MLS shows no respect for its elders in Kansas City
Posted: Tuesday July 20, 2004 8:46PM; Updated: Tuesday July 20, 2004 9:05PM
Kansas City Wizards defender Jimmy Conrad contributes regularly to SI.com.
I had a story all lined up -- good quotes, a thesis, I'm talking a real Pulitzer Prize possibility -- and then -- to borrow an expression from the language of ESPN2 presents MLS Super Soccer Saturday, with a "Bang!" (credited to Marcelo Balboa) and a "Boom!" (coined by Rob Stone) -- it happens.
A new story falls into my lap, so big in fact I called my mom about it. Who in turn told my grandma, who takes it upon herself to tell everyone else. (I love you Grandma). To un-spool this yarn, first allow me to describe the backdrop, which leads to the buildup that gives way to a sweet crescendo.
In February 2004, MLS issues the regular season schedule to teams and media alike. The normal procedure for any sane player is to see A) who the season opener is against; B) what games are planned near family and friends; and C) which games are to be shown to a national television audience.
So to the utter dismay of none, my Kansas City Wizards and I shrugged the good shrug when the announcement was made that every telecast on ESPNaDU would be D.C. United versus any team on a coast.
"The Wizards will be miserable this year. The ageless wonder broke his leg so we're expecting a lot of 0-0 draws. Not good for the ratings," the decision makers cried. "Let's give them their one game but only because we inked a deal with the league willing to show each team."
"Do we have to?" a right-hand man whined.
"Pipe down. Just get me some coffee and Miklos Molnar's phone number," the Head Honcho replied.
Beneath the cozy confines of Arrowhead Stadium, my teammates and I discussed the upcoming season and smiled brightly upon our ONE game on national television.
After much deliberation, we figured our ONE game this year would be much better than the ONE we had the year before against the Los Angeles Galaxy, which was tape delayed to 2 a.m. Eastern Time. I'm sure the advertisers were pleased with that coveted time slot. Though as exposure went, we guessed it couldn't get much worse than that.
We were wrong.
The 2004 season commenced, and we managed a few ties with Chicago, a couple of wins at home, and a few 1-0 losses on the road. Through the first seven games, our record was 3-2-2, and to be honest, we felt good about it. Our performances at home were solid and the routines on the road -- and allow me to emphasize the word "routines" -- were just that.
The next six out of eight games were on the road, and after polling the troops about morale and sensible goals to be achieved, many seemed pleased with the prospect of attaining nine points from the next eight games. Though I thought that was setting the bar kind of low, I understood the dynamics of reality, and the reality of our situation was: playing at home = good, while playing at someone else's home = not so good.
Game 1: 1-0 loss to the MetroStars in New Jersey.
Synopsis: Good first half. "Uh, guys?" what happened in the second half?"
Game 2: 3-2 loss to the Revolution in Kansas City.
In summation: Our first home loss of the season, highlighted by giving up two goals in the last five minutes of the game. This will definitely be edited out of the end-of-the-year highlight tape.
Game 3: 2-1 win vs. the Galaxy in L.A.
Review: Avenged our loss at home by scoring the winning goal a few minutes from the final whistle. Oh, sweet justice. Looking back, most of the guys agree that they would rather have won this game and lost to the Revolution at home then having it the other way around.
Game 4: 1-0 win vs. the Rapids in Denver.
Assessment: Another last-minute goal to sneak out of an opposing stadium with three points. This victory ended the Rapids' 16-game unbeaten streak at home. Sniff, sniff.
Game 5: 2-2 tie vs. the Crew in Columbus.
The rundown: We had this game. Not only did one of our central defenders score a goal (that was me, incidentally) but BOTH our central defenders scored. In some parts of the world, I heard that's an automatic win, but obviously the U.S. is unaware of other parts of the world.
Game 6: 3-1 win vs. the Revolution in New England.
Summary: How's it feel losing at home? Eat it.
Game 7: 1-1 tie vs. Earthquakes in San Jose.
Overview: I'm still waiting to beat my former squad and ... I'm still waiting.
Game 8: 5-1 win vs. the Dallas Burn in Kansas City.
Synopsis: 1-1 in the first half. 4-0 in the second half. Every fan attending the game wins a free pizza, and teammate Davy Arnaud scores a hat trick thus becoming King David, king of the goal scorers.
Final Tally: 8 games, 14 points.
So 15 games into the season, the halfway point is upon us, we are the best team in the league, and the All-Star starters and coaches are revealed. And we have none. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Nil. How could that be you ask? Let's solicit the decision makers.
"So how can no Wizards -- players or coaches -- be recognized for being the best team in the league?" says us.
"No TV time, no one knows who you guys are; in fact, Preki was your leading vote-getter, and he hasn't played yet this year," the decision-makers retorted.
"Well, isn't that under your control? You'd think MLS would want to promote the best team in the league," replied us.
"The best team in the league is the one that has teenagers playing on it. Your precious Wizards have the oldest average age of any team in MLS," sighed the decision-makers.
"This is about age? How about results?" we countered.
"Put a 12-year-old on your team and we'll think about it," the decision-makers conceded.
"A Freddy Aduplicate?" screamed us.
A SWEET CRESCENDO
After a day or two of staring at the heavens and mumbling to ourselves, we found the silver lining: Lack of respect breeds motivation -- the motivation to weather the long, humid days of summer; the motivation to stay on top; and the motivation to extend a certain finger when all is said and done.
So please, oh decision-makers, I beg you to please keep us off TV, tell us we're no good and spread the attention to who you want to win. Because come one special day in November, we will set a franchise record by having TWO nationally televised games in the same year.
Bam! Boom! Bam! Boom! Bam!