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Major League Soccer's Troubling Lack of Biodiversity (And How To Fix It)

Did you know that the eagle species has recently been reclassified into the Accipitriformes order, where one would also find the osprey, or "sea hawk"? Thus, that Super Bowl-winning bird in Philadelphia has a first cousin out there in Seattle. What about the fact that the jaguar, lion, and tiger are all members of the same Panthera genus? And, since there's truly no feline that goes by the name "panther," each labeled as such is actually a melanistic variant of another cat? That's right. In America, the black panther is simply a jaguar with a skin condition. So, not only did Carolina and Jacksonville both enter the NFL with the same mascot, but they did so in the very same year (1995). Unbelievable, but true. Furthermore, a "colt" and a "bronco" can describe the exact same horse — provided it's a male and under the age of four. What I'm alluding to: Nickname duplication isn't new or confined to Major League Soccer. 

But it is curious that MLS struggles with this issue, because the National Football League is far more traditional in giving all teams nicknames. It's as if the NFL has an unspoken aggression mandate, where the things with teeth, horns, and talons are a must. Their [over]use of animals has watered down the naming similarities to a point where we don't even really stop to notice how striking they are. Same goes for the NBA, where the Wizards and Magic are essentially derivations of the other. Suns and Heat, too. 

College is where you go to find eccentricity in athletic nicknames: Banana slugs, figthin' blue hens, zipspurple aceslumberjacksmastodons, seawolveskangaroos, fighting camels, and many more. Hell, I went to the school with a severed bird head mounted on a bolt of lightning. And Minor League Baseball makes that deep end look like a kiddie pool. It's all a welcome effort to be different and not end up with 50 bulldogs to keep track of.

But professional sports, where the sample size is much smaller, calls for professionalism. The clean-cut big cats, the notable birds of prey. Those two categories pretty much bookend the spectrum of what is acceptable in mainstream society today. Somewhere in the middle is an ironic war against man; wiping out much of the species that plays and watches the sports portrayed in the logos. 

In recent times, the trend of removing likenesses of people has continued. With a desire to be as timeless as the New York Yankees or Rangers, owners have no reason to believe humans age well in iconography. There's very little precedent to the contrary. After all, modern generations view most hand-drawn logos of each sport's golden era as being either ostentatious, cheesyanatomically freakish, out-of-style, or offensive. In fact, we've reduced nearly two dozen pro franchises to simpler wordmarks and neutral design elements — out of apparent market research that fans do not respond well to seeing our own kind. 

It's sad, really. The NBA's Cavaliers, Wizards, Pacers, Warriors, Knicks, and Nuggets; NFL's Giants, Chiefs, Steelers, 49ers, Saints, and Packers; MLB's Brewers, Braves, Mets, Pirates, White Sox, Padres, Reds, Indians, and Twins; and the Crew of MLS all once had fantastic human representation in their logos. And this doesn't factor in extinct franchises or ones that fell victim to a brand makeover. It has all been dumbed down in the name of broader acceptance/likeability. 

Among primary marks in the "Big Five" North American leagues (including Major League Soccer), only the Ottawa Senators, Chicago Blackhawks, Boston Celtics, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, Oakland Raiders, and Washington Redskins remain. This is seven of 149 teams, or a little over 4%. Humans are practically extinct. 

A few that survive are (objectively) so poorly constructed that, if introduced today, Twitter would devour the artist within an hour of public release. But they last because of an iconic heritage; got over the hump and are now too entrenched to be changed. That, and they took advantage of a glitch in the way our brains are wired. Our minds have become so familiar with certain brands that they stop analyzing the details — consuming them at instantly-recognizable face value then moving on. Like seriously, what is up with the legs of the Boston Celtic? Please explain to me why his crotch looks like a butt and how his left knee is able to do that. Not to mention, the basketball is falling off his finger. And how does a Hollywood actor, in an archaic leather football helmet, pass as a pirate (Raider) just because of an eye patchP.S. - Vikings never actually wore horned helmetsYou see how this route begins to open up a team to never-ending criticism?    

