Yes, WPS and Washington Freedom fans, I hear you. BigSoccer hears you. The transitional staff hears you. You’re sad that the name may change and that the team may play games in (or eventually move to) South Florida. You’re frustrated that the new owner is talking of upgrading the team to win a championship while having no staff to participate in a free-agent market that has seen much of the team move elsewhere.
What I can tell you is that WPS and former Freedom personnel always stress the same thing in their conversations: Without new majority owner Dan Borislow, this team wouldn’t exist. The league might not have made it to Season 3.
If the doomsayers are correct and 2011 proves to be a sad farewell to what’s left of the Freedom, the blame should fall on the Washington region itself.
Not on the fans, who have supported the team reasonably well given the long drive up I-270 to the Soccerplex. The blame should fall on anyone who had the wherewithal to invest in the team … and didn’t.
It’s not as if this region has no money. Some of the suburbs are the richest towns in the country that can’t be skied or sailed into. Visit sometime, and I’ll drive you past some houses whose mortgage payments make Marta’s paychecks look like sofa change.
But when it comes to soccer, the rich folks and the businesses don’t step up. Ask D.C. United, which really needs a local investor to help out Will Chang, who has put his heart, soul and wallet into the team from across the country. The most prominent local company to step up with United is Volkswagen, the German automaker with a U.S. operation in exurban Herndon, Va.
Washington’s other pro sports teams feature one of the best owners in sports (Capitals/Wizards owner Ted Leonsis, who made his fortune with AOL) and worst (he shall not be named). Leonsis loves his community as much as any owner in the country, but we can’t ask him to buy and finance everything in town.
Two possible reasons why the Freedom eventually turned to an out-of-town savior:
1. Unwillingness to be associated too closely with “Washington.” Everyone wants to live here; no one wants to admit it. The rest of the country hears nonstop chatter from political candidates pledging to change Washington, the supposed cesspool on the Potomac. The region has plenty of big local businesses — contractors, lobbying firms, finance companies, tech firms, etc. — but they make their money nationally.
2. As Kenn Tomasch will surely stop by and point out — this isn’t charity. A lot of investors want to see return on their money.
Maybe Borislow can make his new direction work. If he does, all Freedom fans can do is lament the fact that no one felt strongly enough about the Washington Freedom to help a deeply rooted 10-year-old club turn the corner as it was.