That’s A Rehabbin’

Dear Friends:

I would like to take a moment to announce that I have an addiction, and in an effort to shift the blame from myself to a trendy illness save my lucrative gigs and endorsements the things I hold most dear, I will be entering rehab to deal with what’s behind the fun stuff I have gotten away with until now my transgressions. I realize now that there are other people in the world, not just me, my getting caught behavior has hurt the people closest to me, namely, me. Ouch. You have no freaking idea.

I can only say that I am a horndog human, and humans make mistakes like cheating on their wives with tattooed Nazi freaks who can’t keep their mouths shut. With the help of God, who I hope remembers me, because I haven’t said His name in years without “Dammit” afterward, and the support of my family, who I hope buys all this nonsense about me having a disease, like Diabetes or something, I hope to one day soon be able to return to my favorite strip clubs marriage and career as a better, stronger person with a separate cell phone and a better email password who can make things right and never again get caught with a cocktail waitress lose sight of the most important thing in my life: casual sex with freaky women my family.

I ask for your Playboy Cyber Club login information patience and respect for my privacy during this difficult time. I hope that one day I can once again be that guy you thought maybe you heard about once the man you expect me to be, and that I know I was meant to be: a guy who only cheats with people who have as much to lose as he does, like married mothers of three who don’t want to be in tabloids.

Thank you. And God bless my lawyer you.

Late Night With Major League Soccer

The MLS season is underway, but if you’re planning to go to a game next week, be prepared for a late night. At least according to the fancy-schmancy new website the league unveiled this week.

I swear, if they’d have launched the league in 1996 like they launched the new, we would have had seven teams, 10 players a side, three coaches, one referee and none of the stadium scoreboards would have worked.

Sounder? I Just Met Her…

(So, wait, the “most authentic and traditional” club in MLS, the club that does things more Euro-like than Euros, has dancers now?)

The Major League Soccer season is underway. Seattle beat Philadelphia 2-0 last night in the rain at Qwest Field. This was an appropriate headline, as Philly picked up five yellow cards and a red card (I had to go here to find the total, the new MLS website needs work when it comes to, you know, boxscores and stuff) and played the last 50 minutes down a man. Seattle looked really good in the first half, then laid off the throttle in the second half. Philly has some work to do. Kudos to the Sons of Ben for representing.

Tonight Colorado is at Chivas USA. I’m told the MLS Direct Kick TV package is free for the first weekend, so you should be able to see most, if not all, of the games, depending on your provider.

In other news, it looks like Preki is making friends in Toronto. And Red Bull Arena opens for real on Saturday (6:55 pm ET, ESPN) when New York hosts Chicago.

Police Want To Question This Man…

Ah, if only the headline matched the story. But that would be too much for a major New York newspaper to figure out.

Actually the Nets’ CEO doesn’t regret getting into it with a fan who wore a bag over his head to a game. I know what you’re saying – someone went to a Nets’ game? Yeah, go figure.

Anyway, Brett Yormark said “I did not agree with the way this person expressed his opinion of our team last night.”

Well, lah tee freaking dah. Did that Russian guy take over the Nets already?

Far be it for me to lecture anyone about telling people where to get off in the heat of the moment, but I’m not the CEO of a major sports franchise. When you’re still digging in your heels the next day and your carefully-written statement doesn’t contain any contrition, that’s just ludicrous.

Luckily, he’s the CEO of the Nets and not a team that actually matters.

“You’re Not In The Mood? Well, You GET In The Mood!”

You want details and you want them right now. Okay, Major League Soccer just announced some details of their new collective bargaining agreement. Here they are, with instant analysis from someone who should really be doing more important things:

TERM: 2010 – 2014. (Five years, same as the last one. Get ready for the “2015 Strike?” thread on Bigsoccer if it hasn’t happened already.)

GUARANTEED CONTRACTS: Guaranteed contracts for all players who are at least 24 years old with three years of MLS service. The majority of the players in the League will have guaranteed contracts each season. (Keep in mind, that’s guaranteed for that season only, which is better than in baseball and basketball – ask the Cubs how that eight-year Alfonso Soriano deal looks about now. The thing is, it’s the guys making the minimum who really have had to sweat contract guarantee date. If you’re not making a lot, you would at least like the certainty that you’re going to get that. But, I guess they figure that’s a perk given to those who’ve shown they can stick in the league for three years and nothing in life is certain anyway.)

