Word Count: 56,726

Athbhliain faoi mhaise daoibh!

Yes, this is a bit later that usual and it is because of New Years. Brigid and I are up and writing as 2014 ticks down to nothing. Today has been a good day for me. Lots of words put to page. Lots of work done behind the scenes.

Went through a rather weak chapter, I got something on the page hopefully ideas will come to me or my first re-readers will help find some ideas to strengthen it. Mostly it seems like wasting time. I can try to put some more meat to it, but in the end I am just adding more wasting time.

Speaking of time, I realized that my original dates in the book were wrong. It came to a miscalculation of timing. Essentially when I originally did the calculation I wrote “4 days” instead of “14 days.” Took about an hour to realize the error and figure out how I wanted to handle it.

After that was taken care of I came to two of my stronger chapters that were easier to copy full-sale. Having reworked previous chapters it was rather easy to pin-point any issues and correct them in these two. Character are a bit more consistent.

So that is where I am left right now. I am considering relooking over the weak chapter before I move on with that specific plot, but as of now something is on the page so good enough.

Slán abhaile!

Word Count: 50,635

Fáilte!

Wrapping up early tonight. These last few days have seen some great numbers being made and I’m very pleased with that. Today’s numbers are definitely short of yesterday’s but that is okay. There was significantly more new material for today. Went through the first half of a bumpy scene and am currently redoing another meandering scene to give it a bit of meaning and purpose.

That means taking significant steps away from what’s already on the page or knowing how to repurpose it, which takes a bit more time.

I also have a dishwasher to fight with, so there is that as well.

At this rate I’m hoping to wrap up the rewrite and get it out to the first readers again in February. That’s my hope anyway. I still have a few days left on my break so I got to use it as best as I can.

Anyway, I am getting sleepy. Might have some coffee or whiskey or both.

Sláinte, bitches!

The Pro/Rel Litmus Test

I want to add this as a sort of after-the-fact question to readers.

A lot (not all) of people who support Pro/Rel don’t root for teams in the MLS. A lot (but not all) of people who are against Pro/Rel do root for teams in the MLS.

So I would pose this as a sort of Litmus test on whether you support Pro/Rel or just want an MLS club: if you team was threatened with relegation, would you still support Pro/Rel? What if it was a rival getting promoted instead of you? This is where it sort of breaks down for me. Maybe?

I definitely want to see DCFC reach its potential, and promotion would sure make an easy way for that to happen. But can I take the bad with the good?

I don’t know. I think I know. But I don’t really know until it happens.

So ask yourself if you actually support Pro/Rel or just support your team moving up (as you should).

Dragging Me Back In: Promotion/Relegation & America

Okay, here is some new vocabulary for the unsoccery people:

Promotion and Relegation, often used together and sometimes abbreviated Pro/Rel. It is a pretty contentious point in American soccer fandom.

So, over in þe olde Ængaland and – well – the rest of the world Association Football uses this system that would be completely alien to Americans: promotion and relegation. What it means is that the soccer season doesn’t end in a championship (there are cups for that) it just ends. Someone comes in first and someone comes in last and there are teams inbetween. What happens is that the lowest ranking team(s) get sent down a tier (relegation) and the highest ranking team(s) get sent up a tier if possible (promotion).

Now this means a lot: first it means that minor teams with enough cash and support can grow and spend even a season or two at top-tier earning extra TV cash. It also means that for weak teams every match is a battle and it ensures interest remains in the club through two general means: first if you lose everything, there is a good chance next year you’ll have a better season (because your opponents will be weaker) and it also means that up to the end fans are watching and praying that you don’t get relegated.

A lot of American soccer fans grew up not watching MLS, but EPL (English Premier League). Now that America’s MLS is picking up in popularity EPL fans are calling for their beloved pro/rel to make the jump across the sea.

People are very divided on this issue and some people (myself included) are divided even within themselves because pro/rel isn’t all good. So lets talk pros and cons and then move onto how I think America can realistically adopt pro/rel.

Some Pros:

First, like I said, it makes smaller clubs viable. It encourages people to root for more than just the big team from the big city 500 miles away. In the USA in every sport there are 20-ish teams and that is it. You have to pick the one closest to you, or the one that your father’s brother’s wife’s cousin played for that one year before blowing out his knee.

