Dispatch From the Wilderness

Since I haven't posted here for a few days, I figure by now that the faithful mavens of BigSoccer can be separated into three basic groups:

a) Guys who have been up most of the night pacing the floor saying "Why? Why? WHY hasn't Archer posted to the blog?" and generally suffering the same symptoms as someone in the middle of crack rehab.

b) Guys who are out there saying "Finally, they've come to their senses and dumped that arrogant, bigoted bag of pus, and it's safe to log on to the Front Page without having to worry about blowing lunch.

c) Guys whose reaction to this post is "Who the hell is this guy?"

There's a surprising amount of disagreement among bloggers - big and small, professional and amateur, polished and functionally illiterate alike - about how much personal blather to interject into blog posts.

Some guys always want to give us the minute details of their frighteningly boring existence ("Since it was my Uncle Frank's birthday we all headed down to the Western Sizzlin' over by the interstate, where I had four helpings of Heart Attack on a Plate but as usual Aunt Mildred had run out of Deal-A-Meal cards around 10 AM and so she just stuck to the salad bar") and guys who post every day from the jail cell they share with Sirhan Sirhan and they never mention it.

Anyway, for anyone who for some inexplicable reason should happen to care where I am at the moment I'll leave the answer at the end of the post.

Suffice it to say that in my limited ability to receive information from the civilized world at the moment I'm surely missing some great stuff, although I did manage to find the result of the Crew's CCL match against Puerto Rico, about which I was able to discern two things:

First, Columbus is taking it very seriously. For evidence one need look no further than the fact that Barros-Schelotto started the game for the first time in almost two months that night.

Second, Puerto Rico had so little confidence in their vaunted MLS-killing powers that they started stalling during the national anthem. For evidence one need look no further than the fact that PRI GK Wild Bill Gaudette got called for delaying the game on a goal kick. In the 29th minute.

My only question is: just where was this referee last week when Ochoa was taking a full 48 seconds to test the soil quality of the Azteca as the clock was ticking down?

As long as I've mentioned Mexico, while the whole ugly affair has been hashed, re-hashed and served up cold as a stone for too long already, reading Dan's excellent post from yesterday reminded me of a simple truth:

If fans from Mexico were subjected to that kind of abuse in Columbus Ohio, and a couple hundred fully-equipped riot police had to protect their lives and hotel clerks were chaining the lobby doors behind them and they were drenched in every conceivable variety of bodily fluids and the Mexican national anthem was drowned out by jeering and booing, it would be a national scandal.

Every news magazine, every network and every sports talking head would still be loudly bemoaning and condemning the intolerable, animalistic, racist behavior of American soccer fans and Congress would have, by now, launched no fewer than a dozen full-scale investigations into this "black day in American history" and severe steps would be taken to ensure that it never happened again.

In Mexico they consider it something to be proud of, the fan's contribution to the national team's glorious victory. They would do it again tomorrow.

Given the choice, I'd much rather be part of the country that had the first reaction than the country that is so pleased about it all.

Just saying.

The other item that really caught my attention was the news that San Jose owner Lew Wolff is finally admitting the obvious: that barring some kind of divine intervention there's not going to be a stadium there anytime in the foreseeable future.

Shockingly, he admits he figured going in that all he needed to do was open up a ticket window and the lines would immediately wrap around the building and down the street for a few blocks as soccer-mad Quakes fans, grateful for the return of MLS, would be selling their children and taking second jobs so they could scoop up season tickets.

Excuse me, Lew, but exactly what planet did you come from again? Did you pay any attention at all to AEG's problems there and consider for a moment the reasons why they finally gave up and left?

Here's a hint: it wasn't because they were making so much money they were having trouble finding enough armored cars to lug it all to the bank in.

AEG moved the best team in the league to Texas because they couldn't sell tickets and there was no prospect whatsoever of getting a stadium built.

Ring a bell?

Now I'm not one of those guys who blames Don Garber and the league for every damn thing but this whole deal was a colossal mistake from the beginning.

Garber has a real thing for "successful sports entrepreneurs" and just loves being able to snag them for his little company.

He was thrilled beyond measure when he got Dave Checketts to sign on in Salt Lake. They didn't have a stadium and they didn't have any prospect of getting one but Don put his faith - and his credibility - on the line, convinced that somehow, some way, Dave would deliver.

And indeed he did, after a good deal of teeth-gnashing, recrimination and threats. Checketts plays for keeps and Garber's roll of the dice came up looking like a stroke of genius.

Conversely, Don took Wolff's word at face value and couldn't hand him a team fast enough. Big money MLB owner and sponsor of supergenius Billy Beane, who had become fascinated with soccer and got Wolff to buy in to MLS so that he could use his ultrasophisticated player/value voodoo on American soccer.

What could go wrong?

But Wolff had no luck with the local pols in getting them to build him a soccer palace. Among other things, the fact that the league had already abandoned the place did not fill anyone with confidence that this was a strong stable outfit that they could safely plunk down severely limited taxpayer dollars on, secure in the knowledge that they weren't just building the next great flea market.

Secondly, the fans didn't belly up. Wolff tossed marketing dollars around like manhole covers, convinced beyond reason that he was sitting on a gold mine of soccer passion, which may or may not be true but in any case has yet to show up at the ticket windows.

Third, to put it gently, the team blows. Badly. Wolff can repeat, as he did again yesterday, his unshakable commitment to Doyle and Yallop, but they have failed to deliver a product that is anything beyond seriously embarrassing. Yeah, I like Darren Huckerby too. And he'll certainly enjoy being back with the Canaries next year.

As for the stadium, a year or so ago Wolff shocked everyone - including presumably Don Garber - by announcing that he was "downsizing" his stadium plans into the "bare bones" 15,000 seat range with the kind of amenities even Joey Saputo would laugh at.

That wasn't exactly what the league envisioned. Checketts built the Taj Majal of American soccer, while Wolff is trying to build that place the Clampetts used to live in before Jed shot at some food and struck Texas Tea.

And now he's saying that he won't even do that much until he can find someone stupid enough to plunk down $15 million for the naming rights to his upholstered Porta-Pottie.

So now the league finds itself in exactly the position they swore up and down they would not allow: a team playing in a small, inconvenient, third rate craphole facility with absolutely zero hope of getting anything better built, at least anytime soon and maybe forever.

And Don has no one to blame but himself: he broke his own "no building no team" rule and now he's got a big, big problem.

Bottom line, it's time for MLS to give up on San Jose and move on. I'm sorry, but sometimes things just don't work out and in SJ nothing whatsoever has worked out, and Wolff is now admitting that, barring a miracle of some kind, it's simply not going to.

Give the thing to St. louis. At the least they'd have a building and sell tickets and all of that. Yes, they're having some trouble coming up with the kind of heavyweight who can write a cash call check once a year and file it under "minor annoyances" but at this point that looks preferable to the disaster by the Bay.

Finally, as promised, here's the WILDLY NSFW deal on my current location:

[ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7yfISlGLNU"]YouTube - I'm On A Boat (ft. T-Pain) - Album Version[/ame]