This week saw yet another much-hyped series of columns on the internet that put the US Soccer Federation squarely in the cross-sights. This time it was freelancer and Big Lead contributor Ty Duffy laying into US Soccer with his three piece series. I hate having to, to paraphrase Wiilliam F. Buckley, stand athwart the nonsense being thrown the USSF’s way, yelling stop, but in this case, I will again.
Let’s start with Part 1, US Soccer: Endemic Delusions that Perpetuate Mediocrity. I’ll say this, Duffy does know how to write a good headline. Too bad, that’s about all he knows how to write. Duffy does little more than flesh out the average post-game posting of American soccer’s most rabid sliver, those who hate the USSF because they hired Bob Bradley and haven’t achieved what they’d thought they’d achieve by 2010. Well, none of that is new. We’re all aware that some within US Soccer thought that the US would be competing for the World Cup by 2010. That was probably dumb for them to say, considering that 2010 comes less than 20 years after the foundation of an professional league in this country. But for any respectable author to take that at face value, and not as the usual marketing yammering we hear all the time out of soccer is simply idiotic.
Anyway, the criticisms he makes of Bradley’s tactics are a mixed bag. Some of them are relatively valid (second half problems) and some are nonsensical such as calling Torres a “persona non grata.”
But nowhere in this piece does it describe any kind of “endemic delusion.” It’s just the same slop you could find on any message board anywhere include this fine one. He ends his column having meandered far away from anything close to what I suspect his point was supposed to be.
Held accountable for what? Look, you can definitely say that Bradley and his teams haven’t exactly lit up the world with glory. I grant that completely. But it’s completely unfair and inaccurate to describe the team under him a failure. They’re four points away from qualifying with three matches remaining and in the major tournaments they’ve played and sent A-teams, they’ve finished 1st (Gold Cup 2007), 2nd (Confederations Cup 2008) and in those where they’ve sent B-teams, they’ve finished 2nd (Gold Cup 2009) and one where they stunk completely (Copa America 2007). That’s one utter stink job out of four. I’m sorry, that is simply not a failure. It might not be good enough, but it’s not worth of a “You don’t know what you’re doing,” chant.
When someone can come to me with a clear-eyed, evidence-based criticism and assessment of US Soccer, I’ll gladly listen. But for now, we’re stuck with crap like this series.
Let’s move on to part II, US Soccer: Feud with Jamie Trecker. Trecker says that he was denied credentials from USSF starting in 2006 because of his repeated critical stands on the federation. Duffy treats this as if it is some kind of capital offense. It’s not. It’s part of life as a journalist.
Of course, like any writer, I am against him being banned by the USSF.
That said, if you’re going to take an almost entirely critical line against an organization, any organization, you run that risk. Obviously, not being involved in his reporting process, I cannot say how he came to his famous “Klinsmann is all locked up for USA” story, but when you get something that big, that wrong, you run that risk. Again, I am not defending the federation’s move here, but it’s a teeny bit whiny to moan about not getting WC credentials (no easy task anyway) after blowing a story that large. Reporters face consequences to bad reporting, no matter if your covering the White House, Vanna White, or White Hart Lane. It’s no different in any other job.
I should also add, that while I have never been banned, one large sports organization I covered apparently made clear that if any media outlet in the area hired me after college, they’d immediately revoke all the outlet’s credentials. That organization hated the tone of my writing and my lack of reverence towards its often controversial actions and employees. Today, out of journalism, I can still say, blackballing or not, that they never once accused me of libel or even of being inaccurate. Not one single time. They might not have liked my opinions, and I might have injected them where they didn’t always belong, but that’s vastly different than being wrong or libelous. I am not sure Trecker can stand astride his pedestal and say the same thing. I don’t know what happened with that Klinsmann story, but in the end, the story was wrong.
I should add that there are other ways a team/organization can express its displeasure with a writer banning them. I wonder if any of those channels were explored by the USSF. This “message sending,” soft or hard, is one of the key tenets of public relations. As long as there is a competitive media covering any one thing, PR people will send messages, overt and otherwise, to the media through access, interviews, scoops, etc. to help them get the message they want out.
