Quick Kick

So, a certain NWSL team has put visiting teams up in a hotel with dubious housekeeping practices – bedbugs & mold – and two prominent players have taken to social media for attention to the issue.

The team doesn’t matter and the players only matter in their stature within the soccer community..and it’s big. What does matter is that they felt they had to bring it to a very public forum to get action.

These two players are well aware of their clout on social media and within the soccer world, so their decision to go public was probably not made lightly. I would guess they had this conversation with their teammates and most probably with someone influential within their club team. So the opportunity to address it with the players was there. That the two players took to social media says, to me, the issues were not addressed and therein lies the real problem.

As anyone who has traveled on a budget knows, or could easily guess, things happen. Sometimes you check into a room that’s not really up to your standards and you can live with it and if you can’t you ask for another room or some other accommodation by the hotel. If you know how bedbugs travel, it’s a wonder more people haven’t been exposed while staying in a hotel, so I can also see that happening. And still this is not really the issue. Addressing these complaints with players is a rather easy thing to do, a simple acknowledgement that they exist is the first step and then some feasible attempt to rectify the problem. But for two different players to tweet the same complaint a day apart tells me that the issues weren’t being addressed and that players were discussing this among themselves and had no positive feedback. And that is the real problem.

The league is constantly telling fans that they have to keep within a modest budget and fans accept that, what fans don’t accept is when they feel the already meagerly compensated athletes are subjected to substandard conditions which have nothing to do with money. One of the owners took to twitter to suggest the fix was as simple as asking for something to be fixed and it would be done. We all know that’s how it’s supposed to work and how we’d like it to work, but are not naive enough to believe that it’s always that simple or addressed with urgency. That same owner, in my opinion, was also insinuating that the players, if they wanted to grow the league would not have been so public in their criticism. While I can understand why he would feel like that, I also get the feeling that the players had reached a certain level of frustration and maybe the issue had been brought up and no action had been taken. I also got the feeling that this particular hotel wasn’t the only issue in regards to hotels, just the latest.

I don’t like players who whine with no real substance behind it, but I don’t think this is the case this time. The players complaining have clout and they’re using it on behalf of all other players that have little to no clout, that’s to be commended.

Get out in front of this NWSL. If you want to be treated like a professional league, act like one. Substandard hotels is bush league, we all know it. Most players would take clean and comfortable (and free wifi) over most anything else. Maybe guidelines for hotel requirements have to be amended. Or the ones in place more strictly adhered to, either way this is an issue that can be addressed and should never have been an issue in the first place.

I took some liberties with what I thought might be the scenario, but the gist is still the same, take care of your players before they feel the need to go public.

Inevitable NWSL Rant #7392481605

UPDATE 08/17/15 – It’s official, NWSL Championship Final will be played at Providence Park in Portland.

Note my total lack of surprise at this announcement that comes complete with quotes from the invisible man himself, Jeff Plush.

While I am not surprised I am still infuriated, for all the reason listed in my original post below and then some. Lies of omission – not telling anyone that it had been decided to use a predetermined site prior to the season- and outright lies – the 2015 Competition Rules & Regulations (before edit) – being just 2 of the more egregious reasons.

The most infuriating, and saddening, reason of all though, is that I am forced into a position where I cannot with good conscience support this decision. I have spent far more time and money supporting NWSL and individual teams than anyone knows and to have to step back and not support this latest breach of trust truly hurts. Many will not see not attending the final in Portland as a big deal, as is their right, but to me it is the last straw in a season that has seemed ill planned and poorly executed. Whether that is the fault of the owners or USSF may never be known and some would say doesn’t matter, but it does. To me, it matters because it affects the way the league operates. If owners want one thing and USSF another, this will continue to be a cluster. If USSF gets to call the shots because they control the league, fans will continue to get the USWNT hand me down decisions. And USSF hand me down decisions will always play in favor of the national team, always. Decisions that play in favor of the national team have so far done nothing to bolster the NWSL or it’s growth ( a very small argument can be made that USWNT makes money that is funneled into NWSL, but we don’t know if there is a direct correlation as to amounts or if USSF just makes it up as they go along). Individual teams are dictated to about so many things regarding national team players, even when a reported agreement existed between them and US Soccer concerning post-world cup play, that it hampers operations, from advertising to rosters. And if you don’t think that affects individual players, think again.

I’m not disputing that putting on a good show is what sport is all about anymore, but it’s the way the league ( again, I have no real idea what that term means) goes about it, and the way they treat the people who are expected to keep showing up, keep spending money, keep spreading the word.

I know I’m only one ticket sale and in the grand scheme it’s not much. But I have to look at myself in the mirror and know I did what felt right to me in defense of the league. I don’t let people in my real life treat me the way NWSL does, why would I or should I accept it from them?

