The BIG NEWS!!!! out of St. Louis this week carried headlines like ANHEUSER BUSCH FLEXING IT'S MUSCLES IN MLS EXPANSION GAMEand ANHEUSER-BUSCH TRYING TO LURE MLS TEAM TO ST. LOUIS and ANHEUSER-BUSCH JOINS EFFORT TO SECURE MLS FRANCHISE (that one is from Canada, proving once again that nobody up there has yet grasped that MLS does not sell "franchises") and - well, you get the idea.
Now in fact, if the headline said "AUGUST BUSCH IV TO LEAD ST. LOUIS MLS INVESTMENT GROUP", we'd suddenly find ourselves in a whole new game here, and unfortunately a lot of writers across the interweb are acting like that is, indeed, the story here.
But of course it's really not. Not by a long shot.
What happened was that InBev, the Belgian outfit which recently bought Anheuser-Busch, is unloading AB's non-income producing assets (a guy trying to put a good face on a struggling company for me once used the term "revenue neutral" which I marveled at; is there a better way of saying "We're not making any money"?) and a 32 acre youth soccer facility with a 6,000 seat soccer stadium is about as non-income producing as you can get.
And since it's located in a flood plain they can't even bulldoze the fields and put in a strip mall or a flimsy condo development. It's the functional equivalent of the "swamp land" everyone always wants to sell you,
So the next best thing is to get someone to hand it - and the expense of maintaining the place - over to someone else, while your PR department spins it beautifully as a sign of A-B's commitment to something-or-other having to do with the community.
Here, for example, is Dan McHugh, Anheuser-Busch Inc. vice president of "media, sponsorship and activation":
"It's a perfect storm that came together here," McHugh said.
Whatever that means. Sounds great though, doesn't it?
"We were looking to potentially move the Soccer Park as part of our on-going efforts to look at business opportunities overall."
Put another way, we're unloading overhead.
"The one thing we wanted it to do as a company, as Anheuser-Busch has always done, is ... make sure to give back to the community ... and preserve amateur soccer in the St. Louis area with that facility that has always supported it.
Most importantly though was not to have the place closed and turned into a toxic waste dump. The bad PR would have been a disaster.
"It's really been the hub of the amateur and youth soccer scene, and we wanted to accomplish that, and at the same time, an opportunity has come to enhance the bid and enhance our move to secure an MLS franchise in the St. Louis metropolitan area"
It's not overstating the case to call this entire statement a pile of crap.
They pay people good money to write drivel like that, and it's worth every dime. This very same place - "Soccer Park" - has been "accomplishing" the job of hosting "the amateur and youth soccer scene" since 1982. The only thing that's changed is that Anheuser Busch doesn't have to pay to keep the grass mowed any more.
Now in fact I would think that this would be a much better place for MLS bid humper Jeff Cooper's WPS St. Louis Athletica team, since currently they're booked at Southern Illionois University's Ralph Kramden Stadium. I'm sure there's something out there on this; I myself haven't looked.
But it's hard to imagine a team that already owns a soccer stadium paying someone else rent to use theirs. Just a guess. But the Athletica now has the best wholly-owned practice and stadium setup in the league, including two full sized plastic fields, and all anyone can do with the news is speculate on it's effect on the St. Louis MLS bid.
Well, OK. It says here that the net effect will be exactly nothing. Even expanding the Soccer Park Stadium to the 10,000 seater they say is possible, it's still smaller and cheezier than Stade Saputo. If a stadium is getting built, it'll still be in Collinsville. That hasn't changed.
I know, I know, they're also saying that Anheuser-Busch, a major - indeed and priginal - MLS sponsor is going to "let MLS know that they'd like to see St. Lousi get a team". Wonderful. That and $8.50 will still get you a lukewarm Bud Light anyplace in the league.
But it won't get you a team.
In other expansion news (or non expansion news, as the case may be) the Portland Trailblazers, who had supposedly been supporting Merritt Paulson's MLS bid all along, startled everyone by showing up at the city council meeting AND VOICING THEIR STRONG OPPOSITION to the plan.
Apparently they have some plans of their own for part of the site for the proposed stadium, including something called a "live zone" (as opposed to, I guess, a "dead zone") and they don't want some stinking soccer team horning in.
Their newfound opposition struck everyone as a case of talking out of both sides of your mouth or backstabbing or doubletalking or, well, you get the idea.
But then this is the Blazers we're talking about, so maybe they just showed up at City Hall to bail a few players out of jail and thought they'd stop by the meeting.
An interesting unannounced development surfaced when MLS released the 2009 TV SCHEDULE:
HDNet was nowhere to be found.
Despite the occasional grumbling about not being able to watch those games if you didn't have HDTV, originally at least HDNet was actually doing the league a favor by carrying games that nobody else wanted; in other words, HDNet not broadcasting them wouldn't have resulted in everyone else getting to watch. Rather, it would have simply meant that nobody got to see it.
Cuban started picking up MLS games when HDTV was pretty much a novelty and he wanted free content as much as anything else.
But there was also some acknowledgement on his part that he wanted to help the league, and most of us have a soft spot in our hearts for the guy.
If the league is no longer going to be on Cuban's network, it's the end of a (minor) era.