While the USA’s post-Olympic tour rolls on, a quiet effort to rebuild pro soccer in this country is still in progress. It’s hard to gauge how well that effort is going because much of it is going on in private. Meanwhile, the public information is either dispiriting or tawdry, depending on your point of view.
By now, many women’s soccer fans have read the Shaun Assael/Peter Keating/Lizzie Haldane story on magicJack in ESPN magazine’s “franchise issue.” The story, with the clever headline “MAGICTRICK,” is not yet available online. You won’t find a bunch of former (current?) magicJack players publicly breaking their silence about their team’s wild year in WPS, but you will find more magicJack-related comments from both named and anonymous sources than we’ve seen in one place before. The story is reported and written very well.
In case you’ve missed it, here are a few highlights:
- More tales of Dan Borislow’s lavish spending on magicJack and then on the national team in London.
- A few more stories of Borislow’s behavior with the team, including rather personal questions about players’ sexuality. Borislow’s defenders would point out that the accounts are anonymously sourced.
- More accounts, both anonymous and directly quoted, suggesting Borislow takes a “my way or the highway” approach to many of his business and personal pursuits.
Those parts are mostly about Borislow the person. Like Hope Solo, he’s talented, driven and controversial. Whatever you think of him, you’d have to concede that he could write a lively memoir.
Then we get to the parts that are of greater interest as we roll forward with women’s soccer:
- The story depicts a large rift between the players in Borislow’s good graces (mostly, but not all, current national team players) and those who weren’t. An anonymous player says some teammates bragged about the big bucks they made for a couple of minutes of work on an ad campaign. Another anonymous source says original head coach Mike Lyons was fired within a few minutes of Abby Wambach complaining about him. Non-magicJack player Cat Whitehill, quoted by name, says she thinks Wambach and company likely didn’t want to see teammates mistreated but could’ve been more vocal about it. (Disclaimer: We don’t know what, if anything, the national team players said privately to Borislow about the issues.)
- Several top players are still on the magicJack payroll, and Borislow says he’s looking into some sort of team. No further description given.
- A telling direct quote from Borislow: “We should not have a pro league in this country unless they get paid real wages.”
That leads us to the as-yet-unnamed new league that was announced hours before the Olympic final. And this league has detractors beyond Borislow.
Not much has been said in public about this league. But several things said in private are worrisome. Or flat-out wrong.
Two things in the “wrong” category:
1. The new league will not be professional. It will be. The whole point is to get out of the W-League and WPSL restrictions (necessitated by the NCAA) on paying players and playing beyond late July. The new league’s backers intend to be professional. Moving to the new league would not be, as someone told me, a lateral move from the W-League.
2. U.S. Soccer is/was out of the loop. Nope. U.S. Soccer even knew the press release was going out at an unusual hour. (To be clear: It wasn’t U.S. Soccer’s decision to announce the league just then. But the federation was consulted, and it has been working with the new league’s backers.)
I’ve been told otherwise by people who have firm professional positions in women’s soccer. That leads to a question: Why? Why are they telling me something wrong? Is that what they heard? From whom?
Perhaps we shouldn’t be using a Genesis song for the headline here. Let’s try Led Zeppelin.
Communication breakdown … it’s always the same …