Thursday, March 18, 2010

Fire Bob Foose

Well, here we are. If an agreement on a new CBA can't be reached this weekend, the players will go on strike next week.

How did it get to this point? Wasn't it only a month or so ago that the League and players union were oh-so-close to sealing the deal on a brand spanking new agreement?

Obviously, something went wrong. And it had alot more than Snowmaggedon stalling the delivery of the League's proposal to the players.*

(*Two words: electronic mail. And I get that many lawyers are old school in the sense that documents are still sent snail mail today, but really? Overnighting a time-sensitive proposal? What's next? Snap bracelets?)

It wasn't the weather. It wasn't miscommunication. Nope. The prime suspect is MLSPU Executive Director Bob Foose.

Why? Well, for starters, it would be rational to presume that any such progress for a new CBA requires the following basic premise: the League giving something up, and the players asking for more. It kinda goes without saying.*

(*Which is why I said it.)

Based upon dozens of reports leading up to the initial deadline - January 31st - it appeared the sides appeared confident that a deal was imminent. It was just a matter of time.

An extension was granted. Then, the mid-Atlantic got buried by a pair of blizzards. Delivery of the League's offer to the union was allegedly delayed. Another extension was granted. But no worries, right?

Wrong. In hindsight, it appears that the players, happy with what the League was offering, became emboldened. They saw what they could get - whether it was guaranteed contracts, five-star travel accommodations, or even player options - and took another bite of the apple.

Who's to blame? It has to be Bob Foose. Because he ripped the players away from an imminent deal and launched into a verbal war with the League. A war that the players cannot win. And when they lose - which they will - they will look all the worse.

From reading Foose's public comments, it's evident that he believes that MLS is either close to or on the same level as MLB, the NBA, or the NFL. Memo to Foose: the Earth is round. The adoption of this mindset set the players back tremendously in their negotiations. MLS is not a billion-dollar league; its players are not raking in eight figures. Heck, the average salary for a single player in Major League Baseball is nearly double the amount of each club's entire roster in MLS.

These are all facts that Foose has failed to consider. Player unions in the country's other major leagues hold their power for myriad of reasons. But primary reason is that they comprise the best talent the world has to offer. There's little debate that MLB ballplayers are the best of the best. Same goes for NFL players and NBA players.

MLS players, as a collective, aren't the best in the world. The argument could be made that they aren't even the fifth best in the world. They don't have the same leverage as NFL players. Therefore, their situation is completely different than those of their Stateside sporting colleagues.

Foose is dead wrong to assume otherwise. This is MLS. This is single-entity structure, whether he likes it or not. This sport is still ranks at least four sports back on the stateside sports landscape.

Do I personally agree with what the union is asking for? Yes. It's fair to ask for some of the same basic freedoms enjoyed by their contemporaries. But they can't reasonably expect to receive everything on their list of demands. The day when player options, free agency, and club autonomy will all come to pass - if the players let it.

Foose has fooled his flock into thinking that their demands are tantamount to God-given rights. The League, whose owners have lost millions keeping it alive, has operated wisely, and kept its players relatively happy for the past decade and a half. No single club is on the verge of bankruptcy (thank you, single-entity structure), unlike Portsmouth across the pond. In fact, it should come as no shock that, as a whole, MLS is in far better financial shape than the EPL.

To the players, remember this: all of you were born before MLS began. It has experienced setbacks (contraction), but overall, has enjoyed steady growth, is in good health, and provides you with an opportunity that simply did not exist when you were born.

Take what the owners will give you at this point. A decent paycheck to play pro soccer in the states didn't exist a generation ago. You are fortunate for what you have earned, deservedly so. Playing first division soccer, especially in a country that would rather watch televised poker, is a privilege, not a birthright. Striking now will only diminish the possibility of that privilege sticking around for future generations.

Again, accept what you were close to taking last month. Live to fight another day. Do the right thing - the necessary thing: fire Bob Foose.

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