SALARY BUDGET: Team salary budgets go from $2.315 million in 2009 to $2.55 million in 2010 (+10.15%) and 5% per year after that. Senior roster players see their minimum pay go from $34,000 in 2009 to $40,000 in 2010 (+17.64%) and 5% per year thereafter. (Shelling out more money, but still not spending wildly. Don’t expect someone who made $34,000 last year to be 18% better as a player this year, but if this stops the “how can we have professional athletes making this absurdly low salary figure?” columns, that’s a good thing.)

PLAYER MOVEMENT: Next off-season will see a “re-entry draft” for players who are out of contract. Specifics have to be ironed out but players in these categories will go into it:

  • A player who didn’t have his option exercised and who is 23 with at least three years of service goes into the draft and is available to all clubs at his option salary.
  • Any player at least 22 years old with one year of service who is asked to take a pay cut after having his contract terminated goes into the draft and is available to all clubs at his current salary.
  • Any player at least 30 with eight years of service whose contract expires goes into the draft unless he’s offered at least 105% of his last salary. If he goes into the draft, any club can claim him for 105% of his last salary. If you’re at least 25 and have four years of service, you go in the draft unless your club offers you the same base salary (and if he goes into the draft, that same salary applies).
  • It says nothing yet about compensation for a player who moves on this way.

(We can form a better opinion once we see it in action, I guess. But the players agreed to it. It’ll be interesting to see how it works. And the league is absolutely against having teams bid against each other.)

OPTIONS IN PLAYER CONTRACTS: Players who are at least 25 years old with four years of service are limited to two option years in their contracts. All others can have up to three. (So they can still lock up the kids, but labor unions are rarely that interested in their newest members.)

Players making less than $125,000 will see a minimum increase in base salary of 10% if they play in two-thirds of their team’s games and 12.5% if they play in three-fourths. (Sounds reasonable…no more keeping a guy low-paid despite the fact he ends up being a contributor.)

PLAYER BENEFITS: Increases in 401K contributions by the League, appearance fees, per diem and relocation expense reimbursement, full health care benefits for every player and his family at no cost, 401(k) contributions and expanded insurance benefits. (Sounds good, yeah?)

BONUSES FOR WINS AND EXHIBITIONS: Bonuses for “wins in MLS games and international tournaments as well as appearance fees for international exhibitions.” (Hey, look at that, the regular season just got more meaningful?)

RESERVE DIVISION: They will establish a committee to “study the re-launch of a Reserve Division,” which would have guys making at least $31,250 with annual increases.(This will make the development geeks go nuts, but the Reserve League really wasn’t developing that many players the first time around. Maybe they’ll take it more seriously if they do it again.)

Overall, seems like a deal everybody can live with (obviously, else they wouldn’t have agreed to it). Accomplishes some things the players wanted, some things the owners wanted, some things fans wanted to see.

Foreign Intrigue

This ties into a prior discussion about the percentage of MLS players who are US-born. The league has released this fun look at the origins of their current player pool (cutdown day is Wednesday at 5pm, there will only be 384 players in the league at that point). If you had to guess without clicking, would you have guessed that Colombia and Canada (12 each) had the most players in MLS after the USA?

These other thoughts come to (my) mind:

  • Do you think there are so few Mexican players in MLS (there were very few in the NASL, as well) simply because of wages? Or do you think Mexican players feel that going to MLS would be somehow traitorous? Mexico obviously has a thriving, popular, lucrative league, while places like Grenada do not, but I just wonder if there’s a simple explanation for the dearth of talented Mexican players we’ve had, historically.
  • MLS says they have a higher percentage of its players born outside the US (40% – with baseball next at 28%) than any other major US sports league (EDIT: except the NHL, 80%). I wonder how that stacks up with other leagues around the world. I think Englishmen are minorities in the Premier League, aren’t they? I wonder what league would be the most homogeneous. Mexico, maybe? Wales?
  • Also related: Andrew Guest‘s look at where those Americans are coming from.

