My Response to Episode 12 of the First Eleven Podcast

Claim: First Eleven is stuck between having fun and engaging in an honest debate. If the show is a parody or satire or a charade, the hosts should make some more jokes or liven up the pace of the discussion. If the show is an attempt to foster serious debate, the hosts should use some evidence, beyond intuition, to support their arguments.

I think I understand the stated purpose of the First Eleven show. The violin music and the extended introduction imply the tone of a stuffy, high-brow show full of rigorous debate with well-supported arguments. I get that this format is the first half of a joke, but if the show is just a joke then why maintain any semblance of professionalism with regards to editing and production?

Episode 12: January 23, 2014

“OKC is dead and overshadows Indy and Ottawa”:
Evan said it doesn’t matter because the city still has a team and NASL still has strong franchises coming in this year, which pretty much sums up why Abram is wrong.

It does look bad for the league but the prospective club ducking out of the way now is better than plowing through, only to fold after a unsuccessful debut season.

Imagine that each team carried on with its respective business. The Energy has played its home matches at a local high school with low venue costs, a low player budget, and low overhead as the organization leaned on USL and Sporting KC for best practices and infrastructural support. NASL’S OKCFC pays real money (4,500$ per game) to use Taft Stadium (7,500 capacity) but finds a split market. Where’s the revenue stream?

It’s better for Oklahoma City and American soccer in general to avoid intra-city battles in places that aren’t the New York or Los Angeles metropolitan areas. Legal proceedings could generate some publicity on r/MLS or in sports business journals but this only perpetuates the idea of the lower divisions as an untenable mess.

NASL has a more deliberate expansion process from the inception of a club to the team’s first kick-off and that probably contributed to them losing out on this particular market. But so what? In no way does this overshadow the accomplishments of Indy Eleven and Ottawa Fury. This slower process aids long-term stability by weeding out ownership groups that may be uneasy about the potential success of their soccer club.

This is a chink in NASL’s armor as another club seems to be disintegrating (after Puerto Rico Islanders) but aside from Orlando, NASL still has three or arguably four of the strongest organizations outside MLS.

NASL has provided the stability and growth in attendance, professionalism, and national relevance that was clearly lacking before 2011. This is a slight stumble for NASL but won’t slow down the otherwise positive trajectory.

And all of this is rather moot since it’s based on a twitter rumor. I’ll believe Neil Morris over some random dude on the internet. I wonder how a twitter rumor based on a picture fits into the pantheon of unfounded BigSoccer rumors.

P.S. Repeating the phrase “running scared” doesn’t make it true.

Andre Blake vs. Zac MacMath:
Drafting Andre Blake to replace Zac MacMath makes sense because Blake will become a better player. 9 months isn’t that big age difference, especially if one player’s development plateaus.

Sean Johnson and Bill Hamid are decent goalkeepers now because their teams took the time to develop them. Teams have committed to these two players because they have large upside. MacMath looked good when he was drafted a few years ago but Philadelphia clearly thinks he is near his ceiling. Andre Blake is exciting because his potential is much, much higher.

If I may follow the style of posing rhetorical questions: Who do I trust more to judge the extent of MacMath’s potential talent? Philadelphia Union. Why do I trust the Union’s assessment of the extent of MacMath’s potential talent? Because that is their job. Why is it their job to assess the extent of a player’s potential talent? Because they are a group of professional scouts and coaches.

The point about Chicago Fire selecting Sean Johnson in the fourth round is evidence that the difference in the draft pick number is negligible after a year or two; Kevin Cope and Robert Derschang may prove to be just as effective in MLS as Steven Birnbaum and Christian Dean.

The fact that the Union burned a first round draft pick on MacMath in 2011 isn’t relevant now.  I know economics can be tough but sunk cost is Micro-101. The past cost of Zac MacMath does not influence the “rational” decision to draft Andre Blake now. Maybe Abram’s idea of logic is not the same as economic rationality, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Camilo and CBA:
Nope. Who are the majority of players in MLS? The majority of players in MLS are American role players. What do American role players in MLS care about? American role players in MLS care about increasing their salaries. What do American role players in MLS not care about? American role players in MLS do not care about a free agency development that allows them to move abroad.

The league is not going to loosen its grip on single-entity and the league is not going to budge on contract options unless instructed to by FIFA or until the league is in a position in which doing so benefits it.

New York Cosmos:
Andre Lewis is a non-story. The story is not about Lewis but about the hyperbolic reaction of Cosmos’ superfans. The Cosmos should be proud of themselves for causing a ruckus. I love a ruckus as much as the next guy but let’s at least try not to get swept downstream in the river of NASL fans’ …excitement.

I like the joke about the Red Bulls. The Cosmos may be a bigger brand than the New York Red Bulls. But the Cosmos’ best player is a geriatric patient who hawks sandwiches for Subway while the Red Bulls’ best player is scoring and assisting goals in the country’s best domestic league.

Marcos Senna is a great player and all, but Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill are much more well known than the Brazilian-born Spanish international who’s already played his testimonial match.

I love draft season not so much for the pomp of the event or Mr. Garber stumbling through the pronunciation of player names but for the slew of draft-detractors that pours out of the woodwork. No one thinks the draft is perfect but in a huge country with so many colleges and with the current state of youth development and MLS contracts/rosters/salaries, what is the alternative? Free agency for everyone tomorrow!! Lol, okay.

Vancouver Whitecaps:
Comparing Camilo and Andre Blake is a clever ploy because the two players are not sequentially connected in the way that Abram’s presentation implies.

