Guy says to Bruce Arena, “Who the hell wants to read your stupid book about how you screwed up the entire country through your own stubborn, idiot incompetence?” And Bruce says, “Well, let’s see you do any better, James Comey.”
Hi everyone. Sorry I haven’t written. The Confederates continue to hold Chancellorsville, our poodles needed shaving, and every time I start a freaking paragraph about American soccer something comes along and obliterates the subject.
I have been trying to sum up the saga of FC Cincinnati, whose journey to MLS has made the end of “Lord of the Rings” look positively brisk in comparison. They’ve risen from the dead more times than Lazarus. So, at least twice.
And so it came to pass that FC Cincinnati decided to explore building a stadium in the West End, which locally is a subject that usually includes words like “gentrification” and “redevelopment” and “revitalization.” In other words, it’s got black people in it.
The difference between the expansion saga of FC Cincinnati and, to pick an example entirely on the basis of hilarity, Miami Beckham United, is that FCC has done so many things amazingly well. What they have not done well, yet, is market to Cincinnati’s African-American community.
I have pitched an ad campaign along the lines of “What else are you gonna watch, the Reds? The Bengals? What are you, gluttons for punishment?” I’ll let you know what I hear back.
Okay, so nobody has marketed pro soccer to the African-American community particularly well yet. But comparatively few teams or potential teams based their hopes on a stadium in a long-standing, traditional black neighborhood. The two that jump to mind are FCC and Miami Beckham United, and I’m starting to feel like I’m using Miami Beckham United as a crutch for cheap laughs at this point.
The potential land for the stadium – well, I guess the land actually exists, doesn’t it? The land for the potential stadium is currently managed by Cincinnati Public Schools, and before FCC wandered along was meant for fancy new housing at reduced property tax rates.
So all FCC had to do was convince the school district that the stadium was a better deal than the housing. Clearly the best way to do this was - set a deadline of eight hours out of thin air.
Cincinnati Public Schools, naturally, told the soccer team to suck rocks.
And FCC, by God, gave in. I don’t know if anyone will ever take an FC Cincinnati ultimatum seriously now, but I honestly have to give credit to Jeff Berding (FCC’s grand vizier) for realizing that the Cincinnati Bengals had poisoned the well for this sort of blackmail in Cincinnati pretty much forever. (It was of course Mr. Berding himself who was pouring that particular poison way back when. At least he’s not a one trick pony.
But West End anti-stadium forces weren’t done yet. Well, they were, but they didn’t know it, and by golly they went out strong.
Had you told me twenty years ago that a second division soccer team would shrug off a threatened Jesse Jackson boycott, I would have said “That’s what you came back in time to tell me? Literally nothing more interesting will happen, ever? You aren’t using the fabled power of time travel on something this frivolous, are you? Please tell me you’re not. At least tell me you took care of Hitler before stopping by here.” And wouldn’t you have felt silly.
Anyway, Jesse Jackson had so little impact on the conversation, I barely have an excuse to post this picture of the Reverend playing “black friend” to Cincinnati mayor John Cranley’s Stephen Colbert.
The Cincinnati City Council voted to approve something like thirty-six million fish in infrastructure for a stadium that, for the most part, Mr. Lindner will build his own damn self.
Maybe it’s because Carl Lindner re-created so perfectly Tony Cox’s negotiation scene with the late, great Bernie Mac in “Bad Santa,” but I couldn’t have been happier for FCC, Lindner, or the Cincinnati community. Finally, a public-private partnership where everyone benefits, or at least where the latter doesn’t completely pull a heist on the former.
What a cheerful blog post that would have been. But there had to be more comedy.
Probably the bit that got the most nationwide attention, at least among the greater American soccer community, was the name change. It is now no longer Futbol Club Cincinnati. It is now Fußball Club Cincinnati.
Which is great. Well, not great. But really, not any dumber than "Futbol Club". Except, unless I badly misread something, FC Cincinnati let the Fußball Club trademark lapse back in October.
Eh, maybe the government site isn’t up to date.
The journey of FC Cincinnati has already been, well, dumb as all hell. The name and colors were a direct ripoff of the Netherlands, for whatever reason. They earmarked stadiums in neighborhoods that hated them, and negotiated with all the canny skill of a drunk arguing with a video poker game. And they won.
So FC Cincinnati has the requirements for Major League Soccer’s expansion – rich owner, public approval for a stadium. That’s a lot farther along than, to pick an example not entirely at random, Austin, Texas (sorry, got tired of using Miami as a punchline).
Best of all, the deal was made right before the MLS Board of Governors meeting on April 17, giving the league a perfect chance to announce its latest expansion team. Said perfect chance was, naturally, not taken advantage of.
