Archive for November, 2010
Derek Anderson‘s postgame press conference mini-meltdown last night reminded me of something. Did it remind you of the same thing?
Fired by the Minnesota Vikings yesterday, Brad Childress was on my Phoenix city bus this morning, presumably checking the want ads.
My Sports & Media class at Arizona State University had the chance to hear from longtime NBA reporter and columnist Sam Smith last night. Smith, who worked for the Chicago Tribune for 28 years and now covers the NBA for bulls.com, regaled my students with stories from inside the league and gave them his insight into journalistic ethics and advice about a career in the media.
Some video will be coming later today, so watch this space. A video clip is here for those of you who missed it or want to have another chuckle.
Mr. Smith was kind enough to stick around for a half-hour after the class talking one-on-one with students and with me, and for that, I am eternally grateful. Thanks, Sam!
Here’s Alex Morgan‘s stoppage time goal that saved the US Women’s National Team from a draw in Italy that would have put them under the gun for Sunday’s return leg in Chicago.
A Women’s World Cup without the US would be unthinkable, but now Italy has to not concede a goal and score at least one and win in penalties to get through.
So after all the talk about the United States Soccer Federation finally cracking down and creating tough standards for Division II soccer, they went ahead yesterday and provisionally sanctioned the North American Soccer League as the only D2 soccer league for 2011.
The NASL claims its teams all meet the standards, and that other teams could still be added to join San Antonio (2012) and Baltimore (which, they say, hopes to return in 2012). For now, it’s an eight-team circuit consisting of:
- Atlanta Silverbacks – Reconstituted after a two-year absence that followed a fair-to-middling existence. At least they have their own stadium. More or less.
- Carolina RailHawks – The USSF D2 league runners-up this past season. Have been looking for new investors for a while.
- FC Edmonton – 3,487 miles from San Juan, Puerto Rico. I’m just sayin’. But, hey, they have 37 flights a week and they can be as little as $651! Seriously, Edmonton has been a disaster every time it’s been tried, and playing at a stadium with only 3,500 permanent seats, artificial turf and football lines won’t help. Of course, they said they’d be pushing for a new stadium “very quickly” and by “very quickly” they meant “within the next three to six months.” That was in February. Good luck.
- Miami FC – Absolute train wreck, can’t draw flies and re-branding as some variation of the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers won’t really help, no matter what people say. There are too many systemic problems there.
- NSC Minnesota Stars – Were thrown together at the eleventh hour for 2010 and while they were an average team on the field, they couldn’t draw – averaging 1,300 people per game – and the National Sports Center couldn’t continue footing the bill for the team. Supposedly they have found a still-unidentifed investor. Good luck.
- Montreal Impact – It’s good to have Montreal around. They’ll lead the league in attendance and be a playoff contender. They’ll also be lame ducks, as they’re off to MLS in a year.
- Puerto Rico Islanders – A very strong team for years now, they won the Let’s Make This Work For The Sake Of The Kids League in 2010. But their attendance has been on the decline for four straight years now, they play in a baseball stadium and they’re not ever going to be mistaken for anybody’s flagship franchise.
- FC Tampa Bay – The Franchise Formerly Known Briefly As The Rowdies had a decent inaugural campaign, but missed the playoffs and were below the league average in attendance. The nostalgia factor wasn’t as big a factor as some thought it would be, and they play in a baseball stadium with a field barely over 100 yards long. If they learned from their mistakes and can get their own stadium, they have a chance to be a fairly strong franchise.
As for San Antonio and this other mystery franchise, well, good luck. The woods are littered with the bones of people who said they were going to establish an expansion team (and even moreso with those of people who actually did).
But for 2011, it’s an eight-team league with five teams in the Southeastern United States and Puerto Rico, one in Quebec, one in Minnesota and one in Alberta. They’re going to need to expand to at least 10 teams in 2013 and to 12 by 2016, and their US teams must be in three time zones by then. (USSF mandated that 75% of the league’s teams must be in the US, and, if you count Puerto Rico as actually being in the US, they’re right there.)
But the really big issues are going to be the financial viability of the participating teams and the fact that the league office is going to have to ramp up from its current employee base of….one. USSF’s standards mandate the league have:
- a central office that is open during regular business hours year round;
- a full-time employee who handles the responsibilities of a chief executive officer or commissioner;
- an active publicity/public relations program;
- an active marketing and sponsorship program;
- a director of officials or, with the Federation’s approval, may delegate such function to the Federation;
- a professional registrar;
- a disciplinary body or an executive group to review misconduct; and
- an executive committee.