This all makes it really tough to come up with new things. People are out. The banal animals are too risky. The comfort zone is as narrow as it has ever been. So, expansion teams tend to play it safe with tried-and-true practices. And this has led to a serious overlapping of ideas.

For instance, there are 32 franchises in the NFL. Dolphins, Lions, Bears, Ravens, Jaguars, Rams, Cardinals, Colts, Eagles, Seahawks, Falcons, Panthers, Bengals, and Broncos are obviously animals. Add one more when the Chargers throw it back to their powder blue, equestrian-themed early days in San Diego. You could make a compelling argument to include the Texans for their longhorn logo and the Bills representing their city with a sprinting buffalo. That is a full zoo. Including Houston and Buffalo, it is over half the league. The well is so dried up that monikers like the Browns and Packers exist, despite making much sense in the 21st century. Even if we wanted to, there's nothing left to call them. 

The NFL did more than exhaust the usual suspects; they practically invented the list of options. Drive anywhere in the U.S. right now and you'll pass a high school whose athletic nickname is shared by an NFL franchise. You'll also see a familiar professional logo — done up in different colors — which is being used illegally, but not policing a mark is a topic for another story. By the time 32 teams rolled around, it sure felt like there was nowhere in the animal world left to turn. Owners were digging so deep into the barrel that animals that had never been used in any athletic context (seahawk, raven, jaguar) were called upon. What was the reasoning behind the bold, off-menu selections?  

American football teams have helmets that define their identities. They need "things" and not vague concepts. Gone are the days of a standalone "G" representing an entire visualization package of a billion-dollar company. Animals do this best. In the early years, items like wings became a natural fit for adorning both sides of a player's headgear. They conveyed speed and power. As time passed, this expression only intensified. Any bird or cat that could look tough in the same orientation as the player's forward movement was applied.    

Soccer has always been different, though. There isn't any equipment, per se. There's really only a short-sleeve shirt. You're not required to have a cute mascot or iconography that displays anything quite like the other North American sports do. Sometimes a number on a circle with a meaningful pattern is all that is required. Remember, these are club badges and crests — not even called logos. 

So, choosing anything living to grace the crest is much more symbolic than slapping a fierce animal onto a foam finger. It's not about pairing a city name with an alliterative suffix. Graphic Design 101 teaches us that, in making an object understood to the public, either pictorial representation is shown or words are used to define it, but never both. That juvenile gesture is reserved for children's flashcards. And apparently, North American sports teams. We sure love putting wordmarks above/below logos, as if we didn't get what it was through the imagery. 

European football is far classier. You'll never find a club nickname underneath a shield. And they typically adapt creatures directly from the city's coat of arms. A selection rooted in history would be preferred over a non-native animal that elicits fear by its ability to hunt. 

The United Kingdom, specifically, doesn't buy into the need for these animals to be fearsome. Relatively docile creatures have appeared up and down the Premier League table over the years: a swan (Swansea City), a fallow deer (Watford), a fox (Leicester City), a thrush (West Bromwich Albion), a terrier (Huddersfield Town), a bluebird (Cardiff City), a cockerel (Tottenham Hotspur), a cormorant (Liverpool), two seahorses (Newcastle United), a canary (Norwich City), a seagull (Brighton & Hove Albion), and an owl (Sheffield Wednesday). Try getting any of those included in American sports.

Remember, what you depict doesn't have to be a nickname literally painted onto the field of play, like an end zone. It's all show without the tell. There is no "Let's go, Cormorants, let's go!" chant.

And there's way more mythology and fiction. Along with Cardiff City's bluebird is their dragon homage to Wales. Bristol City has a pair of unicorns. Wimbledon has a two-headed eagle. Coventry City boasts a phoenix, a griffin, and an elephant. Burnley one-ups everyone, with a stork, a lion, and two bees. With soccer, you can truly pick anything real or made up. 

There never has to be any confusion with established teams in the NBA, NFL, NHL, or MLB. Others in the "Big Four" aren't so lucky. The basketball team in Memphis is called the Grizzlies, not the Memphis Bears, Bruins, Wild, or Cubs — which are all the same thing. North American professional sports have provided us with many nicknames for indigenous peoples, but no two are alike: Indians, Blackhawks, Braves, Redskins, Chiefs, and Warriors (though you can't tell anymore). None of this isn't by accident. Expansion cities have been quietly "forced" to bust out the thesaurus; carving out a new term for an old noun when selecting their team names.  

