Friday, November 09, 2012

Is It An Apology Or An Excuse?

by Dick Mac
At the MLS website, Commissioner Don Garber attempts to apologize to Red Bull fans for his massive blunder.  So, in case the injury of stupidly falling out of the playoffs isn't enough for us, the Commissioner has decided to rub a little salt in the wound:
To: MLS Fans
I want to apologize to all of our fans who were impacted by our decision last night to postpone the New York Red Bulls v D.C. United playoff game at Red Bull Arena.  Many of you made great sacrifices to attend the game and we let you down.
Based on the weather forecasts earlier in the day, we believed that we could still play the game.  As you know, soccer is played in inclement weather and we have cancelled very few games in the history of the League.   In this case, however, we underestimated the severity of the storm and its effect on our ability to play, and ultimately the enormous impact it had on our fans who traveled to and from Red Bull Arena.
I have heard from many of you about our decision to wait until after the scheduled start time to postpone the game and I know that many of our fans believe that we should have made the decision earlier in the day or even the day before.  In retrospect, I wish we had.  Although I believe that our intent in trying to preserve the ability to play the match was well meaning, in the end we would have better served our clubs and our fans by making the decision earlier. 
I can’t change what happened, but I can acknowledge when we make mistakes, even if we were well intentioned.
All of us at Major League Soccer have worked hard to earn your trust and support.  You can count on us to continue to work tirelessly to retain it as we build the League. 
Thank you,
Don Garber, MLS Comissioner

Why his letter is addressed to "MLS Fans" is insulting enough, but the entire situation is much worse than this letter describes.  Garber's treatment of MLS supporters, in general, and Red Bull supporters, in particular, is remarkable.  This is my response:

Dear Commissioner Garber:

You know what, Mr. Commissioner   This is not enough.

In this letter, you qualify your apology by explaining that you were well-intentioned.  In case you are not fluent in English, or good manners, or basic etiquette: qualifying your apology means it is not an apology, it's an excuse.

You knew the weather forecast, you knew the team objected to hosting and playing the match, you knew that hard-working fools like me would attend.  I purchased four extra tickets to the match (meaning I had 6 tickets), I traveled by public transit to Newark and walked to Harrison, I sat in that frigid cold stadium until NINE O'CLOCK, I purchased a hundred dollars worth of new wool caps in the Bull Shop and I bought hot food.  I went the distance.  I did what fans do.

You didn't let us down, you endangered us, and now cavalierly excuse yourself.

I watched fellow fans volunteer to shovel:  climb down out of the stands and move a ton or more of snow off the grass.

I watched security keep people out of empty dry seats at the north sections of the stadium because their tickets were for seats covered in snow in the south sections of the stadium.  You could have moved everyone inside, or into those dry seats, but you worried about your personal image.  You shoveled a few feet of snow for the NBC cameras and then ran inside to figure out how to cover your ass.

You moved your precious MLS staff out of the elements, leaving the part-time security team in the snow to listen to the fans' anger when you made your spineless announcement to cancel the match because you say you were concerned about our safety - but you had made no effort to move us into the warmth the 90 minutes prior to your announcement.  People were angry:  people yelled at those underpaid men who cover your ass for a part-time job with no benefits.  You owe those security people an explanation and apology as much as you owe us or anyone else.  You should also give each of them a large cash bonus.  You don't deserve them, and they deserve better than you.

Commissioner Garber:  you continue to make bad choices, year after year after year.  League structure, league schedule, television deals, league rules; year after year after year, you fail.  I have been a season ticket holder for ten years.  If I hadn't already re-upped for next year, I may not be coming back.  Next season, any decision to use my tickets will be made by my 8-year-old daughter.  If she wants to go, we'll go; but there will not be a single day I say:  'Hey, Boo, let's go to Red Bull Arena!'  And if she doesn't want to re-up for 2014, we will be gone.

