Category Archives: Opinion

Kleinstaaterei – NISA Joins the Mess

As is often the case German has the perfect word for any situation. Kleinstaaterei literally “small state -ery” is a great description of three things: Germany before Bismarck, the Balkans after 1992, and American soccer in 2017.

Today, as unveiled by Midfield ϕress, the giant goatsee-esque gaping hole in the American soccer “pyramid” might finally come to a close. For those not keeping up (and why would you?) the pyramid is currently very not pyramid-like as we currently have the MLS on top, both the NASL and the USL in tier two, noöne in tier three (because that fucking makes sense), and then PDL and NPSL in tier four.

(Detroit City is in that tier four clusterfuck.)

What is bringing this to a close? In an interview between Chris Kivlehan and Peter Wilt apparently it is NISA: the National Independent Soccer Association the USL to the NASL’s MLS.

Now, a large portion of the hype driving this, that pro/rel has finally reached America is cut down quick; Wilt is pretty straight-forward and honest that there is no agreement between NASL and NISA. He says (emphasis mine):

I presented the concept of the third division league to both the NASL and NPSL.  Both thought it was a great idea, and was needed.  The idea was a link league that would eventually lead to promotion and relegation.  Everyone agreed it was a great idea, but  the devil was in the details.

Over the next several months the focus became who would organize it and lead it, NASL or NPSL.  At the end of the day both said they needed to focus on their own leagues

This bit of honesty, when showmanship could’ve reigned, is one of the reasons I tend to let Mr. Wilt speak. It’d be easy to promise the sun and stars and deliver New Jersey, but expectations must be reasonable.

So what are those promises? Well, Peter continues by outlining four “pillars” of the league:

I. An affordable pro division national soccer league with regional based competition

II. An independent league with team owners controlling their markets and intellectual property

III. Our intention to incorporate promotion and relegation once the league is fully populated with 24 teams

IV. Have a strong league office with quality staff supplemented by expert consultants

I’m going to break this down from my perspective. One and two say “we’re going to mix the NASL with the NPSL” – regional with low travel costs and independent teams, no franchises here.

The first problem I see, though, is immediately followed by number three: twenty-four teams? But that’s a fourth what the NPSL boasts and about the same as the MLS. It’s also twice the current NASL roster of teams.

How is one supposed to be regional when there are so few teams? Or is the plan to have two divisions? “No” says Wilt. One. One division of eight to ten teams in 2018.

Ooookay.

However, Wilt continues, this will break into two conferences as the goal of twenty-four teams is reached.

I’m ignoring that other part for now.

Lastly, that fourth pillar is just saying to investors “we learned from the NASL blowup at the end of last season and we’re going to move forward smarter”.

Whether or not that is true has yet to be seen, but acknowledging that you have a problem is always the first step to fixing it.

Next few sections are business talk I’m not smart enough to understand.

Flip flip flip.

Wilt brings up an interesting point, which I will use to jump off to that discussion a bit earlier than planned (emphasis mine):

There is the potential that NISA could fully populate at 24 teams before NASL can populate to its goal of 20 teams.  So NISA can work as an incubator of sorts for the NASL, at first, before promotion and relegation.  A team could play for 2 or 3 years in NISA, then join NASL via expansion.  This would allow those teams to get their feet under them from a business standpoint.  They can build their fan base and revenue model while operating at a lower budget.

Well isn’t that a whole lot of common sense, but it still (wisely) skirts around the whole pro/rel issue – which I guess is the point.

I’d like to think that every team in NISA will have the ambition to either buy their way up or earn their way up through a promotion and relegation meritocracy.  Our ambition is to grow the sport.  We want to promote teams to the higher division, and eventually do that in a merit-based way in an open system, which is obviously another contrast to USL.

So the plan seems to be a sort of hybrid system, which makes sense in a round-about way. NISA will probably still be operating without paid players, hoping to maintain the ability to tap into the NCAA’s player base.

Or maybe they’re not.

A longer season might make this harder. Ten teams means eighteen home/away games. Currently DCFC plays fourteen with a pretty packed schedule that relies on favorable geography.

Will the longer season mean fewer NCAA players? Probably. In the past DCFC had issues keeping players from certain schools on board all season because they’d get called back early.

And college players travel notoriously poorly – primarily because they don’t travel so they can work a part-time job. Low-tier soccer in the US doesn’t pay. And without TV deals it probably never will improve too much. That’s what makes MLS squads so much stronger than even NASL or USL squads – there’s a huge cliff between them, a cliff bridged with money from sponsors who want national exposure on TV, not just some YouTuber’s stream.

In the end I think that will be the largest hurdle between NPSL and NISA, but not as big as a hurdle between NISA and NASL. You can’t really be semi-pro, because the NCAA basically dictates that you either pay everyone (and get no NCAA players) or pay no one (and get no professionals).

Now there is some grey room – but it is limited to those willing to essentially work two jobs to play soccer.

I’m going to move this entirely into the realm of my personal thoughts, because the interview, while well-written, starts to get into business stuff pretty quick and I want to just think aloud rather than regurgitate.

I am not convinced by this. I’m just not. If Detroit moves into this league, and given hints from Sarge on twitter, it seems likely, I am worried. I am worried about my club being dragged down by the weight of another ASL. Remember ASL? No? Well they were a thing and they were essentially dead on arrival.

