Maybe this is all me. Maybe no one else feels the way I do. I guess that’s okay, there have been many times in my life when I have separated from the pack. Sometimes, I made great decisions and sometimes they were howlers!
Since I began following MLS Soccer seriously in about 2006, I have felt that the league has made many head scratching decisions. An all-star game against a large European club, really? Revenue sharing, I don’t like it, but I understand the intent. Salary caps, okay so on one hand you want to prove to the world that MLS is as good as the Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga geez are you kidding and on the other hand you claim poor and control all the revenue. Pick a side!
Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I think the league and the level of play has increased exponentially over the last 15 years. I also think that MLS uses its own rules however it sees fit. Seemingly, there are large market teams that can stack their starting lineups with 5 DPs because of “loopholes” while other teams are lucky to get their allowable 3. MLS negotiates with incoming DPs and there is an order to who has access. Even as lopsided as I believe all this is, my view is that I hate it, but it is what it is and I still love watching the Philadelphia Union play on game days.
I know, like me, it’s the same for every team and their fans and THAT is what makes professional sports great. When you watch an MLS game you get to see players who play because they love the game and love to play the game in most cases. Personally, I was excited for the start of the 2020 season being a Union fan; we have a new stadium sponsor, some good signings, a great coach and sporting director and then everything came to a screeching halt with COVID-19.
Yes, I was disappointed for many reasons. Hell, global pandemics don’t come along every year or decade or century. Priorities changed, everyone had to shift into safety mode. Keep ourselves, our families and friends safe, every day. Every team has expenses. They have to pay players, staff and stadium workers. Many teams took that responsibility seriously and were looking for ways to do just that.
MLS, however, while looking at the big picture needed to protect television revenues and other revenue sources. Rhetoric about staying safe rang from the MLS offices almost ad nauseum. In crunch time, MLS decided that “for the fans” they were going to take every team down to one of the few states that, even back in May thumbed their noses at the CDC and WHO guidelines. Let’s go play behind closed doors with no fans; we’ll televise all the games so the fans can watch. Oh, and we’ll send everyone to the petri dish of America — Orlando, Florida — while we collect the television revenues.
Who’s brilliant idea was this? Do you really think that your fanbase is that selfish that we would ask you to take all of our teams from our cities to a COVID-19 epicenter like Florida? You took my team, then you took my heart and soul. Why do we need an “MLS is Back” tournament? I’m sure there is enough money in the league to weather the storm of this horrible pandemic. This, like most of the decisions made today by our “leadership” is solely about money. The rich get richer and the poor can go f$%k themselves. I, for one, am tired of living in a country were everything is politically and financially motivated.
I know this pandemic is causing hardship. It’s causing hardship for everyone, the homeless, families who went from three incomes to scrape by to just one or none. EVERYONE is affected. Writing a check, or two, to some local not-for-profits does not give you a free pass to put your players, team staff and their families in harm’s way.
I challenge MLS to cancel this tournament and this season, if necessary. Pay your players a living wage during the crisis, extend all contracts by one year and let’s pick this up again next season. I love this game and I love my team, so do all the fans in every other MLS city. No one asked for this and no one was prepared to deal with it. Let’s take a mulligan and move on.
I want to sit in the stands and watch games as much as anyone else. This problem, however, is bigger than us. I would urge all sports to step back, take a breath and reload for next year. Think outside the box and work to make next season the greatest show on earth. After all, they moved the Olympics to next year. If you need some innovative thinking, drop me a line, I’d be glad to help.
Do what everyone of us should be doing; don’t take unnecessary risks, don’t move forward with this insanity, certainly don’t financially reward states that put their citizen’s health and safety last, don’t think we won’t survive if we don’t have soccer for one crazy year, and don’t make decisions based on what is popular or profitable. Everyone around the globe needs to suffer, morn and heal. There will be no normal until that happens. Sports, no matter how enjoyable that can be to watch, can take the place of that emotional cycle. Cancel the season because it is the correct thing to do, period!! WE will all be waiting.
No more head scratching decisions, please…