Improving and Improv-ing the Supporters Summit

I couldn’t attend today’s New England Revolution Supporter Summit event, but did follow the tweet stream quite closely. (Major props to The Bent Musket crew for an amazing Tweet-stream of the event.)

For full disclosure, as I start typing this (with the family finishing dinner in the other room) I am a member of TWO New England supporters groups. In fact, I’ve been a member of The Midnight Riders and The Rebellion since about 11AM today.  (Though after this post, I may be denied entry after all…)

Of course, I’ve been a Revolution supporter for much longer and a blogger/twitter/general-pain-in-the-backside for a couple years now. I hadn’t joined the groups earlier because I never wanted to leap over the fence of self-proclaimed distance-keeper to full-fledged fanboy. For some reason, I thought it would be hard to write unbiased thoughts if I was a “New England Till I Die” guy, but in the end, I felt the supporters groups deserved MY support. And I have no doubt I’ll continue to be a vocal and unbiased believer that it’s not above my local team’s reach to play the game in a way that enthralls.

Maybe it’s because I crossed that chasm today and needed a clear counter-balance, or maybe I just needed a release from the daily grind, but following the event on Twitter, I quickly realized that I couldn’t keep my ridiculous commentary to myself tonight, so now you, dear reader, are subject to it.

Note: I think the team does a great thing by bringing in the supporters and is trying to do its best to run the team the way they believe will be most successful. Honestly. The Front Office probably doesn’t deserve any of the below commentary, but I couldn’t help myself with having a bit of fun with them. I take that back, they might deserve SOME of it…

So as I saw the questions and answers go by, I wondered… What if Revolution Management ended up like Jim Carrey in Liar, Liar? What if there was absolutely no filter between management’s thoughts and their words? What if we all saw behind the curtain?

Are these the real answers we’d get? Nah, of course not. Well, maybe a couple of them are, but most are the delusional ranting of a soccer blogger who really needs to get out to a game soon.

But since I found them amusing, maybe you will too. I tried to capture them more-or-less the way they flew by on Twitter, often keying off a theme provided by the front office. Sometimes not doing that at all. Enjoy.

(By the way, I’d really stop here if you didn’t show up with a sense of humor…)

———–

Why don’t you seem to take US Open Cup seriously?

Are you kidding? Spend money, tire the ridiculously thin roster and travel to some god-awful place for a game that exactly 237 New Englanders know is happening? Please.

What’s the deal about the Soccer Specific Stadium we are all desperate for?

It’s all about feasibility. You know, how feasible that we can keep dangling this in front of you year after year the right times before you all just give up. Do you really think we’d leave our owner’s palace and let it sit idly until our football team comes back for pre-season training?

Have you ranked potential sites for the Soccer Specific Stadium?

Yes, currently Gillette Stadium occupies spots 1-3. The practice bubble is right behind though.

Will David Vaudreuil be replaced?

Who?

How will the partnership with the Rochester Rhinos actually work?

We have no idea at this point. That said, we figure it cannot be any less impactful than the reserve league has been, so what the heck, we’ll give it a whirl. We’ve strategically committed to a one year, long term development relationship.

What’s up with playing during US Qualifiers?

We are one of a bunch of teams that is OK for playing on those dates. We don’t ever lose any US players anyway, and nobody, anywhere, with a remote interest in soccer, wants more rainy, Wednesday-night games in the echo chamber. It actually kind of spooks the players.

Is it true you lost the chance to play at Harvard for the US Open Cup on a coin flip?

Yes, who knew our tried and true player acquisition decision system would backfire on us? We need new coins.

How’s Sainey Nyassi coming along?

Great. He’s getting a bit pricey for a water boy, but he’s super-fast.

How’s Saër Sène’s recovery coming along?

Pretty well. It’d be quicker if he didn’t have to walk everywhere, but if you’ve seen him drive you’d make him walk too.

Are you still trying to sign Chad Barret?

Yes, there are a number of fans in The Fort who still sing the YSA chant and deserve to get whacked in the head for their foul language by stray shots gone wide and high.  It’s cheaper than adding more TeamOps folks.

Do you plan on doing more to engage with the region’s Portuguese population?

Yes, that’s why we signed Goncalves. Oh, and we’re planning a Nacho night.

Why do you think Jerry Bengston will have a better year in 2013 with the Revolution?

After we traded the Spanish speakers he was distracted by, we figure he’ll be more focused. And, we bought him a Spanish-English dictionary. We may also shred his passport, but that move is not finalized.