On the flip side I trust Peter Wilt more than most people.

On the flip flip side, USL is also getting ready to launch its own tier three division. There are pros and cons – USL has the “B” squads and affiliate squads that can help bolster their second division in the rough early waters; however that can also stagnate interest in the league from outsiders. It also means that the USL will be running two leagues while the NASL and NISA operate independently, meaning each can focus on their own interests while only paying respect to the other.

Whether they are “relegated” is not my concern. Boot them before they drag the league under.

That sort of decentralization might be healthy and give NISA a good advantage.

I also think that NISA and Peter will attract some interesting teams that will help the league in those early water days with good, strong attendances.

Another issue, though, is that I can’t think of that many teams to make this worth-while. NISA needs to be willing to cut the chaff and not give fledgling teams enough time to sink the entire league. If a team is floundering they need to be kicked out, period. Whether they are “relegated” is not my concern. Boot them before they drag the league under.

This also means that this war between the independent leagues and the franchise leagues has no end. And the hill that seems to be the one NISA/NASL/Peter are willing to die on is this idea of pro/rel. I think, in the end, pro/rel is a marketing ploy – a tag line for the articles to employ to get more clicks. Whether in five years or ten, whether between two leagues or three, I don’t give a fuck about pro/rel as a hill to die on.

Would it be fantastic to have? Yes.

Is it worth losing DCFC for? No.

When is the league healthy enough for pro/rel? When all the sides are pro.

When will that happen? If the NPSL is involved? Never. Without the NPSL? By 2030.

In the end I don’t think pro/rel is here, I think there are ten teams taking a massive risk and I really, really hope it works out for their sake.

And where does this leave DCFC?

I still don’t think MLS will really come.

As always, we are linked to every expansion announcement since 2013 so let’s think this out.

Currently there is a push for “MLS to Detroit” from a couple billionaires. I doubt strongly they are going to actually move DCFC either because they want total branding control or because the owners will stick to their guns before selling out. Or really – both those things.

So that means a tier three DCFC potentially up against a tier one MLS team. Can Detroit support both?

I say “maybe leaning on yes?”

I still don’t think MLS will really come. I think that when Gilbert/Gores don’t get their stadium land, it’ll mostly fall through. And Gores’ recent(-ish) comment on not even wanting another team probably doesn’t sit well with Garber, who will want strong, united owners.

Moreover Garber probably wants to avoid adding a second Miami FC to the mix – with MLS Miami still looking for land on which to build a stadium, the last thing they need is two teams sitting around waiting for property. Or to finally get Miami into the queue only to refill the waiting spot.

I think Garber will aim for “easy” expansion (his comments about St. Louis reflect this) and no messy, political ones.

I think, in the end, Detroit City is moving to tier three and the city is going to remain a one-team-town.

So? Who are the other nine? Here are the ten teams I think will inaugurate Peter Wilt’s NISA (based on twitter rumor, speculation, and bullshit alone):

  1. Detroit City FC
  2. AFC Cleveland
  3. Chattanooga FC
  4. FC Buffalo
  5. A Chicago-based team
  6. An NYC-based team
  7. A Florida-based team
  8. A Mid-Atlantic-based team
  9. A Deep South-based team
  10. A Missouri-based team

Sorry that lacks any form of specificity. Cheers, everyone.

Trophies

So this topic has dropped on my twitter a few times recently so I wanted to get some stuff off my chest while I procrastinate other, probably more important, work. Let me say this first – this is an opinion piece, one written with a bit of a bone to pick with no one in particular rather a sentiment that I’ve seen a lot and honestly don’t agree with.

Take it as you will. If you don’t think you fulfill the niche I’m bitching about, good on you. If you’re reading this and getting pissed perhaps I hit a nerve.

I’m fucking sick of hearing about “participation trophies”. Flat out, I’m just fucking sick of it.

I had a closet full of the fuckers, ribbons, trophies, some huge ones that were nearly legitimate. Trophies were completely overblown in that day and age and apparently still are. I remember my third place pinewood derby trophy being like a foot and a half tall. Just showing up got you a six inch tall one.

It was insane.

You’d sneeze and get trophies.

Growing up I remember once not getting some sort of reward for trying. When I was in karate, like all good 90s kids, I was turned down to attempt getting my yellow belt. I remember not being in karate for much longer after that. But that was it. That was the only “real life lesson” I’d get until, essentially, I was in real life during my twenties.

The thing is I was in elementary and middle school when this was happening. I wasn’t a whiny brat. I wasn’t crying or even really wanting any of these damn things. It was the institution. They were being thrust into our faces. Whole scam award/distinction industries like Who’s Who popped up in this time frame. People were literally PAYING to have their kids rewarded.

Meanwhile our schools just churned over and over, trying to make sure we all kept together now. Again – we were kids. We didn’t go to PTA meetings. We didn’t vote for school board. We didn’t have any fucking say in any of this. These were the institutions that already exists and we were forced to cope with.

So when Millennials began growing up and moving on, suddenly the tone changed.  Suddenly we were entitled little brats and those fucking trophies, those trophies that had been forced into our hands by the adults in our lives were exhibit “a” in a case closed before it was opened. I’m not sure any of us consented to the system, I mean we enjoyed it, but we were little kids, of course we loved getting stuff. But we were also smart enough to understand that we didn’t need them or even really deserved them.

