Saturday, March 20, 2010 |
Cancel the panic, turn off the alarms: There will be an on-time start to the MLS season thanks to a spirit of cooperation (and the aid of federal mediators) infecting the MLSPU and the owners.
Let this be a lesson to you; all the hype, nonsense, and wasted words on a likely - nay, inevitable - strike was just that. Nonsense.
I was as guilty as anyone else of buying what the Players were selling. Though I stated my belief that there would not be a strike on more than one occasion, that doesn't mean I was confident. Psychic, I was not. I was just pragmatic in my assessment of the Players' position and the gains to be had from a walk out (there weren't many).
In the end, it came down to the League picking its battles and a promise (that's how I read it) from management to work cooperatively with labor in the future. If the Players believe that the 5 year deal they just agreed to will eventually lead to full free agency and other "FIFA rights" as they want, then good for them. But without knowing the details, it appears to me that they saw a chance to save face, get a few concessions, and walk away with their heads held high. Not exactly a full victory, but enough of one to make it worth it.
Because in the end, it looks like the Players appreciated the situation MLS and soccer in the US and Canada is in; there's just too much at stake for a strike to make much sense. This isn't to say that the Players bent over, or that they "caved"; I'm simply implying that their ultimate wishes (read: everything) weren't on the table. The power of the Union was mitigated by the youth of the league, the unprofitably of its clubs, and imperative that MLS continue uninterrupted and without the black stain of a labor stoppage.
It's hard, after all of the strike talk and rhetoric, to see this as anything but a well-played game of poker by the owners. The Players pushed in all their chips, were called, and found themselves in need of a sympathetic management group. Hopefully, because it's important that the Players got something out of the process, that's exactly what happened. Those owners that spoke out over the last week on the possibility of a strike were just playing the PR game as so many individual players did throughout the process. I realize it's tough to believe there was benevolence on the part of a collection of millionaires, and they certainly did what they could to protect their business interest, but there's reason to believe that Garber, or Abbott, or the mediator Cohen, imparted upon the Hunts and Krafts of the world that giving a little would get them a lot.
That's what 2010 is: A LOT. From Red Bull Arena to the World Cup bump to filling the stands in Seattle, Toronto, and elsewhere, 2010 is a crucial year for the league. Fifteen seasons, in the United States of America, with 30,000 people showing up for matches and $200 million stadiums debuting in the biggest media city in the world, is nothing to sneeze at.
We'll know details soon. Many more words will be written evaluating who the real winners and losers were. I may (or probably will) write something on the subject myself. Maybe I'll close out the Super Fun! series with an overview of the deal. But thank god that will be the end of it. We're not soccer fans because of what happens in boardrooms.
Storylines that can (thankfully) be retired:
Will Landon go back to Everton in the event of a strike?
Will the owners hire scabs?
Will the fans turn their backs on the league?
Who were the two "no"s when the players took their original vote?
Excuse the ramble. I'm exuberant because cooler heads prevailed. I'm excited for the new season. Let's go play some soccer (them, not me, obviously)!