I was able to make it to the team name announcement. I had wanted to attend the initial announcement of the team, but work got in the way, so I was glad to make it Thursday. I brought my camera and took a few photos of the brief ceremony.
Thursday was beautiful and sunny, but a bit windy. I got up to the Circle just before 2:30 and found the last-minute setup progressing as you’d expect. The crowd was maybe 150 people — not huge, but not bad for the middle of a workday either. The Brickyard Battalion had a great presence, of course, but there were quite a few other interested people too. The atmosphere was expectant and happy, and even the premature reveal of the team identity (thanks to the wind) couldn’t dampen spirits.
The speeches were well done — and not too long. Having Brigadier General Stewart Goodwin (executive director of the Indiana War Memorial Commission) speak on the history of the 11th Regiment Indiana Infantry was a wise touch. But of course the serious excitement was reserved for Peter Wilt’s introduction of the team name, crest and colors. Despite having the surprise spoiled, Peter’s enthusiasm was infectious and the crowd got behind the introduction, including some quick-thinking chants from the BYB. He’s a huge asset to the club and brings credibility, energy, and engagement in a way that will really help sell the Eleven to the fans. Perhaps the piece I’ve been most impressed about is a very realistic sense for what a NASL team can be. I think I’d be less excited if the initial plans were grander; instead, they’re focusing more on building a team rather than selling it, which is quite refreshing. My sense is that Peter is the source of this realistic optimism; in any case, he’s been great at carrying it forward.
With the big reveal of the name and crest, the reasons for the location were clear. It was great to see Victory on the crest, and Patrick Cumming’s design looked great when shown on the steps of the memorial. Designing an identity for an Indianapolis team isn’t an easy task. The Memorial is an obvious choice — putting the circle in Circle City — but what it lacks in surprise will be more than made up in local affection. Hoosiers see the Circle as the real heart of the city (and even state, I think). Even those who know nothing about soccer will begin to get a sense for the regional bonds that make it different from any other professional sport.
And the name? I’ve thought about it a lot since Thursday. It didn’t give me an initial rush of excitement. “Eleven,” while a key piece of the sport, isn’t a term with any ties to team names that I’m aware of. (The closest is maybe its use as a sort of all-star designation, in picking an “all time Arsenal XI” or something similar.) And while the ties to the 11th Indiana are appreciated, there’s nothing recognizably Hoosier about that particular number.
Yet for all that, I think the name will work quite well, and it’s steadily growing on me. Its uniqueness is a good thing. Too many new names are designed solely for marketing appeal, which is different from identity. Sure, if you name the team “Falcons” or something, you might get some people who buy the jersey just because the name sounds totally rad. Eleven is not that, and while the ties to the 11th Indiana are a tad arbitrary, they’re also real — and if the club continues to evoke the connection, they’ll stick.
The kicker for me was to look at the rest of the NASL. There are very few names I’d prefer. “Cosmos” is great just because of the NYC history, but that’s cheating a bit. The soccer-history names (Minnesota United, FC Edmonton) are… fine, but a bit generic. (The endless FC/SC debates are annoying, too.) Cavalry isn’t bad; I can see the Virignia ties (and I’m already looking forward to the Cavalry-Infantry rivalry). But the other names are a bland stew of genericism. Would you prefer another from the bunch? RailHawks? Fury? Rowdies? No thanks.
So I’m in. Indy Eleven will be unique, clearly a soccer name, and will stand out among the other NASL teams. And while I’ve seen some online debate, I think those that care about the team realize that the name is just a hook to hang your scarf on. Building a club, a tradition, and a fellowship are the important parts, and I think everyone who cares is ready for the next steps.
I took a few minutes to walk around the Circle and take in the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on a beautiful day. It really is the heart of the city, both metaphorically and geographically. It’s also part of a sustained Indianapolis dedication to honoring military service that has affected the city’s geography and architecture. Seeing Victory against the breezy April sky — and then seeing it on the shirts and stickers and signs — made it an Indianapolis event. Yep, we now have a soccer team. Up the Eleven!