If done correctly this means MORE not less money for the the league. FC Butte is almost assuredly NOT going to be a power player. But the people of Butte are probably also not going to too many Sounders matches. They are passively watching on TV or the internet. Stick FC Butte into the picture and likely they’ll go to a few games a year. A supporter or ultra will go to quite a few more. And then they’ll still probably watch the Sounders game on TV. In economics terms: we are far from true market saturation in the United States.

Next – it stops stupid one sided and worthless matches from becoming common OR forces owners to actually invest in their teams. Basically it helps “settle” the market and encourages more investment. A team with an owner who is risk-adverse might settle into a lower tier. If the owner wants to keep challenging other local clubs they’ll have to invest. No more owners taking supporters for granted. If they don’t invest the team might slide and that might mean fewer tickets sold. So in a city like Cleveland, with only the Browns, tier 2 might not be a bad idea. People will still go, the Browns might do better with teams of similar stature and everyone wins. On the flip side the Cubs now need real investment, their in-town rivals the White Sox might steal fans away if they get relegated. That means this whole mentality of “as long as Wrigley is filled” undergoes a drastic change – win or die. That’s good for fans and supporters.

This also could potentially add space for talented players who are not necessarily great. So long as lower tiers pay living wages it means the fear of “do I play the sport I love and risk starving” or “do I get a job I hate and eat every night” sort of vanishes and that might be good for developing talent. However, it means we as Americans have to reevaluate how we look at sports as a career option, which I’ll discuss in the cons.

The Cons:

So as I just said, this requires a HUUUUUUGE change in how Americans view sports as a career option and how players should develop as well as tiered leagues.

Right now in America it is essentially pros or nothing. Yeah yeah, minor league baseball. You know who watches minor league baseball? No one.

What about minor league soccer, Nick? You know who watches minor league soccer? Hipsters and soccer purists. Sorry to say it, but that is sort of it. I know at least one fireman who is likely ringing his fists waiting for a chance to put my neck in there. There isn’t really a market for low tier soccer in the USA. Not enough to guarantee TV spots.

But Nick, Indy 11 is on TV and sold out every game. First: yeah, their stadium is tiny. Second: that really just goes back to what I am saying: the soccer market in the United States is far, far from saturated. So call it the exception that proves the rule. Indianapolis is exactly what MLS should look for in a tier 2 city. Big-ish. Passionate. Lacking in a lot of other sports (they have the Colts and they have minor league baseball IIRC).

A huge drawback is America is HUUUUUUUUGE. Like gargantuan. Germany is one of the larger states in Europe and it is half the size of Texas. HALF! This makes travel really hard and really expensive. Small teams will probably need to have travel subsidized, which no league wants to deal with. In lower tiers, with regional play, travel is no problem. But what happens when our hypothetical FC Butte is promoted to a non-regional tier? Now they are flying to Tampa and El Paso and shit, none of those teams want to fly to fucking Butte (sorry Butte, I’m sure you’re beautiful but I’m not queuing to visit your lovely vistas).

There is also the potential to introduce yo-yo teams. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it can be annoying. Usually when pro/rel supporters talk about their system it is this beautifully fluid system with all sorts of teams floating around. But its not. The cream floats to the top, the shit sinks to the bottom. Manchester United is not being relegated any time soon without something cataclysmic happening. Rangers from SPL got sent to (what?) tier 4? And they are rising back to the top with a nearly unprecedented speed. Why? Because the quadruple relegation was unprecedented.

A yo-yo team is a team that is too good for tier n but not good enough for tier n-1. That means one season they are #1 and promoted, the next they are #20 and relegated. Repeat forever. FC Augsburg over in Germany used to be a good example of this. They are actually currently #4 in Bundesliga as of my last update. So I guess a good example (according to wikipedia) is Norwich, I’m sure some Norwich fan will correct me. I don’t see Americans dealing with yo-yo teams. But that goes to the first point: the mentality as a whole is not ready for this system.

So to wrap up this rambling with the biggest con: lower tiers have to fight college sports. Americans love a few things (in no particular order): Guns, Jesus, Reagan, Boobs, and College Sports. Unless you went to Purdue and gave up ever winning a bowl, you fucking love college sports. Fuck I did go to Purdue and gave up ever winning a bowl and I FUCKING LOVE WATCHING ME SOME COLLEGE SPORTS!

