Published Wednesday, August 23, 2006 by The Metrologist.
It took me a moment to figure out why this video turned up after a "Metrostars" search on Youtube. "Metrostars Productions," behind an act called "Most Hated," AND they're out of Virginia? God, you immanent cosmic joker, you.
So if I haven't mentioned it before, I'll do so now; I think that Bigsoccer, which has served as the nerve center/incubator of American soccer fans and culture for the better part of a decade now, ain't the place it used to be. Shall I be polite and say that it's at a low ebb just now? Or offer that the bigger it's gotten, the more it's sprouted separate a myriad of subforums, ranging from South Asian Cuisine and Michigan Municipal Politics to The Slightly Creepy Free For All Community, the more it has lost its way?
That may be part of the reason - and one given by a lot of old-school, been-there-from-the-start Metrofan.com types as they abandoned it en masse for the more cozy, dedicated confines of MF a few years ago. But it's not reason enough for me, given that when I do go on BS, I spend far more time in the off-topics than anywhere else. Much more. Fact of the matter is that nowadays, the soccer-related fora - specifically the MLS News and Analysis and Metro boards - which I frequented most, uh, frequently are a fucking chore to read, and that's being polite. Not to evoke a golden age of yore that never really was (and I go back to the good old days, when Soccer American Graffiti really was the online US soccer community, along with rec.sport.soccer) but the BS boards - Metro, in particular - used to be home to a compact but hardy collection of sharp, critical, well-spoken drunkards supporters. Guys (and a few gals) I liked online, and often enough when I ran into them offline, too.
Now? Too high a count of lotus-eaters and taurine-guzzling shills for my taste. The ratio of exclamatory pap and unfounded assumptions to worthwhile talk must be absolutely incredible, were there anyone masochistic enough to try and calculate it. Whether that's the fault of BS, or a sign that MLS and Metro have managed to slough off that type of core supporter forever - the kind I tend to identify with - I really don't know. Maybe a little of both.
That said, there are still quite a few Bigsoccer posters who I make a point to read because they're damn good, and a few of them seem to be involved with the "Bigsoccer Blog". One of them, Matrim55, weighed in after the Metro-DC match last week with an assertion that "The hate is back." He makes good points, writing entertainingly as always about how hatred of DC took a back seat for a time to hatred of Lalas, what he represented, and what he made of this team. But those days are over now. At least for him. It's time to eat bread again....and hate the DC.
I'm happy he's feeling that way, but as for me...pfft. Pretty much the whole 2006 season has been a pfft for me, for reasons I've touched upon here before (not least in this post last week), but it really hit home last Wednesday night, when I felt...not a damn thing.
How strange. Like any self-respecting Metro supporter, games against DC always meant something special; to try and travel if at all possible, but at the very least to buy my ticket for the emotional roller-coaster as it careened up and down, this team being only one of two that could actually (and I should be ashamed to admit this - or should I?) make me emit tears of rage - or sadness.
We're now six months into Mateschnitz's Brave New World; you've got to figure if it's going to happen, if the "oh, it's only a name, it's still the same team, our team" type of mentality is going to take hold, it's going to do so soon. With momentum on our side, important points to gain, and the much-adored architect of their dynasty on our bench, this was really one to stir the emotions up.
Yet, it didn't. I felt nothing, really. No excitement. No gusto. No ardor. No hatred. Had DC won (an outcome I'm forced into half-hoping for) I couldn't have cared less. Had the Red Donks won, an ever-so-slightly lower level of indifference would have been the result. Not the triumphal glee of old, but the emotional fillip experienced when something bad but insignificant happens to a bad person, i.e. a child molesting embezzler's summer cottage burns down thanks to a wiring fault. Yeah, that's the most effusive I can feel now about this team beating DC. Thanks, RB. And MLS.
Another one tonight. Get your hate on if you like, shrug dismissively if you're like me. You can get your preview from the DC boys if you like; The Kin of Fish appears to be occupied with far more important duties (congrats to him!), and I'm not really the preview-making kind of guy. I feel a little sad for the guys heading down to RFK tonight; it has the whiff of the very ill-fated about it. With a tired, half-strength team and Arena being quoted as, and I paraphrase, not needing nor giving a rat's ass about this competition right now*, I predict a shellacking. But who knows. I'll be doing something else this evening, something other than giving my money to MLSnet and hoping against hope that the stream works correctly.
*I have my own deep skepticism about the conventional view that Arena=our savior, but I'll save that for a little later, so as not to sound any more incessantly churlish than I already do.
Published Saturday, August 12, 2006 by The Metrologist.
