Having just returned from the New England Revolution’s “Media Round Table” it only felt logical to write something to justify my clearly trumped-up and hard to justify ‘media’ inclusion. (An inclusion I nonetheless remain quite grateful for.)
Interestingly, there’s already been some twitter reaction (from those not there) about the event having occured, including negativity about the off-the-record nature of some of the commentary and concerns about if we are hearing the real story.
Let me alleviate some of that angst by spilling the beans on the hottest off-the-record thing I learned, and I’ll admit it was quite a surprise.
The idea of building the country’s first subterranean soccer stadium (SSS) is so brilliant and progressive, I was blown away by its potential. It alleviates so many of the above-ground of the real-estate issues that were plaguing the project. It also explains why the team already advertises on the “T” … what a hint they had dropped. Sadly, since no sun shines underground, it’ll still be artificial turf.
OK, I kid.
But, since I won’t speak to any REAL off-the-record commentary, let me at least explain some impressions that I was left with.
The team’s outreach to the non-traditional media types is needed, logical, appropriate and gracious.
It’s needed because the Revolution’s lack of local “traditional media” coverage is both clear and frustrating for both fans and (we can only presume) management alike.
It’s logical, because it both informs the blogger/writer corps with some facts that are otherwise hard to share in other forums while building a level of understanding and a potential disincentive to jump on the “rant” wave that so easily takes over after any questionable decision.
It’s appropriate, because despite traditional media’s place atop the news food chain, it’s not a growth market and soccer has always thrived in alternative and online media anyway.
And it’s gracious, because however much the team officials might REALLY want to swat us away like some annoying, blogging, know-it-all gnats, they don’t. In fact, they hide that potential desire really, really well. Kudos.
I’ll offer this: largely, the event works.
As anyone whose spent time on Soccer Soap Box or following me on Twitter probably knows, I’m frequently pretty critical of the organization. And no doubt that it will continue to be that way when needed.
I realize that one (of a number) of reasons the team would host such an event is to humanize team management and explain (spin?) certain decisions in the light that they’d prefer. I undersand that as an objective writer about the team (well, mostly objective) that I must remain immune to such obvious ploys. (Mmm, desserts.)
But the fact remains that events like tonight’s nevertheless help deflate some of the most egregious of our fantastically negative assumptions.
Frankly, it’s easy, and often intellectually lazy, to throw 140 character bombs on Twitter about how clueless management is. Heck, I admittedly have tread pretty close to that line myself.
(One thing that should be made clear: is that despite their sharing of rules and information, and my having had an on-going dialogue with the team’s communications staff, they’ve never – ever – tried to change or influence anything I’ve written. I find that both noteworthy and commendable.)
But it must be said that Mike Burns and Brian Bilello (the front office stars of the night) are not clueless. In fact, they are both quite smart and super-knowledgable. That isn’t to say they are infallible or above criticism, as they most certainly are neither. In fact, after the last few seasons they’ll probably admit that without much pushback.
Nor can I see, however, how anyone argue that the front office doesn’t do what it thinks is best for the team. They do. We can, and will, argue that perhaps it’s not actually the right thing, or that they have skimped on certain investments, or made lousy decisions – clearly that’s all true in certain instances.
Now, can I really offer any real insight about things like how involved the Krafts are, or should be, in this team? Or will I ever truly understand how closely (or not) Sunil Gulati remains? Or know for sure the true aggression with which the team is driving for a soccer specific stadium?
No on-the-record or off-the-record conversations can ever eliminate the conspiracy theories that the blogosphere and twittersphere can conjure up. And that’s OK. It gives us something to talk about.
I can imagine that at this point, some of you have decided that after a dinner-date at Gillette, I’ve jumped ship and I’m in the front-office’s pocket, right? Let me offer that I see it a bit differently.
I think it’s OK to acknowledge that the job of the Revolution management has is not an easy one. It’s not simple to build stadiums in the Boston area or keep fan interest in a market that offers champions in all major sports. It’s not easy getting foreign player transfers done or deciding which veterans to trade and which DP’s to pursue.
The good news: the Revolution front office has the smarts and knowledge understand their plight and plot logical moves forward.
And since that is the case, we should demand that their decisions are as good – no, BETTER – than other teams in the league.
And despite how smart they are, if it doesn’t work out, we: the fans, the bloggers, the real media, should continue to let them know about it.
And we will.
But frankly, given the toughness of their market and situation, I’m not left with a concern about them being smart or knowledgeable enough. They seem to have that covered.
If there was an area that concerns me, it is that their smarts has led them to a pragmatism that means they can appear devoid of the passion that they probably do indeed have for this team. It’s as if they are afraid to dream; afraid to weave a story of “what could be.”
Pragmatism is good for management, but not for passionate leadership.
And that worries the “media” side of me as well as the “fan” side of me. Because passion and creativity can be contagious, but smarts rarely are.
So Thank you, Revolution leadership for sharing your time and expertise in an open and very worthwhile discussion. And while I’m certain to disagree from time to time, I’m convinced that efforts are being made to do what you think are the right things to make the Revolution succeed on the field and in a crowded and difficult market.
Now, maybe it’s time to stop thinking so much, and start building and sharing the dreams your fan base so desperately needs to hear. Maybe then they’ll display more of that ‘Pride and Passion’ they’ve already been told they have.