Archive for mls

Things I’ve Read

Posted in reading list with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 9, 2014 by cueball

A weekly listing of things I’ve read or seen on internet.

  • These Employees Won’t Have To Go To Work On Thanksgiving – As a former retail worker this hits close to home.  Companies are going to find out that opening on Thanksgiving is a bad idea.  One, it doesn’t increase sales for that week because it just lets the people who are going to shop first thing on the morning on Black Friday sleep in and do the rest of their shopping later.  Second, its just going to piss other potential shoppers off because you are invading your workers and your shoppers holiday.
  • The inside story of how new MLS team LAFC went from dream to reality – As a soccer purist, I would love promotion and relegation to be a part of the MLS.  As someone who just missed out on the NASL glory days, lived through the years in the wilderness with no top flight soccer league, watched as a MLS contracted wonderful to watch teams that were horribly business manged, what Henry Nguyen says here (“They were like, ‘Wait a second: First of all, there’s no relegation? All right, you got me!'” Nguyen, 41, said with a laugh.) should not be forgotten.  The people putting up the money to buy a team and build stadiums want as much of ROI guarantee as they can get and the possibility of going from hosting the LA Galaxy to the Carolina Rail Hawks is not something they want in the equation.
  • The 100 Best Beers in the World – Judging beer is a completely subjective concept and I usually look at lists like this with a cringe, but the sheer size of this list and the number and breadth of the contributors from the craft beer world makes it a good one.
  • FIFA: Qatar 2022 winter World Cup likely, Jan-Feb or Nov-Dec ‘options’ – I can’t decide if I think the World Cup will be in Qatar in 2022 or not. On one hand you have the heat, the slave labor, and the sense that the whole way it was chosen was one of the dirtiest processes in the history of international sport.  On the other hand, FIFA and its leaders are full of DGAF.
  • Finding Marlowe – How many interesting stories like this are out there?  So much of history is obscured or lost simply because of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation.  I don’t want political correctness in history, I just want truth.  I want to know the full history no matter how ugly it may be.  Also, the history of Los Angeles seems to be filled with fixer guys like this through out its history and more then any other city in the United States.
  • Are You Genetically Programmed to Hate Hoppy Beer? – Its amazing how much of our genetic code was written when humans were hunter-gatherers trying to survive to the age or 35.  This is the most plausible explanation as to why we like the taste of things we do and how much of that comes not from our genetic affinity for something, but because of how we learn from others around us.
  • What Is An Ending? ‘Serial’ And The Ongoing Story Of Wanting Too Much – One of the more interesting things I read this week, but the link on NPR is broken.  In this blog post on Monkey See, Linda Holmes writes about our expectations of fiction is that it will always find “closure.”  She is writing about a new true crime podcast from This American LIfe called “Serial” and how some people have voiced the idea that they will be disappointed if there is not some type of satisfying ending. That is what people mean when they say closure and they want closure out of their fiction and their stories because it is a concept that doesn’t exist in real life.  In real life relationships and situations stop with no warning and often with little to any satisfaction.  If the link worked you would love reading it.
  • How Your Brain Decides Without You – This is a really interesting read on how two people can watch the same event, read the same book, see the same facts, and come away with diametrically opposed views on what they just experienced.
  • ‘Sports Night’: An oral history, starring Aaron Sorkin and his cast – an oral history of one of my favorite shows of all time  I love Aaron Sorkin and I even have a soft spot for Newsroom, which is not anywhere close to peak Sorkin.
  • Sea of Crises – Speaking of closure, I think I like this because it doesn’t resolve anything at the end.  It just kind of ends with the anticipation of something ending or beginning, you don’t know which.  This is the most interesting article on Sumo wrestling you will read all year.  It also touches on Japanese literature and a little post World War II history.

A lot about soccer and with a dash of Breaking Bad (no spoilers)

Posted in soccer, television with tags , , , on August 26, 2013 by cueball

67,000 people.

Last night I watched a soccer match in the United States that had 67,000 people in attendance.  This wasn’t a World Cup match, a US/Mexico World Cup qualifier, or two European club teams playing an exhibition.  This was a regular season match between Seattle and Portland in the Major League Soccer.

If you had asked me low those many years ago when I was playing high school soccer on football fields and glorified cow pastures if such thing as 67,000 people going to see a regular season soccer match were possible, I would have thought for a moment and not be able to conceive of the circumstances that led to this.