Major League Soccer doesn't need to subscribe to this unwritten rule, however. People in Detroit won't have to worry about someone wearing an MLS t-shirt that says "Lions Soccer" across the chest. The sport simply doesn't market nicknames in wordmark form that way. They are just FC Cincinnati and Orlando City SC. The lion is all up to the viewer to extract out of an illustrated likeness. It's why I had to look up what species was actually shown on many of the English badges I used as earlier examples. The images are familiar, but there was a lot of "What exactly is that thing?" in the research. It's what makes the European crests true works of art; open to interpretation. 

And with that openness to different takes comes plausible deniability. If ever pressed for a unique nickname, FC Cincinnati could say they are the Pride or even the Fighting Simbas  — and never have to outwardly express it.  

What FC Cincinnati can get away with externally isn't the same within the league it's about to join. It is unacceptable for set of franchises as small as Major League Soccer to wind up with two lions. All the options have not been exhausted first. Make potential ownership groups scour the globe to find anything new before they're allowed to pick something someone has already selected. Those are grade school rules of etiquette. 

And the lions won't be the only culprits. At present, MLS is a league with two logos depicting male bovines (FC Dallas and New York Red Bulls). That makes a roster of two lions, two bulls/steers, the loon of Minnesota United FC, DC United's eagle, a snake for the Philadelphia Union, and the newly-announced Inter Miami CF heron. That's it: Six of 23 (26.1%) today and eight of 26 (30.7%) by 2020. Note: Nashville SC doesn't appear to be of any help to this issue, when they enter the league in 2019.

If FC Austin does become club number 27, they have already announced a logo depicting a tree. This means the 28th franchise will need to be an animal in order for MLS to maintain a breakdown over 30%. And that threshold is significant. 

Major League Baseball is 30 clubs deep. Seven are obviously represented by animals. I won't list them out. Note: The Cardinals are notorious for their birds perched on a bat, but they were technically named to represent a shade of red and nothing to do with the animal kingdom at all. Alas, they now count. If you believe the Tampa Bay Rays still stand for the aquatic animal as well as sunshine, there's eight. Nine if you include the elephant that is in the graphic arsenal of the Oakland A's. In the "Big Four," that seems to be an important milestone to reach: 
  • NFL - 16 of 32 (50%), counting the Texans as a steer, the Bills as a buffalo; not counting the Chargers 
  • NBA - 9 of 30 (30%), counting the Mavericks as a horse; no longer counting the Pistons as one
  • MLB - 9 of 30 (30%), counting the Rays as a manta, the A's as an elephant
  • NHL - 9 of 31 (29%), counting the Canucks as a whale, the Wild as a bear; not counting the Sabres or Red Wings
The striking difference between Major League Soccer's potential 32% (9 of 28) and that of the NHL, NBA, and MLB is in the duplication. How could three leagues — each beyond or quickly approaching its centennial birthday — have all their franchises claim unique animals, while the other will look like Noah's Ark (twice doubling up) before it even turns 25? 

And it's such an atypical issue for soccer in particular. The 2018-19 lineup of clubs in the Premier League, for instance, consists of 12 crests with at least one animal present. That is 12 of 20 (60%). Zero duplicates. It's small proof that the sport is supposed to be a world of boundless animal possibilities.  

The compounded problem, with the lack of biodiversity in Major League Soccer, is the fact that there aren't many even heading down that path. It's like a game of throwing a dart at a board of 30 available zoo animals. How can we keep hitting the same one? The odds should be minuscule, especially when such a large percentage of the league chooses not to participate.

It is an inexact science, but my best judgment found that only twelve clubs attempted to depict a "thing" (other than a soccer ball) in their current crest. This number would have been thirteen until the Crew dumped the dudes. By 2020, there will be the eight animals, Portland's axe, Seattle's Space Needle, gave a pass to the mountains in Colorado (but voted against those in Vancouver), and New England's flag — which was a major artistic reach. Everything else is just stylized lettering (LAFC's wing) on an intricate canvas (Chicago Fire), with geometric patterns (San Jose Earthquakes/Sporting KC), and stock design elements used as complementary decoration (Real Salt Lake's crown/Montreal's fleur-de-lis). There's a definite lack of substance. How do you sink your teeth into anything the Houston Dynamo shield provides?  

