MLS All-Star Fever!

Does anyone have it?

Okay, Steve Pastorino. Anyone else?

Used to be I would at least turn and look at the thing. It was cute, once. Just a bunch of our favorite players goofing off on a sunny afternoon.

Then...geez, I dunno, it got all dark and pretentious on us. It probably turned for good in 1998, when the Powers That Were tried to use a US Verus The World match as diluted Listerine to wash out the shark sandwich that was the 3-6-1 World Cup a few weeks earlier. The US ran up the score 6-1, and I felt about as proud to be an American as Aldrich Ames.

Then one dark and stormy night in 2002, the US National Team and a bunch of snorgs bitter about not being on the US National Team clashed in a monstrous duel...once the rain delay and the half-time show allowed them to.

Once Carlos Ruiz upheld the honor of American soccer against Chivas in 2003, it was all over. Except for Freddy Adu Commissioner Pick Day in 2004, MLS has ambushed some upper middle class European team in preseason and declared itself champions of the world. If all that has been helping attendance and ratings, God help us if we ever lose one of these things.

Meanwhile, American soil is currently being infested with Barcelona, their close friends from Madrid, and two teams from Milan. Even Club America swings a heavier pocketbook than Everton. But Everton is a Perfectly Respectable Club, and that sort of club is good enough to fill the soccer specific stadiums we have these days without demanding the kind of fees that would hurt profitability. Why spend the money for a truly great and/or popular team, when TV ratings have shown that one preseason scrimmage is pretty much like another? Bringing in those kinds of teams wouldn't do anything about the staleness of the format - Chivas, Chelsea and Celtic proved that already.

They haven't tried South American teams nearly as much as they could, but MLS seems to see the All-Star Game as outreach for Anglophone Europhiles and suburbanites. If Bolivia can corral a Boca-River game, there's no reason MLS can't bring up one of those teams. Or one of the Brazilian club powers. It won't get a lot of mainstream attention, but guess what. Everton won't, either.

Yet, down the road, that will get tired, too. There are really only a few Mexican and South American teams that would get any sort of attention. Even Estudiantes wouldn't move the needle too much, except for the look on Dema Kovalenko's face as he sees the club that should have been his rightful home all along.

Bringing in national teams would be a nice switch, but the US, for one, was awfully busy this summer. (Besides, they'd probably be booed off the field after Sunday's performance.) Assembling national teams for games that won't even count for caps would be a financial and logistical nightmare. For one thing, I'm not sure we'd let Argentina's coach into the country.

So I've finally come around to agreeing with the pick-up game idea. Fans don't vote for starters - they vote for a player pool. Two top vote-getters are the opposing captains. Or maybe the fans only vote for those two players, and then those two players pick the rest of the squad? ESPN2 could broadcast it live.

"Who coaches?" Wait, we're worried about coaching in an All-Star Game? Let a couple of fans coach. Have a contest or something.

"How would you design uniforms? What would you name the teams?" Um, I dunno. Prima-Donovans against the Guillermo Barros Stilettos. Let them wear their club gear. Or shirts and skins. Why is that an issue?

"So no merchandising?" Well...no, you could still buy their club shirts...with an All-Star patch on them. Or something....

"What if one of the pickup captains gets injured? Would the replacement player pick an all-new team?"

....look, SCREW YOU, all right? YOU save the All-Star Game, you're so smart.

Tonight's game? Everton, 5-0.