It Sounded Like a Strike
Now that big league umpires plan to toss players and managers at the first sign of disrespect (SCORECARD, March 17), the days of a manager leaving the dugout to offer an ump a pair of glasses are over. But will anyone dissatisfied with a call at Legends Field, the New York Yankees' spring training facility in Tampa, be able to pass up the chance to remind the men in blue that the number on the door of their dressing room at the ballpark is also written in braille?
An MLS Q&A
Major League Soccer—a little cocky after a better-than-expected rookie season but a little wary about the sophomore jinx—opens its 1997 campaign on Saturday. A few questions and answers about the season ahead:
1) Will goalkeeper Walter Zenga feel safer playing for the New England Revolution than he did for his native Italy, whose unhappy fans once threw, among other things, a metal spigot at him?
Yes, but only a little. Perhaps the best measure of the foothold the league gained last season was the fact that many fans heaped scorn (if not spigots) upon home-team players who were not performing well. "At least it means people care about the game," the popular yet sometimes-criticized Revolution defender Alexi Lalas says philosophically.
2) Has MLS turned into a league of weekend warriors?
Yes, but that might be a good thing. In '96, midweek games attracted an average crowd of 12,424, compared with the 20,086 that came on weekends. Of MLS's 160 regular-season games this year, 149 will take place on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, up from 104 last season.
3) How will the class-action antitrust lawsuit filed against the league last month by the newly founded MLS Players Association affect the season?
If both sides are smart, not at all. The suit claims that MLS's single-entity ownership system—the league office owns all player contracts and allocates players to teams—illegally holds down salaries. Though it poses a formidable challenge to MLS, the suit will take anywhere from three to 10 years to get through the courts. Both sides would be wise to avoid acrimony that could tear the league apart. Commissioner Doug Logan has already put his positive spin on the situation: "No one sues a minor league."