When I wasn’t selected to move on to yellow belt I didn’t cry, I didn’t scream, I understood I hadn’t put the work in and didn’t deserve it. I felt like shit, because the instructor was publicly calling this shit out, but I got it. I understood. Kids are smarter than most adults give them credit for. Kids are hardier than most adults give them credit for.

They aren’t the participation trophy generation.

Their parents are.

Their parents were the one handing them out. Their parents were the ones yelling at the teachers and not the kids. Their parents were the ones who needed the gratification of raising winning kids without the effort to raise kids that win. And so it was passed on to us, unwitting and innocent, until we were old enough for the very same people handing us trophies to turn on us and complain that we were entitled, couldn’t handle ‘no’, couldn’t stand up to the challenges of real life, removed from reality.

And honestly, with facebook and the rise of parenting for likes and retweets it is only going to get worse.

But don’t blame the kids. Don’t blame the kids dragged across the stage at first grade graduation. Don’t blame the kids having trophies and awards and ribbons thrust into their little, grubby hands by the very adults who then turn around and bitch about how we’re the entitled generation.

I think I speak for a huge number of Millennials when I say “if sending you all my trophies back will shut you up; what’s the address?” I don’t want them (never did), I don’t need them (never will), and you won’t shut the fuck up about them.

And I hope Millennials did learn a lesson, on how not to treat the generation after us.

Anyway.

O. Wait. Before I go.

Piers Morgan?

Go fuck yourself with the wide end of a rake.

Cheers, motherfuckers.

A Follow Up to Moderating

A brief follow up to my recent post on moderating.

After posting it I had a few people who read my site reached out and thanked me, which I always appreciate that.

But I also had a user just today reach out spontaneously by PM and thank me too, which not only doubles my count but is also a big part of why I do what I do.

You’re welcome Gary. And everyone. No plans on quitting anytime soon.

Thoughts on Moderating

Banned someone the other day.

I do it quite often, actually, and though it seems almost petty to think about, I often remove someone’s ability to see a whole website more often than most people. I talk about moderating on and off, mostly because I am behind an NDA and get too much into details like the system we use or who gets what.

The identity of the guilty is generally a private thing, known only to those involved.

That’s okay, I prefer it that way. I prefer that no one has to know. At least once I’ve infracted someone I knew IRL without knowing it at the time.

At least once someone used my website to reach out to me to protest a ban.

If you are reading this and contemplating the same, I’ll save you some time – don’t. Just… just don’t.

Moderating is an interesting profession, all things considered. It certainly gives you an insight to human psychology that I think would even make most retail people blush. Sometimes someone gets back to you with such pure, unadulterated hate that even after more than a decade of life on the internet I pause and read it a second time to see if I got it the first.

I am digging through 117 pages of 25 PM threads each right now for a gem I hold closely.

“No one cares you stupid faggot. Kill yourself.”

What did I do or say to get this? I reminded him that the rules require users to bring up issues with the staff privately.

Over the years I’ve been told to suck a lot of dicks. Been called the n-word more times than I am comfortable with. “Faggot” is a popular one. Often users will offer to rape my significant other or allude that they’ll rape me. Few guess that I am married so they usually refer to a “girl friend”.

Racism and homophobia play key roles in the insults thrown at me, though a large portion of our user base (and certainly the more… colorful segments) are from eastern Europe where it seems those two are go-tos for insulting the powers that be.

A lot of people, a lot, reach for the “freeze peach” card. To them free speech is some universally guaranteed commandment over all other rights. It supersedes property. It supersedes national boundaries. It supersedes human dignity. This is the internet and god dammit they can call whoever they want an n-word and tell them to kill themselves and there is nothing we can legally do.

Other than ban them.

Apparently I am a wanted man in Latvia, or so some freeze peach homophobe would lead me to believe.

Anyway. I’m getting side-tracked with belly-aching. I banned a man the other day. I’m sure that’s the story you all want to hear. It isn’t always easy. Sometimes you feel bad. Sometimes you need to tell yourself that their sob stories are lies. That they stole it because they’re cheap. Because they don’t value the work of others. Because the truly hate the idea of both supporting your company as much as going without a game.

A certain level of cynicism is necessary when dealing with people on the internet because there is no way to validate any claim they make. I had one user go as far as to offer to send me [nude] pictures proving they were trans after they were infracted for insulting trans people.

A) That doesn’t undo your insults.

B) I can google trans before and after pics too.

You eventually just stop believing people. Everything becomes a cover. Everyone is lying. Everyone has some terrible seed of vile hatred inside them waiting for anonymity.

Everyone is ready to make a false equivalent.

“How is ‘Kebab’ racist? I can call a Frenchman a ‘baguette’.”

I don’t know, maybe because one comes from a video demanding genocide? I mean, if we’re going to get technical it’s because the rules say so? Perhaps that you rely so heavily on racist monikers should be something you should do some soul searching on instead of bitching to me for calling you out on it.

No one ever trolls, either, I find. I know because nearly every, single, poster I’ve infracted for trolling replies back within a day to tell me that they weren’t actually trolling and in fact it was the other guy who was doing all the trolling. They didn’t mean to suggest that they were mentally deficient and that their opinions were akin to the holocaust.

