Randy Bernstein & the Early MLS Mindset
|Things have improved so much since the beginning of MLS when it comes to the knowledge and respect the league and owners have for the sport of soccer. As I mentioned before, there is a definite shift towards traditional rules and regulations, and we've pretty much seen the end of "Americanizing" the game (thank god).|
Of course, there's still the Kansas City Wizards and their ridiculous in-game music and sound effects. They're an insult to every supporters club member in the league, not just in KC. By having music during the game, it discourages chants and singing, the very things that make the soccer atmosphere so great.
When asked about it, Wizards general manager Curt Johnson blamed the Arrowhead staff, saying that he had no control over it. KC fans should be insulted at that explanation. The good news is that Johnson left after the season, and also Lamar Hunt no longer owns the team. Hopefully things will be different next year. Actually, they won't be playing in Arrowhead next year anyway, so we may win this battle by default.
What's the point of bringing this up? The fact that KC still does it in 2006 makes it really stand out. The music used to be a common thing, and the reasoning behind it came directly from the MLS front office. Randy Bernstein was the guy in charge of marketing for MLS. In a May 1996 article from Soccer Digest, he is quoted as follows:
"When you have a 45 minute running clock, you have to do some things to keep the fans in the game."
(See here for an excellent rant, written before the league even started)
There's the early MLS mindset. Bernstein obviously did not have much respect for the sport or the fans. He may have been good at getting sponsorships, but how could the league have a guy like that? He left MLS in 1999 to work for Yahoo, right about when Don Garber became commissioner and made several changes (coincidence?). He also, along with Doug Logan, claimed that surveys showed fans supported the shootout. How many of those were the league's biggest fans, who hated it with a passion (shown on surveys in Soccer America and on the internet)? I guess his background with indoor soccer had something to do with it.
So if any of you wonder why hardcore American soccer fans get so annoyed over things like music, or using the wrong terms (Dave O'Brien), just look way the people who ran MLS thought of us. It's hard to build a huge skyscraper without the foundation.
Bernstein is still involved with the sport, recently named as the 31st most powerful person in US soccer by Soccer America. Just leave the marketing to someone else.
From Chris Allen's 1996 rant, still true today:
Look, I'm happy to have all the music they want before the game, at halftime, and after the game, but doing it DURING the game takes the focus AWAY from the game!