MLS ‘rivalries:' Real acrimony, or just ginned-up sales jobs?
I’ve watched the game grow steadily for 20 years. We’ve passed the mile markers steadily.
Sometimes we hit sticking points, plateaus on player development, marketing strategies or referees, etc. We’ll eventually move off them, but sometimes need a nudge to regain lost momentum.
So, allow me to nudge a nook that I know well: soccer in the media.
Fellow writers, anchors, analysts, bloggers, poison pensmen and general members of the chattering class, I beseech thee: stop writing and talking about MLS “rivalries” that do not exist.
Just because someone screams “Rivalry!” that doesn’t make it so. History makes rivalries, and nothing else.
If the marketing mavens and ticket salesman want to fly the flag of acrimonious strife, that’s their business. They are selling a product. I get it.
But I will not write about the heat factor in drummed-up, tricked-up alleged rivalries that, in the end, are indistinguishable from pretty much any mid-week MLS meeting.
Bruce Arena, a man of candor, addressed this recently, when he chided reporters for asking questions about fakey “rivalries” that existed only in their notepads.
“I think every game we play in the league is a rivalry game ...,” Arena said. “What are you going to ask me Thursday: ‘Is [the next opponent] a rival?’ ”
“I don’t buy into any of it,” he said, allowing that Chivas USA is an actual rival. “All the others? They’re all to different degrees rivalries. I think every club in the league, it’s a rival.”
Not to pick on any team or match or media brother, but today I read about Columbus and Seattle and the indignation and irritation factor attached to tonight’s meeting.
“Rivalry,” huh? I say, not so much.
Yes, Sounders manager Sigi Schmid once left Columbus in a huff. So he may gain some extra Sigi smidge of satisfaction by sticking it to his former bosses. But Schmid’s move to Seattle has worked out beautifully, and he knows so. I doubt he spends much time gritting his teeth over the whole thing. And Seattle’s players? C’mon. They want the points. They want to protect CenturyLink Field. They want to win for themselves and for the supporters. And that’s about it.
A few rivalries may carry some extra portions of umbrage. New York and D.C. United, a series with actual history (as opposed to drummed-up history)? Yeah, there’s something there. Portland-Seattle-Vancouver? Yeah, of course.
Los Angeles and Chivas USA? Yes, but even that one is on a serious fade. The Galaxy has dominated, and thousands of empty seats at last week’s latest meeting hardly said “Clasico.”
I might even allow the “rivalry” stamp on a couple of others, but that’s about it.
So, let’s allow these things to develop on their own, which they will.
The salesmen and marketeers can do as they please. But let’s not all naively buy into it, eh?