Training Wheels To Stay On

Do you have any idea - any idea at all - how much I was looking forward to picking scab players for MFLS?

If there's one thing I hate, it's people who say "I told you so" on entirely predictable stuff, especially when the prediction cost nothing. All that tells you is that the writer in question gets so little right as a matter of course that the few things he or she does get right become a very large deal. It's weak, amateurish, and patronizing.

In a related topic - I was right! There wasn't a work stoppage! I was right, I was right, I was right! Everyone, look how smart and pretty I am!

Well, except, I was wrong about one big topic. The brinksmanship paid off handsomely for the players, depending on how big the pay raises are...and whether guys in the small-u union see much of it...but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Mr. Foose sounded like he was talking about the death of a beloved childhood pet each time the Burning Up On Re-Entry Draft came up. As well he might. No one asked the question of what happens to a player who is chosen by a team said player has no desire to play for.

Also, no one asked what happens if...well, okay, scenario with me. Let's say New York would like to bring Dave Van Den Bergh home. DC United has the pick in the re-entry draft ahead of New York, and, just to be dicks - I mean, in a clear case of preventing a division rival from strengthening its squad on the cheap, picks Van Den Bergh. DC offers Dave the chance to play, and all Van Den Bergh would have to pay would be $100 a game. Van Den Bergh tells DC to stick it. Dave's rights are now owned by....?

Under the current non-system, if Kevin Hartman had two suitors, at least the one who wanted him more could have given Kansas City more for him, and presumably the one who wanted him more would have paid him more. I don't see how that would have been possible with a re-entry draft.

I mean, if the re-entry player can tell a team where to get off, that's free agency. So I have to think that the player still goes where he's told and likes it. Or goes to USSF-2. The USSF-2? Whatever we'll call it.

Which, from the point of view of Mr. Foose and the small-u union, is a basket of freshly picked garden dogsh*t. The MLSPU didn't embarrass themselves on Twitter for this crap.

But...well, Mr. Garber tossed around words like "significant," according to my notes. If the players see the kind of dough that the players agree would be significant, then there's no way around it. I was dead wrong.

I didn't think we'd see anything like overarching salary increases, or the increase in roster spots teased by the reference to the new reserve league. The only way the players get anything like that is by playing chicken. Most of us didn't like it. I laughed myself sick at the idea. But lo and behold, they squeezed money out of Major League Stones. I'd say stupid things about Burger King too, if it meant more money.

....that is, if it's these players who see the money. The union might have put a bunch of their current members into the breadline.

It's been pointed out now and again that there are Americans who play in Scandinavia. Some may be doing this for reasons concerning what Ovid, the Roman pioneer of amorous poetry, would call "Norse poon." Most are doing the reverse-Viking for the money, though. If there is more money available for MLS rosters, those guys might becoming home.

If that's the case, the real winners will be USL-NASL fans, who get to see guys who would otherwise be MLS part-timers. The real losers would be the guys who wanted to strike for their rights.

Expansion will ease this pain...briefly. After that, it might be a little awkward.

Which is one of the many reasons it struck me as so insanely short-sighted that Foose and other MLSPUligans would hit the "training wheels" meme so hard. Foose this morning once again tried to sell that his union's aim was to make the league as competitive as possible.

If true, that aim was as bad as William Burroughs. Bill gave the obvious response a week ago - fine, ditch the foreign player restrictions. Paying players doesn't make them better players, it makes them more well-paid. Unless you think this year's Real Madrid could beat the Puskas-di Stefano teams, to pick one example out of kajillions.

Oh, sure, spending more money can get you a better team, Mr. Abramovich. But that money isn't spent on new carpeting or comfy seats, it's spent on replacing the peg-legged beanbags that are currently being booed off the field.

I don't want to say anything I can't unsay - I like MLS. I like the players we have now...well, by and large. The past couple of years following the Galaxy have been like watching The Maury Povich Show and cheering for the guys during paternity tests.

But I don't see how "more competitive" doesn't strongly imply a lot of the guys you and I are cheering for today being replaced by...well, from our point of view, other guys we will cheer for more, because they're better.

It might not even be a simple issue of better players. As has been pointed out by Bill, if the extra money is used on international players, then that weakens the union, since international players have neither the incentive nor the legal protections to indulge in a labor stoppage that lazy Americans can.

The MLSPU asking for a more competitive league always struck me as a classic case of not being careful what you wished for.

Besides, "more competitive" against what? No one gives a rat's ass about the CONCACAF Champions League. There will never be competitive games against UEFA teams.

More competitive against other American sports? More competitive in TV ratings against other leagues? No wonder the owners were ticked off, I doubt they enjoyed being lectured on how to market their product.

Competitiveness wasn't a concern of the union, it was a catchphrase to gull fans, citizen journalists and real journalists who either didn't know better or turned off their brains to lick the all-day sucker. I'd list who I'm thinking of, but it would take a while.

Anyway, if the players did get more significant cash than they had any right to hope for - especially if they got snookered on the re-entry draft, which might well be - then George Cohen's plea, and Don Garber's promise, that the union and league work more closely together to avoid brinksmanship will fall on the deafest of ears. Assuming the players got anything, I don't think they get it without brinksmanship.

Hell, I didn't think they'd get anything with brinksmanship, so Mr. Foose, Mr. Newman and Mr. Pope were smarter than I was.

I shudder at the fallout on Mr. Garber's revelation/assertion/claim that the only two teams in the league that make money are Seattle and Toronto. I didn't actually want to hear that soccer-specific stadiums aren't making money for their builders. I'm a little surprised that Mr. Garber would say such a thing on the day Red Bull Park opened, too. And I'm sure it didn't reassure anyone in DC United land that a new stadium won't guarantee profitability.

Also, why would people like Saputo and Cooper act so hurt at missing the opportunity to lose a lot of money? Of course, the two profitable ones are the two newest, so this might not be the red flag that it seems. Hey, at least expansion teams make money, so make your bid now!

So why are communities building stadiums for moneysucks like the Wizards? Why are new entities buying into them?

One assumption is that some of the teams - looking at you, Galaxy - are using show-biz accounting. Yeah, the Galaxy and the Home Depot Center are separate entities, but how easy would it be for one to make money without the other? And where did all that Beckham money go, anyway? Did Barcelona and Milan take 100% of the gate? What's the deal there?

If I was cynical, I'd say there was some creative math being used for propaganda purposes during the negotiations, and Mr. Garber wasn't willing to tell Mr. Foose "LOL J/K" five minutes after the agreement was signed.

Or only two teams are making money, and the league is in trouble.

Or Tim Leiweke is correct, and every owner is only doing this because they like soccer more than money. Hey, it's a comedy column - gotta end on a joke.