***

08/14/15Ā  – Soccerwire.com posted a story today about the NWSL Championship final being played in a “neutral” site..Portland. (Quotations marks are mine) Needless to say, my blood started to boil. The following is what splattered out all over my keyboard.

What in WoSo’s name is NWSL thinking?!!? I mean, not that we even know what or who NWSL is, is it the owners? The supposed admin arm supplied by USSF? The invisible man, NWSL commissioner Jeff Plush? Some sordid combination of these? Or none of these and it’s just some guys on a conference call once every few months from MLS, FOX and US Soccer, coming together to figure out some infuriating and unexplained way to piss off fans? The more I see, the more I think it’s the latter.

Back to the Soccerwire piece. I have no real problem with a predetermined site, if it were truly neutral to all teams. A venue that hosts an NWSL team is not neutral to anyone and especially not if the team that uses that venue makes it to the final. There are any number of venues across the nation that would be truly neutral and would be a good atmosphere for a televised final. Not to mention that a neutral site would open up the opportunity to showcase the NWSL to new fans.

Putting the final in a place such as Portland (if that’s the case since Merritt Paulson seems to have walked back from Portland being a sure thing) who has a very good fan base and creates a great atmosphere for the game is just plain dishonest (and asking a lot of the local fans to show up and support two teams that they would normally see as foes if the home team doesn’t make the final). By NWSL bowing to whomever is making this call, be it FOX or MLS as PR, or even the owners (although I think that the more numerous the asinine decisions are coming from NWSL, the less the actual owners have a say) they are trying to present NWSL as something it is not. NWSL is not Portland. Portland is an anomaly and as such showcasing the atmosphere in Portland is misleading any new potential fan or sponsor. The game experience a new fan from Boston gets will not be anywhere near that on display in Portland. That’s not to single out Boston, they won’t get that experience at any of the other seven team venues either. Sponsors won’t reach that many fans at any other team venue, leading both fans and sponsors to feel they’ve just been had by a bait-and-switch scheme.

The total lack of any transparency by the league to journos/bloggers/fans is beyond infuriating. Fans are constantly treated like any decisions the league makes doesn’t affect them, in their wallet or their support. We get a pretty basic website, a twitter account that exists to RT the team’s twitter posts and set of Rules and Regulations that isn’t worth the virtual ink it’s written with. We are expected to just accept and support any and all changes the league makes with no explanation or warning. The league knows best and you know..”trust us”. Fans don’t really expect to have a say in how the league is run, at least not most rational fans, all we want is to be treated like thinking, reasoning adults, not small children (the NWSL’s seemingly favorite demographic) who often are told to do something “because I said so”, and do. Fans want to have a place to provide feedback about what they like and don’t like and they want to feel like someone even cares. Some individual teams are great about taking and acknowledging feedback, some less than great, but the league makes no such effort and it’s not unnoticed by fans.

Other sports leagues have commissioners who are out in front of the media taking the heat and the praise that comes with the job. NWSL has no such person. Jeff Plush is the invisible man of NWSL. He may have been appointed because of his ties to MLS and experience building a team, but he is MIA to fans and media alike and we don’t like it. We want him to be the front man for the decisions, good and bad, that the league makes. We need a face of the league. If he’s not going to be it then the owners need to appoint a spokesperson to be that face. I want to have someone to complain to or thank when things happen. Right now I have nothing and no one, not a good thing when fans have no recourse but to take to social media or blog about their frustrations. A league needs to spin everything that happens in their favor, even if sometimes that means taking a little heat first.

Which brings me to the total lack of regard for any media types trying to spread the word about the league. NWSL as a relatively new league has to rely on all the media-type attention they can get. I say media-type because things are changing and print media and TV aren’t the way many fans get their day-to-day information about their teams, especially if those teams belong to a new, growing league. Fans increasingly rely on bloggers and social media, along with a few internet sites that are fighting to get access to the league. These people largely don’t get paid for what they do, yet they do it. They do it diligently and with as much dedication to telling the truth as any major journalistic endeavor. Yet, time and again they are bypassed for more conventional media who give the absolute minimum of inches or airtime to any league news. NWSL, whoever that may be, needs to get with the current times and give these media-types access and accurate information in a timely and consistent manner if there is any hope of coming off as a truly professional league. It’s not just about locker rooms and venues.

I’m pissed about the decision to change venues of the final, whether it be Portland or not, at the 9th hour. I know a lot of fans share this feeling with me. Did the league seem to forget that many fans made the pilgrimage to Canada for the World Cup and as such are smack dab out of leave or holiday/vacation time? Moving the final to a Thursday is foolish on so many levels, least of which is limiting the number of people who can travel for a mid-week game. Just like men not playing on turf, why are the women expected to play their final on a Thursday and not on the weekend as all have done before? Seriously NWSL, are you the FIFA of WoSo?