By any count, a majority doesn't have any tangible item in their primary logo whatsoever. This skews the data to make matters even worse. Working off the theory that 13 went for the traditional look of an American logo, 16.6% of that total will be of lions — with another 16.6% set aside for mammals with horns. That's utterly irresponsible. New entrants have essentially had every species on earth at their disposal. And yet, we have very little differentiation in look. It's as big of a faux pas as wearing the same dress as someone else to that gala. 

MLS has already tried to loot everything from Europe football culture that isn't bolted to the floor. Why not take some chances on creatures that would be taboo to see on the 50 yard line or center court, but great for when the only application is in the upper corner of a player's shirt?


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This subject matter had been buried deep in the back of my mind for almost two years now. But it became topical again when the aforementioned Inter Miami CF crest was revealed. The club's heron is officially set to become just the sixth different animal in Major League Soccer. And, much to my joy, it is a gamble on the unique bird spectrum. This was a welcome sight for broadening the options for future MLS clubs. What made it an unwelcome sight was the feeling that my work had been plagiarized.  

You see, when I was working with one of the 2016 bids for St. Louis' MLS inclusion, I set out to find a name for the hopeful franchise that was unlike any other in any professional sports league, on any continent. My strategy was to use a word that could be taken at face value as one thing, but also stand to define a seemingly unrelated image. It's story time, boys and girls. Time for me to lay down all the cards I had in my hand. 

In my experiences, group names of animals are the best place to turn to for achieving this goal. For the most part, they are singular nouns without an "s" ending; something Major League Soccer sure loves. I don't always give my MLS club a nickname, but when I do... I prefer it without an "s". The league's brief history has provided us with the Mutiny, Burn, Clash, Crew, "Wiz", Fusion, Fire, Galaxy, Revolution, Impact, Dynamo, United (x3), and Union. That's 15 of the 30 franchise names ever to exist in Major League Soccer. 

The only franchises to carry a traditional American sports name are the Rapids, MetroStars/Red Bulls, Earthquakes, Sounders, Whitecaps, and Timbers. The eight most recent expansion teams are devoid of the "s"; most opting out of anything beyond city name and FC or SC, like someone's credentials on a business card. No one with a standard pluralization has entered MLS since 2011 (Portland) and they were the continuation of a legacy established decades prior. As were Seattle and Vancouver. The Red Bulls of 2006 were a concoction of their corporate sponsor. And the 2008 reinstatement of San Jose simply brought back the Earthquakes name first donned in 2000. In other words, unless there are extrinsic circumstances, modern MLS expansion teams don't put the "s" on it.    

With that research in tow, here's what my list of options looked like:   
  
Ultimately, I selected the sixth name down the list. "Siege" is Old French, just like St. Louis itself. In a sporting context, the word encapsulates stifling defense that blockades opponents from escaping their zone. It is also playfully alliterative without being too over the top. It has versatility in either being a prefix or a suffix. 

What you see below was created in March of 2016. Full disclosure, I have been a Spurs fan since the late '90s. Any similarities to Tottenham's iconic logo is strictly coincidental [eye roll]

The symbolism had regionally-responsive purpose. The name was strong. The animal was unique. This was set to be The End on the topic. Whenever MLS commissioner Don Garber announced St. Louis as club number 25 or 26, this was going to be the team's identity. Life was going to be grand.   

Then, 19 months after my proposal landed on the desk of MLS headquarters, Inter Miami decided to use a bird for their iconography. But not just any bird... a freakin' heron. You had to be kidding me. No, not an egret. Couldn't possibly pick a crane. Wouldn't make sense to use the state bird, like Minnesota United FC did with their loon logo (northern mockingbird, by the way). With a bold choice of pink for a men's professional sports team, and the pervasiveness of flamingos in Florida, that would have been a perfect marriage. Nope. It had to be a heron. Had to be shown in profile, had to be supported on one leg, set to play in 2020. It was four pounds of salt in a gaping wound. 