Monday: I Feel Healthier Already

Spent Sunday afternoon at Maryvale Baseball Park watching the Brewers and White Sox. I know we’re an obese nation, but Maryvale was Great Moments in the History of Fat People. Now that we have health care reform, maybe that will help.

Anyway, here are some things to get your Monday started (hey, it’s just started here, I’m in Pacific Time):

  • If you missed it, the MLS players and owners came to a deal on a new collective bargaining agreement over the weekend, salvaging the start of the league’s 15th season. Ridge has more details. And lazy idiot Norman Chad’s column basically wrote itself. Or copied and pasted itself, one.
  • The Coyotes, they are hot. Tuned in yesterday in time to catch the end of the third period, the overtime and the shootout. Can you imagine they might not just make the playoffs, they might be the #1 seed in the West? The mind boggles.
  • Interesting read here on Pitch Invasion about England’s new women’s soccer league. Really interesting, the notion that “The Super League will be played in Summer, which of course means our supporters can enjoy watching our games in beautiful weather, warm sunny afternoons and balmy evenings, with all the benefits this will bring, enabling our club to make each football match a fantastic enjoyable and memorable experience.” Huh. You don’t say. See, you try to do that in America, people don’t grasp that concept. But, seriously, folks, with the Super League and WPS playing at the same time of year, it’ll be interesting to see how players react with two viable options and how that impacts WPS’ frugality.
  • I guess Tiger Woods talked to a couple of reporters, and I guess it was on television and I guess he’s sorry.
  • I’d like to go see that new movie “Repo Men,” but I think I already saw it in 1976 when it was called “Logan’s Run.”
  • Finally, Happy 79th Birthday to William Shatner!

Final MISL Attendance Numbers

Thanks to a decent final month, the Major Indoor Soccer League’s final attendance figures rallied a bit from the last time we checked in on them. Still, the final average of 3,761 was the lowest since…last year, when the XSL did 3,435. But before that you have to go back almost 20 years, to the NPSL of 1991-92, to find a league averaging under 4,000 announced per game.

Team G Total Average 2008-2009 Diff.
Baltimore 11 68,852 6,259 7,534 -16.9%
Philadelphia 7 33,075 4,725 6,445 -26.7%
Milwaukee 12 47,211 3,934 4,563 -13.8%
Monterrey 10 27,807 2,781 3,491 -20.3%
Rockford 10 11,120 1,112 1,242 -10.5%
MISL TOTAL 50 188,065 3,761 4,163 -9.7%

(Philadelphia was only scheduled to have 8 home games, not 10, because they could only get 8 dates at Temple University. Then one of their home games was snowed out and rescheduled for Milwaukee, so the Wave ended up with 12 dates and Baltimore 11. And the “total” average from last year was for the NISL, which did not include Milwaukee’s figures and was also missing three Massachusetts games, which would have brought their average down, making the year-to-year drop slightly smaller.)

This marks the sixth straight year Baltimore has led its league in average announced attendance, though this year marked their worst year at the gate in that time period. Milwaukee has come back from the dead – appropriately, they’ll host the championship game on Easter Sunday. Philadelphia…well, I don’t know what to think about the KiXX. You can’t seem to kill them. Monterrey I have never been able to figure out. And Rockford is deader than disco.

Looks like another fun offseason trying to figure out how many teams will play indoor soccer next season. There’s always expansion talk, and sometimes it even comes true. We’ll see. For now, it’s Monterrey and Baltimore in the semifinals next Friday and Monday and the final on the 4th of April.

No Apocalypse Now

Major League Soccer and its players have agreed “in principle” to a new five-year collective bargaining agreement, averting what would have been the first pro soccer league strike in more than 30 years.

The players didn’t get free agency (something management had said wasn’t going to happen), but will, apparently, get more freedom of movement. Other details have yet to be announced.

The winners in all of this? Soccer fans, obviously. And anyone whose ears have been bleeding reading the tripe written by would-be columnists over the last few months while this got hammered out.

Also, nice playoff beard, Don Garber.