10 April 2007

A Mixed Message on Mixed Messages

Staying with the material over at US National Soccer Players, J. Hutcherson's Soccer Daily runs a post that seems interesting, but I can't quite get a handle on the point that's being made. "A Mixed Message to MLS Fans" veers from point to point in a provoking, if unsatisfying, way. Certainly the opening throws down the gauntlet nicely:

One might think we've spent the last 11 years wasting our time. At least that's the obvious message from the announcer scripts and promos that accompanied MLS First Kick 2007. Borderline insulting? You bet...

I'm not certain which announce scripts are being referred to, but I'm guessing he's talking about the Dave O'Brien spot that began with "If you are watching now..." that started the Colorado-D.C. United tilt. I think there's something wrong in the implied assumption that MLS dictated to ESPN what was to be said. As Wynalda has indicated, ESPN has editorial control over that message now, and ESPN has every interest in "pressing the reset button" for MLS Season 12. After all, this is the first time they're on the hook by paying for games. Still, the larger point of "Is the league taking the fans for the past 11 years for granted?" remains a valid questions. But rather than delve into that question, the article veers to how MLS presents itself vis-a-vis other sports.

MLS media relations seems fundamentally more concerned with their own editorial product than actually helping the writers cover the sport...Garber's comment is indicative of a broader appearance/reality distinction the League likes to use whenever it suits them. Soccer is up against it and struggling when necessary, undervalued when necessary, and in the conversation with any of the other Major Leagues when necessary. Whatever works best.

True, and perhaps a little inconsistent, but is it wrong? MLS certainly has some areas where they can go toe-to-toe with the other major sports leagues: Drug testing, full-time referees, community involvement. In other areas they are clearly deficient: Advertising revenue, market share, fan-base size. And yes, in still a third area they are emerging and up-and-coming: Profitability, quality, international recognition.

A lack of consistency may not be dishonest, it may simply reflect a somewhat complex reality. Or it may be chameleon-like posturing from dishonest executives. I don't have the answer to that, and I wish this article had simply gone one step further in making its case. The entire thing is written that way: On the verge of being brilliant, but ending in a muddle. Kind of like Jeff Cunningham in that respect.

It's the seventh paragraph that annoyed me (and exemplified the problems of the entire thing) the most:

Here's the real issue that needs revamping. Not the elite allocation system, not real estate speculation in the growing failure that is suburban America, but remembering why single-entity was created in the first place and removing the abuses currently happening within that system. One that continues to be actively created by Major League Soccer.

MLS started this season with Game First, opening up the clever line like it being past time for Player First. The reality is a little more complicated, and all involved should be thinking about the fans actually paying for the product. The problem is that MLS leadership has given no indication of what success serves. Until that's either answered, or becomes even more obvious, this is a League operating on hope confused with expectation. Then again, it's your time, energy, and money.

You waited seven paragraphs to get to the "real issue?" GAH! Not only that, you allude to "abuses currently happening within the [single-entity] system" but don't tell me what they are? I read you, if not daily, at least on a weekly basis, and I'm not sure what you are talking about. TELL ME! Your best line case is made in the last three lines, and even that's only a starting point for yet a third possible article that isn't written. I like asking "what is the point of success?" That's interesting. Tell me how that's being screwed up! Tell me what you think it should be! TELL ME! BAH!

If I'm coming down hard on The Soccer Daily, it's because there are do many damn good ideas in this article that don't quite go anywhere, and that's frusturating. In a way, this article is guilty of exactly what it finally accuses MLS of: operating on hope confused with expectation. Of all the points raised here, most of which are quite valid, I just wish one had been developed to the point where I could really feel like a coherent argument was being made.

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