This one's about something that I learned a few months back and haven't had a chance to use until now. It sounds like a major part of Anthony Precourt's redesign is going to be about finding a way for the Columbus Crew to represent Columbus. That means learning about the past and the present, and thinking about the city anew. For me, this also meant knowing what the word Columbus actually means.
Here's something that you might not know: Columbus means dove.
I've told this to several people over the last few months as I worked on ideas for this project and not one person that I told knew that the name of the city that they live in, work in, love, and support means dove. I've been alive in Columbus since the 80s and I didn't know this until 2013. Some people even challenged me and said that I had to be mistaken.
Nope. Columbus really does means dove.
It's remarkable that this fact isn't a part of the living knowledge and symbolic identity of this city—particularly a city that has seemed to perpetually be in search of a civic symbol.
We know that the city is named after Christopher Columbus, that he is a seminally important figure in world history, and, as most such figures, is controversial in contemporary culture's understanding of world history. The pride that the city of Columbus, Ohio has in its name is apparent. A three-ton, 20-feet tall bronze statue of Christopher Columbus stands today in front of city hall. That statue was made in Christopher Columbus' birth city, Genoa, Italy. The statue is a gift from the citizens of Genoa, designed by sculptor Edoardo Alfieri, cast in Pistoia, Italy, shipped to Ohio in 1955 and dedicated for Columbus Day of that year. Genoa, Italy is a sister city to Columbus, Ohio. Genoa Park, with its Riverfront Amphitheater, sits serenely downtown next to COSI, across the Scioto River from the towering skyscrapers and hum of downtown. Genoa Township is just north of Westerville. A replica of the Santa Maria floats in the Scioto River. Another statue of Christopher Columbus, this one from the 19th Century, stands on the grounds of the Ohio Statehouse. A third statue of Christopher Columbus, this one 20 tons, 40-feet tall and carved from marble by the Italian sculptor Alfred Solani, stands on the campus of Columbus State Community College. These and others are reminders of the city's namesake. They are found in several different places and forms around Columbus, Ohio; but, remarkably, I have a hard time finding any reference to what our city's namesake's name means.
In fact, I've found hardly a mention of it, anywhere.
Columbus is Latin for "a male dove," and columba the feminine form meaning "a dove." The Romans borrowed the word from the Greek κόλυμβος, which is the name the Greeks gave these birds because of their graceful, swim-like motion during flight. Kolumbos to the ancient Greeks meant something akin to "diver." (The soccer connotations here should be obvious to us all.) In the biological taxonomy of the dove, the order is Columbiformes, the family is Columbidae, and genus is Columba, and Columbina. There are 6 species of dove native to Ohio.
The dove is ancient and international, yet, it's surprisingly rarely used as an element in international soccer logos outside of Cyprus. In cultures around the world it symbolizes peace, love, aspiration, strength, fidelity, fecundity, divinity, transcendence, purification, sacrifice, devotion, purity, grace, ascension, progress, and on and on. First and foremost, across almost every culture in which the dove is held as a symbol, it means hope. These are all qualities that our city has kept, and an organization seeking to represent this city should strive to reflect those traits, particularly in times that are hard—either for the team, or, especially, for the city that supports it. That is the function that a sports team should serve in its community: a symbol to show us that every new day, every new season, every new match, every new minute, and every new play is an opportunity to achieve something better and something great. This is what Columbus means. Columbus means to aspire. Columbus means hope.
Hope can work as a central element in a soccer crest, and even in a crest for a team nicknamed the Crew. The new ownership seems to have something very different in mind than the current trio of hardhats, and rightfully so. That doesn't mean that the blue collar imagery that we (or at least, I) love from the foundation of the team should be entirely erased; but it could very easily and gracefully be adapted, and even united with a symbol of hope—like a dove.
The dove is a powerful symbol. It can be one for our city, too. All it needs is the right moment. Likewise, the Crew is a powerful symbol. It can be one for our city, too. All it needs is the right moment.
So, remember: Columbus means dove.