It breaks my tiny little heart to contradict Jimmy Conrad. I love the guy, and wish he played for my team. (Not simply because he would have won the Galaxy a double not just this year, but probably last year, even under Ruud Gullit, altering the course of human history in unfathomable ways.)
He also knows more about the game than I do, what with, you know, living it for his entire adult life and then some. If he speaks on the subject, it's probably best that I listen attentively. If I do say something, it should probably be along the lines of the "Yes, Socrates" guy in Plato.
But sweet feathery Christ, is he wrong this week.
I know he's (probably) trolling. Soccer commentary this year is nothing BUT trolling. Simon Kuper and Stefan Symanski suggested replacing coaches with online fan polls, for crying out loud. We've hit peak troll.
Jim's contribution to the discussion this week?
And this is Jimmy pre-emptively answering anticipated criticism:
In the words of Gob Bluth, COME ON. I can argue by non sequitur, too – "How come we don't copy the incredible success of the British motorway system and drive on the left side of the road?" Okay, go ahead and try it.
Relegation advocates correctly assume that Joe Passerby is not interested in watching a lousy team play meaningless games, but then assume that he's any more interested in watching a lousy team play meaningful games. The question of whether Mr. Passerby will watch FC Lousy play an entire schedule of less attractive games against worse players is rarely if ever raised.
Hint: he won't. Newcastle and Leeds fans will tolerate their teams spending a year or several in the wrong division, because those teams are able to draw on a hundred freaking years of tradition. This is a luxury that, to pick an example completely and utterly at random, the Kansas City Wizards do not have. Relegation is a pre-capitalist relic of a bygone era, when there were more teams than spaces in the league.
And who truly loses when a team gets relegated? The fans. And the club owners. The players can flee for other teams, at least those who can make a convincing case that relegation wasn't their fault. The fans are shafted. For at least a season, they will be asked to pay tickets to watch a team that has no chance to win the national championship, shorn of their best players and against crappy competition.
You can sell tickets to that in England. You can't in the United States. (Probably not. Anyone who's that good a salesman is busy doing infomercials, in any case.)
I think a lot of this is down to people having unreasonable complaints with "Real Salt Lake, World Champions." But that was about the best outcome the league could have had in the long run, and not just because it put conspiracy theories to rest forever and ever. ("Let's ALMOST get Beckham a ring, but instead give it to Kyle Beckerman! HAW HAW HAW!")
From now until the end of MLS, every fan in the league can realistically hope for the championship. Just like NFL fans, just like MLB fans. Sure, the Lions ain't gonna win anything this year. But there's always next year. Fortunes of a team can change not just from season to season, but week to week.
You know what playoffs and conferences give us? I'll tell you.
Remember, saying MLS should adopt promotion and relegation is like saying we should change the national anthem to "We Did It!" from Dora the Explorer. Maybe it's a good idea, maybe it's not such a good idea. But it's never going to happen, so it's a waste of time talking about it.
Yeah, I've used that bit before. After years and years on this silly topic, there's only so many tropes I can go back to. It's this, or cut and paste my comparison of "No Exit" and "Scooby Doo" whenever someone brings this up.