A low tier is going to have to fight college sports first for viewers and then for players. The NCAA is a big monster to fight. But this goes back to the very top of the cons pile: we see sports as pros or nothing. These kids HAVE to go to college. They cannot all be super stars, right? They need to have a back up! That is not a mentality or a societal norm that is going to change overnight because someone paid $500 to fly a banner over a single MLS match. That is an Olympus Mons sized hurdle we will have to climb.

So? Where do we go?

So? How does America catch the pro/rel fever? More cowbell? More left-over European players? Jürgen Klinsmann?

No. First there are bigger hurdles to handle. First we need to stop the cluster fuck of trading and DPs and regulations concerning the movement of players between clubs. This is necessary so we mesh better with other leagues. Then we need to adopt the same trading windows. HOWEVER. We should not adopt their calendar. This is mostly because Europe is a lot warmer than the US in the winter, so while they can still reasonably move around in December/February, we cannot. Storms and freeze-ins is a real thing.

I think that We should use the winter as our “off season” period. Summer can be our mid-season break for trading. This gets players out of the sun when the heat is at the worst in places like Texas and California. This way our trading windows sync up with Europe better and we don’t have to travel in the snow. Both wins.

Once we get better trading and a better transfer window the USSF (US Soccer Federation, our version of the FA) will have to work with the existing leagues to be open to the idea of pro/rel. They are going to want to see cash, cold hard funbucks. This means all those people clamoring for pro/rel need to get out to and watch some low tier soccer now. If the MLS/NASL/USSF sees the money at the bottom, they’ll want a piece.

Once they’ve been shown the potential for income they’ll have to restructure themselves. MLS is a “single entity” meaning the owners are actually investors, they don’t own their team they rent it from the MLS. The MLS will have to devolve into a standard league structure within the USSF. This can actually happen over night. The actual guts of the issue is simple – give the people in control actual control. The hard part is getting the MLS to want to let go.

Then after that the USSF needs to come up with a real, official structure. This means a) drawing a concrete line between pro and amateur, no more semi-pro on the pyramid. It also means b) getting these leagues to play along. Same schedule, same windows, same pool of players, and very real lines of promotion and relegation. Then throw in some cups to have fun. The Lamar Hunt Cup is our “Open Cup” and then throw in a few more, one for the lower leagues, one for everyone but the top. That’ll be nice. Cups, for the uninitiated, are tournies that run alongside the season. They are knock out and they let teams play teams they might not normally play as well as funnel some cash into the lower leagues when teams like FC Butte play the Chicago Fire.

I imagine it like this: the NASF (North American Soccer Federation) has four tiers:

  1. Tier One – The NAPL
  2. Tier Two – The NACL 1
  3. Tier Three – The NACL 2
  4. Tier Four – The RPSL
  5. Under this is amateur

The NAPL

The MLS is renamed the North American Premier League, encompassing both the United States and Canada under the newly minted North American Soccer Federation. The NASF will NOT govern the national teams for either country, which is not how it usually works but I think the USA and Canada are best when their sports leagues work together – however at a national level we shouldn’t ever compete together.

This league would be the cream of the crop, 20 teams and no regional divisions. Once you get this high, you are in, you are the best, you got the cash to travel. Teams aren’t promoted from this league, but they can be relegated.

The NACL 1

The North American Champion’s League 1 is tier two. Their best go up to the NAPL and their worst go to the NACL 2. I like the British style of best/worst 3 with a play off for the fourth spot. This means the teams ranked 20, 19, and 18 in the NAPL are always relegated, 17 and 16 play a two-game series with the loser being relegated. The same applies here for 4 and 5 for going up.  There are 20 teams here as well.

This league will also be non-regional, perhaps needing some about of subsidizing of travel costs. Teams here should be from medium to large markets like Cleveland from the beginning of this rant.

When a team is relegated into the NACL 2, it goes into its respective conference automatically. This means all teams (even those far from the threat of relegation) need to be pre-assigned a region.

The NACL 2

Things get complicated here. This is the first regional league made up of two leagues of with 20 teams each, divided east and west. This should NOT be based around “well two teams in Texas should be in opposite conferences” but rather travel costs. Each region plays their season in parallel. Their respective champions are both automatically promoted. Then the next four teams play parallel tournies to fill the second spot.

