Archive for February, 2012

Hall of Fame Class of 2012: Reyna, Meola, Armstrong, DiCiccio

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Former US National Team stars Claudio Reyna and Tony Meola have earned election to the National Soccer Hall of Fame on the Player Ballot, while their former teammate Desmond Armstrong was the Veteran ballot choice and former US Women’s National Team coach Tony DiCiccio is this year’s Builder ballot pick, it was announced today.

Most of us believed Reyna and Meola were locks, and Captain America got a higher vote percentage (96.08%) than anyone in the modern era other than Mia Hamm (97.16% five years ago). Only Eric Wynalda and Michelle Akers have topped 90% since 2004. Marco Etcheverry finished third with 58.82%, just above where he was last year. The only real interesting thing in the rest of the top 10 (which was all they announced), at least to me, was that Jason Kreis got double the support he did a year ago (up to 30.39% from 15.84%). It may be his support will continue to grow, as we’ve seen with some others over time.

One thing appears to be pretty clear at this point, though: service for the US National Team is paramount to a majority of voters. No MLS player who didn’t play for the Nats has been elected (yet, Waldo was the first former MLS-er elected eight years ago).

I have to admit, as someone who likes to celebrate the American soccer player and our own history, if you’re going to set the bar there, there are worse things. I have voted for Etch and would continue to vote for foreign-born MLS players who have a major impact on our domestic league, but I’m not going to complain too loudly if Yanks are all that get in.

You can see the results of Player ballot voting since 2004 here.

Rowdie…Reggie?

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

One of American soccer’s most storied and celebrated names returns in 2012 as the (new) NASL’s Tampa Bay team recently re-acquired its traditional name and logos after a protracted legal battle. The original Rowdies were my first soccer love, the team of my youth, my pride and joy, the Bay area’s first major professional team and “a kick in the grass” from 1975 until they folded in 1993. The Rowdies’ logo and familiar cartoon character, Ralph, were the creation of artist Scott Ross, who recently took time to answer a few questions about the genesis of these icons, including how the beloved “Rowdie Ralph” was originally known as Reggie.

Q. When did you first get involved with the Rowdies? Did they approach you, how did that work?
A. In early 1975 I read an article in the Tampa Tribune about a new professional soccer team coming in the spring. I sent some slide samples of my illustration work over to their temporary office (a condo in Carrollwood). I had recently graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in Advertising and Editorial Art and moved to the Tampa Bay area. I was freelancing as an illustrator while working a full-time job at an architectural delineation firm in Clearwater. I was happily surprised when I got a call from a guy working for the team and asked to come over for a meeting. I met Beau Rogers (the general manager) and George Strawbridge (the owner) at that meeting and after they hired me to come up with a logo, Rogers asked if he could be my manager. It was a good day for a 24-year-old struggling artist.

Q. The word mark is probably a good place to start. It’s very unique, even today. What were you trying to accomplish with that, what was the inspiration and what did you go through before you hit on the final design?
A. They already had an ad agency in Atlanta working on their PR stuff and I was given a rough sketch of a logo and asked to “clean it up a little and make it less strange-looking.” I re-worked it but still kept the original idea for the one-color version. Then I came up with the two-color version using the colors of their uniform. Originally the letters were very close together and all the ends of the letters were longer. I think originally someone used the look of the psychedelic Haight-Ashbury Fillmore posters for the lettering but it was highly unreadable. When i did the original character logo I added the border around the lettering so I could add a trim color. I messed with all the letters to make it more readable and more commercial even though it was pretty unique for the time or any time.

Q. Then there’s Rowdie Ralph, who went through some changes over time. Where did he come from? Did you get direction from the team that they wanted this or that?
A. Beau Rogers just turned me loose on it and took the first version I came up with. Since most of the original players were from England and I was a big Elton John fan at the time I wanted the character to be called Reggie, but Beau immediately started calling him Ralph and that’s what stuck. I thought that name was boring as hell, but as long as they kept sending checks I thought Ralph sounded great! Originally they thought they would have yellow and green uniforms and that was why it was that way on everything even though the uniforms debuted as white and stayed that way. Ralph was used as the official Rowdies character logo from the get-go until they ceased to exist (in 1994). It was put on millions of shirts and everything else you can imagine. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t care much for it in short order because in the next couple years I became a better artist and changed the style a bit. In the following years I created an official schedule poster every year and changed the character a lot every year.