What can be done to get the folks in the “morgue” to be louder?

You’re thinking of it the wrong way. We’ve decided to go with the fans, not against them. There are some plans to offer Retirement Home discounts in sections that are a comfortable distance from The Fort. We call it Community seating.

What about using the Jumbotron to get people involved?

We’ve considered hiding cameras in the restrooms and taking pictures of the quiet fans at inopportune moments and then threatening to show them on the screen if they didn’t start making some noise. It didn’t test well in our focus groups though. We don’t get it, we heard other stadiums are getting more interactive.

How about getting people to stand up for the last few minutes of the game?

Well, the stadium has installed tazers in the seats in certain sections, they’ve been working wonders on drunk Pats fans and we are very optimistic for the 2013 season on their implementation for the Revs. We call them, “The Awakeners.”

Why are Season Ticket Holder counts shrinking?

Have you watched the team the last two years? Next question…

Why can’t we find more Revolution merchandise?

It’s simple it if won’t sell Adidas has no reason to make it. We are working with other like-minded teams on an answer. In fact, we have asked Adidas to consider making reversible shirts with FC Dallas on the other side. Win/win.

When do you think the Revolution would look to employ a full time scout?

You mean other than YouTube?

What do you think of Grant Wahl’s assessment of how ambitious the team is?

We’ve never spoken to Grant Wahl or most other media. Besides, we are at least 17th in that regard, and everyone knows it.

Would you consider having Shalrie Joseph back at some point so he could retire as a Revolution player?

Well, we sent him to Chivas, that’s a bit like retirement already, no? I suppose we’d welcome him come back, but we figure he’d punch out Heaps, so it might need to wait a season until we give up on that experiment.

How involved are the Kraft’s with the Revolution?

They are very involved at the MLS level. So, in that way, yes they are aware they have a team. We run big decisions by them. You know, stuff like should we trade Shalrie? How low to cut the turf on game day. Where to order pizza for Jose Moreno. Big stuff. 

Do you think the team performed up to its full potential last year?

No, but we blame Vaudreuil. Heaps dresses too nicely to be part of the problem.

And this year?

We’re going to be better. We haven’t played a game yet, but until we do, we’re better. No doubts.

————

Well, that’s all folks. If I haven’t had my Supporters Group memberships revoked by next year’s event (or by the time this gets read), maybe I’ll attend the event and actually write something of use in 2014.

Until then, it’s sport.

Enjoy it.

Introducing The Revolution’s Love Doctor

I don’t much like Mark Willis.

It makes no difference to me that his New England Revolution rebranding effort and his recent post about “The Revs in the Age of Mutual Love” are good. Really good. (Though, just in case, perhaps you should go check them out.)

Now, please don’t misunderstand, I’ve not met him or spoken to him and only recently found his work online. And he’s done no obvious wrong to me. But that “Mutual Love” post was, well, an assault on my blogger dignity and identity. So something had to be said.

You see, way back in my first post for 2012, I acknowledged a lingering, unfinished blog entry about what the New England Revolution could be doing differently. That post never really came together, and I ended up taking bits and pieces of it and using them in other posts.

All fine, except the crux of where I was in many ways similar to the excellent “Mutual Love” post by Mr. Willis, rendering me and my meandering thoughts all but obsolete. So no, I don’t much like him and his massive exploitation of my habits of procrastination, even if done in a compelling, thoughtful and clever way.

Yet, as I re-read his interesting article, I found a glimmer of hope. A question, in fact, that Mr. Willis asked, but maybe didn’t fully answer. A poignant, “that’s exactly it” type question.

“Who’s in Charge of Thinking Like a Fan?”

You see, my never-published diatribe was started just after the Revolution announced its “sweeping” (ahem) organizational changes. But I longed for more. Yes, we could argue the validity of who was promoted and to what position, but the time for that has long passed.

What I was found missing was a net-new position. One that would have essentially answered the question – especially as it relates to both fan interaction, and the team’s marketing success (or lack thereof) – “who’s in charge of thinking like a fan?”

I imagined a role that would sound a lot like: VP of Marketing and Fan Engagement. In my mind, this person would lead all marketing, communications and fan engagement efforts, and assume responsibility for the current marketing and communications staff. I see this person as a new hire from outside the organization offering an injection of new blood, new thinking and new enthusiasm. I see this person as living, breathing and promoting the Revolution experience.

This position wasn’t announced, of course, and there are any number of reasons why it won’t be any time soon. Cost might be one. Others could be that the Revolution might be a bit too smart, and loyal, for its own good.