The teams will have to do some hiring, too, as there are standards for their staffing (which is going to be a shock to the systems of at least a few of those teams). They’ll have to post bonds to ensure they can make it through the year. They’re going to play 28 games, with six of the eight teams making the playoffs, starting in April.
Back in January when the brokered peace between USL and the NASL was first announced, Sunil Gulati said they were “absolutely desperate” to have a D2 league in 2010, a World Cup year. My guess is they were just as desperate to put on a brave face for FIFA, which will decide next week who gets the 2018 and 2022 World Cups (Don Garber’s announcement that MLS will explore aligning with the FIFA calendar may have been part of this as well, as everybody realizes the importance of the World Cup coming here). Not having a sanctioned second division wouldn’t send the right message about how far we’ve come as a soccer nation since the last time the world came to visit.
The last line of the NASL’s story on its sanctioning reads: “The NASL will undertake an extensive marketing campaign in the months leading up to its inaugural weekend.” Well, good. But don’t expect miracles, people. The NASL hasn’t re-invented the wheel, and in terms of “upholding the namesake,” well, good luck with that, too. My guess is second division soccer in this country in 2011 will look much as it has for the last several years: maybe averaging 4,500 or so a game in attendance, maybe less. Turmoil among clubs. Some teams rumored to be on the brink of not lasting the season. An average level of play. The occasional international or Open Cup upset. If it wasn’t for the name, and if you didn’t know about all the sturm und drang that has gone on in the last couple of years, you’d think nothing had happened.
And that’s the problem. Because something needs to happen. If USSF is serious about strengthening the lower divisions, this was its chance to hold people’s feet to the fire. USSF’s people have seen the sanctioning proposal, none of us have, so perhaps it was a real page-turner that just knocked them out.
But do you really think that’s the case?
Yesterday, just over three minutes to play, Tampa Bay leads San Francisco 21-0.
Myers: “So on fourth down, they’re going to punt it back to the 49ers, who will try and at least get on the scoreboard to avoid that home shutout.”
36 seconds later, after the punt, he turns to his partner, Kurt Warner and says…
“Now, if you’re on the 49er offense here, at this stage of the game, are you thinking ‘Let’s just try to get on the scoreboard?’“
The whole MLS Cup Playoffs were a strange trip, capped by Colorado’s 2-1 overtime win over FC Dallas last night in Toronto.
First off, having looked at it several hundred times, I’m no longer sure Jair Benitez clipped Conor Casey’s ankle on the controversial non-penalty call. He did kick him (or try to kick him) in the shoulder, perhaps in retaliation for the shot from the grassy knoll that felled Ugo Ihemelu, perhaps just because it was a chippy game that referee Baldomero Toledo had no interest in policing from start to finish.
David Ferreira‘s goal was gorgeous, Casey’s goal was opportunistic, the winning own-goal was unfortunate, and the guy from Volkswagen – flown to Toronto and put up in a hotel to do one thing and one thing only – was a dipshit. That’s pretty much MLS in a nutshell, folks – brief moments of brilliance interspersed with grit, pathos and people who haven’t the slightest idea what they’re doing.
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“This, to us, is not European whatsoever,” (Rob) Heineman said. “This is all about our connection to the community and us trying to be innovative in what we’re trying to do.
“(It’s not) a ripoff,” Heineman said. “That’s the furthest thing from the truth…we’re not just calling ourselves Real Salt Lake or F.C. Dallas. We’re going to go do and embody the name we’re giving (ourselves). That’s not to say it won’t fail. But I don’t feel it’s going to.”
Nah, it won’t fail. At the end of the day, it’s just a name, and their new stadium and committed local ownership will mean they’ll be a stable franchise just a few years after they were on the selling block and rumored to be moving to St. Louis or Philadelphia or some place. I’m just tilting at windmills here. I get that.
But, please, don’t try and tell us this isn’t European. Don’t try to tell us this isn’t an attempt to appeal to what, in 2010, we consider “authentic” soccer fans (and “being authentic” now in American soccer means “authentically ripping off the authentic stuff from actually authentic people we saw on television”). Please don’t try to tell me that “Real Salt Lake” and “FC Dallas” are Europosing names, but “Sporting Kansas City” isn’t. Stop it. Just stop.
EDIT: I missed this last night, but I’m not sure I could have come up with better ones. I think “Galatallahassee” is my fave, but only because I lived there, once, a long time ago.
Now this is how you avoid being a chatterbox. My man AJ Sturman gets in and gets out.