The MLS Live Blackout Black Eye

Blackouts, don’t you hate them? Look at the above image of the MLS Live playoff schedule. Blackouts pepper the screen. I’ve been trying to figure out the MLS algorithm for them. As a longtime NFL fan, most local games were (and are) blacked out on TV if the stadium failed to sell out for home games. For MLS, the formula seems to be: if a local cable network shows the game, then it gets blacked out on DirecTV and MLS Live. If NBC Sports Network shows the game, then an entire country gets the shaft. If ESPN shows a game, then there’s no MLS Live option.

Why? Well, in short, because MLS wants to get on the Cable TV gravy train while it can. However, there are a few problems. Continue reading “The MLS Live Blackout Black Eye” »

Landon Donovan: Remembering the man we never knew

The goals. The recent sabbatical. The early retirement. The World Cup snub. The goals. There’s so many trite talking points when waxing on Landon Donovan, the all-time leading goalscorer for the US Men’s National Team. For the past few months, I’ve purposely kept away from the topic to gather my thoughts and hopefully pen something different. Long-time fans will recall the criticism Donovan received as the “kid who couldn’t hack it in Europe” when he returned from Bayern Leverkusen to San Jose. This belief was given further credence when Donovan and team USA failed to advance out of the group stages at Germany ’06. Yet after 2010, fans made peace with Donovan. In 2014, may were even sad when he was left off the roster (despite no role in qualifying).

Still, what’s always most fascinated me about Donovan is not the sport, but rather his personal side. No, I don’t speak about the trite “not motivated” debate about whether “his head is in the game.” Rather, I refer to the weird anecdotes and incidents that popped up about him during his professional career. Many of these went beyond the typical “celebritydom gossip” to really make one ask: WTF? Here are some of my favs. Continue reading “Landon Donovan: Remembering the man we never knew” »

Soccer Pod Links

As you may have guessed, I live in Houston. The commute to work each day is brutal. I can feel a part of my soul die with each passing hour as I sit in my car, and not in the “Voldemort-hiding-his-soul-in-horicuxes” way – this is much more sinister and nefarious.

Luckily, there is quality audio entertainment. These fine talks talk pretty about futbol. Me talk pretty one day. Continue reading “Soccer Pod Links” »

A Treatise on the Expression “Beast Mode”

I’ve always been uneasy with the term “beast mode” as used by TV pundits when describing an energetic or impressive athletic performance. Simply put, it’s not descriptive enough. Okay, so the athlete, a human, is doing something that is beyond the scope of a normal human, therefore they are similar to a beast. I get that. But the first time I heard the phrase, I thought of a blue, buff, hairy dude hanging upside down and reading Wittgenstein. I hear “beast mode” and think - what beast?

“Beast mode” is lazy wordplay. You could just as easily say “Past great player mode” and leave it to the listener or reader to decide with whom you are comparing today’s current star. Thus, I’ve come up with some GIFS and proper, specific similes for some key soccer players. They are not necessarily in “beast mode”, but more of an “animal kingdom” zone. Enjoy. Continue reading “A Treatise on the Expression “Beast Mode”” »

A Possible Flaw with Promotion & Relegation in MLS: the Franchise Model

I won’t go into much detail over the whole promotion/relegation debate. It’s been done elsewhere. Generally, the strongest arguments supporting pro/rel are (1) Historical examples – it has worked in Europe for several decades; (2) Financial – it will lead to more investment in 2nd division teams as investors try to achieve promotion; and (3) Philosophical – it will be more “meritocratic.” The current loser gets a dope draft pick aspect to North American sports smells of socialism to some.

But any attempt to impose pro/rel on a North American landscape will encounter a muddy terrain; I speak of the loathsome “franchise” system. And luckily there’s an example South of the border for what happens when pro/rel meets the “franchise” model. Continue reading “A Possible Flaw with Promotion & Relegation in MLS: the Franchise Model” »

Compromising Pictures of Billy Haisley Explain his Distaste for MLS

Our award-wanking coverage of Deadspin’s MLS coverage has reached a new low. For those with memory problems, MLS season was about to kick off when, boom, Deadspin dropped a kinda long-ish article about why fans should not bother caring. I wrote a point-by-point response and, of course, the soft-skinned, over-internetted MLS clique responded with rage. What hurt most was not the core thesis of Billy’s argument, that MLS is a clear notch below La Liga, but the conclusion that it was therefore unwatchtable.