If all of this has been done to accommodate some very suspect TV deal, I’m even more pissed. I acknowledge NWSL may not have much leverage when it comes to what any network will do for them, but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t supposed to fight for what is best for the league. So far counting the very, very iffy FOXSoccer2go streams, the lack of any screen time for the defending champions and a heavy reliance on MLS venues (see previous paragraph about misleading game experiences), this really isn’t much of a deal. And if my suspicions (since I have no facts to go on) are correct, the league isn’t making any money from it and may in fact be paying FOX to air the games. So yeah, if these accommodations were part of that deal, I’m pissed.

Fans like me – a longtime follower of WoSo, and unlike me – new to the sport, all need to be kept in the back of the minds of every person involved with NWSL. We the fans, expect and deserve no less.

So maybe this wasn’t as much of a rant as I thought it would be, but I hope I made some good points and didn’t ramble too much. I’m just getting more sick-and-tired of the constant ignorance of the “league”

 

You Want To Know What?!

I’m on of those fans that tries to keep track of who plays where and how they got there. I know, I know, crazy me.

I have just spent the better part of 2 hours trying to update the roster of players I keep for teams, on a spreadsheet, with the information I care to keep up with.

2 hours! I’m not building the spreadsheets, just updating them. This should not take that much time. But it does, and here’s why:

Every team has a different format for rosters. Some have great info on players, some just bare bones, but it’s switching formats from site to site that’s maddening. Not just that, but the TEAM rosters are not up to date. Some list players on the injured list, both 45 day and season-ending. Some list neither. Some still have players they’ve waived. Some list the status of players, like active, injured, etc. Some want you to guess.

There are a lot of things NWSL is getting right, slowly. This is not one of them and they easily could. I have no idea if standards have been established for such things as minimum info on rosters, or contents of websites, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea.

If you think I’m kidding, go to nwslsoccer.com and look for player transactions..go ahead, I’ll wait. Couldn’t find them listed, could you? If you want to find a particular transaction you have to search under the “NEWS” tab or go to the team site and do the same.

Want to find out if a particular player is injured or on 45 or season-ending list..nope, have to search for that, too.

This is the 3rd year of the league and it’s really no better in this regard than the 1st year. If NWSL admin doesn’t set standards, then the owners have to, don’t tell me “no one else does it” because that’s the most lame of all lame excuses.

Some sort of uniformity and an easy place to find info would go a long way to keep fans up to date and interested.

At least this fan.

Hey #WoSo, Why Not?

Soccer should be played on grass. Grass requires a dwindling resource – water. Communities are trying to preserve “green” space for people to enjoy. Why not combine grass soccer fields with “green” space to maximize water conservation. In many communities grass soccer fields might be the only “green” space they can afford. I’m sure it’s more complicated, but why isn’t this part of the conversation about soccer on grass?

I’ve said it on twitter and since heard a variation on the podcast “2 Drunk Fans” – In order to promote the NWSL during the USWNT Victory Tour, why not have players wear their team jerseys during warmups? I’d like them to wear them during the games, but that might be too hard to get by FIFA rules. Abby could be the lone player in the NT warmup. 10 chances to expose NWSL to new markets and fans, that’s a huge return with absolutely no marketing investment. What say you US Soccer? In addition, opponents who have domestic women’s leagues could do the same with their players. I know it would boost the Westfield W-League in Australia, for example.

NWSL teams who are not offering season tickets sales for 2016 truly puzzle me. Even if USWNT did not win the World Cup interest would have spiked. Even if a team is not sure of their venue for next season they could accept season ticket deposits. Even someone who is just a fan, like me, can figure that out.

Why not?

Abby in Rio

Here we are..again.
Abby Wambach did an interview on local Rochester TV , WHAM ABC 13, about artificial turf. In the course of the interview she was asked what’s next for her in soccer or her life plans. She answered by saying she hasn’t decided yet, but she was planning on playing next summer in Rio. She went on to say she’s going to take a couple weeks of vacation to get away from the whirlwind of the last few weeks and maybe make some of the decisions about her future.

Cue the “we only hear what we want to hear” crowd. Abby did not say she expected to play, she knew she would play or even that she would play. What she did say was that at this time she’s planning on playing, but wasn’t certain what her decision would be and she’d think about it during her vacation.

If you follow Abby at all you’d know that at her core she’s a competitor. Her wanting to continue to play at the highest level is no revelation. It is also not her decision alone. She may want to be on the team in Rio, but the coaching staff and other players competing to make that team also have a say.