And the crowd!goes!wild! in Soccerboardland, as MLS lets fly with....a drawing. And also (as you've probably heard by now) the announcement that groundbreaking at Harrison is slated for September 19th. Finally.
"STADIUM AND ARENA, WE'VE GOT A STADIUM AND ARENA STADIUM AND ARENA, WE'VE GOT A STADIUM AND ARENA!!!!!!!!!!!! Live it, learn it, sing it."
Such first reactions are somewhat understandable. Metro fans have been wandering the desert, so to speak, for almost ten years now. They've sighted oases that turned out to be mirages, and been aggravated. They've endured mustachioed Italian-American Moses promising them he'd dig a well just beyond the next dune, and grown more desperate. They've been made part of the single longest, most played-out joke in American professional soccer, and just about given up hope. So when a date, a real, honest-to-god, break-out-the-ceremonial-silver-shovels groundbreaking date is put out there, you can't be surprised when a bunch of fans run to snatch the silver and blue can, guzzle it, and smack their lips in ecstasy. It could be champagne they're drinking, or it could be warm horse piss and battery acid - it doesn't really matter when you're that thirsty.
They're all gonna call it champagne anyway.
On the good side, it's a nice enough looking place. Better than the current crop of MLS concert-specific facilities? Perhaps, but that's not for me to say - out of the four, I've only been to Columbus, which is what it is. LA looks like a fine place, I guess - from the vantage point of my couch, it's the best venue we've got going in this country. I admit, I like Dallas's eternally-unfinished-construction-site look, what with the bare concrete walls along the playing field, the smell of fresh sawdust and epoxy everywhere you turn (but enough about the Pizza Hut stands). It's certainly unique, sort of a exurban Texas take on Wrigley's ivied bricks, and I hope they keep it that way. As for Chicago, well, if nothing else you can see how cagey AEG was in hiring John Guppy; obeying a corporate mandate to keep the Firehouse in mint condition as long as possible, he's deploying a set of battle-tested strategies (ask a Metro fan) to keep the seats unused, the concourses unscuffed, the whole place immaculate and virginal forever.
That IS what's going on in Chicago, correct?
Anyway, here's to those putting their blind faith in artists' conceptions, carefully selected images and such; best be careful around real estate prospectuses and Match.com, I say. For me, the best thing to remember here is that the long Meadowlands nightmare is nearing its end, and that there'll be a stadium for our team - or some team - in Harrison where it belongs. And that it'll be there long after the soda hucksters have gone away.
Meanwhile, let's just hope that season ticket holders get priority seating for the real main event at Harrison in '08 (or '09, or '10 - soon enough, at any rate): NY/NJ/X Games. AEG+RB+ESPN+the NYC metro area = you're crazy if you think this isn't happening sometime in the next few years.
That was the HDC last weekend. Can't wait to see how it plays next game.
Oh, and as for tonight's match. Do you really think Barcelona is going to be content to leave without beating the holy hell out of someone? Me neither. Prediction: Dunno bout you, but I'd take Barca -2 goals. Have the feeling it's going to be one of those nights.
Published Thursday, August 10, 2006 by The Metrologist.
It's halfway through August, only 5 months since the Great Taurinated Leap Forward Into Glory, yet - shocker of shockers - it's still impossible to procure an authentic replica RBNY jersey (though I do know a fella in Union City who can do the job for you - how many do you need?)
Anyone sensing the profound irony of producing rings for a team that hasn't ever won jack? Sure, you might be able to shift a few, but as merchandising priorities go, tacky-ass rings should really be down somewhere between logo-emblazoned miniature treasure chests for fish tanks, and logo-emblazoned aluminum siding. Who, who would wear this thing?
Funny thing is, I had "ice" just like this when I was a kid. I won it from the chicken machine at the local Grand Union, it was only $79.75 cheaper, and doubtlessly a lot more fun to get.
"What I didn't write in this article is that I almost closed the site a couple of weeks ago. The website was supposed to support the team, but at this juncture, one of my biggest reasons to support this team is this very site. So please, let me call this team what I want. Lots of people like the nickname."
Had he done so, that would have left Metro diehards with just one place to congregate - a place that has certainly seen better days, at least as far as Metro commentary goes (but hey, its just peaking now if you're into immense off topic random thought threads, cut-and-pastings of tiresome, aggrieved emails to Jamie Trecker or Paul Gardner, and a smattering of freaky Michelle Lissel and Max Bretos fanboys); I would wager that most of the colorful, worthwhile Metro posters that migrated exclusively to MF a few years ago wouldn't slosh back as a result, but simply find something else to do with their lives, and that would be a loss. Had he done so, he would have put me out of a home page and one of the ten or so sites I check religiously throughout the day, everyday. And had he done so, I would have totally understood why, and not blamed him a bit for it. I've come so close to doing the same thing here, and I've got a whole hell of a lot less history, faithful readers, and personal investment in this humble endeavor than he does with MF.
