I've taken my share of cheap shots at MLS Commissioner Don Garber over the years, including the use of some unflattering nicknames which make reference to his remarkably simian appearance prior to the removal of that facial hair thingie he used to sport..
For that I'd like to apologize. Calling the man Commissioner Cheetah or The Monkey King is just plain meanspirited and wrong.
On the other hand, regular readers (thanks Mom!) will recall that I have also spent a good deal of time and valuable blog space defending The Don on a number of fronts, often to the dismay of many MLS fans who would like nothing better than to line the man up and toss overripe vegetables at his head.
Overall - particularly since dropping all that unfortunate chimpanzee business - I think I've been more than fair with the guy, almost never engaging in the kind of ugly pro forma attacks that some people who I won't name (cough Dan Loney cough) regularly indulge in.
All of which is a roundabout way of saying that I think I've proven that I'm not unduly or automatically negative about the guy. So much so, in fact, that I hope he'll take it to heart when I say:
Mr. Commissioner, you've blown it.
You've done some marginally stupid things from time to time, as have we all.
Take for example the day that ESPN gave you a half hour of live TV to conduct a lottery for the rights to Danny Szetela and you spent the first five minutes conducting the lottery and the last 25 minutes complaining that the wrong team won and telling Szetela that he would of course be traded to New York so he could bunk in with Mom.
Or like when you boldly announced that there was a deadline for AC Milan to cough up an acceptable deal for Stupid Spice, after which they could forget it so everyone spent a week talking about the impending deadline and the next three weeks talking about what kind of idiot would say something like that when it was clear that no such deadline existed.
I - and most other MLS fans - could go on and on like this, but here's the thing:
While you tend to say dumbass things on the spur of the moment, you have a tendency to get the big issues right, and that's why you get the big dollars and I am behind you 100%. Enjoy the money.
But - you were waiting, weren't you? - I'm afraid that you've created a problem, a growing problem, that didn't have to be: I'm talking about Toronto FC fans.
Ever since the first time you attended a match at BMO, you've walked around with a big old stiffy in your trousers babbling into any available Digital Voice Recorder about "the great, great atmosphere" and "the great, great fans" in Toronto and how they were the model that all MLS teams should use in creating a "great great atmosphere" and why the hell don't the rest of the teams have "great, great fans" like Toronto does so they too could have "a great, great atmosphere" instead of doing an imitation of sitting shiva in silent stadiums with tumbleweeds blowing across the pitch as small clumps of mind-numbed clodhoppers stare vacantly at a game they barely comprehend?
This idiotic meme - excuse me, I mean this train of thought - has led you to do things which a normal person would have found embarassing like, for example, giving an interview to ESPN wherein you babble like an idiot about how marvelous it is that Toronto fans bury opposing players in streamers and the "fun" and "colorful" atmosphere that creates,
The very next week Steve Ralston is buried in streamers in another stadium and you act like the crowd had vaulted the railings and beaten him to a pulp before dragging him to the parking lot and burning him at the stake.
You immediately issued a series of increasingly hysterical statements decrying the fall of Western civilization in the form of this outlandish, life-imperiling behavior and demanding that a stop be put to it, else the teams involved would face serious, dire and, like, really really bad consequences and stuff.
As a result, there were massive increases in stadium security. Beefed up police presence. Installation of more video observation equipment than on the main floor at Caesars' Palace. Meetings with supporter's groups. Rules posted. Seat number checks. Stadium ejections, Stadium bans. Facism run amock.
And finally, with some considerable damage to various realtionships that had previously been built on mutual respect, the occasional piece of crepe paper from beyond the grave making it's flesh-destroying way down to the field is a very rare occurrance indeed. Almost as rare as you demonstrating control over your mouth.
Meanwhile, of course, the "great, great fans" in Toronto, who create the "fun" and "colorful" atmosphere that you are so enamored of have changed virtually nothing. Don't take my word for it, watch a damn game on TV in between sampling Chardonnays with Chuck Blazer. You know, the worldwide embarassment whose size and shape resembles Jupiter. The guy you gave "The MLS Commissioners Award" to a couple years ago.
