Coarse correction | Houston MLS team drops 170 years from its name

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Houston logo, take 2. Link to Houston Chronicle article.Houston | Comments posted on a Houston Chronicle web log—all by English-speakers, mind you—ran strongly negative following the announcement earlier today that the Major League Soccer club would be called “Dynamo.” In a change of marketing strategies, club officials scratched “Houston 1836″ following protests that the name recalled the ugly secession of Texas from Mexico (see Feb 2). Some writers felt that the team was copping out to pressure groups; one suggested that the team, relocated from San Jose, California, should be called “PC Houston.”

Others were less than impressed that the Dynamo name echoes Eastern European club names, especially that of Dinamo Moskva, the team of the secret police, the KGB, during the Soviet era.

I’ve actually watched a Moscow Dynamo game, and it was not terribly impressive except for the hooligans, lines of mounted police officers and packs of bomb-sniffing dogs. I understand that in most years the team is pretty good, fighting for top rankings with CSKA (the former Red Army team) and Moscow Lokomotiv. I can’t think why we’d want to be associated with them, though, except their colors are kind of [Houston] Oiler blue and white. If they wanted a Russian name, Lokomotiv would have at least matched the city’s seal.

I’m Russian and I’m offended by this name. I spend 5 years in prison because of the communist KGB and now they call the team DYNAMO. What an insult to all Russians living in Houston. Why didn’t they just call it STALIN FC!

First the [Houston] Rockets went Chinese communist with the Yao Ming/Red Scare uniforms, now we name our soccer team the Dynamo…. All I ask is for the colors to be red, white and blue. Please, tell me my beloved hometown of Houston hasn’t turned into another PC pins-and-needles quagmire.

Isn’t Dynamo a laundry detergent?

Several posters had harsh words for Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia, whose precinct includes the San Jacinto battleground that was critical to the city’s 1836 founding. Conscious of her more than 500,000 Hispanic constituents, many of whom were calling and e-mailing to object to the original team name, Garcia approached owner Philip Anschutz, whose AEG group controls four MLS teams (following the sale of the New York–New Jersey MetroStars to Red Bull GmbH on Mar 8). “I can understand that this was … a sad time for the people of Mexico and their descendants,” says Garcia, “in a conflict which sometimes pitted families against their own people.”

The naming dispute, if nothing else, has pointed to the growing influence of the Hispanic and, specifically, Tejano community in politics and culture. “Maybe Anglos find a lot of bravado in 1836. To us, it conjures all this bad history,” says Tatcho Mindiola, director of the University of Houston Center for Mexican-American Studies.

This community has to change. They could have pulled off the 1836 name years ago, but they sure can’t now. We now have a very significant Mexican-American intellectual class that does its own research and isn’t going to put up with this.

Practical economics also play a role. The Dallas Morning News noted the 19,513 that filled the new stadium in the Dallas suburb of Frisco for Mexico’s friendly with Ghana on Mar 1. The game almost sold out Pizza Hut Park despite the bottom ticket price of $50. Still more impressive, ratings for the Univision broadcast of the Mexican superclásico between Club América and Chivas Guadalajara just three days earlier set a 10-year U.S. broadcast high for a soccer match not involving national teams. It left ratings for MLS games in the dust.

Hispanics represent the largest ethnic group in Houston, according to the 2000 census. One of every three Texans is Hispanic, writes the Chronicle‘s Lori Rodriguez, meaning that fresh interpretations of state history are needed. That history includes a record of abuses of Hispanic civil rights, beginning when Mexican prisoners of war in 1836 were forced to dredge a swamp that would become Houston.

About the Author

John Turnbull founded The Global Game in 2003. He was lead editor for The Global Game: Writers on Soccer (University of Nebraska Press, 2008) and has also written on soccer for Afriche e Orienti (Bologna, Italy), the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the New York Times Goal blog, Soccer and Society, So Foot (Paris) and When Saturday Comes. His essay "Alone in the Woods: The Literary Landscape of Soccer's 'Last Defender' " in World Literature Today was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Also for World Literature Today he edited a special section on women's soccer, "World Cup/World Lit 2011," before the Women's World Cup in Germany. The section appeared in the May-June issue. His next project is a book on soccer and faith.

Comments (2)

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  1. Brian says:

    Houston 1836 was a silly name anyway. Not that Dynamo is much better. I suppose it’s better than Red Bull New York.

    I bet the ninnies offering the “PC Houston” comments wouldn’t have gone to any matches anyways.

    Why not call them the Caballeros?

  2. Cedric White says:

    Unbelievable, the distortion of history. It sounds like Karl Marx is more influential than given credit for.

    The truth is that the Mexican government was oppressing the white settlers—thus, their revolt vs. Mexico in 1836.

    Several years later, the US and Mexico fought a war, just as many bordering nations have done during the history of the world. Mexico … surrendered and sold the southwest to the US. It was a fair, legal purchase—get over it.

    I really don’t understand the pathology of the Mexican resentment about something that happened 170 years ago. I mean, if that resentment by Mexicans is legitimate, then how about if they just sign over their independence to Spain? After all, maybe Spain is angry that Mexico revolted against them during the 1820s? Why is Spain’s anger any less legitimate than Mexico’s?

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