For instance, Brian Bilello is clearly a very smart guy and he may be thinking he can offer hands-on marketing leadership on his own. And maybe he can. But, given the challenges that surround the team on and off the field after what was a dreadful 2011, I’d hope he’d reconsider. There’s much to do elsewhere to right this ship, and he best not spread himself too thin.

So another person would be needed, and some of this new hire’s long task list would be somewhat obvious, things like:

  • Develop a consistent, repeatable and compelling vision for the team that translates “Front Office Speak” into something fans (and the media) can rally behind. Train every staff member on it.
  • Review all advertising, marketing and branding efforts for consistency, passion and relevance in today’s MLS world, and beyond. (Saying that the team is spending money (3rd highest in league?) can no longer be seen as a positive without corresponding results.)
  • Define and initiate co-marketing efforts with team sponsor United Healthcare. This could be both in-kind collaborations or specific net-new investments that drive toward both organizations’ goals, and would go a long way to increasing the Revolution brand credibility.
  • Construct media engagement efforts, potentially finding inventive ways to pivot off of the Patriots’ ridiculous leverage in the local market.
  • Etc., Etc., Etc.

This new person needs to have the desire to quickly become credible to the soccer community. However, I have the unpopular opinion that a long-history in the game is beneficial, but not mandatory. What’s mandatory is the ability to properly market the product of New England Revolution soccer. Yes, having the ability to speak to the soccer cognoscenti would be nice, but comes second to having proven marketing chops. Besides, what those soccer lovers will find credible are marketing efforts that prove their love of the team is being reciprocated, not placated.

Just as important, given the organization currently in place, would be augmenting the marketing skills with an engaging personality. This team needs someone who can credibly empathize, energize and relate to fans. Today, many of the most die-hard Revolution fans today feel talked-at, marketed-at and nearly scoffed-at from the smarter-than-thou team management. And having met much of the team leadership at one point or another, I’m not at all convinced that the Front Office actually feels this way or intends to send this message. But it is often the message that is accidentaly delivered.

Media too needs this empathy and enthusiasm. Most local media struggle to differentiate a free kick from a penalty kick, and might hide under a desk if they needed to describe the passive-offside rule or MLS roster restrictions while live on camera. This person needs to be a trusted advocate and advisor to these potential media allies.

This personality requirement is a hard qualification to quantify. It doesn’t necessarily show up on a resume. Like has been said about pornography, this is a quality that in the “I know it when I see it” genre. There’s a fairly fine line between being an engaging, inspiring and empathetic marketing leader and coming off as an overly-slick salesperson. But it’s a line that the team best not cross.

But skilled, yet aloof marketers – no matter how smart – are not what this team needs right now.

The team also doesn’t need a timid personality, because for this role to be successful, glass would need to be broken, assumptions challenged and a certain free reign promised, in order to try new ideas. Not all of which will be stunning successes. That creative leeway will be important, because this new person would also quickly become the VP of Tough Love.

What types of tough love?

First, he/she should insist on media/presentation training for Mike Burns, Brian Bilello and Jay Heaps, and be the one true voice of the front office until comfortable that the others are ready. Those three team leaders offer very different skills, but are all critical to getting an improved team image out to market.

Mike Burns may have the perfect qualifications for his role and have one of the best soccer brains in MLS. (Hey, it’s possible.) But his media and fan interactions have not portrayed him as a sympathetic figure and have not delivered a sense of his competence nor a consistently cogent view of where the team is headed. If success doesn’t come quick and his reputation is not shored up, he will continue to be an easy target for frustrated fans.

Brian Bilello does better with fans, but needs to realize that business as usual won’t work in terms of cryptic sharing and the inability to answer questions about the team’s style, goals and direction. Sure, player commentary needs to be closely guarded, but it’s time for some risk taking there as well. At the risk of giving too much away, the team needs to share as much information as they can to better show its level of activity (scouting) and some insight into the rationale for decisions that seem odd for us mere mortals (Perovic?, etc.) to comprehend.

An increased amount of Twitter correspondence has been a better start in 2012 for Bilello (though it has notably slowed after a strong start), but old habits die hard. For example, waiting weeks to mention that José Moreno’s contract wasn’t effective until March 1st, after fans had almost completely turned against the player, continues a streak of under-sharing with this key audience.

Jay Heaps is a bit of a media mystery at this point. He speaks well, is a fan favorite and people seem to genuinely hope for his success. That said, he’s also vastly inexperienced and in the honeymoon period of his appointment. The team should leverage him now, but ensure he’s prepared for communications when things aren’t so easy.