I spend over four hours and $30 in tolls and parking getting to and from Brooklyn and Red Bull Arena each match (on a nice day), on top of the cost of my season tickets.  You've probably never had to find parking at Red Bull Arena so you probably don't even know that the team owns a stadium in an industrial wasteland with no parking!  You have luxury accommodations inside Red Bull Arena so you probably don't know that there is nothing to do in the area if you arrive early enough to park and see kick-off.  Red Bull Arena is a failure, a debacle, and you are lucky to have as many apologists in the league, media, and fan base who pretend it's a wonderful place.

Have you ever seen this site?:

That link is to a league that is a much better deal for me, their officiating is just as good as the joke that is MLS officiating, and although they might not have Titi, they have talented hard-working players who are fun to watch. After this debacle, Mr. Commissioner, the Brooklyn Knights are a viable option for my family's entertainment dollars.  Not because we do not love the Red Bull players; but because you cannot be trusted as a leader, and the league and team cannot be trusted because they reflect your incompetence.

You do not have my trust:  I DO NOT TRUST YOU.  You as Commissioner no longer have my support.  As long as you remain an employee of MLS in any capacity, then the league will not have my support either.  I'm done, Mr. Commissioner.  I'm done with you.  Get out of the way and take your guys (your cronies) with you:  Mark Abbott, JoAnn Neale, Dan Courtemanche, Todd Durbin, Bill Ordower, Sean Prendergast, and especially Nelson Rodriguez, who (after you) is individually the hugest embarrassment to American capitalism in all of sport.  You and your team have failed!  A New York sports writer actually stated that if the NHL wasn't on strike, you would be the worst league in America!  He's correct!

You have failed.

Please go away now.

If you and your lot will go away, I will attend MLS matches. If you stay, it's unlikely I will be around much anymore.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Being A Good Neighbor

by Dick Mac

After dropping-off my wife and daughter to trick or treat in a non-religious (heathen) neighborhood, I drove around to look at the state of Superstorm Sandy's devastation in my general area.  (What the fuck is a superstorm?  I thought a hurricane was a superstorm!  Why isn't it just called Hurricane Sandy?)

I live in Midwood Brooklyn, near the Bensonhurst border.  The area is predominantly Jewish (orthodox), with a smattering of Italians and Latinos, and a lot of Koreans.  Then there is the occasional Catholic Leftist, like me.  OK, maybe there is only one of me.  It's pretty conservative.

I was looking at fallen trees and the corresponding damage, and stopped to talk to a few people who were cleaning up.  I am a people-person, as we used to say in the 1980s.  I like talking to neighbors and people in the community.  I like to know my neighbors.  Problem is that they generally do not want to know me!

One guy was older and was struggling to move big logs into a stack.  I parked and offered to give him a hand.  He had used a chainsaw to cut the trunk into pieces, but they were still a bit big.  He had extra gloves.

He explained that he had intended to take it down last Summer, but never got around to it.  We laughed about the mess and now he wouldn't have to pay to have it removed.  He would have done it himself, he explained.  It keeps him young.  DAMN!  He wasn't THAT much older than me!

A younger guy came out of the neighboring house and worked with us.  He had an Obama pin, an Occupy pin, and a marriage equality pin on his denim jacket, none of which I'd noticed until he got warm and took it off.  I wondered if the older guy had seen them, and hoped he hadn't.  It's not a big Obama neighborhood.

We got the job finished in about ten minutes and the guy offered us beers.  I passed, the other guy accepted.  I walked to my car and got a bottle of water. As the kid put on his jacket the older guy saw the Obama pin.

"God bless ya' kid," he said.  "Wearing that pin in this neighborhood."

Then it came out that the older guy was a lifelong Republican but had voted for Obama in 2008 and was planning to vote for him again in 2012.  I was careful to be reserved and measured in my response, but explained I voted Democrat in the Presidential race.  "You young guys are all Democrats!"

