I Dream A Dream
As I emerge from a state of punch-drunk euphoria (the satisfying and much needed 4-0 win on the road), I stagger to the one place where, for the moment, everything makes sense and all the world is cradled in blissful harmony: the toilet. Now, I understand that upon reading the word "toilet" one might cringe or recoil into eye-rolling based on past experience but I assure you everyone, and I do mean everyone, has a tender story regarding our porcelain pal.
A story where our protagonist, you or I, plunges into the action of dire distress by
b) Walking swiftly, while trying to maintain the appearance that everything is normal.
c) Waddling on tiptoes with an arched back and knees slightly bent striving to keep it all together.
d) Standing still for fear that any sudden movement could cause calamitous consequences.
e) All of the above.
After arriving at said destination, our main character transitions from pandemonium to tranquility through a variety of means by
a) Reading the book or magazine that is located directly behind them.
b) Singing. (Or so someone told me).
c) Unfolding the newspaper that is tucked neatly under their armpit to catch up on the latest government foible.
d) The Zen approach: looking straight ahead without blinking.
e) Paying the bills.
f) Listening to someone from behind a close door while answering "Uh huh" a couple of times.
g) Talking on the phone. (Side note: Beware of the echo. It's a definite giveaway to where you are located in the house)
h) At some point, a little bit of everything, thus all of the above.
But before I continue to toe this delicate line of decency and illustrate further unnecessary visualizations, I offer you this: the point of my lowbrow metaphor. The point is (cue the drum roll) the one aspect of throttling the throne that flushes the rest away is my ability to think clearly. For me, everything comes together when I assume the position and even though I will admit I'm a "all of the above" kind of guy, these little nuggets of clarity that pop up in a pinch offer a seminal influence on my perception.
So in honor of my poignant product of pearl-white prominence, I present to you, my Pipe Dreams.
[You're still reading right? Did I lose you somewhere?]
Pipe Dream #1 - Stadiums
Now don't get me wrong, I love the Home Depot Center. I think it's the best piece of evidence our young league has to sustain credibility amongst the baseball-, football-, and basketball-loving public. But for me, the capacity is too big, the stands are too far away from the field, and?
"What is it?"
"Phil Anschutz on line two," my make-believe secretary says.
"Patch him through."
"You were saying, young man," utters Mr. Anschutz.
"I was saying what a great service you have done for soccer in this country exemplified by the Home Depot Center."
"That's not the tone I was picking up on," states Mr. Anschutz.
"My kind sir, you set the bar, and now I'm merely trying to come up with suggestions that will make a good product great. If I may?"
"You may," he sighs, "but make it quick."
"I propose that we build stadiums that hold no more than fifteen thousand people to make every seat a hot ticket with the fans being as close to the field as possible. Of course, the field would have to be as wide and long as FIFA regulations would allow so that the there is space for the creative players to show off their magic. To boot, the stadium would be much better off in a downtown setting but if that can't be accomplished due to outrageous real estate gouging, then bring the downtown feel to the stadium. Get restaurants, bars, and shops to surround the establishment and make the whole experience a night out. A place where you can't wait to go to next week," I exclaim.
"Since you are using the word, "we," I can safely assume that you do not have the money to back up these suggestions?" he inquires.
"I think you are well aware that I do not," I reply glumly.
"Keep dreaming my boy," he declares.
"That I will sir. That I will."
Pipe Dream #2 - Attracting the Media Spotlight/Product Placement
At some point, I believe we have to mount a campaign to promote our sport as the "cool" sport. The sport you're missing out on by not participating as a fan or as a player. We need P. Diddy wearing a MetroStars jersey while walking the red carpet, Freddy Adu starring in the Bachelor: Prom Edition, a player showing off their digs on MTV Cribs, a face, preferably mine, in People Magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People, MLS commercials shown outside of MLS telecasts, a controversial documentary about MLS garnering buzz at all the film festivals...or we can let Chivas USA win a couple of games.
Pipe Dream #3 - Free Agency
I'm sorry I just needed a good laugh.
Pipe Dream #4 - The System of the World
Is it bad to emulate the world's ideals when it comes to setting up a league for the world's game? Do we have to Americanize everything? I know we have graduated from MLS shootouts and overtime and aligned our rules to the strict code of the FIFA handbook, but what about our structure? Conferences, playoffs, all-star games?
I say one table. Every team plays each other three times. Against each opponent a team will play two home games and one road game or vice versa. The following year it switches. After 33 games, the team standing at the top is crowned the champion. This allows a team that is good in April and May, a la the New England Revolution 2005, to be rewarded for a hot start as opposed to rewarding a team who has been below average most of the season but gets hot in the last month, a la the New England Revolution 2002, 2003, 2004, to have a chance to be crowned champion.
The ripple effect: By eliminating the playoffs we can use the extra month of scheduling to keep most of the regular season matches on Saturday nights and leave the Wednesday night fixtures for the U.S. Open Cup which can alleviate our American itch of a playoff format and David vs. Goliath story lines.
Pipe Dream #5 - Steroid Use
It works for every other sport.
(Surgeon General Warning: Lacing sarcasm in prose is dangerous to the toneless readers' eyes. Please be cautious when re-reading because you missed it the first time)
Pipe Dream #6 - Chartered Flights
I'm standing in the aisle waiting for my fellow passengers to fill the overhead compartments and take their assigned seats and I make eye contact with a settled traveler who already accomplished the previously mentioned pre-flight goals.
"So what kind of team are you guys?" The passenger inquires.
"Soccer," I say.
"What school do you play for?" He queries.
"It's a professional team from Kansas City. Have you ever heard of Arrowhead Stadium?" I return, hoping to gain some instant credibility.
"You guys play there? Wow!" He bellows.
His voice carries around the nearby rows and many sets of eyes are now flickering in my direction.
"And sometimes we play on ESPN and play-by-play announcer, Rob Stone, isn't too busy talking about everything but the game?Jay Heaps played basketball at Duke, he has a 48 inch vertical leap, and is the nicest guy you'll ever meet, I got it, " I whisper to the teammate behind me with a knowing grin.
"Did I hear you say ESPN!? That's fantastic. I had no idea that soccer in America was doing so well. I can't wait to tell my kids that I was on a plane and chatted with a soccer superstar," he roars. "Maybe I should get your autograph since you're a rich and famous professional athlete, what seat are you sitting in?"
"The middle one," I answer, "so you don't mind if I squeeze by."
Pipe Dream #7 - Gambling
America has a gambling problem and MLS needs to take advantage of this weakness. Because until Las Vegas offers up a line on MLS games then the league as a whole will be mired with low television ratings and ho-hum interest spiked by the occasional Bobble-head night. In comparison, I am convinced there is no other reason to watch baseball on television unless you have money riding on the result or if you went to high school with one of the players.
Thus, my only question regarding this particular dream is, how do we get the bookies and casinos to care? Do we just go up and ask?
"Uh, excuse me, Mr. Caesar's Palace Sports Book, can you give us the line on the Rapids - Galaxy game?" asks MLS executives.
"We don't offer odds on NFL Europe here."
"No, no. Major League Soccer," snap MLS executives in unison.
"Okay wait that rings a bell," Mr. CPSB replies, " we do offer something. The odds on how old Freddy Adu really is. We're getting some good action that he is three years older than advertised."
"What's the going price?" the execs muse.
"Well, that he's 18, is going off at five to one," responds Mr. CPSB.
Jimmy Conrad is a defender for Major League Soccer's Kansas City Wizards. He contributes regularly to ESPN.com.