More tough love needs to be delivered to ownership.

This marketing leader needs to also tell his boss (presumptively Bilello) that the Krafts need to be seen as educated, active and visible owners – now. (Hopefully they are all of those things, but either way, appearances matter.) They need to be able to field questions about the team, its strategy and the choices that are being made. The conversation needs to be deeper than “we are planning for a Soccer Specific Stadium.”  One way to start, is to be visible at games in the stadium that the team does have. It’s not that hard really.

Frankly, the fact that the immensely successful Kraft family has been turned into anything but an asset for a New England team either speaks to their absolute disinterest or a dismal marketing failure. And personally, despite the relative lack of engagement and failings, I still struggle to believe they simply don’t care.

Is the team ready for someone to come in and tell management and ownership that they are part of the “product” and need to shape up? I would hope so.

And while not tough-love, there is some love to show the fans.

Better (extreme?) engagement on social media? The appearance of over-sharing (even if carefully orchestrated behind the scenes) about team plans? Worth a shot.

Why not involve the most vocal fans in “crowdsourcing” new promotional ideas. The best way to get the negativity out of the fan-base is to engage them in the marketing turnaround. Make them part of the solution. It’s hard to go on social media and half-wittedly slam something you are working to help create.

Heck, why not involve them in picking the new social media hashtag to replace #Revs? A contest anyone? (Sorry dear readers, that #Revs allusion could not be avoided…)

I could see this new VP pouring beers alongside the players at the newly announced Pub Tour, or drinking a pint with the fans – while jotting down their ideas. In fact, couldn’t there be a place for this person in The Fort? If it’s mutual love that’s needed, there are ways or providing it.

Yes, there’s work to be done and some ideas will be better than others.  But the team should get a person, leverage the new energy, give them some autonomy and power to say what needs to be said and promote this product.  Sure, new stadiums and new Designated Players could help.  But this product is marketable as-is.

So I guess I don’t need to detest this Mark Willis character after all. He may have “stolen” (yes, I am delusional) my completely stagnant, dust-laden, and largely under-developed idea in his extremely clever and thoughtful article, but he left me a crumb to dine on. And so I did.

Question: “Who’s in Charge of Thinking Like a Fan?”

Answer: The new VP of Market and Fan Engagement that the team should go find.

And in his discussion of Mutual Love that the fans so desperately deserve, he could also have wondered who would deliver the tough love the team so obviously needs.

The answer would be the same.

#Revs Delusions Of Twitter Grandeur

When I sit down to write a blog post that I suspect will annoy most of my faithful readers, there is always this brief moment of pause, where I ask myself “why bother?”

I pick topics somewhat randomly as it is, so I could simply “pass” on audience-angering topics. Heck, I already pick to write about things as they interest me seemingly on a whim and have never felt obligated to cover each and every result, player rumor or team announcement.

I do, however, tend to be sucked into the twittersphere of touchy subjects, but sometimes one hundred and forty characters just isn’t enough. And since my somewhat tongue in cheek campaign to promote the Twitter hashtag #NErevs instead of the corrupted #REVS for following New England Revolution news is already out there in 140 character sound-bites, I figured I would explain.

And frankly, it’s not about #NErevs but about why I think change is needed the why.

First, I commend the energy and passion of the #defendthehashtag crowd. They feel that we were here first, and that #Revs is “ours” for following the Revolution, and that the UK partiers that tweet it up as they get sloshed are treading on “our” turf.

Good on you for the passion. But, recovering #Revs? Not likely. I don’t know if the Revolution has ever considered an official switch, but I would hope they give it some thought, and here’s why.

Twitter hashtags are used for a few basic reasons:

  • Following / Tracking
  • Promoting
  • Sharing
  • Identifying / Locating
  • Being Silly / Ironic

For A) and B) there are logical, helpful reasons to leverage hashtags. You cannot know everyone who plans to say something interesting about a given topic, to hashtags give an organizing principle to what might be difficult to gather, noisy Twitter traffic.

I have leveraged #Revs (among others) for both tracking (getting team news) and promotion (of the blog and of my random musings) as do most of the New England based users.

The team also leverages the #Revs hashtag for promotion and (one can hope) tracking fan sentiment – though I cannot speak with any certainly if/how seriously they track sentiment at this point.

