Bitter, Bulleted Rants: The Rented Mules Edition

Having an awful day, just awful. Can’t go into the details, but it has all made me very grumpy. So, reacting more than usual as I read soccer news today, here are some thoughts, which will include a good deal of profanity, disrespect to various entities and individuals.

EPL: You Are Not Men; You Are Sporting Widgets
I heard over the weekend that the English Premier League has plans to play “special” games in venues around the world. Thanks for bringing the game to the fans, guys! Super! Oh, you’ll make shitloads of money out of the idea? But that couldn’t be the motivation, not with all that joy to spread (about as dignified in the grand scheme as a hooker spreading her legs). I think the best part comes with how the suits channel the spirit of Thomas Friedman-style hucksterism to dress up the simple, ancient art of making money:

“‘We can’t escape the fact that globalization of sport is with us,’ Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore said. ‘This is a response to that globalization. … By design we have become a global phenomenon. We cannot go on manifesting that phenomenon as a broadcast proposition only.'”

Oh, Mr. Scudamore! You are the victim! Damn, damn globalization!

For the other side,’s J Hutcherson did a fair job of making the “for the fans” pitch and, he’s right on a lot of it, especially about laughing off talk of maintaining the “purity” of sport. I’d just like to think that, at some fucking point, fans would collectively say, “enough.” Enough squeezing every last cent out of fans, enough running the players for all their worth and a little more, enough tacked-on tournaments. I can ‘t believe anyone but the owners want current trends to continue; their interest isn’t that complicated, after all.  Before long and we’ll all be supporting teams called the [Insert City here] Rented Mules.

Alexi Speaks Suit
LOVE this. Asked to comment on how the Los Angeles Galaxy treated Chris Albright – e.g. re-negotiating his contract, which he did on the belief he was helping the team, only to be traded on SuperDraft day (as detailed in an Andrea Canales piece) – here’s what Alexi had to say:

“While he would not comment on the details of the move, Galaxy general manager Alexi Lalas said that, ‘Whether for us, or for another club, Albright is being compensated at the level which a top player at his position gets in this league.’”

I wasn’t there, but I’m hoping the original question read like, “Alexi, you just deceived a long-time player in contract negotiations – something a normal human being would describe as ‘dealing in bad faith’ or, perhaps more colloquially, ‘shivving’. Has your soul departed your body or do you rely on some cocktail of chemicals to put you to sleep at night?”

Greg: as the “good” Lalas brother, you don’t have to speak to this man. He’s not the brother you had. His real body is elsewhere.  There is only “pod Alexi” now.

The bottom line: I’m a pure union man at this point. The “suits” eat balls – e.g. guys like Lalas, Ivan Gazidis, and other apologists for treating players – hey! – like rented mules. A mass walkout would be swell by me; if I have to watch a league in which players get an insult in lieu of a salary, I’m not sure I want it.  A one-game sit-down strike by all the developmental players in the league on some random Saturday around playoff time would be all right as well. What have these players got to lose? $18K a year? Seriously, fuck ’em. And then fuck ’em again.

– Fortunately, I can pass on one happy thought today. I love the pre-season tournaments popping up all over the place.


5 Responses


    We are giving away a copy of EA’s brilliant new football game on the Xbox. To be in with a chance of winning, all you have to do is predict the scores from the 5th round of the FA cup. The person who predicts the most right will win. Be sure to add your e-mail address in the reply section. Scrol right to the bottom to leave your comment

  2. Hmmm. Seems like the spammers found you there Jeff with the first comment. How ironic!!

    Years and years ago (1993), I did my master’s thesis on the history of labor relations in baseball, which is an absolutely fascinating topic for anyone interested in the business of sports. This was before today’s era of good feelings in which the current basic agreement got negotiated and signed before anyone knew there were meetings going on.

    Anyway, the upshot of all this is that I am with you 100 percent. The parallels between the ways that MLS treats its players and the way baseball players were treated prior to the 1970s are chilling for anyone who loves the game. Mark my words, MLS is headed for an absolute disaster of its own makings if they continue to treat the players like this.

    The turning point in baseball labor history was the overturning of the reserve clause with the Messersmith/McNally decision in 1975. That one ruling was completely reviled at the time and baseball’s imminent unfolding was foretold as a matter of course. Clearly, all the naysayers were right. HAH! Baseball has never been healthier. Players make the money talented entertainers make in this economy. Then in the last 10 years, the owners finally stopped the battles and decided to treat players as the independent contractors they are rather than hired help.

    Imagine my shock when I started looking at MLS business about a year ago and realized that this league has almost exactly the same attitude as MLB did in the 1960s. Players are held to teams by absurd reserve clauses. They have little to no bargaining muscle. They are treated with the most absurdly-insulting patronizing attitudes. Their futures are not theirs to decide and they are being paid a pittance compared to what they could be making as the uniquely-talented independent contractors they are.

    MLS has a very small window before the onset of the next collective bargaining session to change this. But, depressingly, I have seen no indication, not one hint of a scintilla of evidence, to make me think they’ll do this. The result is that we could be headed for a contentious, ugly and ruinous work stoppage that will be ENTIRELY THE FAULT of MLS.

    The thought just chills me because MLS also is on the verge of expansive and amazing growth. If the players are not brought in and treated as equal partners in that process, mark my words, the opportunity will be lost, and that will be a very sad development for us all.

  3. The big difference in this case is that baseball players in the 70’s had no alternative market to play in for competitive wages–witness the absolute hemorrhaging of journeyman and developmental American players from MLS to middling Euro leagues. Forget a work stoppage–what if the league turns into the LA Galaxy? A handful of high-talent, well-compensated players and a bunch of scrubs not good enough to latch on to a lower-level squad overseas. The recipe for disaster is there for all to see in Alexi’s kitchen.

  4. Fullback, you are right on the money. That factor of good opportunities elsewhere, if anything, increases the danger. Look at Joseph Ngwenya, the co-top scorer on the MLS Cup champions. The guy signed to play with a second division club in Austria in danger of relegation, and he’s making more money! Now combine that with what happened to Taylor Twellman, the brash disconcern of the needs and career of one of the premier players in the league. And what you get is a highly disgruntled independent contractor workforce that has plenty of options to go elsewhere. And when they do, what will MLS be left with? An under-23 and over-32 league forever? I thought that was what we were trying to move away from, and yet here we are and, unless something changes, there we will be.

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