I couldn’t even laugh hard enough at the joke that Edmonton may be the best-run soccer club in Canada. That couldn’t be father from the truth.

I don’t even know how to respond to the assertion that the Whitecaps should be good. How does one make that claim? What does that even mean? What?

Draft picks should be forced out on loan to USL-Pro:
It could help, but what, does Abram want to mandate this?

Generation adidas players are almost by definition “project players.” The league removes these guys from college in order to develop them in a professional environment. GA guys are not generally instant-impact players.

“I don’t think it hurts anything to send them down to USL-Pro.” That’s a far-cry from mandating teams do this.

This is clearly a good idea and this is clearly something that clubs have already thought of.

There’s one hitch in this plan. In order for a young recently drafted player to learn his professional trade and to develop in a professional environment in order to become a model professional, the team he goes on loan to has to actually be, you know, more than kinda-sorta professional. USL-Pro has some clubs that are, you know, maybe kinda-sorta lacking in the professional environment.

In a lot of ways USL-Pro can be like college for these guys. Players live in team subsidized housing in apartments where they room with teammates. They train for a few hours everyday on sub-par surfaces. They may have a part-time job similar to a work-study. And the rest of the time they hang out playing video games or hitting up the town, as any 21-24 would do. I doubt that’s the model professional environment Abram envisioned, but that’s reality.
NASL to repeat ABA?:
NASL can’t afford to splash 120k on an unproven talent, even though that’s a fairly inaccurate, just straight spitball assumption. The average salary of all MLS players in around 149k and the average of non-DPs is around 102k. I think the top 10 draft picks over the past two drafts is a pretty good sample of “best talent” coming from college (except for Manneh) so here is each player’s 2013 base salary.

Andrew Farrell – 80,000
Carlos Alvarez – 45,600
Kyle Bekker – 45,600
kekuta Manneh – 55,000
Erik Hurtado – 46,5000
Deshorn Brown – 65,000
Walker Zimmerman – 75,000
Blake Smith – 46,500
Ryan Finley – 46,500
Eriq Zavaleta – 65,000

Andrew Wenger – 120,000
Darren Mattocks – 120,000
Kelyn Rowe – 90,000
Luis Silva – 70,400
Casey Townsend – 56,650
Sam Garza – 71,500
Nick DeLeon – 70,400
Andrew Jean-Baptiste – 65,000
Austin Berry – 63,425
Ethan Finlay – 47,300

See, facts are what make arguments more than just random words someone makes up on the internet.

We’ve seen non-exceptional NASL teams pay more than the MLS-minimum salary for proven guys who can star at the second division level. Why would a club that’s not the Cosmos pay an exorbitant amount of money for a kid that might not even be good at soccer?

If soccer clubs are focused on making money, as Abram states in the Charlotte segment, why would NASL clubs waste money on these players? Unless NASL is going to develop a system of contracts that shackle players to its league, what stops these guys from bolting to MLS at the end of the season? The swaths of people who would turn out to watch an NASL team if it signed a 22 year old fresh out of college but wouldn’t otherwise go to games is purely imaginary (or the player’s family).

Is Abram saying the draft is useful for accumulating talent despite being an absolute aberration and abhorrent feature of American soccer? Is MLS really an evil monolith and any attack against it is a victory for American soccer? Really?
Charlotte Eagles:
Abram is really selling short the impact that the Eagles’ organization has had in the community. Youth mentoring programs are a huge deal, whether or not the mentors try to insert religion into the conversation.

What Abram says about faith-based organizations/clubs is what detractors said about non-profit organizations/clubs when the news came out about Gordon Hartman’s “Soccer for a Cause” program and plans for the San Antonio Scorpions in 2010.

How did the San Antonio Scorpions’ plan to use the soccer club as a component of a non-profit organization that provides opportunities for individuals with disabilities fare? The San Antonio Scorpions’ plan to use the soccer club as a component of the a non-profit organization generated six figures of revenue for Morgan’s Wonderland.

Abram claims that the self-relegation of the Eagles “proves” that faith-based organizations have no place in the professional tiers of American soccer. That’s not true.

What does the self-relegation of the Eagles prove? The self-relegation of the Charlotte Eagles organization proves that one faith-based organization decided that it couldn’t hack it in the professional tiers of American soccer in Charlotte, North Carolina.

See, that is the difference between existential and universal quantification. One example does not “prove” anything but the existence of the possibility of the claim Abram here is making.

The More You Know

To be pedantic on the internet, USL-Pro never used U-stream, as Abram claimed around 51:45. USL created “USL Live” in 2007 and USL-Pro adopted the service when it came into existence in 2011. In 2012, USL-Pro switched the USL Live service over to U-Nation.

This is a funny moment for NASL and its superfans. NASL fanboys love to squawk about how the league is amazing and its teams will challenge the MLS-beast. At the same time they don’t think the product on the field is worth 5$ a month. That’s $2.50 per away game for the fan of a specific team. C’mon guise.

USL Live was a subscription based service in 2007 and 2008 but became free in 2009. I hope that NASL fans think the quality of their league is better than USL-2 was in 2007. C’mon guise.

The Richard Sherman segment brushes up against something that’s actually worth discussing. Is it more important for MLS to convert soccer fans (EPL and USMNT) to MLS or to convert other sports (NFL, NBA, MLB) to soccer?

For me, the former is a higher priority than the latter.
Three cheers for debate based on facts!


2 thoughts on “My Response to Episode 12 of the First Eleven Podcast

  1. Pingback: A Quick Response to First Eleven Podcast: Episode 14 | Doherty Soccer

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