Point/Counterpoint on the key issues facing Major League Soccer
Posted: Wednesday September 1, 2004 9:22PM; Updated: Wednesday September 1, 2004 9:27PM
Kansas City Wizards defender Jimmy Conrad contributes regularly to SI.com.
From interviews to historical fiction to imaginary conversations, I have dabbled in many different forms this calendar year, but there is one style I have yet to shape, a style that for quite some time has been on the cusp of my imagination, lurking in the depths of the editorial pages of the newspaper. A style that permeated my pragmatic sensibilities to become a full-figured body of work, a shapely silhouette, and that I now present to you -- the debut of Point/Counterpoint.
Before I begin, let it be widely known that finding a noble opponent to match my voracious wit and obvious self-importance was not hard, for there were many. But I was hard pressed to find the proper person who can admit I'm always right.
So I scanned the white pages of my life cueing up significant memories of long ago, searching for that one person to butt heads with. Current friends, past friends, fringe friends, best friends -- and nary a soul could I come up with that met my qualifications, except one...
...me! Who else?
I can see it now (dream sequence) in big lights on the marquee, "Come One, Come All, The Greatest Clash of Them All...Jimmy vs. Conrad."
Every paper would headline the event pitting the bitter rivals in a war of words, ranking the clash against the all-time greats like Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant or X-Box vs. PlayStation2 or 'N Sync vs. the Backstreet Boys or Days of Our Lives vs. All of My Children or O.J. Simpson's acquittal vs. common sense.
Each editor would have all of the necessary articles to satiate any slant or bias that suits your fancy because, remember, they have to sell papers somehow. So here it is -- the unfurling display of me versus me.
Issue 1: The NFL, and Maror League Soccer's relationship with this global conglomerate.
Point (Jimmy): Without the NFL, MLS would be playing in smaller stadiums, they wouldn't have to compromise their scheduling, and football lines would be a thing of the past. How is that good for the league? Sold-out Saturday night games on a good surface. Who wants that?
Counterpoint (Conrad): Sarcasm, very nice. But let's get serious and talk about life with the NFL. We get to play in the best stadiums in the country, my fantasy football league exists, and with the football lines I know exactly how far my passes travel. So what if we get treated like a little brother?
Point: Exactly. We are their little brother. They don't want us to exist for fear that one day we might be as good or better than they are.
Counterpoint: The NFL would laugh at the very idea. They have the big television contracts and most of the media attention, so obviously the NFL is the better sport with better stories and better athletes.
Point: Leave the sarcasm to me.
Counterpoint: What sarcasm?
Point: You're an idiot.
Counterpoint: I guess that makes you an idiot, too.
Issue 2: MLS selling their prominent young players to top European clubs.
Point: If David Beckham, who is arguably the world's most recognizable player, can be sold to another club, then anyone is expendable. Furthermore, it is important for our young players to do well on foreign turf to establish a certain respect for American players and our burgeoning league.
Counterpoint: Would you consider Reading a top European club? Also, I think American goalkeepers are the only players to earn "a certain respect" from the world soccer elitists. And let's be realistic, these people don't want Americans to EVER be good at "their" sport.
Point: Europeans want to see good players playing at the highest level, whether they're North American, South American, African, Asian, it doesn't matter. I think you are brainwashed to believing that every culture has the American mentality.
Counterpoint: The American mentality is calling whoever wins the NBA title "World Champions," but then our Olympic basketball team can't beat other countries from around the world to capture the gold medal. It doesn't get any more American than that, and I know I don't fall into that category.
Point: Stick to the issue.
Counterpoint: Which was what again?
Point: Selling our young players to clubs overseas.
Counterpoint: No way! MLS should keep their top young players here. The viewing public, the casual fan, the Average Joe, needs to be able to recognize names and associate them with a team. Like, for example, Freddy Adu and a bunch of other guys or Landon Donovan and the San Jose/Houston/San Antonio Club America Earthquakes.
Point: You're incorrigible.
Counterpoint: No. We are incorrigible ... and handsome.
Issue 3: MLS is expanding to 12 teams in 2005: Another franchise in Los Angeles and a new franchise in Salt Lake City.
Point: The new team in Los Angeles will arrive with much fanfare, and I'll tell you why: 1) It will create the first intra-city rivalry MLS has been craving for many years. 2) The owner, Jorge Vergara, has named the team Chivas USA to honor the storied franchise that he owns in Mexico and already has a built-in fan base, AND 3) Financially, Chivas USA will save on overhead by sharing the Home Depot Center with their newly minted rivals, the L.A. Galaxy. In all, I say it will be great for the league.
Counterpoint: (clapping) Wow, who is lining your pockets? If you knew anything about Chivas of Mexico, then you would be aware of the fact that they employ no foreigners and only hire Mexican-born players, thus making them the "Team of the People." And, rumor has it the owner, Jorge Vergara, wants to accomplish the same feat with Chivas USA, using Mexican-American players. That doesn't sound like an equal opportunity employer to me.
Point: Pure speculation. You obviously are just stirring the pot to get a rise out of your readers. I'm positive the people running MLS were very clear on the rules that they sometimes follow.
Counterpoint: Also, I remind you not to forget the impact it will have on the Galaxy. The Hispanic community is an important piece of the Galaxy pie, and I think after a few games it will be apparent which team the community is supporting.
Point: You make quite an assumption to say that ALL of the Hispanic community will support Chivas USA. I'm sure there are many people who can't stand Chivas of Mexico (i.e. Club America devotees, Hondurans, Guatemalans, El Salvadorans, etc.) and will not back Chivas USA when they arrive next spring.
Counterpoint: But when it comes down to Gringo-owned vs. Mexican-owned, I feel the Hispanic community could have a change of heart if only in this instance, and as a result a negative effect on the Galaxy and its fan base.
Point: I don't know why I talk to you.
Counterpoint: I've wondered that myself.
Point: And Salt Lake City?
Counterpoint: Well, I have never been there, so it sounds like a good place to me.
Point: And no NFL team.
Counterpoint: That sounded like we agreed on a topic. From now on let's agree to disagree.
Point: Agreed. I mean, disagreed. Wait...
Issue 4: In MLS, 8 out of the 10 teams make the playoffs.
Point: The MLS season is a long, arduous journey and if a team gets off to a bad start, it should have every opportunity to limp into the playoffs with a losing record. I believe in second chances.
Counterpoint: No. No, no, no, no. The best team is the team that proves it consistently over the course of nine months. Not the one that becomes hot right before the playoffs start to capture the title. There should be no divisions, just one table. The team with the best record after all the regular season games are played is named King of the Mountain.
Point: That sounds like a European ideal to me. Maybe I was wrong about your American mentality.
Counterpoint: No, you were right about my gung-ho American ideology. NASCAR rules! I was just portraying the opposite opinion.
Point: Oh yeah, our disagree agreement. Carry on then.
Counterpoint: To reiterate, if a team can demonstrate week in and week out its dominance over a season, then why should it come down to a one-game final to verify their place as the best? Answer me that.
Point: If they are the best, then they shouldn't have a problem winning any game placed in front of them. To boot, the playoffs provide a pressure-filled environment where everything is on the line, because if a team loses then their season is over, complete, finished, gone -- and they have nothing to show for it except "what-ifs" and "what-could-have-beens."
Counterpoint: Fine, you're right; you're always right.
Point: I knew I would be.
My head hurts,