Somewhere, someone right now is writing on a message board how this means soccer has arrived in the United States and will take over as one of the big three sports along with football and basketball in a few years.  They may even write how soccer could replace football because the concussion issue will eventually bring football low.

There is also somewhere on the Internet writing how this huge crowd was an anomaly, the result of Clint Dempsey’s return and ESPN and NBCSN making us think we care about soccer because of all their commercials.  They will point out that big attendances like this occurred all the time with the New York Cosmos in the early-70s and soccer is still at best a second class sports citizen.

As is my wont, I think they are both right.

Winston Churchill once said, “This isn’t the end.  This isn’t even the beginning of the end.  However, this is the end of the beginning.”  That works as guidepost here because this isn’t soccer overtaking baseball in the American sports consciousness nor does it feel like someone off made for TV bit of pop culture phenomena.  However, I think it represents the moment when soccer said it isn’t going anywhere.

Throughout its first 15 years Major League Soccer always seemed to be on the verge of collapse.  In fact, 2001 was almost the year the league died.  It contracted two teams and the majority of the league was owned by one person, Phillip Anschutz.

However, from the low-ebb the league has survived and I think with the signing of Clint Dempsey has started to show its willingness to pay players still capable of contributing to big clubs in Europe a competitive wage.  I am talking about the 27-30 year old player still in their physical prime like Dempsey.  The real test will be after the World Cup in Brazil next summer.  Will the league pony up the money and can it sign players from the World Cup in that age group?  These are the players still in their national team’s mix and still capable of playing in the Premiership, La Liga, or the Bundesliga.

Yes, a lot of the hype for the match was built around the home debut of Dempsey in a derby match, but it didn’t matter that the game winner was scored by Eddie Johnson and not Dempsey.  Let’s put it this way, this wasn’t like going to see the Cosmos in 1975 hoping to see Pele score and instead seeing a game winner form someone like Jorge Siega or Joey Fink.  That is the difference between this league and the NASL back then.

Last night’s match felt like a celebration of everything that the league and US Soccer has achieved so far.  It felt like a moment when all of it supporters could exhale and say, “OK.  We’re not going anywhere.  We’ve built this and its foundation is strong.  What’s next?”

For all the fans of Breaking Bad out there, stop trying to guess what will happen next.  We, like Hank, are playing checkers while Vince Gilligan and his writers, like Walter, are playing three-dimensional chess.

Progress Has Been Made-A Case for MLS

Posted in soccer, sports, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on January 3, 2013 by cueball

I read a Twitter exchange between Sports Illustrated writers Andy Glockner (@AndyGlockner) and Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops).  Davis wanted to know the best league to start following soccer with this son.  Glockner suggested the Barclay’s Premiere League in England and the Spanish Primera or German Bundesliga.  That is fine.  I follow all three of the leagues Glockner recommended.  I would point out, that there is a pretty good league here in the United States that deserves a little attention called Major League Soccer.  I also would suggest further that the true way to make a true fan is to attend games and the easiest way to do that for Davis and his son is to go to MLS matches.

This brings up two things.  One, I don’t want soccer to become the next hipster affectation.  I really don’t want to see a bunch of twenty-something indie bands walking around in Norwich jerseys because they are trying to be cool.  The other thing it brings up is an interview the FIFA president Sepp Blatter gave last week in which he was decrying the lack of progress for MLS in this country.

On one hand, he is an idiot.  That is not simply based on this topic.  It is based on his history of saying stupid and even offensive things.  He has not been to an MLS match since its first season so he has no standing to judge the progress of the on the field or in the stands product.  Believe me, I watched the first MLS match and have watched most of them since and the level of play and in game atmosphere have both grown at an exponential rate.

He also shows no understanding of the sports landscape in North America where only one major country has any long term sustained history of professional soccer, Mexico.  Is there more progress to be made, absolutely, but it is not a failure as Blatter characterizes it.

On the other hand, even a blind squirrel can find an acorn.  This short exchange between Glockner and Davis highlights the problem MLS has.  It is a growing league in a world populated by soccer leagues and in a country populated by at least three sports more popular on television.  Hockey theoretically is more popular, but since the NHL doesn’t currently exist I’m not counting it.  MLS Cup was played at the same time as the SEC Championship game at the beginning of December.  This was the LA Galaxy going for its second consecutive championship with David Beckham playing his last game in MLS with the most famous and best American player ever, Landon Donovan.  The game was crushed by the SEC Championship in the ratings.  It was not even close.  Yeah, there is a lot of work to do.