Why throw in the towel now? you might ask. After all, Metrofanatic.com negotiated the tumult of the past six months, and especially the first few weeks, as deftly as possible. Somehow, it - he - found a way to define MF being broadly against the whole sale/name-change debacle while keeping the allegiance of those who remainfor it - a delicate balancing act that some (yours truly, for example) couldn't do. The first couple months were awfully tough for anyone who put time and energy into red and black, so Metro diehards got a free pass to vanish then. If it's six months on and you're still here, the sting ought to be fading away a little, no?
Well, I can't speak for Dan R at MF, but I don't think it's fading. In fact, the above paragraphs are less about Metrofanatic, more a prologue to my own thoughts on this site, infinitesmally less significant, but an effort all the same. You may have noticed - or maybe you didn't, so take a moment to scroll down the page, or else just trust me on this - that I've been posting here less and less frequently as the season goes on. There are some good reasons for that: a hefty workload which only recently abated, the World Cup, and an extended trip abroad are but a few. Suspend your disbelief for a moment as I outlandishly claim that the first half of the MLS regular season isn't a nailbiting dramafest, demanding blow-by-blow deconstruction.
But sprawling once-a-month-posts do not a very interesting or topical blog make; (realizing that, I'm tempted to quote Ferris Bueller after the credits: what are you doing here, anyway?) I've fallen off the pace because it just isn't a lot of fun following this team. Not because they've been mostly bad and mostly rudderless most of the season; Metro has been very bad and very rudderless for practically all of its existence. We're used to that. We revel in that, almost as much as we burned to get out of that rut. You could write a lot of funny, sad, angry stuff about a bad, bad team. No team in MLS has has more funny, sad, angry stuff written about it than the Metros over the first 11 years.
No, for me it hasn't been much fun and I've written next to nothing for one reason; despite all the language and symbol gestures we prickly supporters might make amongst ourselves, we're still referring to a team named after, emblazoned with, controlled by a fizzy drink maker now. It's just not the same. That's still hard to block out, to make obscure, and we can only succeed to a point. Beyond that, I steadfastly believe that whatever success the Red Bull experiment might have in the short-term (a cup win here or there, perhaps) the end result will be failure. Failure that dents their bottom line a little and really does a job on us. It won't be good for American soccer, depending on how and when it shakes out, but more importantly, it won't be good for us as diehard fans, supporters of a certain vision. It's hard to look out for the success of a team, or the growth of its support, when you're thinking like that. A few years ago, some of us would throw the term aguante around the Metro boards and stands. What's aguante? Let's ask Youtube.
You can substitute whatever corollary of "passion," from whichever country you desire. Whatever. There's simply something perverse and futile in an American soccer fan, much less a Metro fan accustomed to denatured sub-5000 crowds, seeing that and thinking "that's what we're going for." Perverse and futile, because by the time an MLS crowd has a fraction of a fraction of that size and passion, I'll be long dead and gone. Yet that's been the dream and the objective all the same. To get to something like that, even if it was only a couple hundred of us.
The simple fact (and the thing that makes "Embrace The Colors" ever more irritating, stupid and phony a slogan each time I see it) is that no decent amount of people are ever, ever going to feel that passionate about "Red Bull." That's what I think. I daresay that if I'm wrong about that and some hundreds of people went nuts with Red Bull aguante, I'd be repulsed enough to consider rescinding my membership with the human race. I wouldn't want to know any of those people, that's for damn sure. But I don't think it's really possible. I don't think there are enough people willing to make themselves, quite literally, "passionate" tools. If you feel that way, there's only one real sensible stance to take, as far as I can see - you want to see Red Bull fail, and the quicker the better.
In the past few months, I've discovered that's hardly an enjoyable way to exist as a fan, and even less a motivation to blog.
All this - what ARE you doing still reading? - might seem like its leading to the winding-up of this blog. Unexpectedly (as in, when I started a little while ago, I wasn't sure what I'd be writing at this point) it isn't. Ah shit you say, what a waste of my time when I could have been reading Deadspinor something. Well, maybe. But it's a good time to be reading - and writing, as it were - about soccer in the US; there's a blog community worth being a part of. So I think I'll stick around a little bit longer. Happy halfway point.