I’m just going to copy-paste the wiki article for the English pyramid (with changes as necessary):

The bottom three teams in each division relegated to the proper region as appropriate. If, after promotion and relegation, the number of teams in the East and West divisions are not equal, one or more teams are transferred between the two divisions to even them up again. This should start with teams previously transferred to the “wrong” side, then go go to teams closest to the other league.

The RPSL

The Regional Professional Soccer League rises out of the ashes of the NASL. It is divided into four regions: NW, SW, SE, NE of 20 teams each. Done. NPSL is nearly there as-is.

Six teams are promoted (each of the champions and then the top two from a play-off). There is no more relegation. Teams that fail economically have their place in line sold. Since the league doesn’t own the club, the club’s owners are economically liable as any company would be depending on structure and tax filing status and the league can easily wash their hands of the failure. Not their problem.

Like the above, if after the promotions leave and the incoming relegations arrive the regions are not even, they should be rebalanced as appropriate taking into account the same ideas as above – first move teams that have been moved into the “wrong” region into the “right” region, then start moving teams based on proximity.

In Conclusion

So there. This is not as easy as most supporters of pro/rel would claim, but I also think that those in opposition aren’t in opposition for the right reason. As usual, the real reasons (cultural, economic, societal) are probably the real root causes of why pro/rel isn’t happening tomorrow.

From a business perspective, a bigger pool of players and a bigger pool of teams in a system that essentially automatically sends them to the level best suited for owners should be pretty attractive. the USSF/NASF has a lot to earn with so many more teams it just needs to stop being the dog wagged by the MLStail.

But the hurdles in the way are gargantuan. Breaking down the monopoly of the NCAA is an unspeakably difficult task. I think that a market for both can exist – with the NCAA encompassing the spirited amateur, people who are good but not looking to be pros and the actually pyramid holding those who are good and want to do it for a living.

The hard part will be getting the lower leagues to generation enough income to pay their players a living yearly wage. That isn’t necessarily hard either, but it does mean that people cannot just ignore their local NASL/USLPro/NPSL teams anymore. If you want promotion and relegation in the USA/Canada you HAVE to support your local teams. HAVE to. Stop traveling. Stop supporting a big team because they are closest and biggest. Support what you got. You cannot say: I support pro/rel and I’m a Chicago Fire fan from Indianapolis who has never been to Chicago, been close to Chicago, or have family from Chicago. Because you are shooting yourself in the foot.

So, I hope this was enlightening and look forward to all the good this will do for my traff- I mean standing among people with opinions about sports.

Edit:

It has been pointed out to me that relegated teams are given a “parachute” fund to help lessen the blow of decreased TV revenue. This can actually make relegation lucrative if done “correctly.” I don’t really want to talk numbers or money – first it is easy to get wrong, second I don’t want people thinking I crunched the numbers. How you split TV profits and assist teams being relegated is up to organizations like the USSF and might be handled differently depending on where you go. For example – a big benefit from going from the NACL 1 to NACL 2 in my examples is a big decrease in travel costs, which can help off-set a loss in TV profits.

If you haven’t picked up the nuance and difficultly surrounding adopting a new system from everything above, I’m sure this isn’t going to help it any.

Don’t Forget to be Awesome

Okay.

Deep Breath

Going to start of with a disclaimer. I’m a nerd, and I really like sports. In recent years I’ve learned that that is not a rare combination, in fact a lot of nerds like sports. So much so that a bunch of nerds got together and helped AFC Wimbledon with a massive outpouring of support.

For those not in the know, the short (and heavily biased) story is that Wimbledon had a team with a lot of history and culture. Someone bought it and decided “Fuck all that, I’m moving the team.” A lot of supporters were heart broken. So much so that they banded together, put some money up, and remade their team from scratch. That team is AFC Wimbledon and though I am neither a fan nor a supporter of theirs, I just like what they’ve done.

In recent memory, writer/nerd John Green was playing FIFA and was managing this team, which is high enough in the English pyramid to actually be a selectable team on FIFA, which if we are fair is every team’s dream. John Green and his brother Hank have a large (and highly loyal) group of fans collectively referred to as “Nerdfighteria.”

