Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Monkey's Paw

"You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need." Or sometimes, when you get what you thought you wanted, it turns out not exactly as you wanted it.

I'll confess that I was somewhat glad when the San Jose Earthquakes moved in 2005. I could sympathize with the fans and players of the organization who were sad about it, but there was a more objective side of me that despised watching the games at dingy, medieval Spartan Stadium. Too small, too squeezed in, poor visibility for the fans - the game couldn't breathe, even when good players were performing magic there. Plus, I was tired of the posturing by MLS - whatever credibility remained in the league was being compromised by the threats to move the team without follow-up action. Either move them or leave them alone, I thought. Other things like the weak media coverage the team often got, the lack of city support or a local owner and the high rent demanded by San Jose State for Spartan also made me firmly believe that the quality squad would be better off in Houston.
I felt justified for a while after the move. Houston took to the Dynamo, and the team repaid that enthusiasm in spades, winning two championships. With Lew Wolff involved in bringing the San Jose Earthquakes back into the league, this time with a timeline on their own stadium, it seemed a good move all the way around.
Except - the Dynamo still don't have a stadium, or plans for one. Well, there are talks going on, including a proposal to share their new stadium with a football team. Yes, that would mean football lines, most likely, even if partly covered up during Dynamo games.
What's most important to fans when it comes to the new stadiums? I have to admit that I balked at the artificial surface installed in Toronto. I thought that set a horrible precedent, that MLS shouldn't accept a new stadium proposal that didn't feature a grass field. Wasn't that the whole point of moving out of stadiums that used AstroTurf? Would Philly even consider an artificial surface if BMO hadn't gotten away with it?
The thing I dislike, but am willing to not consider too detrimental is a stage. I'd prefer that all MLS stadiums not have one, but unfortunately, they're all the rage. Columbus, which wasn't built with one, ended up putting one in. That's just an aesthetic gripe, though, and I realize that the stadiums should have options to make money besides soccer. Solvency is a good thing.
The Dynamo would be the first MLS team to agree to share their new stadium (if that's how it works out) with a football team. MLS obviously didn't listen to me about Toronto's fake field, and I doubt they'll be fazed by my input here, but I'm trying to figure out if football lines on a field are a fundamental compromise to the integrity of the game (I do think artificial fields qualify here, as did Spartan's horrid sightlines) or just a preference, like not wanting a stage or wanting a roof.
Should MLS teams (and fans) be happy with whatever they get in the way of new stadiums? If one must compromise, what matters most? What should be considered essential to a positive game experience?

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

football lines ain't so bad with a good groundcrew that either fades them or paints over them, if the stadium is on grass PHP and Cbus have football lines at times, but they are pretty faded. football lines won't affect the field until Sept to Nov, which can be dealt with. it is worth football lines if the stadium will be downtown

also BMO has Fieldturf not Astroturf there is a world of difference

it looks like Fieldturf is the future of soccer anyway since FIFA supports it

Anonymous said...

the only plastic field that is halfway decent is New England. Torntos plastic field is garbage.

A.C. said...

I know that BMO has FieldTurf - but there isn't, in my mind, a "world of difference" between artificial fields. I can't help but think BMO is so perfect in other ways, it's a shame they had to compromise on that count.

CACuzcatlan said...

Astroturf is that stuff they used to use that was basically a green tarp over concrete. American football players wouldn't even wear cleats on it.

A.C. said...

Actually, that's first-generation AstroTurf, which the company doesn't even use on athletic fields any more. It's like saying Apple computer - you're not talking about the very first one, necessarily. The company claims their current stuff is as good as FieldTurf, actually.

CACuzcatlan said...

Either way, football lines won't even be visible among the streamers thrown by Houston fans :)


All kidding aside, if they mandate that the university is responsible (i.e. pays for) removing and adding the football lines after every game, I think it could work out. As someone else said, there are sometimes faint lines at PHP but it doesn't affect the game like it does in Salt Lake or New York.

AJ said...

Great stuff. Good luck to Oscar in his ownership of the team.
www.athleticscholarshipcorp.com

Rich21 said...

Utah's turf plays like the old AstroTurf. It's like trying to kick one of those "superballs" that you used to be able to get out of the grocery store vending machines. New England's field plays much more like grass.

Eugene said...

It would be terrible and has always looked terrible on TV. I grimace when I see football lines on the field of Crew Stadium. Part of the point of having soccer-specific stadiums is that they will be soccer specific!

Which includes not having football lines muck up the field. It really looks terrible on TV and makes it appear that soccer is not the priorty of the stadium.

Anonymous said...

football lines make the MLS look like a bush league... that's pretty much the way a lot of people see it... the mls is digging its own grave here.

saludos, d

Anonymous said...

^If an effort is made to cover up the football lines, then there is not much of a problem. Sure, maybe the international impression might be so great, but the quality of play is what matters. As long as the lines aren't like Giants Stadium, Gilette, or Rice-Eccles, then it is OK in my book. No one complains too much about Pizza Hut's lines.

