That 70's League

This week's Four at the Back is up. We talk about ties. We talk about profanity in the stadiums. We talk about the NASL - well, Kenn talks about the great reunion that Ron and Rob Gilmore have organized to honor the original Earthquakes - the ones that never won anything. THAT part is well worth listening to.

To get there, though, you need to skip ahead me ranting and raving about Steven Cohen. I'll deal with that next post. You can tell me how wrong I am to still care about that subject then. Well, those of you I haven't put on the ignore list based on idiotic comments you've made on Bill's and Ollie's blog.

But this is about the NASL, and why it was understandable that MLS wanted to put a little daylight between them and the Colorado Caribou, and why it's also a good thing that today MLS can embrace the history of the past's glorious failues.

I think we can all agree that in 1996, the Powers That Were took a very skittish attitude towards image. They wanted to be as up-to-date as possible, they wanted to connect with the modern youth market, and they did not want to be saddled with the errors of the past.

What they came up with, of course, was this:

And had the league died in 2001 or so, the next league that came along would have tried exactly as hard to disown MLS as MLS tried to disown the NASL.

I tend to give Peter Wilt perhaps a little too much credit in breaking the stranglehold of Poochie-marketing imposed by Nike, Adidas, and whoever happened to be outfitting Colorado and New England that particular year under the fearful reign of Mr. Doug Logan. Were it not for Peter Wilt, we'd all be speaking Rhythm today.

Anyway, in 1999 Wilt's Fire wore yellow and black jerseys with the Sting logo, which I can't find a picture of. Although I did have Safe Search on. Maybe someone shot a porno with the principals all wearing MLS tribute jerseys. But I know it existed. And I also know that the heavens did not fall. Chicago fans began on ongoing affair with special edition jerseys that run some ridiculous amount on eBay (cf., the Chicago city flag jersey), and the NASL was no longer the love that dared not speak its name.

Concurrently, the brain trust in San Jose had noticed that the Clash name was going over about as well as mail-order rifle jokes in Hyannisport. Coincidentally or not, the team was stinking up the place. Probably a coincidence, since the red 70's Earthquakes were also horrible, but popular. "Hey, maybe if we changed our name to the Earthquakes, we'd be popular." And lo, it was done.

The Earthquakes did something that hadn't been seen in those parts for a while, viz., win a lot.

Why didn't they keep the old logo and colors? Well, half the teams in the league at that point were wearing red somewhere. And the old logo had the ball with the red, white and blue stars - even by 2000 under the new commissioner, a symbol still about as popular in the league office as a Hare Krishna hairstyle.

Had the updated logo stunk - and keep in mind, something like 80% of all MLS logos have stunk...and if we're harsh about it, a strong 60% of NASL logos, too - that might have dealt the revival craze a setback. Although probably a bright pink swastika would have been welcomed had it brought as many trophies as the sunset logo did.

The other thing that happened was a negative example - the Florida teams called it a day. It had nothing to do with logos and colors, everything to do with mismanagement and stupidity. But from a marketing standpoint, the Rowdies and Strikers have some serious gloating over the Mutiny and Fusion up there in Soccer Team Heaven. Calling those teams the Rowdies and Strikers probably wouldn't have saved them, but it couldn't possibly have hurt. (The Mutiny name grew on me, to be honest, but that makes me an Army of One.)

Then, in the Year of Our Lord 2008, the citizens of Seattle demanded they not be stuck with the same sort of crap that brought us Real Salt Lake and eight teams named "FC." And the rest is history.

More or less. NASL embracing hasn't been universal. Philadelphia took a look at how the Fury and Atoms ended up, and said no thanks. Both the Galaxy and Chivas USA have treated the Aztecs like plague rats, although in fairness the Aztecs were the definitive overpriced/underpopular NASL team. DC United has been marketing themselves quite nicely without Diplomacy. The Rapids would sooner play in an erupting volcano than remind anyone of the Caribous. Still don't know why Lamar Hunt didn't reclaim the old Tornado name, but it probably would have brought back some unpleasant memories of money vanishing into thin air. The Revolution should focus more on an ASL revival than an NASL revival, although they are missing out an opportunity for Taylor Twellman Tea-Bag Men night. Columbus and Salt Lake never had an NASL team, Kansas City and Houston might as well never have, and...yeah, I think that's everyone.

So, good topic, thanks for listening, and....



Okay, fine. The Cosmos.

You've all read Adam Spangler's bewildering interview with Peppe Pinton by now. You probably recall the guy from Warner Brothers in "Once In A Lifetime" saying no, Warner still owns the logo, thanks for asking. With the rest of the league actively encouraging a new start, it's understandable that Metromedia decided to look elsewhere.

In 2001, there was a Cosmos reunion in Giants Stadium - the Mutiny came to town in their Rowdies outfits - except the home team didn't have a logo. Many of the players were there, but not the logo. It seems Pinton still wouldn't release his baby, if said baby was indeed his. (The link refers to an earlier Cosmos revival attempt, the part about Pinton not letting the 1996 team call themselves the Cosmos is at the tail end.)

The point was made, though, at least to me. Seeing Tab Ramos wear Pele's #10 told me that there must never ever again be a New York Cosmos. It wasn't exactly like if, I don't know, Chuck Knoblauch wore #4 for the Yankees - wait, no, it was exactly like that. Well, that, or someone besides David Cassidy singing lead for the Partridge Family.

Both at the time and now, the Cosmos embodied and eclipsed the NASL. Bringing them back as less-than-equals in MLS would simply hurt people's eyes. Whatever the flaws with the Red Bulls name - and yeah, there are a couple - at least New York fans don't see their childhoods flayed week in and week out. The Cosmos aren't hurting for remembrances. In fact, with Portland and Vancouver set to join Seattle and San Jose, and another Rowdies set to launch (hopefully) in MLS2, it couldn't hurt to let the Cosmos rest for a bit, while some other teams get their chance for tributes.