Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sunsets and Goodbyes (To Hell with Them)

Kemsley and Pinton Broker Their Deal
I hate Hollywood endings. Like many sports fans, I structure my life with the seasons of my teams, the failure of another trophy-less year the painful reminder of all I hoped to accomplish within the same time span but haven’t yet wrapped up. The playoff loss to LA was all the more painful as it seemed to play out to someone else’s script. If Posh is indeed off to Paris, then the Don wants to say bye-bye to Becks by letting him lift MLS Cup at last. Spoiling that prophesied party seemed a real possibility until Roy Miller pulled a move from the Rob Johnson file and gave the Galaxy what they really wanted all night, a foul. Some might say the Supporters Shield alone makes LA worthy winners but the persistent diving and dissent showed the home side to be a bunch of spoiled, petulant and entitled brats.

Despite their winning through whining ways, it wasn’t the Galaxy but rather the Bulls that somehow came out of the playoff series having cultivated the reputation as the bad boys of MLS. The demonization of Rafa Marquez played no small part in the process. I know I’m likely in a minority of one on this, but I fail to see tossing the ball in the general direction of Landycakes as the egregious offense of all moral sporting codes as it has been portrayed. I’d have thrown the ball much harder and somewhere other than Donovan’s heel had I the opportunity after the first-leg, as I shared a sense of disgust with Captain America’s antics all afternoon. Of course, US soccer fans are predisposed to defend their national side’s captain against any perceived injustice suffered at the hands of Mexico’s captain, but in this context, with my club over country disposition, I’m inclined to side with my guy and say big deal. Why did he receive a three-match ban? How can you judge intent on his actions amidst the melee when numerous other parties behaved in less than exemplary fashion? Bulls fans still upset over Rafa’s honest if harsh critique of Tim Ream are perhaps understandably reluctant to defend someone they are fed up with, but how can you defend or dismiss Luke Rodgers’ momentary lapse of reason, nearly decapitating a female spectator when the ball was already in touch, yet be so pleased with the league’s disciplinary action of our Mexican DP? If they’ve both been more naughty than nice, it was because they were fighting for our colors, desperate to win a title for New York. Unless or until they go away, so long as they play with passion, they have my support.

Speaking of goodbyes, none more welcome than shyster wideboy Paul Kemsley. Since paying Peppe Pinton’s ransom, he deceived many into believing the Cosmos were reborn. The timing couldn’t have been worse. With the opening of the Cathedral of the Beautiful Game, New York soccer fans focus should have been squarely on the Bulls, but ads on Times Square and Umbro tailored gear conspired to perpetuate a grass-will-be-greener fantasy. Those desperate for NY2 and/or a return of the brand quickly jumped on the bandwagon, praising what they saw as “grassroots” investment in academy programs. Those involved in local youth soccer knew better, that they’d simply splashed some cash on pre-existing programs (rather than engaging programs throughout the region). Terry Byrne’s bizarre claim that their u8s were playing 4-3-3 was an early signal that perception didn’t match reality. Then the Cosmos West venture folded. Pinton still runs his Cosmos Soccer Camps and enjoyed a day in the director’s box at Old Trafford. He’s enjoyed his payday and continues to milk the cow that strayed into his yard. Now that news is out that Kemsley’s sold the brand to Saudis, all that’s been accomplished is turning “twice in a lifetime” into a sadly ironic joke, leaving many still unaware of the trick played at their expense.

The parents who bragged about their kids playing for the Cosmos have had the most brutal of reality checks, as they’re now facing the prospect of having to pay to play in the Academy after all. Blau Weiss Gottschee has taken legal action as the club struggles to compensate for payments never received as per their agreement with the Cosmos. With costs in excess of $200,000 and counting, a written statement from Terry Byrne that they still intend to keep their end of the sponsorship bargain must seem as empty as their promises to build a stadium in the five boroughs. Those finances have disappeared all-too-quickly, proving the naysayers right all along. Make a deal with the devil, don’t be surprised when you get burned. Those Boys who’ve been singing “Bridge Over Troubled Water” need to learn “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

So while season’s end means yet another year of dashed dreams, there’s some comfort in Schadenfreude. Our protagonists, whether seen as heroes or villains, won’t disappear into the sunset but will be back in the spring, more desperate than ever to bring a title to the Big Apple. At least we know we’ll have another season in the spring, another shot at a title, another year together as fans cheering our team. Regardless of how bad the players play or behave, and despite how miserably we’re managed by fresh faces in the front office, this club is our extended family, and we know we have a home of our own. The hatred from those calling the Bulls thugs or the NY2 Boys who mock us as Energy Drink FC merely strengthen our resolve and deepen our bonds and our shared sense of community. Harrison may not yet be Heaven, but our home is still their Hell.
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