Still, Billy kept hammering away. MLS got all excited and announced another Southeast expansion team without a soccer-specific stadium (read: Atlanta). Bam, Billy hit the keyboards to churn out an ATL franchise take down. Again, the arguments had solid bases, but the tone…well, the tone was a bit over the top. Folks wondered – why does somebody have an axe to grind with little old MLS? What’s Billy’s deal? Did his mother attend Miami Fusion matches instead of holding him as a baby?

Then, some pictures surfaced. And now everything makes sense. Continue reading “Compromising Pictures of Billy Haisley Explain his Distaste for MLS” »

American Soccer’s Very Own Recognitions

Lo and behold, the NYTimes relocated/rebranded the Goal Blog but soccer popped up in the Style Section. The general theme was this: the young and hip urban class of New York has embraced soccer (albeit not MLS). This group of childless rapscallions flocks to bars or “pubs” on Saturday mornings to don scarves, drink overpriced imported beer, eat a warm British breakfast, and/or maybe watch grown men kick a ball on TV. Predictably, the super super trendy have backlashed. Why?

Because nobody hates hipsters more than other hipsters. Sadly, the same is probably true of soccer fans in the states. Still, what most intrigues me about this debate is the reality vs. perception of New York City. Luckily, the second part of William Gaddis’ novel The Recognitions also grapples with this slippery concept. And provides some guideposts. Continue reading “American Soccer’s Very Own Recognitions” »

The Brave New World of MLS 3.0

Sigh. I can’t be bothered to start a “MLS Does Not Suck” column to respond to Deadspin’s coverage. The first article reeked of somebody who didn’t actually watch the league, but the second column made a lot more solid points about the Atlanta expansion situation. Take a deep breath and realize that, big picture, media coverage is a good thing. Deadspin prides itself on dumping in all major sports leagues from the NFL to the NBA – MLS is now on the radar. That’s a good thing. Deadspin will not coddle MLS. It’s your baby, not Deadpin’s.

The bottom line is that the truth hurts. While MLS is not quite two decades old, the league’s history can be categorized into three phases. And the 3.0 version looks suspiciously familiar. Continue reading “The Brave New World of MLS 3.0” »

MLS Salaries: Starting at the Rock-Bottom

One of the key things for any employee entering the workforce is starting salary: it normally sets the baseline for future earnings and possible raises. That’s why it’s so sad that management has played professional sports player unions for fools, pitting veterans against rookies in negotiations (at least in North America). Owners hand veterans with a bigger role in the union larger salaries today, in exchange for keeping the salaries for rookies nice and low. Here’s the problem: if rookies started off at a higher salary, then they’d be able to get even more in free agency. It’s common sense: starting higher up the ladder earlier is better.

MLS is no different from any other sports league in that regards. Yes, NFL players have a higher salary for rookies (entry-level employees), but it’s still well below the median and what a veteran earns. Yes, MLS salaries have gone up. DPs also make made bank. However, I took a survey of the Top 10 picks from the MLS Super Draft and then looked at their starting salaries. Then I found some other professions with equivalent salaries. The results were forehead-slapping.  Continue reading “MLS Salaries: Starting at the Rock-Bottom” »

The Number One Reason Why MLS Should Expand to Topeka, KS

So, MLS is expanding all over the place. Sometimes, they occupy and share an NFL stadium. Other times, expansion cities scurry to build lovely soccer-specific stadiums. In their haste, though, they sometimes, ahem, have to clear out still-in-use churches. In Orlando City, the municipality balked at a local church’s initial asking price (tens of millions) and jumped straight to eminent-domain and litigation. Now, in Atlanta, rumors swirl that a stadium proposal will lead to the demolition of the City’s first black Baptist Church (and super-gentrification of the neighborhood Martin Luther King Jr. called home).

As someone who went to college in A-town (The term “ATL” is sooooooo 2004), I can understand why Arthur Blank wants to leave the aging (built in 1992) Georgia Dome, all tucked away down there (a mere 3-5 miles from downtown Atlanta). But, in all seriousness, if MLS teams are going to be destroying churches to build homes, I have a sweet idea for a location. Continue reading “The Number One Reason Why MLS Should Expand to Topeka, KS” »