Q. So the Ralph we see in 1975 and the various iterations from 1977-on, they’re all the same character?
A. Yeah, it’s all the same guy if I say it is, right?

Q. Did you also do the Wowdies (dance team) logo (which was just one letter off)?
A. Yes I did the Wowdies and Fannies logos. I actually did full color elaborate character versions of those two logos and was asked to haul them out to San Jose because (then-Rowdies PR man) Francisco Marcos thought he could get them on the CBS broadcast that day. I left them in their trailer and no one ever saw them again, so I have no record of those. The artwork I do have is what I managed to salvage from the old days and scan in so I had digital files to share for things like your blog. I’m guessing that I lost at least a third of all the artwork I created over the years for the Rowdies. In those days I painted everything on illustration board with paint and that was that. Since 1992 I’ve only worked digitally so I have perfect originals of everything I’ve done since that time because I only have to send copies to clients. What you see on my website is a drop in the bucket of all the work over the years because I would always have to send off the original painting and never see it again except for printed versions.

Q. You gave life to these things and then let them go and they’re still popular today. Is that just part and parcel of the job?
A. Everything I did was work for hire and I never signed any agreement whatsoever as far as copyright for anything-let me call a lawyer! I was hired to paint posters, special event artwork, t-shirt designs, caricatures for visiting stars (like Pele, Elton John etc.) and lots of other stuff. I was just glad to get the work at that time and they promoted me right along with the team and allowed me to travel with them all over the country. Those first few years were very exciting for me as well as all those wild British soccer players who were having their American adventure.

Q. What was that like, to be hanging out with the team that was such a big deal in the Bay area at that time?
A. The first few years I would party with all the players at functions around Tampa Bay and especially at (nightclub) Boneshaker’s in Hyde Park after every game. I was very friendly with the whole office staff, players, coaches (Coach Eddie Firmani was a really wonderful, friendly guy) and still communicate with some of them. Since Beau Rogers was an owner and my manager, I had access to every part of the stadium, including the owner’s box and the field. Through the Rowdies I was introduced to the league offices and did Kick (magazine) covers, caricatures of the players and posters as well as projects for lots of league sponsors. I sat on the bench lots of times and would fill an empty seat once in awhile on their flights to away games. That first year championship in San Jose was great. To this day I can still hear the explosion of the midfield blast by Arsene Auguste that won the game and the craziness afterward of winning it all in the first year. I don’t even know why I was sitting on the bench during that game, but I do remember Kyle Rote, Jr. sitting beside me as well as Bruce Jenner (He was training for the Olympics that he would win and living around San Jose back then). I got to meet lots of celebrities (Leroy Neiman, Pele, Mick Jagger, Henry Kissinger, and various other people of the day) by traveling with them and partying afterward. It was great because all of the players were pretty young and in America for the first time and all of them were really nice guys off the field.

Q. And now your work has new life. Have you been following the sturm und drang over that?
A. I just read about the new team purchasing the logo lately. So far I’ve only seen a one color version being used. No one has ever contacted me from the new team. I don’t think they are interested in any old stuff really, just capitalizing on the goodwill of the old team in this community.

Many thanks to Scott (whose website full of outstanding work is here) and to Ian Morris, whose excellent Rowdies blog was the source of some of the photos, illustrations and information above.

