In last week's installment of The Press Buffet, I looked at the newspaper coverage of the College World Series. For those of you who think collegiate baseball is a fringe sport, just wait for today's column.
We all know that summertime is a bit of a grind for sports fans. We grow accustomed to overlapping seasons every other time of the year, and we usually have several televised major sports to choose from. But there's always that late summer trudge through the middle of baseball season (which is a nice season, but the middle is, well, the middle) as we wait for the first pro and college football games to grace us with their presence. I acknowledged that this was a slow period in last week's column, and made the joke that I would probably be reduced to covering the MLS this week.
My colleague, Awful Announcing's weekend editor OMDQ, read that statement and double-dog dared me to do it. I'm not inclined to turn down a double-dog dare anyway, but since Brian is about to become a papa at any moment, I am doubly inclined to grant him his frivolous request, though he should have used his last one on something more entertaining. So after the jump, we'll check out that league with an identity problem - Major League Soccer.
One thing I liked about the notion of covering MLS was the chance to visit some cities that haven't come up in my coverage of other sports. I've hit the newspapers in New York, D.C., Chicago, and Los Angeles pretty often, of course. But quite a few of our nation's finest cities have yet to star in a pull quote of their own. So let's get goin'.
We start out with FC Dallas, who are covered by the Dallas Morning News. Michael Hitchcock is the GM of the North Texas entry in the MLS, and he has found that David Beckham's marketing allure extends beyond the L.A. Galaxy.
The Beckham factor doesn't hurt ticket sales," Hitchcock said. "He is truly a rock star in every sense of the word. Everywhere we go, the first question people ask is, 'How can I get my Beckham tickets?'"
I had hoped to write about our only homegrown player with Rock Star potential, but Freddy Adu is not currently with Real Salt Lake. He's been attached to the national under-20 team, so we have to read about someone else. Hey, here we go! Speedy Robbie Findley was recently traded from L.A. to Salt Lake and immediately scored two goals:
Talk about successful debuts. Findley, who had scored two goals in nine games - three starts - for the Galaxy, beat the D.C. United keeper twice on Saturday to help spark RSL to its first win of 2007. He did it on a bum right ankle, too, having rolled it a week earlier.
Apparently Findley comes by his talent honestly. He is somehow related to both Mike Bibby of the NBA and Shaun McDonald of the NFL.
Houston Dynamo striker Brian Ching, who is fresh off of a Gold Cup triumph with the national team, writes a blog in the Houston Chronicle:
In regard to the national team things have been good. The team has won its first two games and is off to a good start. This has been something that has helped me get out of my drought. I think the change of environment was good for me and has helped me get out of the rut I was in.
I'm not sure how to take that. Is he calling MLS play "a rut"?
Hey, you wacky counter-culture white Rastas, with your Ben & Jerry's Phish Food Ice Cream! Colorado Rapids defenseman Kyle Beckerman has dreadlocks, and the Denver Post is going to get to the bottom of this foolishness:
"You do wash them, you just don't comb them," Beckerman said. "I've always been a Dread. Before I had dreadlocks, I was a Dread. And if I cut them, I'll still be a Dread. I get called a hippie every away game. I'm like, you don't know what kind of music I listen to."
For the record, it would be reggae, hip-hop and Tom Petty.
Yep, he really blew that stereotype apart.
And since Denver has two daily newspapers, the Rapids get two articles in the Buffet.
Want to end a losing streak? Play a good team on the road! [Rocky Mountain News]
"We've had a tough string of games and didn't get any results, and what better place to go in and turn it around than on national TV against one of the best teams in the league this year and probably also the best team in the history of this league," Rapids defender Mike Petke said.
The league recently expanded into a country that has a much closer relationship with futbol than we do - Canada. We've read above about the MLS problem of losing top players to CONCACAF events during the heart of the season, but Toronto FC has it even worse. They lose players to both national teams. [Toronto Globe & Mail]
Just as Toronto FC welcomed back defender-midfielder Chris Pozniak, defender Adam Braz and goalkeeper Greg Sutton from duty with Canada's national team in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, it will say farewell for at least a couple of games to defender Marvell Wynne.
Wynne, 21, was named Friday to the 22-player U.S. team that is taking part in the Copa America tournament in Venezuela.
And, I was extremely surprised to find that I had no memory of ever quoting the Boston Globe (ID: awfulwrite Password: freeharold). They've tracked down a couple who love the New England Revolution and don't really give a damn if they ever see a foreign-born superstar like Becks.
Instead of luring international stars to MLS late in their careers, as the Galaxy are doing with Beckham and the Chicago Fire with Mexican forward Cuauhtemoc Blanco, the Gideons would rather watch their countrymen.
"Compared to Europe, the level of play is not as good," Brad Gideon said. "But it's cool to see Americans playing a sport that has been historically European. The stars on the Revs -- Taylor Twellman, Steve Ralston, Matt Reis -- they're Americans."
I must admit that I have posted from the Columbus, Ohio Dispatch before, thanks to the Buckeyes' appearance in the NCAA basketball championship game, which was my first Press Buffet event. But the Columbus Crew are a pretty impressive survival story, playing in a much smaller market than any other team in MLS, and surviving since the league began.
The big story out of Columbus is that Crew player Marcos Gonzalez is causing a stir about that ol' chestnut - female reporters in the locker room:
Gonzalez, a devout Christian, created a minor stir in a Home Depot Center locker room Saturday night after the Crew's 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy. According to freelance soccer reporter Andrea Canales and Gonzalez, he repeatedly asked her to leave the locker room, in English and Spanish, until he could get dressed. He also attempted to shoo her out the door, but Canales ignored him and both went about their business.
"I was without my clothes," Gonzalez said. "For me, it's not normal for women to be in a locker room. I said please leave until I put my clothes on. She ignored me."
So let us all avert our eyes as Marcos suits up. That's our whirlwind tour of the MLS for this week, and it just goes to show that there are great stories everywhere. I'm just glad I didn't make this crack about Arena Football. Fortunately, the guys at It's Still Football have the ALF playoffs covered.
See you next weekend, when I will blessedly be able to cover the MLB all-star festivities.