Wassink: NYC FC – MLS’ own ‘plastic franchise’

IMAGE, DAVE MARTINEZ, EMPIRE OF SOCCER

IMAGE, DAVE MARTINEZ, EMPIRE OF SOCCER

Zac is a freelancer who has been covering sports since 2006 and (the) MLS since 2010. His support of the New York Red Bulls played no factor in the creation of this piece. He also supports Tottenham Hotspur, Perth Glory, Juventus, the “Mark Fishkin for MLS Commissioner” movement, and New Jersey bagels. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect those held by anybody associated with the EoS website.

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BY ZAC WASSINK
Guest Columnist

COMMENTARY: A badge unveiling. That’s what makes for front page Major League Soccer news these days.

While I only recently became an official member of the Pro Football Writers of America, I have been on the NFL media list since 2008/09 (I couldn’t remember which year it was nor did I care enough to go back to see). NFL press blasts occur when the league is happy to announce that 30 million viewers tuned in to watch a Sunday Night Football broadcast, or when the league releases monthly Health and Safety Updates.

For MLS, a team that won’t play meaningful football at any point during the calendar year picking one of two badge designs is a significant moment, one worthy of a media event.

It’s not difficult to understand why MLS fans who visit the league’s official website or who follow Twitter accounts belonging to American soccer journalists cannot escape New York City Football Club. NYCFC are the darling franchise of league commissioner Don Garber, a pet project born from the demands of silent supporters who have apparently wanted a team of their own for years despite never doing anything of merit in order to get one.

Turn the clock back to 2007, and then imagine a world where the MLS headquarters were in Philadelphia and not New York City. The Sons of Ben would have held “Occupy MLS” protests in the lobby of the league offices until their demands were met. They would have made national headlines.

No such events, staged or otherwise, occurred in Manhattan. The “MLS to Queens” movement which was supposed to bring a franchise to that borough quietly died a death before NYCFC were officially announced. Even now, with the cornerstones of the club in place, NYCFC cannot get a mere mention from anybody outside of:

  • Credentialed MLS writers who have obligations to cover Mr. Garber’s new toy.
  • Kids, wannabe soccer journos who don’t get paid for their blogs/articles and who also get press passes to NYCFC events because MLS hands those things out like they are candy (seriously, the league has even offered them to me.).
  • A handful of people genuinely interested in the team.

Those in the front offices of MLS and NYCFC have insisted that the team formerly referred to as NY2 will make history. You have to give everybody involved credit, because that objective is already being met and then some. The preferential treatment afforded to and the blind eyes turned toward Manchester City and their bid for a MLS franchise have been unlike anything I’ve witnessed as long as I have actively been covering the league.

A bid for a MLS team that included no landing spot for a stadium and one that had close to zero noticeable public backing was accepted. The current mayor of New York could not possibly care less about NYCFC getting a shiny new venue to call home. Oh yeah; there are also those pesky human rights issues that conveniently get swept under the rug.

It’s amazing what we humans tell ourselves to justify morally questionable behavior. We are here in the United States, and thus we can’t do anything about what occurs in far off lands such as the United Arab Emirates or Abu Dhabi. Make no mistake about it, everybody who reads this:

Every piece of NYCFC merch you buy represents you financially supporting a “’black hole for basic human rights.‘”

But that badge looks pretty sweet, right?

“Would you take a job with NYCFC if one was offered to you?” That was the question asked to me by a friend who works in MLS HQ last year a few days after the club was officially introduced. “I honestly can’t say,” I explained. Working for a top-flight football organization, let alone doing so on US soil, would be an incredible opportunity. It would also, were NYCFC to be involved, include having to ignore what I know about those providing a bulk of the funds for the existence of the club.

At least I would be willing to own up to what I was avoiding to address, something far too many of you refuse to do.

Most hilarious of all is that, since there were no fans clamoring for this specific team, there remain no real NYCFC “fans.” Anybody claiming to be one is, rather, a mark, the type of WWE viewer who takes to message boards to rant about how Triple H is actually going to screw Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania, somebody who says he likes Arsenal but cannot be bothered to venture 30-45 minutes from his home to watch THIERRY HENRY play live and in-person, a self-conscious MLS defender who will accept anything suggested by the league as gospel; the type of fake supporter quietly mocked by diehards who frequent pubs such as The Football Factory at Legends.

Portland. Vancouver. Montreal. Orlando. Perhaps Pittsburgh down the road. MLS teams in those regions were/will be organic creations. In NYCFC, MLS has its first plastic club and the league’s first true plastic fans.

Congratulations.