First as farce, then as tragedy; or, Joe vs. the Volcano

Very similar stories in the lower division soccer world this week - the English version hilarious, the American version much less so.

Let's start with a joke.

Joe Kosich, Dornoch Capital Partners, aka Anglofile. If you're having a bad day, I strongly urge you to Google or Bing or whatever this person, and just spend an afternoon soaking in the comedy. You'll be glad you did. For saner analyses of the whole business, try here and here.

I love stories like this. They perfectly demonstrate Ockham's Joybuzzer, where the most likely explanation is usually the silliest.

My favorite part was where a BigSoccer blog was going to be the Means To Revenge. Because soccer blogs are the way to convince anyone of anything. Soccer fans aren't just Monty Python sketch-style knee-jerk contrarians - they put a lot of thought and effort into it. If I were to make a post called "Kittens Are Cute," I could comfortably expect within half an hour to see a comment thread with fifteen recipes for catmeat asada.

There are a couple of larger issues here, though, besides comedy. Let's recall Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski's "Why England Will Lose To the United States This Summer," known in this country as "Soccernomnomnomics," whose Chapter 4 was called "The Worst Business In the World: Why Soccer Clubs Don't (and Shouldn't) Make Money." The premise of that chapter was that soccer was a bad business, and that soccer clubs don't make money. (Sorry. Failed my Save Against Paraphrase roll.)

God knows I didn't love everything about Soccernomics, but it's hard to argue with that mission statement for lower division sports. The entertainment means much more than the money. (Kinda like Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine springing for real horn sections instead of using synthesizers.)

Let's also once again ponder the alarming remarks that Lord Mawhinney (the most insightful man with the most hilarious name since Douglas Adams' Slartibartfast) made on his way out of the Football League's office.

No wonder sports, and English soccer in particular, attracts cads and blackguards. The devotion of its customers and the strength of its brands is all out of proportion to how much money they make, or are likely to.

I have an economic theory of my own regarding soccer - there's a line above which a club is so beloved that it simply will not disappear. I think of this as the Fiorentina Viola line, but I'm prepared to revise it to the Portsmouth line, or the Leeds United line, or the Luton Town line, or whenever we find the very lowest point a formerly strong club can dip to before returning. Think about AFC Wimbledon. What was/is Wimbledon - London's five hundredth favorite football team, which didn't/doesn't play in Wimbledon any more than the Kaizer Chiefs play in Atlanta. Still not convinced? There's an Accrington Stanley again. It's very hard to destroy a football club.

In England.

And thus the difference between lower division fans in England and here in the colonies. It takes a thin skin indeed for fans to put up with relegation and such, but very, very few fans of England's hundred or so professional teams will see their teams disappear.

It's a different story here. The sad truth is that a passel of mountebanks like Dornoch and Club 9 could easily have gained control of an American club. This week, the St. Louis teams seemingly entered into a murder-suicide pact, and seem poised to join the Austin Posse, the Edmonton Aviators and Yan Skwara's San Diego Flash on the Mount Rushmore of North American soccer trainwrecks. (And we still have to leave a spot for FC New York!)

The big picture here is, English soccer fans are generally happier and more secure than their American counterparts. No American sports club is safe. The Accrington Stanley Line in England becomes the Cleveland Browns line. Sure, you can have your team back - seeing as how you sold out every damn game for thirty-five freaking years - but you'll have to wait a few years. And that's the good option - there may not be any Los Angeles Rams fans still alive, at this point.

If life is that potentially unstable in the financial ozone that most English clubs would cheerfully rape, murder and jaywalk to attain, then it's never surprising when lower division American soccer teams have the life expectancy of a mayfly orgasm.

In fairness, it's gotten much better in first division American soccer, where you really have to Horowitz it up in order to lose a team.

In the meantime, though, let's hope St. Louis soccer fans have something to cheer for, and let's also hope NASL2 doesn't end up sterilizing another six or seven sets of fanbases on its way to Boot Hill.