Honest.

Protip, wrestle with pigs for too long and bystanders will have trouble telling the difference.

Anyway, banning. I banned a man the other day for pirating. Sometimes it is well earned. Some go out in a blaze of glory, admitting that the stole everything and saying that they’d do it again too because we’re evil/libtards/gay/white guilters/whatever fascist bullshit catchphrase is on everyone’s tongue that week.

Those ones are easy.

Cathartic even.

This was a kid from Lithuania. Said he couldn’t afford the game and that it was hard to come by. The error he was having made it extremely obvious he had pirated it and then he admitted as much to the other users. So I banned him and swept it all under the rug.

Gone.

Poof.

Isn’t much left to talk about. But it made me think. Made me think of what we do and why. With nearly 3000 PM threads in my inbox I can only remember one “thank you”. One. That’s it. Lots of people telling to kill myself, or hoping that I or someone I love is raped. One thank you.

Sometimes I wonder why I do what I do. Wonder what I get out of it all. I must get something out of it because I keep going back, keeping fighting our fight.

Maybe I just want to see a second “thank you”. Maybe I get a sick pleasure from the power and pain. Maybe it feeds a martyr complex. Maybe it fulfills my desire to feel like I’m doing a small part to combat the vile trolls that grow in the internet’s dark corners. It’s probably a combination of all that and some other little ticks that I can’t think of right now.

I have no desire to stop, really. In the end, in the end I enjoy the comradery with my fellow moderators. I enjoy thinking I am doing good. And yes, to a small extent, I enjoy the shrieking death throes of trolls, pirates, and fascists as they flail powerlessly at the keyboard. Calling me all number of horrible things. Threats and slurs are all they have in their arsenal.

 

It’s only weakness. An utter lack of agency to stop the inevitable. A refusal to lay in the bed one made.

In a sad, or perhaps glorious, way it makes me stronger. Makes me a better person.

Maybe that’s why I stick to it.

 

The 2016 Summer Wrap Up

No this isn’t a thing, nor do I plan to make it one, but there’s a lot going on and a lot on my mind and I’m planning on writing some of it down for the curious and so that it’s here and not floating around taking up space that could be used to memorize useless CAE method codes for work.

NGS Kilts

I sent the order in. We got a few orders, but that’s all. I’m hoping to hear back from our supplier in the next week or so. Technically this is the real deadline, but I’m guessing no one is actually going to take advantage of it.

That’s fine.

I’m amazed I sold as many as I did, to be perfectly honest. It is humbling and awesome that people chose to buy something I designed, so thank you to the handful of you who ordered or even expressed interest in ordering. It means a lot to me.

The question of whether or not we’ll try again is up in the air. My gut reaction is “no” but you never know. So maybe?

The Move

The biggest thing going on in my life right now is the move. That’s right, Brigid and I are moving clear across the city from Howell to Grosse Pointe Woods. The move should be wrapped up 23 September. We and everyone involved (three families total) are cleared for our individual closings so it is all about scheduling at this point.

Brigid and I are supremely excited for this, and I’ve talked about it elsewhere so I will spare the details here. The short of it, though, is Brigid can begin writing full time! That’s super exciting for both of us and it means that she will hopefully eclipse my income shortly and then make us a billion dollars so we can retire at 35.

Surgery

I’ll keep this brief – I am going under the knife Friday (2 September) morning for a regular, minor, elective surgery. No big deal (hopefully). If things go right it’ll be a speedy recovery.

Book Two

Let’s end on a high note! The first draft of the still untitled book two of my series is complete! Huzzahs! I have a lot of editing to do, so expect those updates as I quickly try to rebuild the whole thing from the ground up a fifth or sixth time. I really like where it ended, I like what the characters got done, but I also recognize that it needs a lot of work. Hopefully that can get done sooner than later.

I’m taking a bit of a break from writing directly and switching to replotting out books three and four with much more detail than I have in the past. Hopefully this will make writing the last two installments a much quicker affair with fewer total restarts.

On the publishing side of things I might poke a few more agents, but at this point I want books one and two totally done and book three mostly done before moving into indie publishing, this way I can maintain a semblance of a release schedule. The idea would be to publish one book roughly each year starting around summer of 2018. I think that is an extremely doable goal, so no putting on the breaks!

Thanks everyone for keeping up on this site and hopefully we’ll see you at Soktoberfest and the so-far unannounced (probable) house-warming party.

Sláinte!

For the Love of Low-Tier Soccer

Sláinte motherfuckers!

I wanted to take some time to talk more about low-tier soccer in America and also in þe olde Ængland.

For those outside of the loop, the soccer tiers in England go very deep. Beyond the 4 “top” flights (Premier League, Championship, League 1, and League 2) there are many, many regional leagues full of plucky amateurs, bar buddies, and small towns that scrape together to put a team on a pitch.

It’s honestly amazing how deep it goes and how passionate people can be about the sport. Soccer is, in a nutshell, fractal. No matter how deep you look or how far away you get the image and passion are always crystal clear. It doesn’t matter if it is Newcastle United playing in front of 55,000 people, Detroit City in front of 7,400, or Kendal Town in front of 200.

