Toronto FC may not be setting the league on fire out on the pitch but new head coach Aron Winter is creating something of a kerfuffle anyway.
As we all know, it's standard policy in American professional sports to open up the "locker room" - in this case the European "changing room" seems more apt - to anyone with neck plastic of some variety to wander in and annoy the players as they try in various ways to deal with the fact that most of us just aren't all that comfortable being naked in front of strangers.
From time to time a coach will attempt to change this policy - which in truth has never been particularly popular with a lot of players - by locking the doors and providing an alternative venue. Usually, as with the infamous Sam Wyche in Cincinnati, this is in order to preserve at least a modicum of decorum in terms of the fairer sex.
Or, put another way, to eliminate the discomfort of having to wave your johnson around in front of some chick who's not going to reciprocate. I mean, I thought "I'll show you mine if you'll show me yours" was only basic fairness we all learned in kindergarten.
And frankly, while the media guards this sacred privilege as carefully as Hugh Hefner guards his Viagra stash, it has never seemed like that big a deal. Reporters want to mumble a bunch of crap about how "in order to do their jobs" they need to get instant, spur-of-the-moment reactions from some sweat-begrimed jock on the theory that if he's allowed to shower and put some pants on that his thoughts about the game will drastically change. Or something.
So it was something of a surprise to all and sundry when, on opening weekend in Vancouver, new TFC head coach Aron Winter refused to permit "the media" into his locker room.
Now in fairness, as St. Steven of the District observed earlier today, it may have been something that no one ever thought to mention to Winter prior to the arrival at his changing room door of a bunch of guys in cheap and unstylish clothes carrying voice recorders. He may have been taken by surprise and, being unaware of the unique American tradition of full access, did exactly what, in his experience, is always done: shoot them all.
Well, no, actually he just refused to let them in.
It's also possible that it was a topic that he and TFC had extensive conversations about, although that seems unlikely; reportedly, the league was as surprised as anyone else. So either TFC made the decision and kept it to themselves - they apparently didn't even inform the media - or, as seems likely, Winter barred the door on the spur of the moment.
For their part, TFC is doing their best Tammy Wynette and are Standing By Their Man; prior to Saturday's match at BMO the assembled ink-stained wretches were handed this letter:
The gist of it is that, however it all came about, Winter is standing by his guns: the media does not belong in his locker room and so he's not letting them in.
Now as you likely know, this is indeed how they handle things in Europe, a fact which, for a frightening number of you, is all anyone needs to justify Winters' position.
Like having sponsors on the jerseys, it's likely that some of you will figure that our version of the sport will continue to suck until we can do this sot of thing exactly the way they do it in Rotterdam. Millwall and Padua.
Interestingly, MLS seems to be treading a bit lightly at the moment.
Clearly it is well within their prerogative to demand that TFC open up the doors to anyone with media credentials, period. The Reds can hardly refuse, since the bottom line is that the league can quite legally fine the living bejeezus out of them for non compliance with black and white policy, which is exactly what this is.
To their credit - unlike, say, the arrogant d-bags who run USSF like their own private little club (and you wonder why FIFA is the way it is?) - MLS does indeed respond to reasonable inquiries and in this case they say that they're "working with the club" on this issue which I think says a good deal all by itself since, again, they could be saying "those donut-sucking bastards; we'll show THEM who's boss. Their players will show everyone the goodies like everybody else, shrinkage be damned or MLSE will be writing checks the size of Publishers' Clearing House prizes by sundown".
Now I'm not going to get into a bunch of snark about why WNBA and WPS locker rooms are closed to good, honest, hardworking heterosexual boobie fans like me partly because it's too cheap and easy, partly because I have no Earthly desire to make young ladies uncomfortable - I did plenty of that back in the day, although in a different context - and partly because Andrea Canales' cheap, unprofessional theatrics a few years ago convinced me that the players' room ought to be for the players and not for anybody and everybody who can sweet talk a team media rep into some neck plastic.
So color yourself surprised if you want, but I'm in Winters' corner here.
What's more, if TFC is allowed to continue to bar reporters from their private team areas, I'm willing to bet that you'll need a really state of the art atomic clock to measure the nanoseconds before the other league teams follow suit.
Hear, hear. Let's show the continent how it ought to be done.