24 October 2005

Untangling the Adu Situation

(Warning: long post ahead. Short version: Piotr is letting this drag on too long and misleading and contradictory messages shouldn't be coming from DCU as they are now. Freddy doesn't understand his role, and he hasn't this entire season. DCU fans need to kumbaya.)

Okay, I've spent the weekend thinking about this. When Freddy Adu's suspension was first announced, I was in favor of it. I remember telling Joe at the time "I like this. Nowak sends the message, takes charge, and this entire situation is over by the time we play the return leg." Then we hear that this might not just be a one-time deal, that Freddy may be suspended for Game 2 unless he delivers a full apology to his team. Now the sage is dragging on even more. Kevin Payne is on ESPN at the half-time of the Quakes/Gals match. He says nothing other than he supports Nowak. Non-soccer pundits are suddenly worried that Freddy might decide to not only bolt DC United, but US Soccer in general (I think they're wrong, but that's another story).

So, let me say this. I am upset by this entire situation. Not by the actions that have been taken, but by the way these actions have been portrayed. A quick review:
Tuesday: Freddy's comments are outed to the media. Nowak is upset. Olsen is on TV saying that this doesn't bother the players, Moreno reminds Freddy about the love of the game.
Wed/Thur: Freddy meets with players, staff. Kevin Payne: "It's a bigger deal to the media than anyone in our locker room."
Friday: Coach Arena reminds Freddy to shut up, but indicates he may still make it into camp.
Saturday: Freddy suspended for Chicago game. Russ Thaler on Comcast "This has nothing to do with the comments Tuesday, but is for conduct detrimental to the team. Goff reports that Freddy hasn't made his public apology.
Sunday: Goff - Freddy might miss next week

Since Tuesday, this story could and should have been over at least three times. Instead, we now have this hanging over DCU's head another week. But instead we get a mishmash of quotes. Freddy is suspended for conduct detrimental to the team, but the team's veterans seem to have been saying that Freddy's comments, while hotheaded, weren't a problem for them. Of course, that may have been a public line only, but then it becomes transparently dishonest if you suspend Adu for not apologizing for them. I have no problem with suspending Adu for the comments. Fine. But suspending him for a lack of an apology seems vindictive, an attempt to say "It's not enough for you to know that the team is upset with you. We're not happy unless you realize what a horrible thing you did. It's not how you behave any more, it is how you think. UNMUTUAL, FREDDY! UNMUTUAL!" But if the team is truly fine, this shouldn't be necessary. If they aren't fine, they should be more mature than that.

Piotr doesn't want Freddy to think he's above the team. I'm fine with this. But this indefinite suspension has now put Freddy's comments before the team's interest. It is now Nowak that has elevated Freddy above the team, or perhaps the punishment of Freddy. And I disagree with that. This should be dealt with, once and for all, not prolonged throughout the post-season. But Nowak has chosen otherwise. I disagree, but for what it is worth, he's made the call and the front office and veteran players are backing him. Good for them, they should. But I still think Piotr has unnecessarily elevated this situation to the detriment of the team.

Now, as for all why this is happening, I want to set the way back machine to comment The DCenters found a little odd in April. While we found that comment amusing at the time, I think it reveals a great deal in retrospect. Freddy forgot that just because you are no longer a rookie doesn't mean you are a veteran. Instead, I think Freddy thought he had paid his dues last year, and that this year he was going to get more respect and playing time. To his shock he found he was in about the same place on the depth chart, and in some ways was still be regarded as a rookie-type player. Freddy thinks he's a veteran now, but Pitor and the team still thinks he's a prospect. The team is right, Freddy is wrong. But there's a tension in how things are viewed that will have to be dealt with. In a month or so, not now.

Finally, one note to all of DCU fandom. There are few things more tiresome in sports than a debate over who the True Fans (TM) are. This situation is no exception. While there's a temptation to divide into two camps (let's say, Freddy and Piotr), that should be resisted. There's so much we can only guess at. We should not (and I include myself in this) mistake being a fan of the team for being completely intimate with all relevant facts. We're going to develop different theories based on our interpretations of what we read in the media, and that won't elevate or sully the imaginative purity of our devotion to the team. For a fan base that loves to believe that it is "United" like the team, we sure do love to argue. And occasionally cast stones at fans who don't agree with us. Which is ridiculous. After all, there's only one simple fact that is required for true fandom right now:

Chicago is the ugliest goddamn team in this league.


At 25 October, 2005 14:12, Blogger Eric PZ said...

I've got a slightly different take on the whole matter. Freddy is the only pub the league can get right now. So, by dragging things out as long as possible, the media is at least paying some attention to MLS playoffs...sorta.


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