The US winning the world cup this time around and recent announcements of retirement also changes the dynamic of who goes to Rio. The Victory Tour will absolutely see Abby on the pitch for some minutes every game, it’s what the people want to see. It’s what sells tickets and generates revenue. But it also will allow Abby and the coaches to assess what Abby’s role, if any might be in the next year up to and including Rio. Abby herself said she didn’t want to walk away without that final jewel in her crown, the world cup trophy. Well now she has it so anyone buying into the theory that she will be kept on the team for sentimental reason can let that argument go. She’s already got Olympic gold so there’s no sentimental reason to keep her for Rio.

I really think the decision by the coaches on whether to consider Abby for Rio will depend on their development strategy going forward. If they view Rio as a chance to “change the guard” so to speak, then Abby , in her world cup form, wouldn’t really be a consideration other than a cursory “look”. If, on the other hand, they view Rio as an extension of this cycle, she will have a better chance, and I do mean chance, of getting more than a look and possibly even making the team. In either case, she will still have to be able to contribute something meaningful on the pitch.

I don’t envy her trying to make this decision and walking away from what she’s know all of her adult life so far. I will try to remember that she is an adult and has surrounded herself with family and friends and coworkers and coaches and agents who will help her make this decision.

And I will also try to remember that most people trying to push her out to pasture mean well, even if they have a strange way of wording it.

Whatever she decides, I am confident we’ll see her go into it with all the dedication and confidence she’s always shown.

 

A few quick thoughts on Carli and the Flash

People seem pretty divided on whether Carli was treated well by the Flash when she was traded. I have to side with No. And not just because it’s Carli. She’s not one of my chosen favorites on the national team. I love that she’s got that Jersey Girl mentality, but her play doesn’t particularly draw me in.

I say no because I really think giving a player, any player, a call or a conversation as a courtesy is just the right thing to do. It is a show of respect, whether you like the player and are sad to see them go or you wish them good riddance. It just shows a certain humanity.

To say that most, if not all pro sports don’t do it isn’t a very good argument. It’s your mother saying “if everyone jumped off the bridge would you do it too?” kind of argument. The way players are treated by coaches and GM’s is a direct reflection on what type of organization they are and just because everyone does it doesn’t mean they have to.

I am a firm believer that women’s sport has a chance to be better than what came before them, men’s sport. There is a chance to change the conversation and do things in a more respectful and humane way.

Maybe men have come to expect being treated like commodities, that’s sad, but it doesn’t mean women have to accept it. I think women should demand to be treated with a little more respect and maybe the men will come around, too.

Worry About What You Can Control

Almost every self-help book, video or guru has said at one time or another “Only worry about what you can control”. It’s a very wise and time-tested mantra. Worrying about things you can’t control can consume you and make you overlook the very real things you can control to make a difference in your life. In this case I’m writing about the NWSL.

Many, many articles and many more pundits are really alarmed/upset/downright outraged with the lack of mentions by NT players of their NWSL clubs. And in many instances they are right to be upset, players have not maximized the opportunity to talk up their league and clubs when they’ve had the spotlight. I could come up with a whole laundry list of reasons why this might be the case, but it still wouldn’t change the fact that their silence is not something we can control. Hand-wringing is at it’s highest level since Jill Ellis decided to make Lauren Holiday a defensive midfielder. Seriously, the angst can be cut with a knife. USSF, US Soccer, the NT players and apathy have all been blamed for the lack of support from the USWNT after their World Cup win. Even if one or all of these things are true, none of them are in our control, not one of them.

So fugedaboudit. We can’t control it. What we can control is how we mention or talk up the league. What we can control is not letting all the negative comments about NT players and their like or dislike, support or non-support of NWSL be the driving narrative. What we can control is making sure anyone who shows up to a NWSL game is exposed to the best game day experience. What we can control is our enthusiasm and support. We can control our willingness to share our love of the game/team/players with new fans. What we can control is taking the time to answer questions about everything WoSo in a positive and welcoming manner. If new fans get the impression that we only value the league or our team for the few NT players that are at every game because that’s what we gripe about, they probably won’t come back. If new fans don’t think we value the many other talented players that show up every week and perform to the very best of their ability to play entertaining, competitive soccer, they won’t either. If new fans get the impression that these next few games don’t matter because NT players aren’t there, they’ll lose interest.

It’s up to all of us to control what we can. We have a growing, dynamic league full of great players who give their all for our enjoyment, the least we can do is control ourselves and give them the fans they deserve. When the NT comes back, we’ll welcome them with open arms and thank them for the 3rd star and the #1 ranking, and we’ll continue to support our league because it’s what we can control.