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The STO Commissioner Critiques: Preview

On, MLS Commissioner Don Garber sort of has a blog called “The Commissioner Speaks” where he talks directly to MLS fans. I say he sort of has a blog because Garber has only written 8 posts. In more than a year. In his defense, he appears to be blogging up a storm lately with three posts going up in a little more than a month.

Well, here @ STO, we didn’t want the Commish to have all the fun, so we are introducing our own series called “The Commissioner Critiques” in which we will air some of our own thoughts about MLS and soccer in general. For the next few Saturdays and Sundays, we will put up our posts. Thus, within two months, we will have matched Garber’s output.

Now, we are just simple “Yanks”, so we don’t pretend to know as much about soccer as folks from some other nations. But, we do love soccer here @ STO. In fact, the way we feel about (European) “football” can best be summed up by a quote by renowned soccer writer Paul Gardner, who once said the following beautiful thing about the beautiful game:

“To the aestheate it is an art form, an athletic ballet. To the spiritually inclined it is a religion.”

We here @ STO do believe soccer is a religion, and if you disagree with us, you better prepare to get burned at the stake. In fact, I think soccer is the purest game on the planet. Its purity is derived from its simplicity. There is one ball, two goals, and 22 players. Penalties are scarce (unless the Goats are playing) and success is defined by a single task:

Putting the ball in the back of the net.

A novice soccer fan could sit down, watch one match, and walk away understanding what he or she saw (try that with Cricket and see if you get the same feeling). There are few sports in the world (i.e. bowling) that a person can appreciate with so little difficulty. I believe it is soccer’s simplicity that makes it the most popular game on the globe. 

But, there is one nation where soccer is not all that popular.

I am speaking of the US of A, of course, my home. Here in the States, soccer is relegated to the back of the sports page, and that is if it makes the paper at all. Moreover, finding a soccer highlight on ESPN is like finding Crocs on Victoria Beckham – it’s never going to happen. Why is it that soccer – the world’s favorite game – can’t crack the US market?

Well, the answer is as simple as soccer itself. The most popular sports in America (football, baseball and basketball) have two things in common: (1) they feature high scores and (2) they were invented by Americans. For soccer to rise in America, it must first be Americanized. I know, MLS tried this early in its history, and…

People despised it. Casual sports spectators in the US still didn’t like the game and real American soccer fans felt the league was “dumbing down” the sport. But, the fact MLS couldn’t succeed at assimilating the game to American audiences’ liking doesn’t mean we can’t try to think of new ways to make soccer more popular in the US.

So, over the next few Saturdays and Sundays, we will be critiquing the rules of soccer as they exist and presenting some suggestions to make the league more popular in America. Our “The Commissioner Critiques” series will provide readers with a prescription for strengthening soccer in the US and changing the face of soccer as we know it.

I know if I were Commissioner of MLS (or any other soccer league), there are many things I would change to spice up the competition. Will purists shriek with outrage at some of my suggestions? Yes. But if they don’t like them, they can start their own blog called “The Commissioner Shrieks”. So, I will use the next few weekends to propose my new rules.

We may disagree on my suggested changes, but I think we can all agree that soccer is the greatest sport in the world and that we all love it because of its simplicity and purity. I think we can also all agree that reading these posts will at least be more entertaining than reading Garber’s “blog”. I kid “the Don”, but he is just trying to make MLS stronger.

Well, over the next few weekends, I will be telling him how he can do just that. Will many of my suggested changes be silly and somewhat in jest? Of course they will. Why? Because it’s all I know. But, would some actually be good for soccer and make it more popular in America?

You be the judge.

I’ll just be the Commish…

But I won’t ever look as sweet as Mr. Chiklis did…