Scapegoats And Attitude Adjustments

It’s been so long since I’ve written something for the blog I’m not even going to try to justify it. As a much overused phrase in my vocabulary plainly states: it is what it is.

But what then motivated me tonight to clack away at the keyboard when there are plenty of other worthwhile things to be doing (not the least of which would be catching up on sleep)…

In reality, it was the realization that I just tweeted about: That Revolution fans, of which I am one – if not the most robust “NETID” type – sometimes can often be our own worst enemy. OK, maybe it’s the most active and social-media engaged fans that have the issue, but heck, that’s the circle I spin in.

The specific issue was a fairly innocuous tweet from now ex-Rev Benny Feilhaber. In responding to positive, welcoming tweets from his new, hometown fans in Kansas City, where it was suggested to him that they were the “best fans in the country”, Benny responded.

Without other color added to this, Revolution fans decided Benny was suggesting that the home fans here in New England were yelling at him. I saw the localized uproar before reading the tweet and allowed myself to take the same reading of it.

But why? I mean, it’s a possible interpretation I suppose. But clearly not the only one. Later, after being called to the mat for it, Benny clarified.

Oh, that does make sense actually. Never mind.

But who cares, right? This was just a momentary Twitter misunderstanding/flare-up. It happens. Benny, frankly, dealt with it well and even said “no worries. I like passionate fans!!” in reply to fans realizing they jumped on him for a misinterpretation.

But why bother writing about any of this, done and dusted, right?

Well, sort of.

You see, as much as I just painted Benny in quite a mature light for his handling of the tweet-down he was getting from over anxious New England fans, he did have a history of somewhat pedantic behavior on the field for New England. There were times were it was clear his frustration was growing and he’d seemingly let himself get taken off his game as he spent too much time worried about calls and what didn’t go right.  And that hurt.

But this post isn’t an indictment of Benny. I was one of the many who was quite excited about his arrival. For a number of years, skillful and creative were not words quickly associated with what the Revolution showed on the field. But they were craved.

Benny became a potential emergency life raft in our sinking ship of soccer. He was known as a technical player with an eye toward the creative pass. And who can ever forget that Gold Cup golazo against Mexico?

But let’s face it, during his tenure here, the Revolution weren’t very good. Wait, let me be clear, the Revolution were bad.

Was that Benny’s fault? No.

Was he faultless?  No.

Did his occasional look of discontent and appearance of an attitude issue help turn fans against him? You bet.

But here’s the irony: Benny’s apparent attitude issues that so angered the New England fans so much are more or less the mirror image of the attitude issues they (we) are guilty of from the (especially digital) sidelines.

Frustration.

Being overly vocal about complaints.

Sometimes not getting along with the team.

So Revolution fans, it’s time to come to grips with something. Benny may not be the best teammate in town. Moving him might well have been the right move for a number of reasons.

But as the optimism of pre-season kicks in, let’s not scapegoat a talented player as WHY the team was bad for these few years, and let’s not be shocked if he fits in better with Sporting KC.

The Revolution’s problems were quite a bit deeper than that and shipping away one malcontent doesn’t fix all the performance ills. The team’s likelihood of living up to the attacking, passing, skillful brand of soccer our young coach has promised fans last year are far from guaranteed in 2013. In fact, the three most prominent additions to the team this offseason were a rookie defensive back, a big European center-back that appears to be fighting two young defenders for a starting role in pre-season, and a midfield enforcer who last played in rough-and-tumble English leagues. Not exactly Brazilian midfield maestros.

Might they provide the cover needed to let our more creative players like Lee Nguyen make their mark? Maybe.

But dumping our failures on one skillful player’s questionable attitude is a bit short-sighted, a bit of an over-reaction and probably not very mature.

Which, if we’re honest, sounds a lot like how would describe the player who we chose to blame and ship away.

The question remains, if we aren’t better in 2013, who gets the blame then?

And as we go into the new season, which attitude issues should worry us more; those of an ex-Revolution player or our own?

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