Taking Attendance: Indoor 2/17/2012

Friday, February 17th, 2012

With a month to go before the 2011-2012 Major Indoor Soccer League champion is crowned, let’s check in on the latest MISL attendance numbers:

Team G Total Avg. Med Hi Lo
Rochester Lancers 10 56,171 5,617 5,570 7,210 3,997
Baltimore Blast 10 53,769 5,377 5,740 8,078 2,316
Missouri Comets 9 37,608 4,179 3,891 8,276 2,853
Milwaukee Wave 12 47,463 3,955 3,336 5,964 3,059
Wichita Wings 11 39,342 3,577 3,500 5,000 2,000
Syracuse Silver Knights 9 25,713 2,857 2,680 3,670 2,317
Norfolk SharX 9 12,854 1,428 1,146 3,422 635
MISL TOTAL 70 272,920 3,899 3,525 8,276 635

Rochester has maintained its league lead over Baltimore, which is noteworthy because the Blast has led its league in average announced attendance for the last seven years. Each team has two home games left (Baltimore hosts Milwaukee tomorrow night in a game that ought to draw a good crowd), but one of Rochester’s is on a Thursday. While it might be hard for the Lancers to actually lead the league, their debut season has been a successful one at the gate (the best expansion team performance in recent years, actually).

Milwaukee is the only team that has completed its home schedule, and the Wave’s average crowd figure is down 13 percent from last year (from 4,531 to 3,955). The Missouri Comets have also done well, playing to 70 percent of capacity at the Independence Events Center. The other three teams (Wichita, Syracuse and Norfolk) are expansion clubs.

Given the number of home games left and how each team has been drawing, the league still projects to finish just under last year’s average of 4,007, but the additions of Rochester and Wichita and the stability of Missouri are reasons for optimism.

Yes, I Actually Received This Email

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Which means someone had to actually write it:

FYI: ” The Job ‘ KILLING ‘: Nazis!!! “ ( Plural ) And ” ‘ they ‘ “ = ” NO JOBS ” FOR  I.E. ” YOU I.E. ” youths!!! “ Ever seen that scripted ” … soup Nazi …” clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZ3AOmZ2fps&feature=related or the female version: ” … come back in one year … “: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kNwbjcuQUv8!!!

(more…)

A Brief History Of Promotion And Relegation In American Soccer

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012
Teams moving up and down the US soccer pyramid

(Graphic updated 6/12/2014.)

Let’s get the obvious out of the way up front, shall we? There is not currently, nor has there ever been, a full, traditional system of on-field-merit-based promotion and relegation in any American pro soccer endeavor that I’m aware of[1].

With that said, the essence of promotion and relegation, the ability to move between levels of a nebulous pyramid, does exist, and has for more than a decade[2]. But more than half of the clubs who have ever moved up to a higher level have struggled and, in many cases, either moved back down or folded altogether within four years. And you can hold up the successful second division organizations that have recently become successful first division organizations as examples of how it could work as long as you also understand that Seattle, Vancouver, Portland and Montreal had, on average, nearly two years to prepare for their first MLS seasons, and didn’t try to make the move over one off-season.

What follows is a list of teams that have moved up, down or both, between levels of the game in this country, since 1995 (I believe it’s comprehensive, but additions and corrections are, of course, always welcome):
(more…)

Taking Attendance: Indoor 2/2/2012

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

Latest crowd figures from the Major Indoor Soccer League, where Rochester has taken over the lead from Baltimore. The Blast has led its league in average attendance in each of the last seven years.

Team G Total Avg. Med Hi Lo
Rochester Lancers 9 48,961 5,440 5,212 6,997 3,997
Baltimore Blast 10 53,769 5,377 5,740 8,078 2,316
Missouri Comets 8 33,340 4,168 3,640 8,276 2,853
Milwaukee Wave 9 33,591 3,732 3,316 5,416 3,059
Wichita Wings 10 34,903 3,490 3,350 5,000 2,000
Syracuse Silver Knights 8 22,569 2,821 2,637 3,670 2,317
Norfolk SharX 8 11,574 1,447 1,082 3,422 635
MISL TOTAL 62 238,707 3,850 3,461 8,276 635

The league is projecting to finish at slightly under last year’s average of 4,007 per game.