We all laughed.

It was better than being carded at the liquor store!  I mean, the guy wasn't ten years older than me.  No way was he 64!  We chatted about his tree and the weather, and I made my excuses.

A few blocks later, in a more affluent area, I drove past more houses with trees laying across the sidewalk and into the street.  I realized those must be the homes of elderly people who have no way to handle the problem.  There are a lot of retirees in this area, and snowbird season hasn't yet begun.

Then I saw it was true:  an elderly man was getting out of a car in front of his house, a big tree blocking his driveway.  He stood there looking at it in disgust.

I pulled over, got out and talked to him.  I figured I could help him move it far enough to get his car safely into the driveway.  We laughed about the perfect landing and he said he was lucky it hadn't hit his house or car (which he'd left on the street).  The car was very cool:  a dark blue vintage Lincoln - very nice, and the house was modest and well-kept.  There was a Romney sign in the window of his sun room.  

I asked if he wanted some help moving the tree:  did he have a chainsaw, or a big rope we could use to drag it.  He was not as fit as the previous guy.  He crinkled his face and shrugged his shoulders.  He told me about his son who lost everything in Jersey.  He was driving to Jersey tonight, so he didn't think moving the fallen tree would be worth all the trouble.  He offered me a drink.  I begged-off, saying I was driving and had to pick-up my family in a little while.

"If Obama hadn't destroyed America, city workers would have already removed this mess.  Nothing works anymore."  I got a bit nervous because I really didn't want to have this conversation, I just wanted to help.

"I'm happy to help move it," I said.

"Nah!  It's the city's job!  Let them move it."

I asked where his son lived.  I didn't recognize the town.

He asked if I'd seen Christie with Obama on television.  I said I had (even though I had only seen internet pictures).  He shook his head:  "Damned politicians will do anything to get re-elected."

I nodded.

"I used to like Christie," he explained.

I wanted to run away:  "He seems to be doing a good job for Jersey."  I was prepared to lie to escape this conversation.

"He was," the guy explained.  "Now he's chumming around with Obama."

Oddly, I felt like I was supposed to defend Chris Christie, whom I loathe.

"What can you do?"  I asked and shrugged my shoulders.  Damn, why did I ask a question!

"Vote for Romney," he explained to little old, naive me, who is wearing a CBGB hoodie (hood up).

I was frozen in my tracks and just nodded.  I was at a loss for words:  not a state in which I often find myself.  "Sure I can't help move this tree?" I asked again.  "I really don't mind."

He had worked himself-up to a rage.  I am familiar with this state - I do it to myself regularly.

"No!"  He said adamantly!  "Let's see how long it takes the city to move it."

I had no intention of following-up with him about it, and cringed inside when I heard myself ask:  "Have you called 311?"

"I don't believe in 311.  The government shouldn't be providing those kinds of services," he explained.  "We can't afford that shit."

"You can tell them there's a tree to be removed.  It might get it handled faster," I tried to reason.  What am I doing?

"If those idiots don't know there are trees down, my call to 311 isn't going to help them."

"Good point," I demurred.

"Sure you don't want a drink?"

"Nah!  I should get going.  Good luck with your son tonight."

"What?" he asked.  "Oh, yeah.  Right.  Thanks.  And thanks for the offer to help.  There aren't many guys like us left anymore."

I smiled and nodded, put my hand to my head like a salute or a tip of the cap, and waved as I got in my car.

So . . . the guy who hates the government and is voting for Romney is angry that the government hasn't fixed his problem.  The guy who's voting for Obama is clearing his tree out of the street.

This is the exact opposite of what conservatives say is happening.  Conservatives say that liberals are sucking the nation dry with entitlements, and that good Americans are self-sufficient (they built all this themselves).  And I think they really believe this.  They really believe they are completely self-sufficient, that they built their own past, present and future, and that it's liberals who are destroying their perfect world.