MLS, TV Money and Clueless in New Jersey

Major League Soccer has reportedly reached a media rights agreement which will carry the league past the 2022 World Cup. An anonymous league source told BigSoccer over the weekend that the deal, which includes both Fox Sports and ESPN, will pay $75 million a year for eight years, which is more than twice what MLS will receive from the last year of the NBC deal in 2014.

According to Commissioner Don Garber, by the time this deal is done MLS will be the fifth best league in the world.

It's possible that the agreement, which will reportedly include the rights to US Men's National team matches and the increasingly important digital rights, will be announced at the Superdraft in Philadelphia on Thursday.

Unfortunately for the stockholders of the two broadcasters, they neglected to consult with noted soccer expert Sean Miller of nj.com before they wasted all that money.

Miller's recent piece of drivel should have been tossed off a bridge during a five hour traffic jam but instead found its way to the interwebs where innocent people were exposed to the brain-cell-destroying level of stupidity contained within.

Miller begins with the tiresome, pedestrian and by-now thoroughly explored "Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley are destroying their careers by playing in MLS" meme, treating it as if it was received wisdom.

Fair enough. He's more than permitted to have his own opinion even if a hundred BigSoccer posters have made the same case better and more convincingly.

(As an aside, I'd just like to point out that this is not a reflection on nj.com, whose stable of writers includes the great Frank Giase of the Star-Ledger, one of the best - if not indeed THE best - American soccer writers and someone whose insight, writing skills and professionalism I greatly admire. His piece last week on Eusebio is an excellent example of his work.)

One would point out to Miller that these are professional soccer players who have a limited career window in which to make the money which will carry them until they're old and gray and boring their grandchildren at family gatherings with tales of their exploits on the pitch back in the day.

One would love to ask Miller whether he'd turn down the opportunity to quadruple his salary in order to stay at NJ.com and the Nutley Weekly Pennysaver and thus retain his chance at a Pulitzer prize, or whether he'd rather drive a nice car and have a place at the beach.

But no matter. His main posit is certainly debatable and reasonable men can disagree. The biggest problem comes when he uses a logical fallacy called an argumentum ab auctoritate (argument from authority) to try and prove that MLS is, in fact, a pile of crap.

I quote:

My very good friend Emmet Austin, who played football where I went to college, Columbia University, before heading over to England to play with West Ham United and a few teams in League Two and the Football Conference, compares MLS matches to Conference North matches in England. That is the sixth tier, around 130 places in the standings lower than Premier League leaders Arsenal.

(I'm willing to bet that no one at Columbia called it "football" at the time. That's a much more recent conceit amongst the poseur class.)

Using the opinion of his "very good friend" he boldly concludes that

If anyone thinks that two-and-a-half months of practice, followed by matches against the equivalent of English sixth-division football will help the American midfielder prepare to go up against Marco Reus, Mesut Ozil, Joao Moutinho, or any of the other players Bradley will have to shut down this summer, then we are most definitely on different wave-lengths.

To say the least, Sean. To say the least.

Now it is not my intention to denigrate the soccer prowess of his expert, Mr. Austin, who lettered at Columbia in 1991, 92 and 94. I'm sure he was a monster talent.

And fortunately most of us long since outgrew the impulse to reflexively respond to every stupid thing someone says about MLS. Screw you too.

Oddly though, in four years of college Miller's expert never even made Ivy League Honorable mention yet somehow he ended up in the English First Division. Astonishing.

Now I'm willing to bet that you were one of the people who believed that John Harkes was the first American to play in the Premiership. Apparently that's all rubbish; it was really the immortal Emmet Austin. Someone call the Hall of Fame.

I don't want to be the one to have to tell Harksie about this. He'll be very disappointed.

Strangely, a kind media relations person at West Ham says they have no record of him playing there, but no matter. It's certainly possible that their record keeping is on a par with their competence on the pitch.

Who can say. If not, well, Austin would not be the first guy who has "enhanced", shall we say, their athletic resume as the years progressed. Let he who is without sin take the first throw in.

Neither would I deign to suggest that (possibly) suiting up a few times in the Football Conference in 1995 disqualifies you from being allowed an opinion on the state of play in MLS in 2014.

Free country.

I could also note that, based on his credentials, MLS wouldn't have given him the time of day in 1996, yet he supposedly "played for West Ham" around that time.

I will only say that, in my humble never-kicked-a-ball-on-British-soil opinion, to say that MLS is "on a par with Conference North" demonstrates either a complete lack of awareness of Conference North or a total ignorance of MLS.

Or both.

Now perhaps Conference North was much much more challenging in 1995 - and one doubts if he has seen a single match at that level in almost 20 years - but frankly that kind of opinion is just, well, the word stupid comes to mind.

If you want to argue the relative merits of the league, great. I'd only suggest that you find some way to make your case besides the broken dreams of someone who took the tour bus through the Midlands once.

Maybe Cohiba Don is right and MLS will indeed be "the fifth best league in the world" by the time Qatar 2022 gets done killing players and fans. It's certainly possible.

If you want to argue the case, that's fine too. Until the top four teams in MLS get transferred to play a season in the EPL, it's all speculation anyway.

Dempsey and Bradley have the right to earn a living. The Commissioner has the right to predict a golden future.

And, sadly, ignorant clowns have the right to say utterly brain dead things.

Once again I apologize for the comments section being closed. Nobody knows what happened. Perhaps Erick Simpson has powers beyond our ken. Who can say. The wizards down the hall here at BigSoccer World Headquarters are working feverishly to correct the problem.