There’s probably a reason that MLS did not make the announcement, besides giving Sacramento one final chance to come up with an investor from the McDuck family tier of wealth. I just can’t think of one. The bright side is, I think at least now Cincinnati has finally, finally cut in front of Detroit.
Unperturbed, our heroes press on. FCC is leaving nothing to chance. Hard feelings in the West End have been mended thanks to a community benefits agreement…that promptly got the president of the local council impeached. Connoisseurs of irony will note that the impeachment proceedings carried in a YMCA named after Carl H. Lindner, the FCC owner’s dad.
So, like James Taylor and Cliff Clavin, we’ve seen fire and we’ve seen rain. FCC has cleared the hurdles, has the money, has the stadium, has the sponsors, and it’s simply a matter of time before…wait, what’s this?
And that, my friends, is when I died and went to hell.
Whereupon I was instantly joined by Precourt Sports Ventures.
I’m sorry I haven’t left the state of Ohio for any kind of news or analysis. To make it up to you comedy-wise, relive this awesome headline.
This league. This freaking league.
There are plenty of wonderful ways to follow the ongoing drama of Hashtag Save the Crew, and I’m sure names like Steve Sirk, Morgan Hughes, Keith Naas, Miki Turner, and let me know if I’m forgetting anyone. Bill something or other?
There are three things that I think either haven’t received enough attention, or just stand out in some way. This isn’t the first time Ohio government officials have been trying to keep a beloved team from leaving. And no, the Crew are nowhere near as popular as the Browns were. Either they were enough of a part of the sports fabric to justify the effort, or Crew fans are a large enough bloc to justify pandering towards.
So right there, even before you compare Ohio with the utter don’t-give-a-crapitude coming out of Austin’s equivalent elected officials, shoots down all this yammering drabble about attendance. It may not be the most fantastic of looks to have that many empty seats, but unlike a lot of poor attendance stories inside and outside Major League Soccer, this one has a pretty darned obvious explanation. I wouldn’t give Anthony Precourt money to wash my car.
The other revelation, which has NOT gone unnoticed by the general American soccer public, is the dismal and inglorious rout of the word “owner” in favor of the astonishing comeback of the term “investor/operator.”
So nobody’s looking at their 2010 Colorado MLS Cup memorabilia – and like me, I’m sure you have quite a haul – and thinking “If Stan Kroenke didn’t own the Rapids, but was merely investing/operating them, then this is all WORTHLESS.” But there had to be some reason to maintain the fiction of independent ownership. If only because this is some serious “Winston Smith trudging wearily to the Department of Truth before the Eastasia/Eurasia switch speech even ends” stuff going on here.
Fine. We knew the owners – God DAMN it – we knew the investor/operators were joined in a common cause already. And not merely in sort of the obvious way NFL teams band together to protect the integrity of the league (once they ever get around to finding it) (still got it) (I can’t believe the Pulitzers passed me over again, either). Soccer United Marketing is where the action is, after all. They all get an equal piece of that, and then run their own teams according to whether they want to spend like a Sounder or rot like a Revolution.
And now we are reminded why the “owner” fiction was so assiduously nurtured. If it’s all one big happy company, then, uh, why are the Los Angeles teams splashy with the cashy? Why are other teams subsidizing NYCFC derping in Yankee Stadium until the sun turns red? And why can’t the other own – why can’t the other investor/operators tell Precourt to quit embarrassing the damned league already?
I could almost understand the league nuking the ownership fiction over something important, like paying players or winning an anti-trust lawsuit, but….
Oh. Speaking of things that will outlast a cockroach’s panic room. It’s just barely possible that the North American Soccer Lawsuit (one assumes the name change is official) has been made aware of the latest MLS gear shift. I’m sure Ricky and Rocky’s teams are flooding courthouses with Motions to Hey, Wait a Second, I Thought You Said You Weren’t One Big Corporate Octopus That Runs American Soccer. Sorry for the legal jargon.
But the Single Entity Model (SEM) (an acronym I genuinely thought I’d never write again) conceived an attack from below, not from the side. It was supposed to clown players asking for higher salaries. It wasn’t meant to facilitate franchise moves over local protest – because who in their right mind in the mid-1990’s was going to worry about communities bidding against each other for a freaking soccer team? And SEM couldn’t possibly have been a measure against competing leagues, because why bother suing a competing soccer league in the 1990’s when you could just wait for them to fail? (And barring an unorthodox approach to league and national team marketing in 2002 or so, that strategy would have worked.)
For MLS this year, it’s Zlatan and retcon. At least soon it will be official that Chivas USA didn’t really happen.