Wherein I quibble with a New Yorker piece and the New York pro soccer condition
Results can be painfully predictable when general market publications dip into MLS waters.
Too often the works are penned by some learned and snobby soccer authority – European or South American, take your pick – who will swear their old schoolboy team could run an MLS club off the field.
They frequently approach these pieces with such a jaundiced eye toward MLS, such a narrow understanding of the growth process attached to pro soccer pursuits here, that all credibility has disintegrated by the first 100 words. And we turn the page.
So I dug in when, by the first 100 words, I could see that a short New Yorker piece sprang from the keyboard of someone who appeared to have a comprehensive domestic soccer background.
In a quick blogging fly-by on the Big Apple’s professional soccer scene, writer Reeves Wiedeman attempts to ascertain why the Red Bulls aren’t ringing the bell on record attendance, nor generally kicking grass and dominating the local soccer talk.
Wiedeman seems fairly familiar with the subject – but some of his conclusions are quibble-worthy. And fairly skinny. I know it’s a blog entry and not a 5,000-word composition. Still, show me a simple explanation to a complex matter and I’ll show you an explanation that falls somewhere been plain wrong and terribly incomplete.
Here’s the quibble list:
First, I just hate the hell out of the headline (“Why don’t New Yorkers watch soccer?”). That has nothing to do with the theme to the piece, but it does speak to one of the media clichés I have spent a professional lifetime beating back: that watching or liking soccer is the same as watching or liking Major League Soccer. Because if you tell me that New Yorkers don’t like soccer, I’ll wonder if you have been to New York. Plenty of natives or newcomers there love them some soccer – they just aren’t necessarily enamored (nor even familiar) with the MLS brand.
Speaking of media-driven clichés: the story says “ … many of the teams with high attendance are in cities with large Hispanic populations.”
Yes. Seattle, Portland, Kansas City, Toronto and Philadelphia have a Latino populace – but more than any other U.S. or Canadian cities?
Los Angeles? Yes. But if the point is that percentage of Latino population has a direct correlation with MLS attendance … allow me introduce you to Chivas USA.
Latinos and immigrants driving MLS attendance is a myth. While we’re at it, let’s just drag out the old media saw about how soccer moms and families drive professional soccer attendance in buzzing markets. Because that’s every bit as inaccurate.
How about this one: “In general, larger M.L.S. markets do less well in attracting spectators.”
That’s just not true. Not even generally. Top U.S. cities by population: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia.
If we talk about attendance in MLS, the L.A. Galaxy, Houston Dynamo and Philadelphia Union are every bit as problematic as the sunniest, finest September day. Chicago doesn’t exactly kill it, but the Fire does reasonably well.
Wiedeman is hardly off base on everything. Logistical challenges in New York are a sure impediment, whether real or imagined.
And to ask the question of whether “ …New York [is] ready for, or deserving of, a second franchise?” Well, get in line on that one. Plenty of fans in Atlanta, Miami, Phoenix, St. Louis, Orlando, San Diego, San Antonio, Las Vegas and lordy knows where else are with you there, sir.
Mostly, I quibble with this:
You cannot discuss the MetroStars / Red Bulls condition without addressing years of fan abuse. Abuse in terms of how the organization took fan interest for granted, how they improperly marketed the team and how they threw garbage at their supporters in terms of the product on the field.
And that has zero to do with chances for success or failure of a second team in New York.