About the field turf issue, I agree with whoever said Gilette's turf is pretty good despite football pounding. If the turf is replaced occasionally and maintained than I don't see a problem. Hopefully Seattle's turf plays well and hopefully TFC can replace their turf to play better eventually. We'll be rid of Giants and Rice-Eccles soon enough.

CACuzcatlan said...

Speaking of bush league, that's how Mike Wilbon described the streamer situation in Toronto. Before every gets up in arms, Wilbon is definitely not a soccer hater. But if he, as an objective sports journalist, sees this so negatively, I think we have a real problem here. Embedding doesn't work so here's the link:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8pgexephJM

Anonymous said...

^Wilbon, while not a soccer hater mostly follows American sports, so he is not attuned to things like tifos, streamers, flags, and what not.

I don't think streamers will turn off any casual fans from watching the league. As long as players aren't complaining or worrying about injuries, who cares?

A.C. said...

A better question is whether not being allowed to throw streamers will discourage TFC fans from supporting. If the answer is no, then they should stop, because casual fans like Wilbon are definitely turned off. Heck, I'm crazy about soccer, and I'm turned off.

Anonymous said...

^But, would you stop watching due to streamers even though they aren't your favorite(well obviously not since you are a reporter?

I think its cool as long as no one gets hurt. If they are banned though, it wouldn't bother me, but you can bet TFC supporters would be mad.

I think it is a larger issue of the homogeneous American sport environments versus soccer environments. Wilbon is just not comfortable with streamers, etc, because he is used to other things.

Anonymous said...

I say throw the streamers and damn the man!

Look, one person gets pissy about streamers and all of a sudden it's streamer gate.

OMG, the casual fan may get turned off. OMG, this looks bush league. OMG, we must save MLS before it implodes due to these lethal streamers. OMG, this MUST stop!

Relax. This is really just being blown out of proportion.

Turning off the casual fan? Puh-lease. The talent or lack thereof on the field will always determine if the casual fan watches a MLS game or not.

Bottom line, there isn't a problem here. It's just something that has snowballed since Wilbon's comments. It's gone from his bitching to it needs to be outlawed. Just because someone doesn't like it doesn't mean it's wrong.

No one has been hurt by streamers. The players haven't complained.

If it becomes a problem, all it would take is a player or two from the home team to ask those fans to stop throwing them to help the image or whatever of the team.

BUT, it's not a problem. It hasn't been a problem. It's just something being stirred by the media and image police.

Quakes Fan said...

"I'll confess that I was somewhat glad when the San Jose Earthquakes moved in 2005."

Gee, thanks.

A.C. said...

Players have complained - as I posted earlier. As to whether or not fans will listen to their own players, I guess the Columbus Crew will be an example of that - Barros-Schelotto, their star player, asked them to stop throwing streamers during at the Houston players during that game.
As I've posted before, TFC fans actually hurt their team's chances to score by robbing clock time the team could use to go for a win (like against NY this last game). That's not supporting a team, that's handicapping it. People may say the delay is only seconds long but A) There's a reason players get carded for time wasting and B) Exactly how long does it take to score a goal at any given time?
Finally Quake fans, if given a choice between keeping your team at Spartan, losing money for ten years, or losing the team for two and getting a new owner and stadium within another two, which would you take?

RHdigitalYS said...

Quakes' fans aren't exactly the smartest tools in the shed, probably why most of them are still whining about AEG (LA and Houston have to deal with them too).

Anonymous said...

artificial pitches of any kind are bad and american football lines, probably the worst case scenario all around.

Ben

Ben said...

After reading the article I think it is a very bad idea. It paints a picture of the dynamo playing second fiddle in what was initially their own stadium. AEG and Golden Boy can certainly find a better option. They should be like Lew Wolff and just pay for it themselves and screw the city gov. every time they would like to use it to atract an event like the fight we just had here at the HDC

quakes fan said...

Well, for starters, I wouldn't have minded enjoying those last two MLS Cup wins in San Jose rather than Houston.

Anonymous said...

If Golden Boy wanted to pay for the stadium with his own funds wouldn't he have offered it up already. I'm sure TSU will not be paying an equal amounts as the Dynamo. As long as the Dynamo are the primary tenant and TSU secondary, then it is cool.

FC Uptown said...

FieldTurf is not the future of soccer fyi.

Jon E said...

I hate football lines. They didn't always bother me so much, but the more I look at good fields and then have to look at Rice Eccles, the more I hate the football lines. They're distracting and they're ugly.

It's particularly galling to see them when football isn't even in season. If Houston must share its stadium with a football team (terrible idea, I think), it should be made clear in advance that the football lines will only be allowed on the field when the football team is actually using it. In fact, I'd prefer to see the football lines be just as temporary and hard to see as the soccer lines are in most dual-use stadiums.

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