And until recently that sort of passion was unheard of in the United States except in baseball.

And that’s a good point of comparison. Americans love baseball. They’ll gladly root for a local, low-tier baseball team over the more distant professional teams. There is local, civic pride on the line and it is a place for locals to root for other locals. There is a strong sense of community that isn’t found elsewhere especially in the shallow attempts of the big teams to check off the “look, we care” checklist of Breast Cancer, Troops, and potentially one or two local-ish charities.

There is no doubt that this sense of community has lead to the explosive success of Detroit City. Detroit is a city that thrives on community and the “Detroit vs Everyone” mentality. It’s an intoxicating favor that is quick to take over the minds of Rust Belters everywhere.

More now than ever I think low-tier soccer in America will win. They will win  against the NCAA and they will win against the domination of bigger leagues like the MLS. As I see the rise of teams like MPLS City SC, Detroit, Chattanooga, and nebulous non-team in Mobile, is seem communities that will weather greater storms.

And in their wake more and more teams flourish. Is the age of the one and done NPSL team over? I think so. That isn’t to say they won’t crop up from time to time, but that the time frame when a sizeable chunk of teams would pop up and die the next off season is probably over for good.

People, not owners, see the success of teams like Detroit and Chattanooga and they will replicate those successes with their own local flavors.

And in time the lower-leagues will be saturated more and more until a system like Promotion and Relegation becomes not only possible, but desirable to all involved. I don’t think the issue with pro/rel is one of the chicken and the egg. It is one of needing to build a strong, stable set of low-tier teams worthy of the system. We don’t have that yet, but it is seeming more and more likely every day.

The idea that Americans won’t root for low-tier soccer teams is become more and more of a bad dream with each broken attendance record.

It doesn’t take the reward of promotion to build a community – it takes a nucleus that a community can thrive on and that is a team. If you want pro/rel you need to support the little guys. You need to grow communities that can support a team going up as well as coming back down.

On the flip side the NASL continues to look like it is in dire straits. Strikers attendance has fallen to the point that their worst can no longer be rounded to 1,100 and is now just 1,000 – not bad for an NPSL team. Only three teams have posted any sort of growth on their average attendance numbers with the over-all average per game down 13%. I am very interested in what Puerto Rico can do when they join in the fall. In the end though I think there are some teams in the NASL that are untenable from an economic standpoint. You cannot pay for a tier two team on a seventh of the attendance of a tier four team.

Anyway, I wanted to give some love to a low-tier team over in England that I am particularly fond of: Kendal Town FC. If you follow my twitter or facebook you might’ve caught a tweet or share of some of the action over at Kendal Town, a tier eight team based in Cumbria, one of two counties at the very north of England.

With a bit of time on my hands I decided to design a pair of kits for them in the way I usually do (on Adidas’ website because I’m generally artistically bunk).

Home Kit

Kendal Home Full

Kendal Home Shirt

With the new range of Adidas kits I wanted to extend the range of the red on the Kendal home kits. Usually it is reserved for just the socks but here it extends up into the stripes, sleeves, shorts, and the Adidas logo. The pin striping on the white is a nice touch as well, methinks.

Kendal Town sometimes alternates their shorts between white and black, here I stuck with the black. I have a preference for black over white in kits, I’ve spoken about this regarding Newcastle. With magpie kits I prefer black to dominate, I think the color is more imposing and makes the kit look more finished as compared to more empty.

Away Kit

Kendal Away Full

Kendal Away Shirt

As for seconds, I went for a combination of Kendal Town’s usual blue kits while maintaining the distinctive magpie colors. The all-blue kits are broken up with some white highlights and the centerpiece of the shirt – the black and white sash. This beat out some other designs, some that were a tad white-heavy

I have to admit that even if I could, I probably wouldn’t do completely custom kits. Probably because I can’t and I’m suffering from delusions, but also because I like the idea of “designing” something that can actually be made tomorrow. I also like that constrains the possible to a smaller set and means you have to focus on other elements like color and style branding.

Too many teams these days, looking at you USMNT, completely ignore color and style branding. Every kit is as removed from the previous as I am from Ganymede. New colors! Weird colors! Hoops! Stripes! Blank! Sash!

What’s so fucking wrong with building a brand? We’re going to buy your kit anyway and it is nice to be able to see a Celtic kit from a mile away. It is nice to recognize that’s Newcastle, that’s Man City, that’s Sunderland.

Modern kits, man, it’s what’s wrong with modern soccer.

If you’ve never been, check out Historical Football Kits, I can guarantee you’ll lose a few days there. But it is also, for designers, a great way to soak in those ideas of brands. English kits rarely change dramatically, especially not the first/home kits. The biggest change in the Newcastle kits in the last 100 years was a switch from blue to black shorts and the occasional white (instead of black) socks.

MLS teams often have trouble focusing on this. Hell, even Detroit City had some trouble with this (and I’m not helping of course) going from solid rouge, to rouge on rouge, to rouge and white, back to solid rouge.  Hopefully a pattern can catch on soon.

Anyway, I have some ideas for bigger overhauls of brands and stuff that I might do in the future. Who knows, maybe one day a team will trot out in something I’ve designed.

