Futfanatico regrets to inform you that, with out modest budget, we were only able to send a single correspondent to the MLS combine. He wrote for us at the World Cup, and, after heavy editing, one of his three filed articles was publishable. This particular post turned out…..well, judge for yourself. Enjoy as best you can.
“On assignment. Again.” Those three words are a breath of fresh air in a dark, dusty, filthy dive bar full of smoke. I speak, of course, of Sao Paolo. Because some bitchy little punk ass editor did not publish my filed remaining dispatches from the World Cup, I’ve been told to summarize a series of life-changing and affirming experiences in a paragraph or, “ideally a sentence.” In a nutshell: I watched some soccer. I pounded some brews. I stumbled along Vila Madalena in Sao Paolo at late hours of the night, lost my laptop, found my soul, tried to use audio recording tech on my smartphone to transcribe an article at 2am in a bar restroom (with pissing, Portuguese-speaking audience members nearby), and survived to tell the tale.
To the haters, a simple message: BOFA.
I am at the MLS combine, at least physically. Spiritually, emotionally, and psychically, not so much. I’ll be candid – there is a bit of a drop-off between the World Cup and MLS. One is arguably the greatest sporting spectacle on Earth, the athletic class of the Olympics meeting the do-or-die thrill of the NCAA tourney. The other is a 20 year old league that has found its feet, but is still learning how to walk after two decades of crawling.
And Lauderhill, Florida sucks compared to Rio de Janeiro.
I know what you folks are thinking – here we are, freezing our asses off up here in midwesternville USA, and GB is complaining about being in sunny old Florida. Yes, Lauderhill is right by Ft. Lauderdale and yes there are beaches. However, a friend once showed me a map of the US and proposed a metaphor: the human body. California is America’s silicone-injected booty, the Rio Grande Valley is the sweaty and smelly gouch (or grundle for you old-timers), and Florida is the flaccid, limp, STD-infected you know what.
So, yes, I am a tourist and getting nickel-and-dimed by the great state of Florida, but, in talking with locals, the public schools suck. If you want to squeeze two dollars out of my car’s front passenger chair to fund award-winning schools, that’s one thing. GB is down with academic excellence. However, shaking me down to shake me down is a no no. Thus, I’ve actually skipped a few days of the Combine, relying on secondary sources, enjoying all the perks of my Futfanatico-sponsored Howard Johnson motel.
In my last gospel on life and soccer, I wrote some things. I wrote some things about soccer journalists, to be precise. I tried to use some clever nicknames to hide over embarrassing incidents, but the cat is out of the bag. In fact, I got more than one nasty email and/or phone call. Thus, to be frank, I may or may not have been under the influence when said incidents happened and thus my recollection may have been faulty.
However, the general thesis was correct: soccer journos are clicky, “fraternal” if you will, and enjoy the consumption of libations. While there’s definitely some clickery along the traditional vs. new media lines, and also the Fox vs. ESPN vs. SI groups, you know have the “cold hard facts” vs. the storytellers. Some dudes fish for a scoop, others want a really detailed profile with like the life story of some physically-gifted dude overcoming adversity on the path to glory.
I don’t really fit in any of those groups, which is why I can float like an unseen ghost between them. Do I regularly share brews with the SBI posse? No. But they’ve been in the game for awhile and love it, in their own way. Should I be ashamed for being tipsy and intentionally calling that Fran dude names like Fran Pistachio and/or Fran Fran Pancho (and/or you get the idea)? Probably. But I don’t.
Here’s the deal – lots of journalists came to the MLS combine, but Futfanatico could not get me credentials. I know what you’re thinking because I thought the same thing – BULLSHIT. First off, this is a combine, not even a game. Dudes are running sprints and lateral agility drills, not sharing classified construction plans for a hidden nuclear reactor. Second, didn’t not-so-real bloggers like Carles of HipsterRunOff and Fake Sigi get the royal treatment at MLS cup?
Bottom-line: I had to use some stealth to get into the MLS combine, and this wasn’t one of those “my boy works the backdoor at the J’s gym” jobs. This was much more MacGyver goes to an AA meeting. Basically, I went to the hotel bar and meet some cool cats from TopDrawerSoccer. ‘Tis a fine site. So, this guy, let’s call him “Raxi Modriguez”, shared a few rounds with me, confided a few mascot stories, and then agreed to let me use his pass for the last day.
Toll-roads be damned, I was totally going to catch the last day but when I realized that both Leo Stolz and Alex Bono skipped the Combine. That’s right – they just straight-up no showed. If I was a general manager with a spreadsheet and was doing really complex algorithms to evaluate the potential and like cost/benefit blah blah blah of players, those guys would totally get their names highlighted in bright red and I’d write something illegible but still clearly cryptic in the margins next to the column and/or row which included their names.
When last you checked on Gonzo-Bra, he was perhaps a bit paranoid about being in Rio de Janeiro at the same time at Wright Thompson. Bottom-line: I owe the dude money. Luckily, I was able to avoid him by following his movements via Twitter and Instagram. When I accepted the MLS Combine assignment, I knew there was no way a storyteller bro like Thompson would show up, so no worries. However, a new wrinkle emerged: a dude who actually owes me money may have been lurking.
“Owe money” is probably not the right word. Rather, a year or so back, I Kickstarted or Indiegogo’d this podcast about American soccer and never got my fucking sticker. Despite some tactful emails, tweets, harassing letters, death threats, etc., I am still sticker-less. In fact, there’s a special corner of the back of my refurbished iPad II I have left clear for said sticker. It has laid bare for almost a year.
So, ahem, I am delighted my contribution helped to fund stereo and recording equipment, but I want either my sticker or a full refund. Ergo, a podcaster named J. Davis owes me money. I saw on his twitter profile that he’d gone to a few MLS Cups, sometimes last minute, so I did my best to lowprofile lurk at MLS journo gathering places in Lauderhill like Irish pubs, hotel bars, Starbucks, and Thai massage parlors. But no luck. For now I am unpaid, but my thirst for revenge will not go unfulfilled. #STICKERGATTI
On a dry journalistic note, the only name that stood out for me at the draft was “Besler.” He looked good in midfielder on Day Three, but doesn’t he already play for Sporting KC or something? Dude got rolled by Lukaku in the US loss to Belgium.
Editor’s note: we were unable to corroborate even the most basic of Gonzo-Bra’s assertions about real life journalists and sportswriters. We assume they are total fabrications.