Oh hi! I’m Jiggly. And it’s a Tuesday.
It’s interesting how the entire landscape of sports media can change overnight. From the newspaper, to the radio, then somehow back to the newspaper again. From broadcast to online. Anyway, Twitter is acting up again and this time the problems might stick. I have no clue how sports media is gonna adapt to these changes, let alone how we’ll adapt, but I hope that you just keep checking in on the site every day since we usually have something new. Also, this is everyone else’s problem. Around here, my only job is to have thoughts and opinions. So here’s some thoughts I had this week.
By Rule of Law
While I would love to dig into some of the laws that were overturned this past week by the Supreme Court, I’m here to talk a bit about the Laws of the Game. There’s a lot of very stupid questions that haunt every Football Manager player whenever they do a press conference. One of them is “What do you think about the quality of officiating in this country?” And while most FM players find it annoying in-game (because what can they actually do about it?), this is a question that might need to be asked a bit more around MLS. Because we definitely have thoughts about it around here.
The Chicago Fire have been hit with VAR decisions since they first started implementing the technology. I mean, most of them actually were decent calls, but most of the time it would overturn something against the Fire. This season, it’s been a bit better, but now we’re past VAR. The Fire are starting to get hurt by calls that aren’t actually eligible to go to VAR.
Last week in Portland, captain Rafael Czichos was shown a red card by referee Fotis Bazakos for a challenge that was so blatantly and clearly a clean tackle. It was stupid, the entire team got in Bazakos’ face for it, and it was overturned after further review. If he didn’t show a red card, if it was just a free-kick or even a yellow card, that review wouldn’t have been possible. Because red cards are reviewable, it’s possible that Bazakos decided to show him red so he could be certain about the play, which feels a bit like a cop-out. Like, the job of an official is to make a judgment call and then be judged by the other officials and the players for how they make that call. If the call was blatantly wrong, then they would face consequences after the game. Instead, Bazakos overturned it because he got to watch a replay, and instead, it was the Fire who faced sanctions after the game. On Friday, the MLS Disciplinary Committee handed out fines to eight players and coach Frank Klopas for violating the “Mass Confrontation Policy”. This was listed as their third violation, but I’m unsure of what specifically were the other ones. I can only judge based on this incident, but it looks like the players were punished for their frustration towards a terrible call that was proven to be a terrible call.
Bazakos was kinda trash, but didn’t have a terrible game outside of that moment. And he corrected the decision, so I guess we should be happy. This past weekend, the Fire ended up in what was somehow only the second-worst officiated game of their season (after the US Open Cup game against Houston). In Orlando, the Fire were faced with Nima Saghafi, the current league leader in penalties awarded (5) and second yellows awarded (4). Or at least, he’s currently tied in both of those categories, thanks to that game. Maybe he did get that penalty number correct, though. Because while Herbers’ hand was in a natural position for that handball that was called, Saghafi missed a clear tackle from behind from Terán in the box. That’s right, Saghafi wasn’t just bad for the Fire, he did not call the game well at all. There was a blown penalty, a bad penalty, a goal that was disallowed because somehow MLS doesn’t have goal-line technology, which, by the way: HOW DOES MLS HAVE VAR AND NO GOAL-LINE TECHNOLOGY?!?!
But a big part of my point here is the lack of oversight that there appears to be. You want your referees to be someone that players respect because that’s the person they’re going to be listening to for the rest of the game. And it’s important that officials have that respect from players, but that respect needs to be earned by there being respect for players as well. Throughout the game, Saghafi was seen constantly talking to players, holding up play as he continually chastised them. He was also pretty damn rude to them, according to Czichos:
“Before the season, we have a thousand meetings on how to behave on the field, off the field. Then we have referees, so arrogant, he’s not even looking at us, not even saying hi.”
I’ve said it before, but I do have to reiterate: I do not believe in referee abuse. But that doesn’t mean that they should be allowed to do whatever when players are being held at a much higher standard. As the level of play improves in this country, so does officiating have to rise to match that level. Obviously, if you’re dealing with a bad ref, just play well enough to the point that the ref doesn’t have to get involved. When you’re unlucky, just have enough skill to the point where luck doesn’t matter. Czichos even followed up that quote by mentioning that the team simply wasn’t good enough anyway and that’s not wrong.
But man, someone’s gotta do something to actually hold some of these refs accountable for stupid decisions.
Anime Girls Playing Baseball
On a lighter note, let’s talk about brand collaborations. These are done for two reasons. The first one is, obviously, money. By creating some exclusive thing that combines two things that different groups of people are interested in, there is more of an opportunity for sales. The other reason is usually more of a one-sided part of any brand collaboration which is the opportunity for better brand recognition. By bringing in a bigger brand to work on a thing with you, you are going to get a bigger platform for your brand and the chance to associate yourself with a more successful brand. So, with that being said, I have no clue what MLS is doing with their brand collaboration with Marvel Studios.
So, the collaboration is set to officially work in a few phases (fitting for Marvel). First, the MLS All-Star Game will be played with a special Avengers-themed ball. Then, there’s the warm-up tops that just recently went on sale that I’ll get to later. And finally, in August, there’s going to be more tops “inspired” by the Avengers. This is all being done to help out with raising funds and awareness for Kick Out Childhood Cancer going into September. It’s a good cause, great cause, but the collaboration itself just kinda… sucks.
