Mid Summer Nights

It's pretty much unarguable that the game best suited to the (more or less) uniquely American "All Star Game" construct is baseball.

Virtually everything in that game, with the exception of some defensive technicalities (and even most of those are universal) is done individually: one guy pitches the ball, another guy tries to hit it, a third guy tries to catch it. You could drop in a third baseman from Mars (come to think of it, didn't the Orioles try that once?) and it wouldn't matter a lick when he's striding to the plate juiced to the eyeballs with HGH carrying a hunk of wood stuffed with cork. At that moment, nobody in the building matters besides him and the guy with the beer gut standing on the mound loading up the ball with KY jelly.

Conversely, American football is undoubtedly the sport that fares the worst in the ASG format, for two reasons: first, of course, it's the most interdependent game imaginable. You and 11 other guys have to be on exactly the same page every single play. The reliance on your teammates is the basic appeal of the game.

Secondly, football (or "pointyball" as some BS snobs would have it) is, at it's core, about physical violence. You can't take a bunch of random players, many of whom haven't lifted anything heavier than a cocktail in well over a month, fly them and their families to Hawaii where they all hang around the same hotel pool and the same luaus on the beach for a few days and then expect them to go rip each other's throats out in a game that nobody gives a crap about.

Association football falls someplace in the middle. Certainly familiarity with your teammates is a vital part of the game, but at it's base that space behind the defense, for example is, well, a space behind the defense. If it's there, a competent professional hitter knows he's supposed to head for it and show for the ball, and a competent professional midfielder is supposed to recognize the run for what it is and release the ball. The timing is usually a tick or two slower than it might be otherwise, but it looks a lot like soccer nonetheless.

But in soccer, unlike the other sports, there are some real pluses, stuff that, to me, is actually preferable to the game as we normally see it. Primary among them is that you get to watch an entire game without having to witness some guy who was entirely untouched go to ground like a bag of hammers, cover his face with his hands, roll over four times and shriek like his leg just got torn off.

Or the phantom foul-and-dive that ends up being an entirely unfair, undeserved, game-changing PK. (Speaking of which, did you see Christiano Ronaldo's "Hello to Spain" inaugural box dive? It's such a tragedy that a guy with all of his talent feels the need to be a dirty, lying cheater. Sad.)

And while I've never been a big fan of the current MLS ASG format (Everton? Isn't that just a little embarrassing?) in an odd sort of way each teams' respective disadvantages more or less seem to even out. The visitor isn't really in full-season physical condition and is still working out the kinks and shaking off the rust half a world from home while the MLS side got together for the first time just two days previous and are basically spending these few days hanging around the hotel bar swapping lies and propositioning barmaids.

All in all, it's a pleasant enough diversion I guess, although with the MLS schedule packed so tightly, and with rosters so short, and with so many guys - Beckerman, Marshall, Holden - who haven't seen their club team in what seems like months, I'd rather see them just hold a banquet and hand out plaques. Or better still, give them a few days off.

Speaking of Holden, he's spent the summer proving that he's not really ready for prime time. He had some brilliant games with the US where he's looked like the Second Coming, but the last couple of times we've seen him he's simply been bone-in awful. And it's not just that he's made some mistakes, it's that that's all he seems to do. He's immensely talented but someone needs to start worrying about burning the kid out.

Someday before I die, I want just one interviewer, sitting there while Don Garber babbles on about how the key to MLS's success (?) has been their unshakable commitment to "slow and steady growth" (last night he even referred to "baby steps"), smile back at Mr. Slick and say "But Don, can you honestly say that averaging more than one expansion team per year for an entire decade qualifies as "slow" growth"? I mean sure, when you're talking salary cap with the Players Union you expect them to swallow your "we've got to crawl before we can run" routine, but then you hop on a plane and go see if Joey Saputo is ready to cough up that $40 million yet."

Great looking crowd in Rio Tinto last night, and that venue looks terrific even on TV. It's not just the in-stadium atmosphere that benefits from the right venues; the TV experience is enhanced as well. More please. (Can you imagine that place in DC? Wow.) Apparently Salt lake City really got turned on over the whole thing and it showed.

Wonderful interview with one of the league's All Time nicest people, Andy Williams. The support that he and his family have gotten from the team, the league and the fans throughout this terrible ordeal demonstrate better than anything that the league PR gerbils concoct, all the things that are right about MLS.