Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Football at its finest

Last year I wrote a piece that served basically only one purpose: To trash MLS. I had several reasons, like how stupid the uniforms and team names are. Yeah, it was catastrophic. After taking some time to reflect on that, I've come to the same conclusion I come to hundreds times during the course of a year: I am an idiot.
The only point I stand by from my previous article is this: teams need their own stadiums. It's smarter for a variety of reasons. First of all, after the cost of building such a venue is paid (and generally this is largely covered by the corporate sponsors who want their names associated with the project), all of the revenue generated can go directly to the club. For teams like the Houston Dynamo who are currently playing stadiums primarily intended for gridiron football (Houston plays at the same site as UH football), that revenue goes to paying to play there. It's like owning a home versus renting. If you're only planning on being around for a few years, renting makes sense, but if you're in it for the long haul, it's smart to consider buying.
The good news here is that several teams that don't already have their own place are already planning or constructing stadiums. Red Bull Park, Real Salt Lake Stadium, and perhaps Poplar Point Stadium are all going to be in the mix in the near future, and the Kansas City Wizards and San Jose Earthquakes have some plans developing. However, the home team (New England) still hasn't made any moves to get the team in its own place. There are a handful of problems with the Revs playing at Gillette Stadium. First of all, it's in Foxboro, which flies with the Patriots because let's face it, people in this region would drive to Vancouver to see a Patriots game. The fan pool that the Revolution have is much smaller, so if they could relocate and be closer to the city, the casual fans in Boston would be much more likely to come to their games. Last year I proposed a move to Nickerson Field, but now I'm not sure that's a great idea. Somerville, however, sounds like an interesting possibility. I was at the final two matches of Superliga, and neither drew 10,000 fans. It's really a shame, too, because they play at a pretty damn high level. Particularly the championship game (New England vs. Houston) was extraordinarily exciting. The fans who take in the game in the general admission area (known as "The Fort") create all the atmosphere, but I can't help but think about how much more daunting it would be to opponents if the games were played in a smaller, more intimate stadium with more fans.
My other arguments, against the uniforms and names and such, are totally absurd. My argument could have been rewritten as the following: MLS should try to imitate the English Premier League in every way. Totally remove the league from its roots.
See? Moronic. The names of American teams in all sports are like this. Kansas City Wizards is a very American sports name (Washington Wizards?), and San Jose Earthquakes, Colorado Rapids, New England Revolution and Chicago Fire (and I'm sure I'm forgetting others) all have names that relate directly to where they are located, which is nice. And as for the uniforms, I don't even know where to begin. They're fine. Really. I just bought a Revs jersey, and I'm glad it doesn't have a huge "Gillette" across the front (though I do maintain that having more of a classic font might work better).
So hopefully the league continues to make more money and attract more big name players. Cuauhtemoc Blanco and David Beckham do just fine for themselves, but very few players in the league, only four by my count (via mlsplayers.org) are making seven figures annually. What's worse is the bottom-feeders of the league who are making less than $20k annually. It's tough to entice top talent when the discrepancy in salaries between leagues is that large. It will also help if the dollar can rebound a bit, but I won't get into that.
Next home game for New England: April 30th against Becks, Landon and the Galaxy. Hopefully I'll be able to make it down to the razor.

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