An Open Letter

Hi Tom and Dan,

Well… Hi Tom, Dan’s blocked me on twitter apparently for that time I reminded him that he can’t just say Detroiters support the Cavs. Or maybe he did it on MLS’ orders in which case expect your list of required blocks soon – I’m on it.

Anyway, I literally just wrote about this.

Convenient.

I’m not going there right now. In fact, I’m going to try to be as nice as I possibly can. Which is really hard given the mental situation I am currently in. I’m not going to talk war plans. I’m not going to talk fighting this at every turn. I’m not going to talk about doing everything in my power to stop you. I’ll even drop the “Fuck MLS” tag for just a regular “Soccer” tag.

See? Meeting you half way.

I’m just going to offer the olive branch once.

Hey guys. Heard you want to put an MLS side in Detroit. That’s cool. That’s cool. I’m sure lots of thought and planning has gone into this announcement. And there’s a lot more coming, of course. You’ve got a whole team and culture to build.

But.

But what if you didn’t?

What if instead of trampling over what already exists like a three year old left to their own devices in the flower beds, what if you help us grow Detroit City FC further?

Sure we aren’t exactly… sanitary for the big TV markets and stuff… sure we’re not exactly the kind of people you’d bring to your big fancy parties with your fancy finger foods.

But we are Detroit.

We are the life blood of this city, this city you both are so apparently interested in helping.

We bus kids into games.

We rebuild old stadiums.

We help our vets and we recognize losses to the community.

We follow our team through thick and thin.

We, or at least most of us, are willing to listen to what you have to offer. We want to believe you’re here to do good. We need you to prove that.

I’m not going to list any demands (yet). Nothing like that. What I want is a chance to show you want DCFC has is unique.

Have you come to a game?

Have you stood in the midst of the supporter’s side? In the smoke? In the songs? In the greatest party in Detroit?

I invite you, Tom (but also Dan if you pass this along to him), to join us at any DCFC game. USOC, FCUM match, at Keyworth or not… join us and see the soul and heart of Detroit. See the excitement in people’s eyes. See the passion. Smell the smoke.

Join us and not only will I recomp you your tickets, I’ll buy you a pint, buy you a burger, and buy you a smoke mask so you can really get into the heart of it all.

Sure it doesn’t sound like much to you, but you probably made this afternoon what I made since moving to Detroit four and a half years ago. But it is offered openly and freely. I’d like for you to accept it. I’d love for you to have real talks with Detroit City’s owners and it’s fans.

I promise. I promise you’ll love it if you give it a shot.

Please?

Pleeeeeeeeease?

Don’t kill my team. Because if you try, we will fight back.

A Deal with the Devil

Few things are more reliable than the occasional bleating of the MLS2Detroit crowd. Usually something spurs them all, all self-serving. Whether it is Dan Duggan trying to drum up support for his shitty PDL-side or Dan Garber creating a sense of demand for the franchises he is shilling for, at minimum, $100 milllion dollars.

And with the inevitable MLS2Detroit sheep come the wolves of the NGS. Or at least that is the story I keep hearing. It certainly isn’t the story I’m seeing.

The Northern Guard, for whom I cannot speak, aren’t about a league. They’re about a team. That team is Detroit City Football Club.

I think this much they’ll agree with me on. After this remember I am a single member of the NGS speaking for himself and no one else.

I don’t like MLS. In fact, fuck MLS. I mean, for fuck’s sake, I’m blocked by the MLS twitter account for calling their rules on championship stars “Byzantine bullshit”. Now, “Byzantine” is a big word for those interns, but blockable? Really?

Whatever.

Fuckers.

There are a lot of aspects of the MLS that suck. Their commissioner is a twat. Their expansion is based off the needs of billionaires. They ban fans for creating the atmosphere that appears on all the marketing materials. They active work on turning the league into a retirement league for over-the-hill Eurostars. They kill local teams, local culture, and plop down sanitized “darbies” on fans who otherwise never interact.

So if DCFC has to grow, and it is growing, it will eventually outgrow the NPSL with its short season and reliance on unpaid college players bound to the rules of the NCAA.

So where does DCFC go?

Well let’s look at our options, shall we?

We have the PDL… which is also tier 4 and is occupied by the Fucks so why bother? Really it is just a fancy NPSL with a little bit of MLS weight behind it.

We have the USL, tier 3 soccer and the first truly professional league in the pile. There are a lot of MLS “2/B” teams here which for me sort of wrecks the fairness and the prestige. They keep trying to call themselves tier 2and my reaction is always, “You can’t be tier 2 when you’re a fucking reserve league”.

There’s the NASL, tier 2 and the “wild west” of all the professional leagues. With their expansion into California their position on the pyramid is safe for now, but there are a lot of other issues we’ll get into.

And lastly the MLS – the sanitized big league with the cash, the clout, and contracts.

Who does DCFC go with? Where do we expand?

My gut reaction, and my heart’s reaction is “NASL”. Go with the wild boy. He’ll treat you right and we’ll go far together.

But. And this physically pains me to say. My final answer would probably be “MLS”.

O snap!

Fires rage in the comments below.

Give me a second.

I fucking loathe the MLS. FUCKING LOATHE everything about it. But do you know what I loathe more?

The idea of a world without DCFC.

