Wow, after Kasey Keller, Peter Wilt, Bill, Kenn, Fake Sigi, and Ridge Mahoney, the last thing people need is my opinion.*
But GOD, I hate dead horses. I see one, and I just gotta go Pacquiao on it. It's a quirk of mine.
I love MLS players, I really do. I think the world of them. Cheering for and against them in their weekly bouts of skill and strength makes me happy. Were it up to me their every want and need would be seen to in order that they continue to provide me that happiness. I'm not saying "the players are screwed" every couple of days just to be a snipe (anagram) about it. I'm saying it because I'm pretty sure the players are cold cuts.
I think they have to know this, otherwise they wouldn't be going to FIFA for help. For clarification, here is FIFA's constitution, at least since the Havelange era:
10 PRINT "Money"
20 GOTO 10
…what? That was pretty advanced for the 70's.
If anything, Mahoney pulls his punches:
That's an understatement. It's not like there isn't a system that's even more Byzantine than MLS has managed to come up with.
…okay, how the hell do you sell THAT vacation to your significant other?
"Honey! Good news, we're going to Cancun!"
"Great! The beaches, the sun, the ocean!"
"Oh, no – we're going to watch the Mexico player draft."
Anyway, if MLS players are getting boned, FMF players are getting julienned, as John told us months ago. Rich, storied league telling its players they have a choice between Juarez or the Ukraine, and what has FIFA done about it? You got it – assigned it to the desk of M. Jacques Merde.
The reserve clause in MLS is counter-productive for business reasons as well as moral ones. It's one thing to demand as high a price as possible from, say, a Scandinavian team. I can even understand on a Machiavellian level the purpose of keeping someone like Pat Noonan's rights assigned to New England, pour encourager les autres.
But MLS-on-MLS violence, of the kind Bill described last month regarding Dante Washington and Eric Brunner, should be stopped. That's an easily solved issue that, as it stands, benefits nobody.
However, MLS doesn't have to do anything right now. Even the lockout suggestion, from what I can tell, seems to be an attempted Jedi mind trick on the part of the players union.
I'll defer to any labor lawyers out there, but unless I badly miss my guess, a lockout would be imposed when the employers are not willing to tolerate the status quo, but the employees are. Since it's MLS who is hap-hap-happy about the way things are, and the players who are trying to get help from FIFPro (and getting the equivalent of the CIA cheering on the insurgents during the Bay of Pigs), I gotta think that MLS has zero incentive to lock anyone out. Several MLS owners lived through or are heirs to the NHL lockout murder-suicide back in the 90's, so I also gotta think they know the difference perfectly well.
I hate to say the players are conjuring up the word "lockout" for public relations purposes, but euphemisms fail. And while the public relations exercises have been greatly and inspiringly energetic, you're just not going to win fans over ITTET.
Or, worse, ITTET during a World Cup year, which means that SUM is going to be rolling in the dough while everyone else is in the soup line.
Here's where I think we are, in a poker metaphor. The owners have pocket aces, the flop showed a third ace, and the turn showed ace number four. The players have a three of spades and the Q-Bomb from "The Mouse That Roared." Or the Doomsday Device from "Dr. Strangelove." Or the Ultimate Nullifier from Marvel Comics. A trump card that's too dangerous to use is just another bluff.
Were it up to me, I'd get the players-turned-management together – guys like Lagerwey, Burns, Agoos, Doyle and Lalas for sure, maybe coaches like Kinnear and Yallop as well – and have them explain things to both sides, since after all they can see the issue from both sides. Not all of them – probably very few of them – will be able to comment publicly, but it's as close to honest brokers as we can come, and it's better in the long term than the owners forcing the players to hail their middle fingers.
Or, the players can get David Beckham to come out publicly on their side. I guess now Landon's sorry he was so mean to him, huh?
*I guess footnotes are now Bill Simmons-esque instead of Terry Pratchett-esque, and I should heave them by the wayside since my schtick is uncomfortably close to Simmons at times anyway. Ask me how happy I was to read a Bill Simmons footnote suggesting "Bizarro ESPN" as a counterpoint to ESPN Classic, put online and published weeks after I came up with "ESPN Horsesh*t"….but obviously, since it was in Simmons' book, which was something like years in preparation, so I'm pretty sure he came up with it first, darn it.