From my point of view, the already-shallow ecosystem of MLS animals now had three pairs of the same species. I was livid. My whole goal was to avoid doubling up. I set out 180 degrees away from conformity. And yet the doubling up landed in my lap. It felt as though my selection would have been copied no matter what. If the St. Louis Screamin' Lemurs were chosen, then opening the press release about Inter Miami CF would have instantly changed to that of a lemur. That karmic black cloud was following my every move. 

By this point, the needle on my conspiracy radar was off the charts. Then again, I might have been reading too much into it. Florida has every right to one of the most common occurring birds in North America. The white heron is all over the tropical coast of their state. But the similarities keep the thought in my brain. It all seems fishy. I'll let you be the judge:
What pains me the most is that I absolutely love this badge. The full logo has some interesting geometric interactions/negative space I don't fancy — missing the mark of a Manchester City that successfully melds a shield and circle — but the heart of what was created is gorgeous. I am a jealous mess when I see the work of other designers that make subtle gestures that I should have thought of. How the team locked the birds' legs, to create an "M", is an instance of that rage. Gahhhh, why do you have to be so perfect? I hate that I love you. It's enough to make you gloss right past the anatomical fact that birds' legs don't even bend in that direction.  

In any event, the St. Louis club clearly cannot be called the Siege any longer. I mean, ownership could push through with it; no one really knows a group of herons is called a siege without an birdwatching book handy. But Miami undercuts the ability for an impactful double entendre — since I wouldn't dare double up on a heron logo. It would be tripling up on waterfowl, if you count the loon in Minnesota. 

And it is a shame; they are wasting a great naming opportunity. Too many new franchises in sports are an ill-fitting proper noun slapped onto a city. This was a chance to dive deeper. The city could have avoided the kitschy feel of your son/daughter's youth club: St. Louis Surge, Lightning, Gators, et alia. Those are selected nicknames for the sake of having a nickname. It checks a box and sounds "cool" or "rugged" or "fierce" enough for an athletic context. I never wanted Siege to be that. And it wasn't. As a history nerd, the word had a really good story to tell in this market:   
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The presumed nail in the coffin was a failed public vote in April of 2017, focused on a bond issue to finance the stadium. Major League Soccer was "done" in the St. Louis. My attentions were diverted and life moved on.  

Then, almost 18 full months after the time of death was called, St. Louis somehow found itself back in the MLS expansion game. There was clearly a ton of work being tended to behind the scenes. And much to the surprise of all those tracking this expansion process, the defibrillator paddles — i.e. a new ownership point person and revised private stadium plan — shocked a pulse back into St. Louis. It also revitalized my opportunity to assist in the graphics department. 

Even with new players in the brain trust, the extent of the plan is still to elevate Saint Louis FC — currently playing in the United Soccer League (USL) — one rung up on the United State Soccer Federation (USSF) ladder. The thought process has always been to bring what already exists in the "minors" with the franchise as it moves to MLS, if and when that time comes. 

To me, this cannot be the play. It was my stance in 2016 — when I was putting together my work for the Siege — and it remains steadfast today. The USL crest (established in 2015) is far too stagnant and overly derivative; exactly like a green and blue Atlanta United shield. Compositionally, the "A" and fleur-de-lis are the same triangular shape. The only difference between the five vertical stripes, alternating in color, is their widths. This should not be allowed to come in on equal footing as the others in MLS. Animal duplication is one thing, but this is straight-up copying your classmate's homework and changing the name at the top.  

Additionally, the 1764 is a cute way to get county people excited about the city, but it is irrelevant to anything pertaining to the club's formation... or its inclusion into any league. Thus, this established date comes across as a panic move to fill space, much like Atlanta opting for those two unnecessary/unrelated curved lines. The numbers half-ass the year-as-a-nickname scheme made famous by the San Francisco 49ers (NFL) and Philadelphia 76ers (NBA); since replicated by many, including Reno 1868 FC of the USL. Since the 64ers would be as audibly pleasing as wood screws in a blender, and Saint Louis 1764 FC wouldn't be original, ditch the digits. They're not doing anything for the brand. 

