Over the years I've gotten large rations of crap for sticking up for you.
Not that I mind a bit; telling some loon who says that "Garber needs to raise the salary cap" or "Garber needs to give (fill in the city) a team" and suchlike that you don't really own the league personally isn't exactly heavy lifting. More like shooting fish in a barrel.
And when that halfwit in Toronto wrote that article about how you should be replaced because, as "a caretaker" Commissioner you had done absolutely nothing towards growing and progressing MLS, I admit that I didn't ride him like a rented mule out of loyalty to you; it was just fun.
(It got even more comical when he threatened to sue me because "under British Common Law" defamation is "reverse onus", the latter being a word which, with one letter replaced, is a perfect description of the guy, but no matter. And if you're not embarrassed that MajorLeagueSoccerSoccer now has him writing for them sometimes then I'm good with it too.)
In any case, the occasional barb in regards to your personal grooming habits aside, I think we're solid enough that we can be honest with each other and so, in the true spirit of freindship and comeraderie I'd like to respectfully suggest that you man up and stop cowering under the bed.
I'm of course referring to the rash of injuries that is dropping the best players in the league like bags of bricks. The parade of stretchers is not just alarming, it's a disaster.
What everyone ought to be talking about this morning is the superb RedBulls/Galaxy match over the weekend, a game which, tragically, was aired at 11PM Eastern but which was as good a game as MLS has ever held. Everybody there on the seventh floor ought to be so hung over from a weekend of celebrating that they can barely manage to stumble to the break room and grab up some of the free stuff the adidas guy just dropped off.
Instead, you're sitting around waiting for another surgeons' report to tell you how badly crippled a star player from a championship team is, something which is becoming a regular feature of your Monday routine.
And of course everyone else is playing to now-familiar script today as well:
Various officials are telling us that the guy who ripped up a fellow player is a "good guy" who is "very upset" about the incident (although a hat tip is in order to Brian Mullan for the "seeking psychological counseling to deal with his grief" meme; nice touch that).
We're hearing how the perpetrator always plays the game hard, but is "never dirty" and is "popular" among his teammates who are "rallying around" him in his time of trouble.
The injured players' coach finds creative ways to express his outrage without running afoul of the league office and finding himself on the butt end of a bigass fine.
The offenders' coach assures us the guy is sorry about the whole thing and he just sent the assaultee a Candygram.
Meanwhile, fans of the offenders' team saw little out of the ordinary and figure a game or two suspension is the only fair thing. Just a clumsy mistake, nothing more.
Fans of the injured players' team, on the other hand, feel the guy should be dragged out into the street and beaten with shovels and tire irons and then doused with gasoline and set on fire.
Rinse, lather, repeat.
And of course MLS has it's response down pat:
You convene a meeting of the Secret Mole Society, whose members names are so closely guarded that Julian Assange would weep in frustration. They will meet at an undisclosed location and use some unknown criteria and come to a judgement based on who knows what and announce some kind of additional punishment (or not) on Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday although why exactly it took so long - there is after all a limit to both the number of clips of the incident extant and the number of times any idiot can sit and look at them - will not be explained because, well, it's a secret.
The Spanish Inquisition was more transparent than the MLS disciplinary process.
The league will then issue a terse written statement announcing the decision and that will be the end of it. No explanation of how the decision was reached (let alone who made it) will be given. No questions are permitted and, anyway, there's nobody to ask other than the good burghers of MLS Communications Guru Will Kuhns' Media relations shop, none of whom were in the room when the decision was reached.
"Beats hell out of me" would be about all they could say, which isn't particularly enlightening.
Now we all know that the entire process is spelled out, very clearly and in some detail, in the CBA, and with good reasons, like preventing undue outside influence and preventing entrenched interests and hopefully keeping it from becoming someones' personal kangaroo court. We get it.
But it seems to me that one other major benefit is that it insulates the Commissioner from having to say or do something which might piss some people off. You can rightly say that those decisions are out of your hands and then jet off to recruit Massengill as the new Official Douche of MLS, a niche which has been sadly vacant ever since TFC fired Preki last year.
And that leaves aside the fact that would be inconceivable for Roger Goodell or Bud Selig to have their leagues' best players dropping like cordwood and not make some kind of public statement about it. The media wouldn't allow it. Fortunately for you, the soccer media in the US is so gutless that even the biggest and most prominent among them don't have the stones to mention the obvious fact that the head of our confederation is a kleptomaniacal thug.
Now I know that you're a Sports Marketing guy and you see that as your primary role with the league; run around babbling nonsense about your "slow, controlled growth league" (someday I'm going to ask you to name for me one other significant professional league with has added more than ten teams in ten years, but that's another tale), signing up sponsors and meeting with prospective owners and slobbering all over the newest league fan group.
Corporate cheerleading and pimping is an honorable calling, no question.
But somewhere in the dim and distant past I'm betting that you attended a seminar or read a book or heard on talk on something called "leadership". Not group sales, not sponsorship solicitation, not stadium contracts but "leadership".
Because a sports commissioner is supposed to be more than a company flunky and the guy they send to cocktail parties; he's the face of the sport and the guy the fans and the media look to to set the tone.
And to be frank about it, you're being pretty tone deaf at the moment.
The most you have ever said - and this was a while back - was to comment that the league needs to "protect it's stars" better, a statement which is OK in theory but that, as Peter Nowak recently pointed out, ignores the other 700 players in the league who also hope to be able to walk when they're 50.
I know you don't need my advice but I'm just going to go ahead and comment that maybe you should say that the league doesn't want anyones' tendons torn up like so much pulled pork, not just those belonging to the guys with the big salaries.No charge sir; glad to help.
The point being here that you've got to be out front on this, not hiding under your desk while the Secret Mole Society reviews some video. You've got to be "deeply concerned" and "very troubled" and let it get out that you're more than a little pissed off.
Sign up a potato chip company for a few bucks worth of stadium signage and the media releases from your office flow like a river. See the leagues best players - you know, the whole POINT of this soccer league thingie - getting sent to the hospital week after week and the silence is deafening.
Because let's be honest here: you know exactly what the problem is and how to solve it.
MLS is a low paying (we can use the euphemism "salary capped" if it makes you feel better) league and as such can't afford to pay the kind of money that highly skilled players, particularly defenders, make; clean, non-reckless-tackling defenders with actual technique cost more than this league wants to pay right now.
As an example, Michael Parkhurst was the MLS Defender of the Year AND won the leagues' Fair Play award in the SAME YEAR. The best defender in the league played 28 games and was called for only NINE fouls. It wasn't luck, it was skills. And where does he play now?
So OK, we're stuck with low-end defenders too lead footed and/or unskilled to do much besides hack. We all know it's true. Been going on since day one. Ask Brian McBride.
Now it's got to change. Now the leagues' officials need to be told that reckless tackling - all of it, not just the ones that come dangerously close to assault & battery - is to be stopped by whatever means necessary. MLS players need to understand that if they haven't got the skills or the techniques to execute a tackle of the ball then they're going to have to let the guy they can't properly defend go ahead and shoot or else find another line of work because the "trashing the limbs of MLS skill players" jobs are no longer available.
The "OK fine, then I'll just chop him down" technique has to end. Maybe this league had to put up with it once, but if this is truly the era of MLS 2.0 then we just can't afford it any more.
And I don't think it's asking too much for the fans to expect to hear the commissioner stand up and say so.