Howler Tackles Me Instead of Pro/Rel
In case you missed it, Howler Magazine recently published a piece on me. I was hoping they would publish an actual promotion and relegation discussion, but we got a TMZ profile instead. Worse, Howler chose to publish my ugly mug instead of covering the debate as a whole. They even hired a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer to do it.
Last month the story escaped the glossy pages of Howler, and was disseminated on Vice Sports Ė where you can find it now. As opinions are mounting on the piece - especially one by MLS expert Will Parchman - I figured I should give mine.
Hand it to both of them. If I was ineffective, this wouldn't be a story, and I wouldn't be the focus. That's why I thank everyone involved for that unintended pat on the back.
That being said, I havenít been spreading the story. It's an unremarkable piece on me instead of a productive discussion on opening American soccer. Itís a tired style critique that neglects the topic at hand and ignores the demonstrable results of social media advocacy in forwarding the pro/rel debate that rages in the USA. It insults the thousands of other American supporters and stakeholders who are on record saying the same things I am.
Howler proved one thing: Beyond my persistent attempts over many years to encourage people to stand up and fight for real club soccer in the United States - and real results in that department - Iím not that exciting. If you remove the part about promotion and relegation debate reaching fever pitch in the US in the years since I began participating in it, Iím pretty boring. If you separate the fact that entire US leagues and a certain USMNT coach have come out on record for an open US system in the years since I started kvetching, Iím humdrum.
If you take out the questions that US Soccer and MLS officials have had to face on promotion and relegation since our social media barrage started, weíre all inconsequential.
Sometimes we wear funny hats. Sometimes we swear. Some of us have dogs. Apart from the debate at hand and the results we've achieved, those who have spearheaded the debate on social media are all basically unremarkable.
I was the instigator of this piece Ė but Iíd be lying if I said I went in with high hopes. Although it is one of the slickest and most creative American soccer rags, Howler is hardly revolutionary. Author Kevin Koczwara admitted to me that he - like so many in the US soccer journalist community - had done some freelance work for MLS. I heard Greg Lalas of MLS and Alexi fame was involved in its founding.
I kinda figured actual promotion/relegation discussion wouldnít feature in the article. It didnít. Kevin didnít want to talk about it. In his defense, he told me that his publishers didnít want pro/rel to be the focus. They wanted to zoom in on me.
Under these circumstances, I decided the best I could hope for was a quirky personal piece and a new Facebook profile shot. So I sat back and let it happen.
Thatís how it turned out. The story pretty much came down to a version of the standard establishment take on me: A funny hat. Like many before him and many since, Kevin critiques my methods, without mentioning results.
In addition to an actual discussion about the raging debate on promotion and relegation and the special role social media plays in it - there are a few things that I wish would have been included in the piece. For instance, I had a productive conversation with some fans at a pub Ė on promotion, relegation and unlimited US clubs! The British Bulldog features a large US Soccer logo on the wall - in which many USMNT players had signed their names. I noted to Kevin that Grant Wahl had decided to sign his name alongside actual players.
Fun little vignettes like this didnít make the story. They chose to feature the current tuition at my high school instead of delving into the current pro/rel debate that rages in American soccer and the important role of social media in that battle.
These were odd choices. Without an effective social media advocacy in place, Howler wouldnít have tasked him to write the story in the first place.
Then Will Parchman barged in. You can find his piece on me and the promotion relegation debate online by searching his name and ďpromotion relegation.Ē Heís an unfortunately loyal MLS soccer journalist. He claims to like promotion and relegation. He claims he thinks about it. Up until his blog entry todayÖ Iíve never seen him address it in any substantial way.
Like many of Willís ilk, he says those who stand and fight are doing a disservice to the debate - basically by driving away those who donít like fights. He compares our struggle to a concocted political battle on Capitol Hill. He looks to diminish the contributions of those who choose to do more than ďlikeĒ pro/rel and quietly hope for it.
Obviously I disagree with Will. There is no special interest money driving this fight. Weíre not paid operatives attending to the agenda of a privileged few. What ties us together is a desire to see the US game reach itís potential. Weíre tired of MLS condescending to 1000s of US clubs, limiting their own teams, and selling the US market to imports via marketing arrangements.
I would enjoy talking to Will about all this. He doesnít want to. He claims he doesnít like our methods. Instead, he dances around subjective and unsubstantiated claims on our method, motivations and support.
Itís a scripted disco.
Of course, neither Howler nor Parchman nor Kevin would have addressed promotion and relegation without us.
Through their backhanded critiques and canned attacks is revealed our efficacy.
Welcome to an effective campaign to bring promotion and relegation to American soccer.
You canít criticize Howler too much for failing to delve into the substance of the complex issues at hand. Theyíre just critiquing players from the protection of the press box.
Bless them for joining millions all over the world in recognizing that the battle for promotion and relegation in American soccer has been joined, and for recognizing some of the players involved.
Once you see through their critiques and their MLS bend, and you can't help but see them acknowledge the truth. No longer can it be said that we donít want our clubs to have the same opportunities as any in the world. No longer can we be painted as too dimwitted to demand as much as any supporters in the world Ė in order to justify MLS cartel control and profit.
They might look down on people like me, but things are definitely looking up for #ProRelforUSA.