First of all, this collaboration is just merchandise. There’s no cool fun clips with Marvel actors doing stuff with MLS players and it doesn’t look like there are any plans for that sort of thing at the moment. We’ll have to wait and see when teams actually roll out their Marvel warm-up tops, but I don’t see any of them doing anything fun with it. It’s almost like the collab isn’t even happening. You have to dig through the janky MLS website to even find a short animated ad that’s barely even a motion comic. It looks like a slideshow. I could’ve animated that ad and I failed animation in college.
When you team up with an entertainment company, do something entertaining. This is your chance to have fun. Like, at least put characters in teams’ jerseys! That is literally the bare minimum when you do something like this! Nippon Pro Baseball is a beautiful example of this sort of thing because they’ve done so many different fun collaborations that have made mountains of money for them. This is mostly because they have their market of baseball fans, which is already THE biggest sport in Japan, but then they team up with anime and otaku-based companies to make these collabs. You got sports nerds and weebs wanting to get exclusive merch for their favorite team or character. They pair up teams with characters and that’s how they make money off of these collaborations. One of the most notable of these was their collaboration with Cover Corp (Hololive’s parent company (it’s a v-tuber thing (it’s an anime thing))) and they put Korone Inugami in a Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks jersey. That’s just printing money. So why can’t Marvel and MLS figure that out?
To me, this just looks like a lack of creativity. Clearly, someone made the stuff, but it doesn’t look like anyone was actually interested in having fun with it. They’re really only selling three things out of this. First is the only thing that actually looks cool from the entire collection, which is the special edition ball that they’ll be using during the All-Star Game with all of the Avengers on it. Really nice art, maybe too nice for something that is designed to be kicked around and dirtied. Next is the warm-up jacket and pants, which are supposed to be inspired by the Avengers, but really it just looks like some incredibly basic rejected designs for DC United with a Marvel logo slapped on. So basic. Finally we get to the horrifying monstrosity that is the Captain America top. Instead of creating some sort of personality for your clubs or creating pride in the culture within all 29 MLS teams, it’s the same terrible design for every team. The press release mentions that it is a “blend of illustration and CGI” that “captures both the unique flavor of soccer fandom and nods to the classic comic book style”. What it actually looks like is somebody realized that the deadline was tomorrow, saw someone call Christian Pulisic “Captain America”, and then hit ctrl+d a bunch of times on a picture of the Captain America shield until it looked like a magic eye painting.
Again, I just want MLS to actually do something fun. I know that the Marvel universe is incredibly New York-centric, but that doesn’t mean everyone should have the same design. Hell, think of the Canadian teams! Toronto FC better be rocking up with a Deadpool jersey, since he is technically “Captain Canada”. Or maybe LAFC can have an Iron Man kit, the Sounders get the Sub-Mariner, Captain Marvel is from Boston so she’s with the Revs. Even St. Louis can get The Whizzer. As for the Fire, I’m between the Human Torch or the only real Chicago native in all of Marvel: Moon Knight. He’s got a show now, I’m sure there would be some interest. Or maybe Thor, cause he lived in Chicago for a bit while he was dating Sif.
Anyway, my whole point is that what they did was stupid, basic, and won’t actually make as much money as they could have if they actually let loose and had fun with it. And if they did it right, they could’ve made new MLS fans out of the Marvel fans looking for cool exclusive gear of their favorite characters. I mean, the only reason why I have even the slightest soft spot for an NPB team is because in the league’s collaboration with ReZero, my favorite character Ram was in a Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles jersey. Who’s to say that we couldn’t get more Fire fans if someone saw Thor in a Fire kit?
Let Them Plunder. I know that there wasn’t really any discussion about this during the USMNT games against St. Kitts and Nevis or Trinidad and Tobago, but I just wanna make clear that it’s honestly more rude to stop playing during a blowout. Score the goals you can get, score while you can. It’s disrespectful to “show mercy” to a team that’s fought hard to make it to this point.
No Shooting Machine. Shuto Machino was sold from J-League basement-dwellers Shonan Bellmare to mid-table 2. Bundesliga side Holstein Kiel. I really wanted to write a whole article on why he would’ve made the perfect signing for the Fire, but I guess we’ll have to wait.
Sportsmanship Wins. The Red Stars got the dub over the San Diego Wave this weekend thanks to a goal from Ella Sevens, assisted by Tatum Milazzo. Sportsmanship.
The New Gretzky. While we’ve known for weeks that it would happen since the NHL Draft Lottery, the Chicago Blackhawks have officially drafted Connor Bedard, statistically the best prospect since Wayne Gretzky. Shaqiri sent them a video, it felt weird, but whatever. Chicago hockey rises again, even though some people still haven’t seen consequences for the horrible things they’ve done.
This Anime Season Sucks. Just wanted to mention this cause trying to preview this season of anime for my anime channel is like previewing a Fire season. Maybe you’ll be surprised, but usually that just happens in a bad way. I’d love to give a recommendation, but there really is nothing there.
I love you.
And I’ll see you next week.