(Here's hoping that when the surgeon removed your lips from his ass that it didn't leave too big a scar)
Taking a corner kick in BEEMO reminds one of John Glenn or maybe Charles Lindburgh making their way down a New York street while everyone emptied their wastebaskets out the windows and claimed that was "tickertape". Of course, Lucky Lindy didn't also get a couple gallons of beer dumped on him in the process. New Yorkers are more respectful of beer.
See, the problem you've created, Don my freind - we're still pals, right? - is that Toronto fans, with whom I admit I have something of a problematical relationship, quite obviously think - with good reason - that you really love them and the "color" they bring to the games and that as a result nobody dares tell them to knock some of this crap off.
Just last week you were telling reporters - for the umpty-umpth time - that the great fan response in Columbus last year was due entirely to a sort of knee jerk reaction to all those "great, great Toronto fans" who came to the home opener.
Which is an interesting theory, and one which makes TFC fans - and you yourself - extremely happy but which, frankly, is a load of horse pucky.
The Nordecke phenomenon in CBus was due to a number of factors, mainly that when the stage was installed it forced the several supporters groups into one compact section intead of the six they previously occupied. Also of note is that fact that Columbus kicked a bunch of ass last year and, frankly, the bandwagon got pretty crowded.
(If I ever get the chance to talk to you face-to-face on this issue, I'm going to ask you how it is that a couple thousand people who didn't even care enough to attend the home opener or even watch it on TV and thus had no idea how many fans TFC brought or what they sounded like suddenly discovered the sting and shame of being outshouted in a stadium they were miles away from. So be prepared.)
But see, even when a team does things right, it isn't because of them, it was the "great, great fans" in Torontowho did it. Are you catching my drift here, Don?
Well I'm here to say that you've created a monster, and you've done it with your own stupid mouth. Pardon me, was that harsh? Ah, who cares?
Last Saturday, around 1500 hundred of your pet "great, great fans" made their way to Crew stadium where they proceeded to try and set new standards for acting like assholes.
It started with signs like this:
(I'm not sure what insulting an entire religion has to do with anything but then I'm not as tuned in to "great atmosphere" as you are. I can tell you that any number of family types who paid good money to attend found this offensive)
which, I'm proud to say, I had to have someone explain to me. If you need to Google it, take my advice: just skip it.
And included an almost nonstop shower of debris - there were even a few streamers amongst the garbage - and beer and finally included steel railings and hunks of metal plate ripped up from the stadium itself and hurled at the people, players and whoever else was within range.
Meanwhile, the lewdness and crudeness of your pet fans was so offensive that a good number of customers removed their children - and themselves, of course - from the building and swear they'll never be back.
After the game, innocent fans with kids in hand were verbally - obscenely - abused, people were shoved down stairs, virtually every trash barrel on the premises was overturned, so many fights were broken up that several policemen reported actually running out of Mace, there were numerous arrests and, a full hour after the game there were still 20 police officers and a helicopter patrolling the grounds.
Mr. Commissioner, I've been to a lot of MLS games, in a lot of stadiums. I'm no stranger to fan scuffles, drunken louts, taunting, obscenities and all sorts of over-the-top behavior. But this game was way, way, WAY beyond anything I ever hoped to see in MLS.
And, while you may find it unfair, I am afraid that, at the end of the day, I blame you.
Every MLS fan has heard, until we're all ready to barf up lunch, your little spiels about how wonderful the fans are in Toronto and how great it would be if the rest of us sluggardly clods were just like them.
Frankly, it's gotten pretty annoying. It got even more annoying after Seattle proved you can put a lot more people in a stadium for an MLS game, have a wonderful, colorful and fun atmosphere and yet not have the place taken over by a drunken, obscene, destructive mob of turds.
(Honestly, as someone said elsewhere today, I can't wait until they decide to "invade" Philadelphia next Spring. The police, not to mention the fans, may react...uh, "badly". Just a thought.)
Anyway, the thing is that you've spent the last couple of years empowering a fan group by telling them how much you admire the stuff they do, and they've taken it to heart, and now there's a problem. Things like this would have been much easier to deal with in the beginning, but you didn't want to. You didn't want to spoil the "fun".
Well congratulations, Mr. Commissioner. You've got exactly what you asked for.
Good luck dealing with it now.