That hits me hard. I want DCFC to survive above everything else. I want to go to DCFC games when I’m 80. I want to fucking be buried in  rouge and gold knowing that DCFC was a world-wide name, a symbol of Detroit’s rise from the ashes and a club renowned for its involvement in the community and the loyalty of its fans.

The USL is a league to get pigeon-holed in. You either bounce out of that league quick or you fucking die in it.

That leaves the NASL and the MLS.

So why one over the other?

Want to see why?

NASL Attendance

Source.

That’s why.

Strikers 52% down?! Cosmos, the reigning champions, down 13% plus a decrease of 1,400 from 5,000 to 3,600 in one week. Jacksonville down 36%. The only team that is up is fucking MinnU and they’re leaving for the MLS!

These are terrifying numbers if I’m honest. The NASL looks like it is entirely propped up on the rush of fans to new teams like Miami and Rayo. It’s like a fucking ponzi scheme or something.

Indy Eleven, the big success story that sold out like every game last season? Down 7%.

I’m sorry, but I’m not seeing a sustainable league here. Based on the average DCFC outdraws two of these teams and is not far behind a couple more. And now we have a bigger stadium to call home and the FO announced on twitter that we’re down to 200 season tickets left. I’m assuming we were selling about two or three thousand.

Now these numbers are based on only a handful of games but each of these includes the fucking home opener. That’s supposed to be a big match. It’s super hyped up! First game of the season! But here its coming with a whimper instead of a bang.

So the reality is, from where I’m sitting, unless the NASL cleans up its act really quick, it’s going under and its going to be soon. The only real hope is for new expansion teams to breath life into its quickly withering body. And I don’t want to risk losing DCFC for a fucking league I don’t owe anything to. That’s what we mean by club over league.

Now, obviously, I will follow DCFC regardless of where they go and I’ll support to the greatest of my ability, but I don’t see the NASL working out. I just don’t.

The USL could work but its a pretty big could. For the USL to work in my eyes you need to divide the independent teams from the reserve teams. Let the USL be its own league with its own character and then we can talk.

So really, what league does that leave?

It leaves the MLS.

And that is, when you boil it down, the key issue. There are no alternatives in the US when it comes to soccer. And this is why so many people are MLS or nothing (beyond they simply don’t know about the other leagues).

So what are some likely scenarios?

Well, assuming USL stays its course (a mix of indie and reserve teams), NASL stays its course (the wild west, ghost towns and all), and the MLS stays its course (sanitized franchise corp) this is how I can imagine it playing out.

 

Detroit City announces move to NASL around 2018, but league is looking shaky. Loses a few “core” teams either to bankruptcy or smaller leagues (looking at Strikers and Edmonton). Cosmos not looking good either, but league considers their history too important.

New teams keep giving a boost to the league, but nothing ever seems to pan out past a season or two.

By the time DCFC enters the NASL there are serious problems showing. Owners might reconsider at this point, fearing attaching themselves to a sinking ship, however staying semi-pro would be equally ruinous.

Detroit plays two or three seasons in NASL, but in that time the league basically sags under its own dead weight. Teams drawing 2,000 fans are hurting teams drawing 12,000. Without TV exposure any chance at success for bigger teams is nonexistent. MLS begins openly courting rumors they might be planning on stealing the cream of the crop, DCFC among them.

After that I would assume that we’d jump over, especially if NASL is in a nose dive. MLS isn’t worried at this point. They know they can claim any city recently devoid of a club as their own. They aren’t going to help anyone out of the wreckage. Teams that escape will escape on their own merits. Rumors of backroom deals are all bullshit. Does Detroit make it? Honestly not sure.

Anyway, that is pure speculation. But realistically I just can’t convince myself the NASL is okay unless we see a turn around on those numbers and soon.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m being a pessimist, and this is why I usually keep my mouth shut during the MLS/NASL debates. One is abusive and the other can’t hold down a job.

In the end they both suck.

And in the end I stick with my team through thick and thin.

 

Musing on Flags and the Such

Been working on a major flag project lately.

Hint hint.

I have a whole write up that I’m putting together for when it is done and unveiled going into the ins and outs, lots of pics, probably really dumb, but if anyone is interested when the time comes.

But in my off time I’ve… also been working on flags, or at least thinking about them.

The flags of many US states and even more US cities are abysmal failures in design, often containing little more than a seal on a bed sheet. Detroit itself has one-upped everyone by putting their seal on a clusterfuck of other flagsDetroit

As Detroit City showed, dropping the colors to two (preferably rouge/gold) and removing the seal actually creates a lovely flag.

_DSC0285_large

(Photo – Jon DeBoer)

Anyway, recently I took a wind of Michigander pride (before having it dashed by the likes of Rick Fucking Snyder) and designed a Michigan flag (which I posted to r/vexillology to a… mild welcome) and tonight designed a Rustbelt flag in general.

Michigan Flag

Michigan

This is one of those basic flags that’s supposedly full of symbolism. Sometimes I like that – a flag with layers and a story, not just colors on a piece of nylon. Two bodies of water (Michihuron and Superior) surround a forested land (two blue bars and a green in the middle). The land is divided into two halves (two stars and the 1:2 ratio) but in the end is a united whole (stars inside solid green bar).

Simple. Elegant. Slightly reminds one of a flag likely found in a place where “President” is a title held for life or as long as the military stays loyal.

