We’re approaching the point where literally every person in America with a soapbox of any kind will have weighed in on the Redskins name. As part of staking their flag into a small square of this hotly disputed rhetorical soil, most of those people will suggest possible alternate names. Eighty-five percent of those names will be the goddamned potato joke, and the remaining 15 percent will be terrible.
The current front-runner for worst in the clubhouse comes from Fortune Magazine managing editor Andy Serwer, who suggests in a Politico column (for a section of the site, it’s worth noting, that is literally called “Soapbox”) that the team be renamed the Washington All-Americans.
Serwer’s argument hinges on three points. First, the obvious squishy liberal inclusiveness the name implies. Second, “All-American” has a positive connotation in a sports context. And third … well, I’ll let him tell it:
I did some digging around and discovered that “All-American” used to be an obscure Marvel comic book super hero back in the 1980s. And get this, he was a football player! The All-American character was ‘really’ Giovanni “Jack” Magniconte, star quarterback of the fictional New York Smashers, nicknamed “Mr. Magnificent” by the press.
And … yeah. Hoo boy. Using this as an argument for choosing a team name is like naming your baby “Ishtar” because it was the title of a big-budget movie with some big-name stars. Let me get my geekhat on so we can do a deep nerd-dive on this.
Magniconte was the star of a doomed book called Kickers Inc., which was one of the launch titles in an equally doomed Marvel sub-imprint called the New Universe. Launched in 1986, the New Universe was meant to be “the world outside your window!” — a more realistic look at people with super powers running in something like realtime, basically — as an attempt to recapture the IP-generating lightning in a bottle that was the launch of the original Marvel Universe 25-ish years prior.
Kickers Inc. was arguably the stupidest book in the line, and was one of four launch titles canceled at the end of its first year. The imprint as a whole lasted just two more years, flailing around in increasing desperation before being mothballed. In those two years, Magniconte resurfaced as a supporting character whose role is basically “government stooge.” Not exactly a pop-culture icon to name a football team after.
Just to drive the final nerd-nail into the coffin of this idea, there’s this: The New Universe popped back up in 2008 as an even grittier “re-imagining” of the concept. This time around, Magniconte’s powers manifest while he’s on the field mid-game, which results in a graphic, on-panel depiction of him stiff-arming a dude so hard that he explodes in a spray of guts and bones. This is EXACTLY the kind of association the NFL is trying to draw in these days of concussion awareness and increased player safety concerns. (For a fun thought experiment, try to imagine the league’s earnest “don’t use super-powers on-field” ad campaign following that disaster!)
In summary, the “Washington All-Americans” idea is every bit as terrible as you think it is, and dragging in this stupid Marvel reference only makes it worse.
Which is not to say that the idea of borrowing some of the names or concepts from the Marvel Universe is inherently terrible. Here are 18 other Marvel-inspired potential names that are marginally less awful, or, at least, better thought-out. Continue reading