I never thought I would live to see the day when an MLS jersey was reviled for its blandness, but here we are. We need to break out our 1996 jerseys and teach these Versace-come-latelies what a real corneal assault looks like.
I'm a sucker for public transportation-related team motifs, though. New York hasn't had any since the Metrostars ditched the taxicabs, and I think there's a rich vein of imagery to be mined. I don't know which would be a more adorable mascot - Turnstile-Jumpin' Tim; Buskin' Bob; Frank, the grizzled conductor who would walk around the stands ignoring everyone and everything; or Bernhard Goetz Goals, the Soccer Vigilante. (Too soon?)
I think most of the resistance to the sky blue shirt comes from those who haven't gotten the smell of the poorly-embalmed corpse of Chivas USA out of their nostrils. Warm on the heels of a physical successor to Vergara's Folly completely failing to live up to the Los Angeles soccer stadium speculation comes what looks like a spiritual successor in...well, we don't know quite which borough yet, do we.
So I can see why people are uncomfortable with the parallels. But I think people are overreacting, for the following reasons.
Unless NYCFC ends up sharing Red Bull Arena, there will be enough geographic separation between City and Bull that the teams won't necessarily cannibalize each other. The teams will, after all, be selling the same product, if differently wrapped. There might well be enough fans who found Harrison to inconvenient that will end up passionately supporting City...well, let's put this more realistically. There might be more people who are willing to give a city team a chance they would not give a Jersey team, and then City will have a chance to win their love. If someone wasn't supporting the Galaxy because Carson was too much of a drive, well, Chivas USA offered them nothing.
Even if NYCFC ends up playing somewhere cripplingly remote like, Jesus, I don't know, Hofstra or something, at least the parent brand won't end up being the millstone that Chivas de Guadalajara was. For our younger readers, Guadalajara used to be a team that won all the time and had literally millions of fans, before Vergara got a hold of the team. The all-Mexican gimmick helped marketing a great deal, and looked great on paper as a means to sell nostalgia to homesick transplants and their children. Except Chivas USA had to hire non-Mexicans. Federal law is a big buzzkill, as Chuck Blazer might tell you.
If Manchester City had built their brand on only fielding English players - well, they'd be in the Conference, probably, but they'd also have a reserve of fans who only want to watch English players, making the attraction of an MLS team pointless. Manchester City fans in New York might be nouveau bandwagoners, or they might actually be true-blue fans whose life choices have taken them far from the club of their love and life - but they are willing to watch players from outside England, in theory.
I also reject the theory that fans of English teams that aren't Manchester City will reflexively hate the team based on their ugly, stupid light blue color. This may be part of the reason the new uniform from the fashion line of Search and Replace was received so poorly. But are there really that many (a) English fans (b) in New York City (c) who are open to MLS but (d) hate Manchester City so much they won't? For the kind of fan who takes such things that seriously, MLS is the brand problem, not Manchester City.
And that's a problem that's comparatively easily solved. Claudio Reyna, the former US Citizen, would have been the perfect DP for the occasion, but at least he's around to spread the gospel. (To the undoubted thrill of the team that he actually was a DP for.) I think they will spend the money to build a decent MLS team.
Ah...but what ARE the priorities here? Vergara could not spend too much on Chivas Carson and neglect Guadalajara, because otherwise his fans would rise up in revolt. Similarly, Manchester City, given a choice to put Aguero or Kompany in New York and Manchester, will choose Manchester every time. Whether that applies to a Lampard...well, we shall see.
Sure, but - okay, real talk here. A competitive MLS team that is worth watching isn't that expensive yet. And the upcoming CBA isn't likely to change that. This is where federal law helps for a change. Manchester City can only put a finite number of non-EU players on the roster. If City is able to find good young players in South America or Africa or - well, not Australia - and give them playing time in MLS, that's a good thing. Check your local roster, it's a good thing you already have in MLS. Manchester City shouldn't hinder NYCFC any more than Arsenal is holding back the Colorado Rapids.
Not that the Rapids are in great shape, but it's not because Arsenal is siphoning off their best players, is it?
So what do we take away from a hategasm over a blue shirt? Have Duke and USC poisoned the discourse against sky blue that much?
I would tentatively argue that the reaction is a good sign. It's nearest parallel was the blow-up of Portland Timbers fans over the original MLS logo. The Paulson trust ended up tweaking it in ways that were barely liminal. The Timbers are now hugely popular.
An oversensitive, hyper-critical, demanding chorus of kibitzers is, well, good. Indifference is the enemy. The original MLS teams released ten uniforms that Colin Baker's Doctor would have winced at, and the nation studiously ignored them. NYCFC releases a soccer uniform, and we're re-living the Draft Riots.
Keep in mind, this negative publicity lasts until the road jersey is released. It probably won't look like what Manchester City wears - well, NOW it won't. (It probably won't be red, either, but who knows?) It will be well received, fans who hate Manchester City but want to support NYCFC will buy that instead, and everyone will live happily ever after. I wish all MLS teams had these problems.
...what ABOUT Keith Olbermann's reaction? You're an MLS fan, and you've decided NOW he's going to influence your opinion? C'mon.