I've taken a variety of approaches to this project so far. Hopefully some of them have been surprising and interesting. Finding inspiration is a fun part of this project. I've shared seven ideas so far, but I've actually done 10 different designs during this past week. Three turned out to be dead ends. Of course, I didn't know they were misses until I got to those dead ends, but that's the way that this works.
With that in mind, here's one that I hope lands on its feet. Let's look at Crew Cat.
Crew Cat seems to be polarizing. This is one of those good ol' MLS 1.0 traditions from the earliest days of the Columbus Crew. Crew Cat gets a lot of criticism from certain segments of the fan base, but he also gets a lot of love. I like that we have Crew Cat. "Why do we have a mascot?" you might ask. "It's just for families and kids," you might say. To that I say, "Well, yeah. Of course it is."
Little kids love Crew Cat, and that's great. It's good for sports teams to have things that draw little kids in, and, as adults, we should be able to handle the fact that every now and then at a soccer match a 7-feet tall black & white cat in a Crew uniform and hardhat is going to send a t-shirt fired from a pneumatic rifle whizzing past our heads. We're adults. We can let that slide for the kids.
So, when I say "let's look at Crew Cat," I hope that doesn't automatically put you off. I hope you keep reading, because this is going someplace . . . I think.
What if Crew Cat weren't just a mascot? What if Crew Cat were part of the crest? A Crew Cat Crest.
There's not much about Crew Cat on the Columbus Crew website. There are two lines on the Matchday page, and a link to another page with a great picture and an online form to hire Crew Cat to appear at your event. What you see in that picture is that Crew Cat in real life has a Tony the Tiger-meets-Sylvester the Cat kind of feel.
Soccer mascots are not an endangered species. They thrive everywhere around the world. There are mascots in the Premiere League, like the Arsenal dinosaur that somehow survived the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event. Everton has an elephant (alliteration seems to be a strong factor in mascot selection). Liverpool has a bird-lobster hybrid. In Germany, Borussia Monchengladbach has a horse named Junter that Kasey Keller once beat up, allegedly. Borussia Dortmund has a bee that Jurgen Klopp seems to like putting in a headlock.
Almost every MLS team has some kind of costumed mascot. A lot of them have backstories, personal histories, character traits, and personal preferences. For instance, Vancouver has a kingfisher who's favorite food is fish tacos. San Jose has (had?) a something-or-other named Q that—I'm not kidding—has a history of drug abuse, testing "positive for three separate types of anabolic steroids and a low-grade beaver tranquilizer" in 2010. Portland has a corporate-sponsored crazed tree mutilator.
Aside from the costumed variety, animals appear on a few MLS team crests. In the beginning of the league there was an eagle, a scorpion, a horse that eventually became a bull, and a bat. Now, there are two more bulls and a snake. Also, if you look really closely, there are a couple of lions on the crest of a club that's nicknamed "The Goats." Makes sense.* Next year, we'll see more lions, and probably another eagle. If this keeps up, the "M" in MLS might just stand for menagerie.
The Crew have a cat, though he's not on the crest.
The most well-known cats in soccer are probably the Sunderland Black Cats, which are lions on the club's crest, and based on the city's coat of arms. I'm not a fan of Sunderland, but I am a huge fan of this Black Cat drawing. It reminds me of what is probably my favorite business symbol, the Eveready Battery Black Cat. It's been a favorite of mine since I was a kid. The only batteries I ever remember seeing around my grandparents' houses had a black cat on them. It was always cool when a flashlight ran out of power, or a toy lost its juice, or a camera needed a battery change, just because I got a chance to use those red batteries with the black cat on them.
As I've thought about how Crew Cat could be incorporated into a new Crew crest, I thought a lot about three particular logos from history that I like, and a famous poster. The Eveready Black Cat, the vintage Tony the Tiger, and the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad "Chessie Cat," which I also thought was kind of appropriate considering the part that CSX has played in Crew supporters' culture over the years. The poster that I had in mind is Toulouse-Lautrec's famous Le Chat Noir.
And since I mentioned it, why not go to the Columbus Museum of Art this month and check out the new Toulouse-Lautrec exhibit. I sure will.
*Of course, the Chivas USA crest is almost the same as C.D. Guadalajara's, which incorporates the coat of arms of the city of Guadalajara, Jalisco. That's why the Goats have lions on their badge.