Posted on February 7, 2014 8:10 am
Anyone who has gazed upon the empty seats at the Carson Cathedral the past couple of years might come to two conclusions. One, Chivas USA is one player away from on-field and box office success, and that player is Bofo Bautista. Two, David Beckham solidified the Galaxy fan base and brought them to a new level of lasting popularity.
Well, anyone who gazed upon the empty seats and was also misinformed on a cosmic scale.
Let me react to the topics of MLS finally coming to Los Angeles and Miami. Sadly, the official podcast of Major League Soccer Soccer has beaten me to these topics, so a lot of this has that not-so-fresh feeling.
I can definitely understand why people are chary of this. The David Beckham Publicity Machine has a long track record of success – for David Beckham. If people think his name is going to magically bring long-term success, I have a youth soccer academy in Carson I’d like to – oh, wait, no, I don’t. Phil Schoen on the MLS podcast called him “ten times the businessman that he was the player,” but this is still the same man who hired, or hired the people who hired, Ruud Gullit to bring sexy football to Los Angeles.
Even if you do buy Beckham as a captain of soccer industry, he will have to bring more than simple celebrity. No one has ever, and no one will ever, buy a ticket to see an owner. Contrary to what you’ve read this week, Beckham is not the most famous person to own a sports franchise – Elton John and Michael Jordan are. Their success was mixed. These big names being bandied about as investors are cute and all, but their staying power is nothing to rely on. Trust me, you can’t rely on the sort of fan who would show up hoping to get a glimpse of Beckham and his friends in a luxury suite. To pick an example not at all at random, the Sounders weren’t built with Drew Carey fans.
Hopefully, Beckham and MLS realize this already. I shudder to think that adults who make a living in soccer do not. If they are relying on Beckham as anything more than a novelty factor, then they might as well call them the Miami Challengers and make the logo into a…
Wait, what am I doing? I cried when that happened. I can’t make a joke about that. That’s inexcusable. I’m better than that. That shouldn’t even be a placeholder joke. As soon as I finish this draft, I’m going to go right back and change that. I should be ashamed that I even considered a joke like that. Despicable, utterly despicable.
However, I did note that Beckham was once again talking about a youth academy. I choose to be optimistic, and hope that he learned from his mistakes in Los Angeles. I also hope that Beckham, or his people, realize that the sort of investment required to make a youth academy work is the same that would make a soccer team work – a time scale of at least a decade.
That’s who I hope will be running this – people who realize exactly how long it takes to make soccer part of a city’s professional sports landscape. And no, not even the Sounders or Timbers are there yet. They’re close, but we need a generation to grow up taking these teams’ existence for granted. Miami, to say the least, is no exception. If anyone comes into the job interview with projections of attendance going up in year two, and up again in year three? Politely thank them for their time and burn their resume.
What’s genuinely reassuring about Beckham’s Miami team is the success of the last one. Phil Schoen’s insight was very useful here, because outsiders like myself would not necessarily have realized that Ft. Lauderdale was such a deal-breaker for Miami fans. But Miami’s attendance went up by about 4,000 fans per game in their final season, probably because they were really good. Schoen also pointed out the changing demographics of Miami since the Fusion folded, and I believe now we have marketers who don’t look at Cubans and think “soccer-loving Latinos.”
Quick aside – Schoen also pointed out that the Fusion’s blue and yellow colors alienated non-Boca Juniors fans of Argentine descent. To which I would like to respond, to any Miami-based fans who shunned the Fusion because of that, grow the hell up. That’s such a silly, childish reason to shun your local that I assume you were just looking for an excuse to stay home anyway. So who the hell needs you? Besides, it was a completely different shade of blue. If you’d rather have no team than one that in a bad light sort of looks like a team in a different hemisphere that you don’t care for, you deserve the Miami Marlins. Overpay for a basketball game and leave early, you crybabies.
I am not including actual former Fusion fans in this, obviously. And since we’re talking about a long-term project to not merely build a team, but a fan base – nay, a full-on soccer culture – you don’t need people like that anyway. Because if you do, you’re kind of screwed already.
Anyway. The Fusion helped prime the pump, and that the national team’s not-infrequent trips to Florida have kept the flame going a little. The built-in rivalry with Orlando City will…well, okay, there was a built-in rivalry with the Mutiny, so maybe that won’t be so important. But if Beckham’s Miami team won’t be standing on the shoulders of giants, there at least was a foundation there that the Fusion did not have. If that doesn’t seem like much, well, it’s more than a prospective Atlanta team would have.
So I believe the new Miami MLS team will succeed – as long as it isn’t simply an excuse for Beckham and his friends to lounge around South Beach. But someone’s going to have to put in the same kind of work that made Kansas City into a soccer town. If that’s Beckham himself, well, I’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Or pleasantly horrified, seeing how well Michael Jordan has done running a basketball team. Yeah, maybe Beckham should just hire someone to work hard.
As for anyone, including Extra Time Radio, who thinks that Stan Kroenke is interested in putting a third MLS team in Los Angeles – you may have either my scorn, my pity, or varying measures of both. Why is Extra Time Radio giving that the time of day, for crying out loud? Why am I hearing this nonsense on the official site, even on the level of a teaser? Can’t they just shout down the hall to see if there’s anything to this? Why are they relying on UK tabloid reports, like dopes?
And why is a radio show on the league’s official website asking our opinions? They’re in a position to know, or should be. At the very least, they owed us a “requests to the Kroenke organization for comment were not returned,” because obviously Stan isn’t going to say “I’m dying to move the Rams” or “This is just to defraud St. Louis taxpayers.”
The question answers itself. The league wouldn’t let David Beckham open a team in Los Angeles, but they’ll do it for Stan Kroenke? What is it about seeing nonsense with a co.uk web address that has the power to cloud minds?
I know, I’ve been told many times that a lot of Major League Soccer Soccer is to cover the void in paid media – there should be columnists and writers and talk show yappers destroying electrons and oxygen on these topics, but there aren’t, so MLS is creating a substitute. And there’s supposed to be a separation…for some reason. But if MLSsoccer.com has an independent media arm separate from the main league, let’s see some cheap shot hit pieces. When we’re endowing Beckham with mystic powers to bring soccer to Miami, remind people that David Beckham the model professional had a boot thrown at him by Sir Alex.
Even if you had no information, you could at least make the nominal effort to point out that if Kroenke has NFL plans for Hollywood Park, that means the Farmers Field plan for downtown LA is, in the words of General Melchett, either very nearly dead or very actually dead. And one may speculate whether, given Kroenke’s close relationship with Phil Anschutz, whether this means that AEG’s distractions with the NFL will be abated or redirected.
Hell, at least start a rumor that Kroenke and Anschutz will trade MLS teams, like the owners of the Rams and Colts did once upon a time, if we’re married to the idea that Kroenke wants an Arsenal branch office in LA.
But the idea that MLS would put a team in Los Angeles to compete with the Galaxy, let alone making it one that copies wholesale the name and colors of a foreign team, is so clearly ridiculous that there is no conceivable way anyone would consider such a thing more than – well, three or four times, tops.
(And don’t get me started on their [EDIT - the Extratime podcast] opinions about “This Land is Your Land,” asking whether artists felt weird singing Woody Guthrie’s lyrics.
Nobody living can ever stop me, As I go walking that freedom highway; Nobody living can ever make me turn back This land was made for you and me.
Yeah, just like “Jingle Bells.” Shameful.)