There hasn't been an official follow-up to Steven Goff's oft-plagiarized report that Eddie Johnson will have to retire from soccer, but at this point, it's doubtful that Johnson is going to win his third MLS Comeback Player of the Year award. So now might be a grand time to revisit our reaction to Eddie's infamous "Pay me!" goal celebration back when he played for Seattle.
If you already aren't thinking of revising your opinion of said celebration, let this little update from Goff help clarify:
[UPDATE: Two sources say the league discontinued paying Johnson in the last pay cycle.]
Athletes have a shorter career than most, of course. It's doubtful Johnson was thinking about that, or contemplating his mortality, or even thinking of his heart ailment (since we have no idea when it was diagnosed). Consensus opinion at the time was that Eddie considered himself a valuable and worthwhile player, and wanted to be paid as such.
Heartless hacks at the time said very cruel things about how Eddie Johnson was prone to following up fantastic seasons with a year or two of mediocrity. I, uh, don't remember what I said at the time, and oops, I've just sprained my finger so I can't look it up. What I obviously wish I had said was, "Go, Eddie! Get paid. Life is short, and an athlete's life is even shorter. Plus, the MLS Players Union is going to slam its face in a car door before the 2015 season when it comes to the CBA, so you'd better go out swinging."
So here we are, a little over 18 months later. Eddie Johnson's on-field earnings are either nearly over, over, or have been over since the last time MLS cut checks. Now is probably an above-average time to recall that literally every single player we cheer for faces this sooner or later, and with the very rare exception of your occasional Landon, always sooner than the player wants. These days, we're accustomed to thinking of even barely-passable pro athletes making enough for some sort of nest egg. But Eddie Johnson was an extremely well-paid MLS star, which gave him less earning potential than a Padres long reliever.
Well, I've learned my lesson. We as fans need to give players permission to be greedy. Farewell, Eddie Johnson. And good luck in your legal action against MLS, if what Goff reported is true.
One of the places we won't be seeing Eddie Johnson is in the US Soccer Hall of Fame.
Sorry, too soon? Well, at some point we'll have a conversation whether Johnson, Mathis, or a player to be named later was the biggest disappointment relative to hype in our soccer history.
Okay, okay, still too soon. Look, he's not dead or anything. Didn't we learn anything from Landon's farewell? They're leaving their jobs, but they weren't shot down over the Sea of Japan.
Anyway. My pal Joe Leyba took the Hall of Fame voting pretty hard:
It's less about if a player deserves to be in the Hall of Fame but how they rank against others on the list. How do you explain that players like Tiffeny Milbrett, Briana Scurry and Kate Sobrero Markgraf didn't make the cut. Milbrett appeared for the USWNT 204 times and is in the top five all-time for two offensive categories and won an Olympic gold medal in 1996. Scurry appeared in goal 173 times from 1994-2008 while Markgraf appeared for the U.S. 201 times from 1998-2010. All won the 1999 World Cup.
He's right about the women he mentioned. I wasn't surprised that no women made the list, because the voting pool has traditionally resisted women unless they were superduperstars.
But I was startled beyond words that Frankie Hejduk, the candidate on the list with by far the best national team credentials for a field player, was not voted in.
Without voting totals, it's hard to see where the system is failing. It's hard to fault the criteria, which are, to my myopic eyes, the best available to honor players among three separate sports (men's soccer, women's soccer, indoor soccer) in two competitions (club and country). I've been tiresome about the best way to do this, but the best way NOT to do it is to sit there and try to compare Scurry, Moreno and Hejduk. Look at each player's importance to their own separate sphere, and judge whether their contribution should be enshrined for posterity. With ten spaces on the ballot, after all, you shouldn't have to make an agonizing decision between Scurry, Moreno and Hejduk.
Steven Goff was given the 2015 voting totals, because he's the only reporter in the world or something. I've asked for last year's totals - the year McBride and Lilly were voted in - and, because I'm a lowlife blogger, I'm not holding my breath.
We do know one thing - unless the totals Goff was given are complete science fiction, there were 96 ballots returned this year. That's down from 102 voters in 2012, the last time before this year the Hall (or persons responsible for the Hall) gave out voting totals.
Here's what I think is going on. The Hall, or the USSF, hasn't had time to review and expand its voting pool, so we're getting some attrition. And, despite my best efforts, there are far more Small Hall voters than Great Hall voters. I think what's wrong with the Hall is fewer voters with tougher standards.
Which isn't a problem, unless those tougher standards are being unfairly applied to women and foreigners. I think we have a pretty clear case that foreign players in MLS have been passed over - in stark, glaring contrast to how foreign players were treated when they played for the original NASL. In 2003, Carlos Alberto, Paul Child, Karl-Heinz Granitza, Bob Lenarduzzi, Ace Ntsoelengoe, Allen Willey and Bruce Wilson were all inducted from NASL days (along with American Arnie Mausser). In 2005, early to mid-20th century players Tommy Fleming, Alex McNab, John Nelson, and Fabri Salcedo (along with brief US national teamer Werner Nilsen and a bunch of more recent guys) were honored posthumously. Those were the last player inductees without significant US national team experience.
Well, depending on if you count Jeff Agoos and Preki.
As far as the women - Scurry nearly made it this time around. Whether she gained or lost support will be interesting to find out, assuming we ever do. Scurry was badly outshined by her teammates, and suffers from the probably correct perception that a cardboard cutout could have won 80% of the games playing goal for the 90's women. However, Scurry was also the best women's goalkeeper in the nation - and probably the world - for well over ten years, so it's sort of unfair to penalize her for the quality of players in front of her. It wasn't like the Golden Generation had a rotating squad of keepers.
Milbrett was a controversial figure who quit the national team after the death of Clive Charles, which cut down on her statistics and might have left a bitter taste to some voters. She clocked in at 57% this time, but her contemporary Shannon MacMillan was anchored at around 50% her entire time on the ballot, so I don't know exactly where those extra voters are going to come from for her.
If it turns out that Kristine Lilly had been elected by acclamation - in other words, at least at Keller's percentage - then probably nothing is too terribly wrong with how the voters are approaching the women. Scurry and Milbrett outpolled Hejduk, after all. But if Lilly had been elected with something like 75%, then we might have an issue with the voters. We don't know.
So, yes, the voting system for a Hall of Fame without a published voting list, or even a physical presence, leaves something to be desired.
It does seem like the Veterans Committee will correct some of our mistakes - or, depending on your point of view, make entirely new ones.