For me, the Saint Louis FC crest would need a full overhaul. And 1764 would be the first of many items on the chopping block. Here's what else you won't see (and why):

No Fleur-de-lis  

Missing from my proposed design is the fluer-de-lis. Sure, the image is centrally placed on the St. Louis city flag. But that cannot be the only hurdle to clear. Three of these French marks appear on the Louisville flag. Five show up on Detroit's. And wouldn't you know it, both of their soccer clubs (USL and NPSL, respectively) also use the fleur-de-lis on their crest. It is now viewed as low-hanging fruit; the new-age equivalent to the stars and stripes. There has to be more imagination expelled. 

Furthermore, dibs were called decades ago. To most Americans, the stylized flower — in an athletic context — is the sole property of New Orleans. The NFL's Saints, MiLB's Zephyrs, and the NBA's Jazz, then Hornets, now Pelicans have made it difficult to separate Louisiana's French heritage from each team's own branding. 

New Orleans is certainly not the only U.S. city that uses a fleur-de-lis to display its European influence, but on a professional sports level, it got their first. In 1967, the artwork was used a standalone logo on the Saints' helmets. It was as powerful as the Dallas Cowboys' star. Of course, others are allowed to throw stars on their uniforms. But the simplicity of that mark now belongs to Dallas — not legally (can't trademark something so common) — but definitely in the court of public opinion. I feel this is also true of the fleur-de-lis: It's either NOLA or its Quebec and there's not room for others.

Any older fan of the NHL would remember the Nordiques and their use of the fleur-de-lis. Beginning in 1979, the bottom hem line on both home and road jerseys was adorned with three such flowers. Two more were placed on the shoulders. It still is an iconic look, even though the team has now been in Colorado (rebranded the Avalanche) since 1995. 

In Major League Soccer, Montreal Impact joined the fray in 2012. The New Orleans of the Great White North went back to the trusted well on imagery for their badge. It's too uniquely artistic for multiple applications in Major League Soccer; no different than my issue with doubling up animals. 

The focus of this piece is about avoiding iconography duplicity, and Montreal settled on it first. Oh, and there's that little language thing that makes their French ties a tad bit stronger than modern-day Missourah. 
I see this as a glass-half-full situation for Saint Louis. Strike the played-out tropes from the list and it opens the mind up to a world of other possibilities. It is also a mark that some have called into question as racist. Runaway slaves, in colonial France, were reminded of their status as property — emblazoned with a fleur-de-lis on the shoulder. Better to leave that one alone completely. It's not an issue at present, but when it becomes one someday, you'd wish your team selected something as universally-unoffensive as a butterfly.   

No Gateway Arch

Similar to the fleur-de-lis, St. Louisans need to move past this icon. Most inhabitants of the world only know the town for its 630-foot-tall curved piece of steel. Though an innovative feat and masterful structure, its purpose is curiously celebrated. At the end of the day, the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial commemorates people who used St. Louis like a 19th-century version of a truck stop. The arch is arguably more about our nation's settling the Pacific coast than it is about the state of Missouri at all — as pioneers moved on to richer fortunes in the West. Thus, it is odd to harbor a sense of pride with its "keep moving" or "don't settle here" undertones. 

The city needs to be seen for so much more than the start of a journey elsewhere. That paradigm shift begins to take place if/when a new franchise jumps on the national stage without the Gateway Arch in the logo. Dependence on it, as the only way people recognize St. Louis, is laziness in design. And doing it does the citizens a disservice. The easy way is often the cliche way. It plays into the narrative that there is only one thing to know about the city. 

And St. Louis isn't the only city dealing with this. My beloved Cleveland Indians are hosting the 2019 MLB All-Star Game. The logo for the event has caught some flack from locals, because it's yet another guitar theme. It's easy, it's familiar; design firms feel like it's what people would want. The result is vending machine food: It's the safety net you know is there if you absolutely cannot come up with better. Saint Louis FC can do so much better.