Personally, I am a casual listener to the Green brothers and don’t consider myself a “nerd fighter.” From my few interactions with other nerd fighters you’d think this is a blasphemy, but I don’t like other people labeling me.

Anyway, I digress, Nerdfighteria has done a lot of great things and I like seeing them succeed. I like that they’ve chosen to side with supporters and fans in helping preserve the Dons. I think they are on the right side of history with this, they often are. However, I am actually slightly miffed by all of this and that is why I am calling out John Green and Nerdfighteria.

Guys, guys… I’m so glad you’ve fought for the little guy. But it pisses me off that you’ll send thousands of dollars over to England and then seemingly ignore teams in the very same position over here in the United States. There is so much more to the sport over here. So many teams that are left ignored, unloved, unwanted. You turn your backs on them to write out cheques to send over to England for what?

A team you tangentially “support” via FIFA? Why? Why do you help a team so far away when so many other teams all around you are crying out and dying hoping to get just a handful of people to care. Teams with a passionate crowd that is lacking in the size department. FC Buffalo, the Cincinnati Saints, next year could see the end of the Atlanta Silverbacks to the  exact same scenario as Wimbledon.

Where are all the Nerd fighters there? Where’s all the support for Atlanta? Fuck it. Can’t look all cool and hip supporting Atlanta. Gotta jump on the Dons bandwagon, I guess.

It honestly makes me sick. It just seems so disingenuous.

It would take five. whole. seconds. on wikipedia to find an NPSL team near you.  I’m even going to walk you through what you need to do to support an NPSL team. Trust me, it is easy.

  1. Find a team. See, we’re already that far. It took five seconds, remember?
  2. Talk to their FO. Be upfront, be honest, be willing to work with them, but don’t compromise. If they complain, point to Detroit City. They won’t admit it, but every FO wants to be DCFC’s FO.
  3. Make some banners, buy some smoke bombs (this is America, it isn’t hard). Get a drum on craig’s list. KNOW HOW TO KEEP A RHYTHM.
  4. Buy a megaphone.
  5. Wear something silly/cool. It’ll always be both.
  6. Get some other people together. Its Nerdfighteria, you can do it.
  7. Come up with a sweet name and a good logo. Don’t feel you have to do it yourself. Talk to people like the NGS’ Sergeant Scary
  8. If you aren’t rude, people will help. But don’t brown nose. Have some spine, especially publicly. Make fun of other teams.
  9. Make a twitter account.
  10. Follow other Ultras groups on twitter. (By the way, you’re an Ultra now, deal with it.)
  11. NEVER MISS A GAME. SOMEONE ALWAYS HAS TO BE THERE.
  12. NEVER STOP SINGING. NEVER SIT DOWN.

It’s really easy. It just means actually having the gall to be the fan the team deserves. It means that you’ll have to do more than cut a cheque. You’ll have to spend money, time, effort, sweat, blood; all those things that don’t come easy. And you’ll only get back what you put into it.

But let me tell you something. The look on the face of that player, when after a bad game, he looks up and there are 10, 20, 5,000 people who do not give a fuck. Who are there to cheer regardless. The pain melts away. You can see it.

And when they score, if no one is there, who do they run to? Who do they cheer with?  DSC6811-copy

Photo: Detroit City

They need you. They need you.

So while I’m thankful that you’ve supported the Dons, for all they stand for in the face of homogeneous sports events, don’t ignore the home front.  Don’t ignore the war on soccer culture that is being waged right here in our own backyards.

AFC Wimbledon is a great success story, but like pandas for the WWF, we cannot ignore the rough and ugly in favor of everyone’s favorite poster child.

So get out there. Do what you can for as long as you can do it. I hate to say it, but “big soccer” is coming for us. They are looking to end it all.

Fight.

Fight and don’t forget to be awesome.

Climb

Photo: Michael Kitchen

Pictures casually lifted from the Detroit City page and the NGS facebook page. Looking for photo credits now.

 

Word Count: 26,658

Only got about 1,500 words written today, but I also took today easy with the holiday and everything. Played some minecraft, took time writing because I fear this section could sort of slip a bit. It involves two characters whose relationship is different in the end then at this point so I’m afraid of writing like the end and not the  beginning. Often means constantly stopping and revising.

So, as holidays come and go, I hope they are all great.

Slán!