fan section nickname was christened in New York Daily News columnist Filip “Flip” Bondy’s book, Bleeding Pinstripes: A Season with the Bleacher Creatures of Yankee Stadium.

These names came “organically” from the “fans”, indeed.

The truth is, nicknames for fans can and should come from anywhere. What matters is that the nickname resonates with the fans themselves. A good nickname is a good nickname. Why is NYCFC so vilified for starting the discussion via City Voice?

Official supporter groups are often divided and no fan generally has the reach or voice to name an entire team’s fan base. Generally, the most soccer fans can hope to do is name their own particular supporters group, which in itself is no mean feat. In fact, it took the Third Rail at least 5 months to finally vote on and definitively decide on its own name.

I don’t imagine the Third Rail will have the power or influence to name an entire NYCFC fanbase, especially those who are of social clubs (such as Brown Bag Social Club or Bronx Goodfellas Social Club),’s online community, NYCFC’s considerable number of international fans, or other supporter’s groups that will be unaligned with NYCFC’s only officially-recognized Supporter’s Group.

So, while I understand the sentiment that NYCFC trying to suggest names for its blossoming fan base is the wrong way to go about it, people would do well to remember that “City Voice” is an instrument for open dialogue from the fans, and NYCFC using this tool to start this conversation is the sort of thing for which it was created.

It’s likely that NYCFC (or City Football Group) will have just learned that that the majority of fans want to come up with the name themselves (With City Voice providing a means for doing that, of course), although it appears many fans actually participated and voted on the choices. So, to each her own.

To that end, in the fine tradition of members of the media giving there suggestion for team and fans’ nicknames, here’s my suggestion: “The Imperial Guard.”  A nod to the “Empire City/State”, The Stars Wars Saga, and its famous “Evil Empire”? Could be worse.  Or you guys could stick with “Blue Steel.”

And fear not, all of my ideas are 100% organic, free-range and environmentally-friendly.  Let me know if you “particularly like” mine or leave your own suggestions below. 


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This is the longest-running column focused on the only team representing the 5 Boroughs in world football: New York City FC. Long may its supporters continue to make history.