Sharing closely follows promoting and tracking, since promotion is a very targeted type of sharing. And if nobody shared, why would you follow? The idea is that you have something you think like-minded people might want to know. If I see a player at Walmart on crutches that we didn’t know was hurt, you #Revs follower, might be interested.

People also leverage hashtags (#Revs or otherwise) to be identified with something, or as a simple “check-in.” New England’s #Revs users do this when they want to be associated with their team – a use which will hopefully be in more demand in 2012 than it was in 2011. Sometimes it could simply suggest what game you are at – if it were to accompany a picture of a nice green carpet with white lines, for example.

The current noise that invades the #Revs feed on Twitter, however comes from people who are neither tracking or promoting anything. While they are, in fact, sharing information – it is not in the traditional sense of sharing with like-minded individuals they do not know. I actually wonder if any of the UK-based #Revs users even follow the hashtag. Actually, I do not really wonder, I think we know they do not.

And herein lies the problem when typically logical folks think they can muscle #Revs back from the dark side.

The UK #Revs tweets are signals about either their location or their intent. It’s where they’re going. Where they are. Where they will be. They are associating with a bar, a plan, a state of being. But, that’s not really news, and not really worth following. If your friend tells you they are “headed to #Revs” – that’s all you really care about.

The British #Revs users are almost representing WHAT they are doing (or will or have)… drinking and partying. And, for better or worse, there’s nothing wrong about it. It’s certainly an unnecessary use of a hashtag, but you cannot break rules that don’t exist.

The New England #Revs users are living in a world where promoting, following and sharing are the unwritten rules ascribed to #Revs. Logical, sensible rules, indeed.

And, if everyone agreed (and went to mandatory Twitter training/indoctrination) a “defend the hashtag” twitter argument would make sense. Other users (in this fictitious, yet logical world) who were also intent on following or promoting the Revolution bar chain would also find all this annoying North American soccer talk to be very much against their goals as well.

But neither of those goals exist in “Old England” regarding #Revs.

If the Revolution bar chain had decided to actively leverage the #Revs tag, that would be promoting. Have you ever seen that?

If the partiers where actively trying to promote the Revolution bar chain to those who are not already aware of it, that would be promoting. I’ve not really seen that. It seems to me that a certain crowd is talking to themselves. Loudly.

Don’t buy the argument? Think about this, when is the last time you saw an “Old England” #Revs users retweet or quote something? I cannot remember one such share. It’s because all they are doing is saying in four characters: tonight I will go out, get drunk and probably test the line between flirty and slutty while on camera. (A silver lining to some young, male Revolution fans, no doubt.)

So you can scream #Revs and #DefendTheHashtag all you want, but don’t think you are about to out yell a crowd that isn’t listening to you.

Personally, I do not believe ripping off the band-aid of a too-generic hashtag (#Revs) to something a bit more specific (#NErevs, or whatever gets people on board) is really that bad an offense. Ask #Crew96…

But I do wonder, if the rebellion against #Revs twitter clutter is coming from a proud fanbase that is defending their Twitter-God given right to four characters, or if it is the last stand of a retreating fanbase who simply cannot tolerate one last offense?

If it’s the latter, it’s time to remember a phrase my parents (sometimes confusingly) used to use with me when I was being a petulant child. “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.”

Because Twitter is a popular, easily accessible communications platform and this ridiculous battle to save a character or two is now playing out in the public domain and adds to the stigma of a team that can do no right.

Because when casual fans probably are listening, or trying to, they hear 1) Revolution commentary, 2) UK bar hopping and 3) complaining about UK bar hoppers. (I guess one out of three aint bad, eh?)

So it’s time to ask if all this is helping further the goals you the loyal, local #Revs followers have to promote the Revolution, OUR Revolution on twitter.

While you contemplate that, there was one other kind of hashtag uses I mentioned. The silly or ironic use. You know, the “I’m wittier than you” kind. The punchline kind.

I’ll expect to see some… #SoccerSoapBoxSurrender, #FourCharactersOrDeath or #YouCanTakeMyLifeButYouCannotTakeMyHashtag.

Or, you can use #NERevs. Or #Revs96. Or #Revos. Or something.

Whatever works.

Being Thankful For MLS

Wow, there is a lot of noise in the Major League Soccer system right now.

You either think Houston were idiotic (or poorly attempting to be sly) for not protecting local-icon Brian Ching, or you think Montreal hopes to do slimy deal-brokering with little regard to the player.  Maybe you think both.