This is why you're also not going to see any statues of King Louis, even though someone in the local soccer community would sure like to see him. All these icons are overused in the corporate identities throughout this Midwestern town. In this same vein, it's why Budweiser must be kept out of any stadium naming rights or kit sponsor discussions. Progress beyond the expected is necessary or else outsiders can continue to unfairly reduce St. Louis to one or two cultural contributions. 


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As they say: Constructive criticism without an alternative solution is just bitching. Thus, I'm not about shooting down the current Saint Louis FC crest without proposing something else. 

I kept the side dishes of my original Siege crest, but began looking for a new main course. This time, I shied away from anything aviary. They proved to be more trouble than they were worth. I did, however, continue the search for something that belongs in St. Louis; an animal that already calls the place home — both in real-life habitat and within established local imagery. Admittedly hypocritical of my own city flag argument, I went straight to the state flag of Missouri.  

Fun facts: There are 56 state/federal district/territory flags in the United States. There are 13 provincial and territorial flags in Canada. Out of that 69, a bear only appears on two of them: California and Missouri. The Show-Me-State has two standing bears, posting up with the Great Seal that includes a hidden-in-plain-sight third. 

I've personally gone to this well once before. That political bear theme also appeared in the summer collegiate baseball league I co-founded, as a 2014 expansion team. Winners of the 2015 Discovery Cup Championship, the Lemay Governors were one of the best dressed clubs in the Lewis & Clark Baseball League:
If St. Louis can't have the Siege, then it should rush to claim the bear. True, Sacramento Republic FC already has dibs. Their crest features a small California grizzly at its base. This current logo was constructed in 2013, but first put to use on the field in 2014 — as a USL expansion team. However, if Saint Louis FC is promoted to Major League Soccer, it will likely come at the expense of Sacramento. Thus, the 28th MLS franchise would be a bear one way or the other. No duplication; winner of the expansion bid gets to take it to Tier 1 of the USSF pyramid. The league would get its ninth total animal, seventh unique species.  

A bear would definitely be a strong addition to Major League Soccer's limited animal kingdom. It is a staple that "needs" to be in every American professional league; already found in the NBA, NFL, NHL, and MLB. The reasons it would work in Sacramento are evident. But even in St. Louis, the selection makes a ton of sense: It's not the state mammal (that would be the unsavory mule), but is prominent in all things related to Missouri's government. 

This means a bear would take a playful shot across the bow of Sporting KC; reminding everyone involved that they are a Kansas team and not Missouri. Secondly, there's the trolling of the Chicago sports scene. Stealing some of the brand power from the Bears is one thing, but subtly saying you're a more mature version of a Cub is priceless.    

There are also ties to Washington University in St. Louis and Missouri State University — both nicknamed the Bears. The former has had a long history of national success in the sport (both men and women) at the NCAA Division III level. The latter has appeared in three men's and two women's NCAA Division I tournaments out of the Missouri Valley Conference. I would have paid homage to the 10-time D-I National Championship-wining men's soccer program at Saint Louis University, if anyone on the planet knew exactly what to make of their terrifying charm doll mascot.  

As for the corresponding name, I don't feel it should be the Saint Louis Sleuth — the group name for bears. An argument could be made for Aurora (a group of polar bears) working well. But having one in the local zoo is a pretty flimsy tie in a city known for its excessive summer heat. 

Ultimately, neither has the same gravitas as Siege. While that stood for the one and only heron in professional sports, bears are all over the landscape. This means that both Sleuth and Aurora would come across as full "Bengals mode;" my term for labeling a plain-as-day animal by an off-shoot name simply to avoid stepping on another team's toes. Not even the people of India and Bangladesh call that cat a bengal... it's a region, not an animal. You wouldn't dream of shortening the African elephant to just the Africans. Yet, somehow it's accepted for the Bengal tiger in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA. It's very bizarre.  

Instead, I would recommend a "nameless" Saint Louis FC to continue. Its advantage, thanks to the sport the team plays, is that nothing depicted in the crest needs a formal introduction. There is no suffix after the city name required in soccer. Ergo, no identity confusion with the established Bears, Cubs, Bruins, or Grizzlies; even though what you see technically fits the description for all four. This logo gets away with duplication by leaving the nickname open for interpretation, and not committing to any official wordmark on club merchandise.

