Everybody Talking to Their Pockets, Everybody Wants a Box of Chocolates and a Long Stemmed Rose
The question is not whether you are cynical, the question is "are you cynical enough?" In revisiting Don Garber's exclusive interview to Steve Goff, the natural cynical reaction is to start the countdown clock to St. Louis United. However, if you move your cynicism from a detached worldview in which the Laws of Man are dominated by the Law of Murphy to a more bitter one where the world is one where those of power have all been handed a script, and play their parts, and no one bothered to let you know that you were an extra, then the Garber interview takes a new perspective. The Don has come forward, in media res, and performed his role as the exposition fairy to try and bolster MacFarlane and Co.
Now, some people are calling this sort of thing "extortion." I disagree with the word choice, but the point is well made. What Mr. Garber has done can best be understood by considering what would happen if he had said, well, the opposite. If Garber comes out and says "Well, we're disappointed in the progress on the stadium front, and if something can't be worked out, we'll just have to keep United in D.C. anyways," can you imagine how MacFarlane and Chang and all would react? Garber would have completley cut them off at the knees. Instead, he says the only thing he can say to plausibly bolster United's posiiton: That the league thinks relocation is a viable option. But the relocation is theoretical, not actual. In essence, Garber has produced his firearm of choice, but left it conspicously unloaded. There are no good relocation options, even in St. Louis at the moment. For Garber to really make this a reality, he needs to have one of two things -- Either another city proposing a stadium deal acceptable to ownership on the table, or a new ownership group with a stadium deal in another city who would be willing to take United instead of an expansion team.
Both couses of actions face problems. The first would be negotiating a stadium deal for a team that does not necessarily exist. In essence, these would be contingent negotiations, which is an awkward situation to be in. So it seems that having an ownership group that has their own stadium deal would be an easier position, but this too has a problem. MacFarlane paid $33M for the rights to United as an IO team, and an expansion fee is around $15M to $20M. So any ownership group might face an addition 50% more in costs to get into the door than otherwise, assuming MacFarlane simply would sell at a break-even point (a dubious proposition at best).
So, while you may panic at Garber's comments, to me they change nothing other than making explicit the only leverage MacFarlane has, and only when you don't really think about it. For us to really panic, we need to see the depleted uranium bullets laid on the table. Otherwise, all Garber has done is state what everybody knows already.
Am I optimistic? No, not hardly, but I am far from pessimistic. Either a new stadium deal gets worked, or it doesn't. But if it doesn't, MLS needs a good option on how to deal with the team in another city, and I don't see that yet.