There’s an intriguing fog around where David Beckham will next lace up his bend-it boots. LA? Paris? Somewhere else?   Was he a success or circus?  Both?  Best player in MLS or over-hyped pop star?  Both?

Locally, a rage continues building in certain New England Revolution fan circles that the team owner (who forks out all the money to bring us soccer to watch) actually does not care enough, invest enough, and know enough about the game for the Revolution to ever be successful.

The list topics that are heavily debated across the league, or even specific to the Revolution, could go on and on… there are more topics to debate than there’s time to debate them.

At the same time, there remains fervent soccer-haters, still happy to say their piece. There are even institutions, like ESPN, who are investing in the game and still seem determined to cover its day-to-day happenings as if it were a small badminton league in Eastern Europe.

To top it all off, the American fan has enough concern about player quality, our coach’s direction, and why the USA cannot step up to the elite level of international soccer to occupy their minds for the foreseeable future.

It’s enough to drive a fan crazy.

And I, for one, am immensely grateful that it all exists.

I’ll take the noise. The Beckham drama. The oddball unbalanced schedules. The new German coach whose system seems to be better on a whiteboard than in action.

I’ll take it.

During this Thanksgiving, I won’t think all too much about soccer, at least after I’m done typing this. I’ll relish time with my kids, my family and my friends. And those are the things I’m truly most thankful for.

But outside of my family, friends and job… soccer finds itself near the top of all other topics in terms of my attention span.

So I, for one, am not afraid to say it. I’m thankful for this sport.  And for our league.

Many of us need to find that special outlet where we can lose ourselves a bit and have struggled through the times where access to that special something was difficult. Mine is the beautiful game. Or whatever the approximation of beautiful we typically get.

My soccer madness was kicked into high gear at the Italy vs. Ireland USA 94 World Cup game, and the electric atmosphere and managed chaos that surrounded it.  After that game, I remember well how hard it was to find games to watch back then.  Parmalat Cup?  Sure, I’m there.

Since then, soccer fandom has since taken me to many of the soccer meccas of the world and given experiences not to be forgotten. The “curva” sections n San Siro and Rome’ Stadio Olympico. “Fla-Flu” at Maracanã. A London derby in Stamford Bridge. Camp Nou behind the Barcelona bench.  And just over a week ago, to 70,000 fans in Stade de France as I saw my first USA away game. There are many more, each of which leaves a unique memory.

However, it is more than the international flings that have me thankful. It’s also more than US Soccer, which will always be with we, nearly a given fact, rather than something I can feel thankful for.

I’m thankful for MLS. My long term soccer relationship.

Which is interesting, as I’m not a typical fan. I know that.

I support the New England Revolution. Well, I support them when I’m not over-analyzing and criticizing them.  (Which is pretty frequently.)  They are, however, my team, and now my kids’ team.

But it is MLS, not the Revolution, is what I’m more “wed” to. I really support the league. And I have since before day one.

During Major League Soccer’s first two years I was in grad school in Rutgers University in New Jersey. I missed more than one evening class because it was only a few more minutes from the Newark campus I had some Wednesday evening classes to get to Giants Stadium to watch a game.  In fact, I even used the then-imminent launch of the league as a topic for a paper in one of my business classes.   I met with MetroStars officials to discuss an internship, but chose a paying one instead.   It was an exciting time.

Wait, what?  Yes, that’s right, I started as a MetroStars fan. (There goes the Twitter following.)

I “switched” during the expansion year of 1998 when I moved to the area. There was little in terms of history and neither the Revolution nor MetroStars were very good, so it wasn’t like I was jumping on a winning bandwagon. I felt intellectually justified.

I wasn’t about to live in an area with an MLS team and only care about a visiting team.  I needed a steady stream of the game like I need my morning coffee.  (Drug addict references aside.)

Now, all these years later. Could I, would I, do it again if I had to move?  What if I moved to NJ again?  Kansas City?   Would I flip?  Honestly, I don’t know.

But it wouldn’t be out of the question.  And it’s nothing against the Revolution, but what draws me in is the game, the league, the sport, the drama. Because despite all its growing pains, its sometimes lower than hoped for quality and higher than needed physicality, it’s ours.

And I’m very thankful for that.

So give me the rumors, the complaints, the expansion-reentry-college drafts, the referees.  Give me the unbalanced schedules, odd numbers of teams and people still arguing we could have relegation, the salary caps. Give me an inexperienced coach for a bad New England team in a quiet stadium.  Heck, give me the offseason to reenergize.

But then, please MLS, just give me me the game.

And thank you.  Happy Thanksgiving.