I can live with the green and navy, in lieu of the red, white, and blue. I concede, that was not a strength of the initial Siege proposal. If you think some animals are overused, look at the traditional American colors prevalent in MLS franchises. Saint Louis would do well to swim away from that red ocean, even if it blends the city flag with the primary colors of the two pro sports teams left in the town. This updated combo would be a relatively unique one in the league; Seattle is more of an electric green and softer blue. 

The bear is a grizzly, to match the state flag; even though a few hundred black bears in southern Missouri are the only species left these days. She (yes, she) is shown in a pose that suggests a warning shot is being fired. Come any closer and there's going to be a problem. This posture fits well in the triangular numerator of the shield's fractional design. 

Whereas the heron in the Siege crest was colored solid blue (because a blue heron is a thing), this animal is left as an outline drawing. Coloring her blue or green wouldn't make much visual sense. The Blackhawks are famous for brown, yellow, green, and orange all appearing on their predominantly red, white, and black uniforms. The look should clash and be downright awful. Instead, going that far against the their team colors — in the name of realism — has turned Chicago's Indian chief into an icon

I don't see that gesture as necessary in this case, though. Without nearly a century of social currency, it's also really difficult to pull off these days. So no brown or black bear with yellowish orange eyes just because. No overdone motion accents, translucent overlays, or vector shadows — seen all-too-often in modern computer graphic design. The color restraint keeps the logo light and not as busy/bulky. It also adds to a timeless feel; could have been created in the 1920s, could exist well in 2020s. Think of it as an agitated Atlético Madrid bear, ready to rip your face off rather than curious over a few apples. 
All the other elements — and their deeply-rooted meanings — remain the same: Mound City, chess board, St. Louis Stars, City/County, Missouri/Illinois, Bosnia & Herzegovina, the whole nine. That subtle Bosnian tie-in is a must. The nation's dense population base in St. Louis will make up a large constituency in the stadium. On that same front, the color change is also beneficial by downplaying the Croatian feel of the denominator's pattern. The variance does become less attractive to Nestle Purina as a "title" sponsor — since their brand would no longer be embedded directly in the shield. But I think World Wide Technology and Enterprise Holdings can make up for that loss.  
If you want it, there's also an angle to be played with the Ursa Major constellation. You know the one; the great bear in the sky that contains the "Big Dipper." There's ample symbolism that can be drawn from that famous formation. For starters, that bear is a female; representative of the club's woman-led ownership group.  

Additionally, stars have played a large role in the naming of various St. Louis sports teams for nearly a century. There were the St. Louis Stars of the Negro National League (1922-31, '43) and Negro American League (1939-41). That ballclub used the talents of future Hall of Famers — Cool Papa Bell, Mule Suttles, and Willie Wells — to win three pennants in four years (1928-31). Decades later, the St. Louis Stars reappeared as the nickname for the city's professional soccer club; first in the NPSL (1966) and promoted to NASL the following year (1967-77). Even the National Football League's first stop in St. Louis (1923) was with a team called the "All Stars." This fails to even mention the obvious love affair nations like ours have for starry iconography. 

Wouldn't that be fateful if Saint Louis FC could begin play on the 100th anniversary of the St. Louis Stars' inaugural season?

I, for one, prefer the non-starred bear, but went through the exercise just to be absolutely sure. If an overt Ursa Major/Captain America theme is your cup of tea, here's what that amalgam would look like:
It certainly isn't perfect. But it'll work as a jumping-off point for someone to improve upon. As they say, the first tee shot is safely in the fairway. It's up to the others in my group to grip it and rip it for something better. You want a different animal? Be my guest. I'm not wedded to the bear. Use the rest of the components as a template and implant whatever you want in the white triangle. I think I've laid out the reasons why it needs to be an animal. St. Louis needs to clean up a biodiversity mess it had no hand in creating. As long as it's not a bull or lion, you should be good. 

In the meantime, be on the lookout for my next installment of Siege Saint Louis' 2016 failed bid. You know I have even more thoughts on stadium location and design. For now, I'll leave you with a glimpse of what could have been. 





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