Title's not a Red Bulls stadium reference.
So over the past week, #1 in the East defeated #1 in the West. However you feel about the actual result, I think we can all agree that Chicago and Chivas USA were pretty much equal. Not a lot of daylight between them. Let's say for the sake of argument Chicago's a little better. You certainly can't say that that Chicago's worse than CUSA.
So, on Sunday, #1 in the East, maybe #1 in the league, hosts #butt-naked last in MLS, a team with a serious case of Steve Goodman's "I don't know where I'm going, but I'm going nowhere in a hurry blues." Naturally, the home team gets tuned up 3-0.
And at this point, anyone trying to figure out the league takes off their clothes and walks into the ocean like Reginald Perrin.
There are micro-level reasons, sure. Dallas usually overperforms against Chicago...well, that's not a reason. Chicago had the Thursday-to-Sunday turnaround, which is a little more plausible. Bakary Soumare is apparently getting dumber by the day. No Conde, no Blanco. C.J. Brown had what I believe is referred to as a "howler."
And every year, at least once a season, you get a complete misprint of a result, one that makes no sense in the larger scheme of things. Last year, it was probably LA 5, DC 2 - or Rapids 5, Red Bulls 4.
But this is parity on steroids. Peroids. Starity.
MLSnet is still giving Power Rankings! a try, and this week that means explaining away why #1 lost to #15. I gave up on the random or irrelevant Power Rankings! jokes a while ago, and now find them spectacularly vindicated. Exactly what MLS Power Ranking! criteria would have given a 3-0 result for FCD on the road? Barbecue brisket quality per capita?
And you know the bad thing about all this?
Here's what's wrong with parity:
1. I have trouble picking games.
2. My fantasy teams are even more joyously blowful than usual.
3. Gamblers have trouble making profitable picks.
Here's what's right with parity:
1. You never know who's going to win.
Parity is not a bug. It's a feature. This is exactly what the league wants. The only thing wrong with Sunday, from the league's point of view, is that the score wasn't close enough. They'd like every game to be 3-2 decided in injury time. But they'll cheerfully settle for the possibility of any team in the league beating any other at any time.
Even if the league wanted to solve this, I don't know if they could now. Shep Messing (man, go listen to that interview) said he wouldn't want the Cosmos to come back under MLS rules (well, not precisely, but I don't think I'm inferring anything too weird). But in the middle of a recession, neither the Red Bulls, nor the Galaxy, nor even the Sounders or Red Squirrels, will spend anything like what it would take to replicate the Cosmos.
They could replicate the Los Angeles Aztecs, if they were very stupid about it. (The Galaxy almost have, although they'd need to shed 4/5 of their fanbase and raze the Home Depot Center to give us the full NASL experience.) But even given that a lowering tide sinks all boats, there are too many options for aging superstars these days. Squads are so much deeper than they were in the 70's, and barring the collapse of international broadcast media, there's still going to be far more television rights and jersey sales and such.
And what's the incentive?
Attendances are down...except in Seattle and Toronto. But that's not because we're short a Beckham, it's because we're short a couple of automakers and a bank or five. What an aging superstar was able to attract in 2007 is not a valid comparison for 2009, and probably not for a couple of years. I don't know, apart from Zidane, who could suit up for an MLS team and get anything like the 2007 reaction for Beckham. (Partly because David Beckham did so much to poison the well for future hyped up stars.) I'm not sure the Blanco success is replicable, if only because Mexican stars before and after him have paid off so unhandsomely in comparison.
Besides, Seattle and Toronto are doing well without anyone more famous than Kasey Keller. I don't think Philadelphia is going to acquire Messi or Kaka, but they have my permission to try.
This is the league, and this is how it's going to be for a while. They're going to live off the expansion fees to get through the next World Cup, until the economy turns around. The league's not going to fold, and the vast majority of your teams are going to be in business five years from now, barring catastrophe.
The price for this is the reason for this - every team has a reason to go see them, every fan can more or less legitimately hope for a win every week. No one is allowed to spend themselves into oblivion, so no one is going to.
So we're stuck with parity for the time being. When you're stuck in the Donner Pass, don't complain about the food.