Try as I might, I cannot see the demise of Chivas USA and its replacement by a celebrity-conglomerate currently calling itself Los Angeles Football Club as a positive event for MLS.
Of course, the deal comes with the promise of a snazzy new stadium, and that should always be good news. And it is, but it’s a measure of how far soccer has advanced that new stadiums are now old hat.
We’ve been there and done that quite a few times now. So, as far as I am concerned, they will have to do something more startling than that to justify this marketing talk of “a new era” in Los Angeles soccer.
I gather I’m supposed to be impressed by the LAFC (I imagine that’s what it will get called) masthead. Well, I’m not. I’m not in a good position there, because I’ve never heard of half the names. My fault, no doubt, the result of a stubbornly ingrained aversion to the whole celebrity-culture thing.
Not sure when that set in, but -- as far as soccer is concerned -- I remember only too well the big names and the celebrities who rushed to get on the soccer bandwagon in 1967, and who disappeared just as speedily when the going got tough. Maybe that experience could have made me skeptical?
I mean -- all these names, all these important people used to success and getting their own way -- how long will it be before they’re at each other’s throats? The list, after all, includes one of the more contentious club owners in Britain -- Vincent Tan of Cardiff City.
At the moment they’re no doubt all buddy-buddy, but that makes matters worse when you consider that their first joint move is to name their neonate club Los Angeles Football Club. Brilliant, guys. So L.A. has to copy New York, with its insipid NYCFC title?
These two clubs must have access to a dazzling array of marketing brainpower, and that’s the best they can come up with? Don Garber isn’t helping matters here, either. It seems that someone -- and I shall now assume the awesome responsibility -- needs to remind Garber that he no longer works for the National Football League, but is now running Major League Soccer. Is he under the impression that these two names refer to the same sport?
Unlikely, as we’re dealing with a pretty intelligent guy here. So why does he repeatedly allow his clubs to adopt names that denote the wrong sport?
Is he covertly trying to turn MLS into MLF? We already have Dallas and Toronto and Vancouver and Seattle and Portland and New York who seem to think they are football clubs. The F.C. clubs -- which are also known (by me) as the F*C* clubs, but there seems to be a certain amount of editorial resistance to the use of that designation.
We can add L.A. to that list. Temporarily. At least there is the possibility that a new and better name will emerge. It will have to be better, if only because it can’t be worse. Instead of slavishly copying New York -- is that really what L.A. wants to be doing? -- the new club could line up alongside the SC clubs Columbus, Colorado and Orlando City and declare itself unashamedly what it is, a soccer club. (And yes, I’m aware that the punctuation of S.C. can be also be altered).
Juliet’s dismissive “What’s in a name?” hardly applies here. That perverse insistence on the word football goes deeper than the mere word. It betrays an apologetic inferiority, a cultural cringe that feels obliged to do what the English do.
Eurosnobbism at its pathetic worst. And how even more pathetic when one knows that the word soccer, so snootily mocked by the Brits, is an English coinage and was once, not that long ago, widely used in England. Now the English scorn the word simply because it is seen as American usage. So we, in this country, should align ourselves with that sort of anti-American snobbery?
The celebrity-studded ownership group for the new L.A. club has been described by Garber as “visionary.” That would be nice, because the future of soccer in this country holds out the promise of new, or at least different, contributions to the sport.
But would Garber, or any of the celebrities, like to tell me what is visionary -- or, for that matter, what is American -- about bowing to British language requirements?
It is ironic that while Garber turns a blind eye to the F.C. clubs in MLS, when he outlines his own vision for MLS, he says that the aim is to become “one of the top soccer leagues in the world.” Soccer leagues is what he says.
But MLS is hardly likely to become the top anything if it is afraid to proclaim its own identity. Time for Garber to assert himself, to tell his football clubs that from now on they’re to be known as what they really are ... soccer clubs.