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But he does have a suggestion. "They got to count goals as two points," he says. "Except the penalty goals. They'd still be one. It's like football. If it's 28-14, all the yo-yos actually think it was 28-14. But it ain't 28-14. It's 4-2. Right, Leader? Which is important, because you can make it better for gambling if there's more scores to play with. You couldn't have all them 3½s and 4½s in football and make all the yo-yos think that they knew something about the game if they didn't count the touchdowns 6 and the field goals 3. Right, Leader? So if it's a 6-5 indoor soccer game now, it'd be 12-10, only if one of the goals was a penalty shot, it'd be 11-10. See what I mean, Leader?"
At present, there are no odds posted on MISL games, which leaves it at a great disadvantage vis-à-vis the NBA and the NHL, inasmuch as many newspapers now carry a daily line—in effect, a national advance story. Even fans who don't bet view the existence of a line as the certification of a sport. The MISL can't be bar mitzvahed until it gets its line.
Jimmy the Greek says Commissioner Foreman approached him on the subject, and The Greek replied that he'd be willing to test the waters and put out a line, but it would cost the league $400 a week for him to pay his assistants to do R & D on what would, in effect, be a new gambling product. "I told Earl, $400 would just be weekly expenses," Jimmy explains. "I wouldn't even ask for anything yet for The Greek."
Ultimately, for any new sporting venture to enjoy success it must be accepted on two media levels. The first is national. A network television contract is every league's dream, but that fantasy may be overrated, for initially the TV money is minuscule and the product is invariably showcased in weak time slot. A daily betting line might well be a more valuable resource.
On the other hand, in this world of perceptions a TV contract counts per se, because, to many people, if something isn't on network TV, then it simply doesn't exist. It gets ratings, therefore it is. An MISL game of the week is aired at present on the USA Network, but Foreman is hoping that CBS will agree to show one playoff game in May. "No matter how many kids grow up playing soccer in the United States, if they go inside then and see another sport on TV, that's where their identification will always lie," Foreman says. It's no coincidence that indoor soccer suits the TV format. When it was being designed five years ago, it was tailored for the tube.
Equally important to a new league's national acceptance, Foreman says, are two publications: SPORTS ILLUSTRATED and The New York Times. Both are important in and of themselves because they are prominent and prestigious and bestow further validity upon any athletic enterprise simply by covering it. But SI and the Times are also valuable because they serve as mother sources for smaller periodicals, which take their lead from them. In the press, if not in economics, trickle-down obtains.
The MISL drew 2.5 million spectators last year and is now a presence coast to coast in major markets. But even if it drew 25 million fans, it could not claim true national status until it gained regular attention in all parts of the land. That's the real definition of "major league." For example, a one-week (Dec. 12-18) check of several cities in which the MISL doesn't have franchises revealed the following:
•In Boston, neither the Globe nor the Herald ran a word about the MISL.
•In Seattle, the Times ran the standings (nothing else) twice, but the Post-Intelligencer not only didn't mention the MISL, but often printed scores and standings of British soccer.
•In Las Vegas, the Review-Journal gave 384 column inches to the NBA, 290 to the NHL, and 22 to the MISL—with 14 of those devoted to stories detailing the travails of the then fading Phoenix franchise.