I don’t expect any institution, sports or not, to give up those levers of influence. Part of being a good reporter is learning to navigate and occasional pull on those levers. It’s not the most important part (that’s being accurate), but it’s an important part of the job nevertheless.
The problem I am having here is that, as a former reporter, I want to defend Trecker. I just can’t stand his writing. I think he’s a complete one-noter who more-often-than-not offers stale opinions without much in the way of data, facts, reporting, observations, or even humor to make me want to keep reading.
But here, to me, is the key reason USSF can and will do this.
They, unlike many MLS teams, get plenty of media coverage. This summer was is a turning point for this team’s relationship with its reporters. US Soccer, as a men’s national team, now gets plenty of coverage including on the most important set of platforms in all of American sports – ESPN.
The USSF doesn’t need any single reporter and thus can “get away” with heavy-handed tactics against single reporters. For the first time, you might be able to say there is a surplus of coverage for the USMNT. Even if you wouldn’t describe there being a surplus, it’s safe to say that they’re no longer “desperate” and that changes the way you conduct media relations.
Now to Duffy, Trecker, and all the other US Soccer truthers out there, this move to keep Trecker away is an anathema – an unforgivable sin by an organization (USSF) corrupt to its core.
That, of course, is utter nonsense. US Soccer is an organization with a product out there that has an image to protect and a message to project just like any other sports or corporate organization. This is where the left-wing impulses of so many of my fellow soccer fans drive me insane. The USSF is not the co-op market down the street or the local branch of an NGO where you try and pick up chicks – it’s a big corporate sports entity that has a product competing in the sports marketplace just like the Yankees, Southern Cal, Chicago Blackhawks, and L.A. Lakers. Soccer isn’t exceptional from that. Get over it.
It appears to me that, according to Duffy, Trecker and their fans, they want US Soccer to be this lean, mean, hugely professional, dare-I-say Teutonic (don’t forget how much they love Klinsmann) organization at all levels with the exception of media relations where they instead would like it staffed by Brownie Scouts, happy to respond with any reporter’s writing with ice cream, candy, and balloon hats.
Sorry children, that’s not how it works in the real world. If you want US Soccer to be “big time,” you’re going to have to deal with US Soccer actually being big time. If you want a smiley, homey, small-time sport to support, go cover men’s field hockey or women’s free diving or something and leave the soccer to all us adults.
Finally, Duffy really wets his diaper with a story entitled, US Soccer: Website or Propaganda, as he complains that US Soccer’s own website somehow is biased towards US Soccer.
Take a moment to pull yourself together, readers. It’s shocking stuff, I know.
If you want unbiased, fair, and thought provoking coverage of a sporting event – what kind of moron expects it to come from the team’s own website? At best on official sites you can get raw audio, video, and transcripts of interviews/events and even then you should know that the material might be filtered.
You mean the USSF didn’t play up it’s loss to Mexico and then put out its release under a favorable headline? I can’t believe it. I am stunned.
Seriously though, taking off the sarcasm hat for a moment, who gives a shit about what US Soccer puts on its website other than an accurate calendar, some stats, and a link or two to Ticketmaster. Other than that, eh, whatever.
Again, and again I have said that I would love to read a critical assessment of US Soccer that is well-researched, well-written and approached by an author with an open mind and an honest hand. I’d love to read it, I’d love to discuss it.
But first, I’d love to see it. For now, we’re left with saliva-covered diatribes that maintain that US Soccer as we know was utterly ruined the day Bob Bradley was hired. On that day, the dreams of little boys with identity issues and inferiority complexes everywhere were shattered by the thought that someone with an accent that sounded like their own (and not the fake English/Spanish/Italian one they affect while singing along in a bar or at the stadium) would be leading their national team for the next four years.
Tonight is a big match for our team, for our sport – for all of us. It is our responsibility tonight as supporters of soccer in this country, to get behind our team – all of it, including our manager.
If you can’t do that, then leave the soccer for the adults, and go back to your Warcraft, your ‘zines, and your search for an identity you like more than the American one you were born with and get the ******** out.
I don’t want you here anymore.