I’m personally a fan of the 1:2 tricolor design, same as used by the Republic of Ireland. I like when flags escape the usual 2:3 and 3:5 ratios.

As for the colors; a blue different from the usual dark blues used by many states (including Michigan) reflects the (once) clear Great Lakes and forest green for… well… our green forests.

One of the things I wanted to practice with this flag is grey scale contrast – that is colors that when put in grey scale are still apparently different. This is why you often want to keep flags down to only three or four colors – so the contrast is different.

Michigan_BW

So here is the flag in grey scale and you can see that all three colors and still completely distinct. Why is this important? Well, often times, when printing letterheads or other documents, states use grey scale to save on printing costs. Right now most flags become a blackish smudge. This flag maintains its elements even when losing its color. So success!

Rustbelt Flag

Rustbelt Cities copy - red fix

Another 1:2 flag from yours truly, this one with a bit more complicated of a design (though a common motif for the region). What better to represent the Rustbelt than an actual rusty belt across the middle?

Right now the background is white, though it was suggested to me to use grey for steel/iron. That might work, actually, but for now let’s leave it with the more traditional white.

To break the monotony, in the canton I’ve  added eight stars to represent eight cities that come to my mind when I think of the Rustbelt – Milwaukee, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and Rochester. They’ve been spaced out geographically across the top, leaving some room if I was pressed to add more.

Why eight? Just ‘cuz. Originally it was nine, but Green Bay is significantly smaller than I thought, so it got dropped. One downside to the current set up is that it sort of forms three distinct regions, not really hitting up that “unity” spiel I was going for. Maybe I should add Grand Rapids or something in Indiana as well as Erie, PA and get a better cohesion going – then again I don’t really think of those cities when I think of the decaying ruins of once-proud industrial cities.

Anyway, feedback welcome as always; and before anyone asks, yes – book two is going well and is totally not chaffing under my other flag commitments. I swear.

Anarcho-Linguist

I have a soft spot for dialects and minority languages, languages that might be on the brink of forever falling out of us. Not sure what drives me to this, why I feel a kinship of sorts with people I’ve never met and who’d probably not like me much if we did because I’d be asking them stupid questions about their language.

Recently I’ve seen an increase in posts about “good grammar”. What makes writing effective and there seems to recently be a huge focus on minute details and spelling, as if there is a standardized form of English, which there is not, actually. There isn’t a standard dialect of English written or spoken.

And that’s a cool thing.

When you read about France French being “correct” and Quebec French being “wrong” it comes from this standardization. France controls French and therefore is able to classify the Quebecois as essentially outside the Francophonie.

But we can’t do that in English… usually. There are exceptions to this, one of which I actually plan to share some thoughts on (knowingly as a well-off white boy).

I saw a post the other day that said “I don’t judge people on their age, nationality, or race… I judge them on their grammar.”

News flash… that means you judge people on their age, race, nationality, region, and class.

When we make fun of southerners for their dialect, we are making fun of them for being the other and oftentimes for being uneducated. We are usually making fun of them for being poor. Or for being “belles” who are haughty and above us, shallow or back-stabbing. How many times after the Kim Davis bullshit did you see a comic with her speaking in a stereotypical southern dialect? How many? Because I can nearly guarantee 100% of the time it was to make her seem simple and uneducated. Beneath us.

Where we are born, what language we learn first, and the dialects that we pick up around us govern to a large degree how we speak English. It could take years to pick up Scots or Ulster-Scots. I don’t use the word “treelawn” because I chose to. I don’t end sentences with prepositions because I want to. And I certainly don’t pronounce “water” as “wader” like every other American because it sounds prettier.

I speak the dialect of English I grew up with.

And here’s where the problem begins to arise: We don’t chose our dialects, but we are judged by them. And no dialect of English is judge more than AAVE (African American Vernacular English), sometimes poorly referred to as “Ebonics”, a word which will ne’er again appear in this post.

The lack of understanding of AAVE, what it is, how it works, and exactly how prevalent and self-consistent it is leads to people making very rash, very harsh judgement on its speaker for nothing but their language. All of this is very touchy, and honestly it is often impossible to have this discussion and walk away with any friends left.

AAVE is a self-consistent dialect/creole/language prevalent in the African-American community. It is the result of many pressures ranging from economic, racial, to historical. It is mutually intelligible with English but sits on a fence with dialects like Scots on whether or not it is a language and calling it a language has repercussions to it. Calling it a language might legitimize it. Calling it a language would shed light on the difficulty that kids growing up speaking exclusively AAVE have transitioning to a setting where only AmE is acceptable.

But it also would act to further isolate its speakers from work and opportunity. The way I see it is this: the second we call AAVE a language hoping to achieve progress someone will use it as an excuse not to hire someone based off language aptitude but deep down it is because of race. The second AAVE becomes a minority language things change and it isn’t predictable.

We’ve long equated adherence to a non-existent set of rules to education and mobility. Whether consciously or subconsciously the effects are real and it impacts people day in and day out.

Watch a video of a British comedian making fun of an American accent. Now imagine the the punch line was, “So that’s why I didn’t hire him.”

Good thing you learned the right dialect, I hope.

 

 

Anyway, I had a point but in writing this I started to get pissed. So I’ll end it there. Stop judging people on their grammar. It makes you a twat.