The last time Don Garber sounded so satisfied in an interview, it was when the nation's sports commissioners were hauled before Congress to mealymouth about steroids. Garber told anyone who would listen how clean MLS was. (This was before Abel Xavier was signed, and before Conway and Parke were caught...but the embarrassment factor of Conway and Parke can be measured in the microangstroms compared to, say, Manny Ramirez or Roger Clemens.)
Garber's status as a deadpan P.T. Barnum is highly underrated. I'm just glad he's using his powers for good (or, depending on how you feel about MLS, not that much evil). He's still the face of a league that, day in and day out, relies on Phil Anschutz not waking up one day and saying, "You know what, I'm over this whole soccer thing."
And he's going to tell Real Madrid how to chew cheese. Check this out:
The nectarines on this guy!
This is carrier-class trolling, as we all know from our message boards. I could listen to G-14 teams being lectured on "sophistication" and "passion" all week. And all this coming mere weeks after MLS teams spent the summer mooching off Real Madrid, Barcelona and AC Milan.
Anyway, the real story of Garber's interview is his reaction to the groundswell of fans nationwide rising up as one and demanding higher wages for better players, inaugurating a new Golden Age of American Soccer. How does Garber feel about such a plan?
Well, okay, no, that was Ron Artest, a couple of days later on a different topic. But read between the lines on this, and tell me if Garber thinks otherwise:
Wow, two totally random American sports logos out of nowhere. Hope that doesn't keep happening.
No, the real F.U. comes when Garber specifically brings up That 70's Team.
To say the least, these assertions are not generally accepted. Cf., every NASL discussion since October 1995.
I believe that while the Cosmos weren't a failure, the many teams that tried to be the Cosmos absolutely were. The Los Angeles Aztecs are remembered far too fondly, as are the Philadelphia Fury and the Detroit Express and all the Cosmos wannabes. The Aztecs signed Best and Cruyff to a team that drew about as well as Crewe Alexandra.
Now, that doesn't mean that HAS to happen. Let's say Red builds an igloo mansion and starts driving around in a gold-plated dogsled, or the Green family struts around in diamond-studded Birkenstocks and buys satin sheets for their spotted owls. That doesn't mean that the other MLS teams HAVE to run themselves into the ground. To paraphrase the late, great Ted Knight, the world needs ditch diggers, too.
Except....no one's gonna pay money to watch Danny Noonan dig a ditch. And since it's a good question whether people will pay to watch a successful soccer team, it's completely understandable if it's taken for granted that people won't go watch a bad one. The Pittsburgh Pirates have over a hundred years of tradition to act as a heat shield for their incompetence. The Kansas City Wizards...not so much.
I've giggled enough at Garber trolling the world, now let me quote the part I agree with.
It's not necessarily a given that spending money is a guarantee of success.
The Minnesota Twins made the playoffs this year. But spending money sure is a good indicator. Five of the other seven baseball playoff teams have salaries over $100 million...and it took an extra game to put the Twins there instead of a sixth. (And it ain't like the Cardinals or Rockies are poor teams, either.)
Even if it's not a 1:1 correlation between spending and success (and in MLS, it's not close to that), you still can't afford to tell MLS fans that their team isn't in a position to compete.
Now, maybe tomorrow morning Phil Anschutz wakes up and says, "You know what - the CONCACAF Champions League matters after all. Let's Manchester City those chumps," and then Don Garber will give an interview or two about how MLS can handle Gilded Age football financing after all. That's looking extremely unlikely, though. MLS, for the foreseeable future, is the anti-NASL. If Seattle, Toronto, Vancouver, Philadelphia and Portland wish otherwise, they've got a lot of work to do.
(Do what in other leagues would qualify as the smallest of small markets really want this? Or are they just assuming that Los Angeles and New York will spend foolishly forever? Meh, it's plausible.)