In Limbo: I'm So Bored With the U.S.A.
|by Tim Froh|
It's just one of those days. I think you know what I'm talking about. Those days where you just don't feel like doing what you're supposed to be doing. In my case, it's not so much a matter of not working, but a matter of not knowing what to write about on this week's edition of In Limbo. Honestly, I don't feel all that compelled to write even more about MLS' constant transfer issues, the sale of the Kansas City Wizards, or anything MLS related for that matter. I hope some will forgive me for not caring as much as I used to, especially now that I have no team to cheer for.
I will say this though: being a neutral observer of MLS has allowed me to realize what a complete bore 90% of the season is if you don't care about any of the teams. How can I get excited when, in the middle of August, the best teams slump, the worst teams start winning, and thus, not only does the quality of play decrease dramatically, but the mediocrity of the league becomes so blatantly clear? Seeing Real Salt Lake beat "the class of the league," D.C. United one week, then lose to New York Red Bull 6-0 only a few weeks later, is systematic of the problem.
One could go on all day diagnosing MLS' myriad ills, but that would be to completely miss the point. The fact is that MLS, a league of only 12 teams, plays far too many games with far too little at stake. The only teams that currently seem to care are those that are still hovering around the drop zone: Salt Lake, LA Galaxy, Chicago Fire, and New York Red Bull. This, of course, could change in a few weeks, with the result that either no team or every team, cares.
This is not to say that MLS is any different from many leagues across the world. Indeed, leagues across the world experience periods of complete indifference from their teams, particularly those that feel there is nothing left to play for. Of course, with such enormous fanbases, many of these teams ultimately are compelled to play, if only for their fans. With an average attendance hovering around fifteen thousand, MLS can't claim such sizable fanbases, critical attention from the media, or ardent soccer culture. Instead, we're left to contend with teams playing in a league that pays someone like Kansas City forward Eddie Johnson over $800,000, while D.C. United goalkeeper Troy Perkins (an All-Star game starter no less) works two jobs just to make ends meet. How can you get excited about a meaningless game against Real Salt Lake in August when you know you're getting paid relatively nothing for it?
With no excitement in the summer, it's nice to know that at least fans can get excited about those first and last few months when teams care. Perhaps the conclusion is to cut the summer, play in Spring and Fall, and shorten the season dramatically. With thirteen teams in the league next year, why not move to single table (God forbid, I know), with each team playing the other twice? That's twenty-four games, a perfect number of matches for a league with such a small number of teams. Perhaps this is too simple though. Maybe it won't make the league the kind of money that thirty-two games would (and you can bet the MLS office doesn't want to lose that July 4th home date), but it certainly would make things a little more interesting for the fans. Hell, it might actually make me want to write something interesting.