Blatter seems to think (if that is what you call it) that if only MLS would throw more money at players more would come to the US and the best American players would stay.  See that is a big problem, having your best players play in other countries.  Really good soccer playing countries like Holland, Brazil, Argentina, Belgium, etc. have so many problems fielding competitive teams with all their best players playing in England, Spain, Germany, Italy, and France.

The way MLS is doing this is the only way you can really grow in the within the situation the league finds itself.  It has concentrated more on infrastructure then splashy big names.  That isn’t as sexy as signing a bunch of ageing European former superstars looking for one more big paycheck and a semi-vacation.  That is building stadiums.  That is creating an academy system and a reserve system from scratch.

The NASL spent a lot of money on famous soccer players and made the New York Cosmos a cultural landmark.  The NASL lasted 16 years.  Yes, there were glory days in the early 1970s, but by the end the league was playing in front of half empty NFL stadiums with no television coverage.  Major League Soccer will enter its 17th season this spring and all but three teams play in stadiums built for soccer.

There is a lot of work still to be done, but this is no failure.  American soccer fans of a certain age have seen failure.  No World Cups for 40 years.  Yeah, we know failure and MLS is not it.

I’m an owner now

Posted in sports with tags , , , on December 25, 2012 by cueball

My ridiculously rich great grand uncle Scrooge McDuck plays poker with all the major sports commissioners in New York.  David Stern is there a lot, but he has started bringing his soon to be replacement Adam Silver.  Roger Goodell comes by some weeks, but he tries to Bogart the game and come up with all these new rules and crazy wild cards.  Bud Selig shows up rarely.  The games are usually past his bed time.

These are not the kind of games you and I play.  These are actually run by a bunch of the different leagues owners, and a couple of times a month they bring in the commissioners to play a few hands.

Anyway, one night last week the last hand came down to my uncle and MLS commissioner Don Garber.  They brought him to replace Gary Bettman last year.  All the other commissioners underestimate Garber.  They can’t figure out how MLS hasn’t been killed off yet.  Regardless, the last hand came down to my uncle and The Soccer Don.  My uncle put up a string of Bojangles he owns and Garber put up a franchise.  The owners play old school 5-card draw and Garber laid down a spade flush ace high and my uncle dropped aces and eights full house.

I’m going to take this deadly serious.  So, what is the first thing I’m going to do with my shiny toy?  I already know where the team will play and what the name will be.  We are going to put the franchise in Triangle area and name the team Carolina Cougars SC.

First, I’m going to hire a franchise president.  This person will have built a franchise from the ground up or will have worked for one of the more stable and successful franchises.  I don’t like drama.  I don’t want the team to chase headlines over talent and stability.  In other words, I don’t want my team to act like the New York Jets.

Now, I would let him hire his senior staff.  That would not only be a VP of player personnel/general manager, but also a VP in charge of business operations.  Their staffs will be the links to both sides of the front office.  The negotiation team will come from the personnel and business sides to make sure we get the most value out of every signing.  We will also have a topnotch ticket and public relations team.

The last major franchise hire would be the coach.  Not because the coach is not important, but because that position is on field representative of everything we will stand for as a franchise.  That makes him almost the most important employee outside of the players.  He has to believe and buy into the direction of the franchise on and off the field.

The direction and attitude of the whole organization would be that of aggressiveness.  We would stay on the “front foot” at all times in everything we did.  Off the field, the ticket and public relations team that would take an innovative and aggressive stand on ticket sells and public relations.  On the field we would press high up the field to make the other team think and make decisions at speed and under pressure and once we had the ball we would control play through short controlled passing game.

As the owner, that would be my job.  Setting the direction of the organization and hiring the best people to make that direction a reality and say out of their way to let them do their jobs.  Running a sports franchise or any other large organization is about having a plan and a set of values that you use to guide all your decisions.

You know the franchises that have no plan or set of values.  They are the organizations whose signings are guided more by web page hits and Q ratings.  This isn’t to say you always follow the plan without deviation or take chances outside of the values you use to make decisions.  If you do everything else to build a strong and sustainable program you can roll the dice on personnel decisions.

My uncle has given me this opportunity and I will do everything in my power to make this franchise the best in MLS.  There are no shortcuts and there will be no compromises because this franchise will care more about winning then being famous.