Suppose someone told you Beethoven wrote Born to Run.
“No,” you’d say. “All available evidence says Bruce Springsteen wrote Born to Run. It was recorded nearly 150 years after Beethoven died.”
You’d think that would be the end of the argument. But suppose the original person kept pressing you on the topic. No, no — it was Beethoven.
And as you continued to point to the evidence supporting your “position” that Springsteen wrote Born to Run — a review, a Slate story showing how The Boss obsessed over the song in an effort to save his career, a story about the house in which he wrote the song — the pro-Beethoven crowd grew more belligerent. You don’t really believe Springsteen wrote Born to Run, your accusers would say. You’re just afraid of losing your credentials to Springsteen concerts. Or worse, you’re actually taking money from Springsteen to denounce people who think Beethoven wrote Born to Run.
That’s how I feel about a couple of people who put forth the following proposition: Promotion/relegation is economically feasible in U.S. soccer, the lack of it is strangling investment in the sport, it will happen if we just get enough people to yell about it on Twitter, and everything from the fourth division to the U.S. national team would be infinitely better if we would just get all those people to yell about it and make it happen.
I have explained multiple times why this proposition isn’t true. The most popular of my posts on the topic is “The NASL and periodic restatement of facts on promotion/relegation.” You may also enjoy “The semiannual restatement of facts on promotion/relegation,” which will take you back to previous posts on the topic.
But every once in a while, people repeat a couple of mindless mantras about pro/rel and then insist I (or possibly someone else in the field) should “debate” the people involved, like Bill Nye taking the stage to debate a creationist over a topic on which the scientific community is in complete agreement.
I’ve debated Ted. On Twitter. On BigSoccer. Through a lengthy private message exchange on BigSoccer in which he came close to conceding that my position was not the result of clandestine payments from MLS or a need to protect my lucrative writing career. (For the record: The fantasy columns I wrote for MLSNet were ages ago, USA TODAY rarely cared if I did any MLS coverage while I was employed there, and I’ve written very little on the league in the last two years.) I even agreed to participate in a story in which the writer was also chatting with him.
Since then, nothing has changed. Everything I’ve written is still true. Teams in the third and fourth divisions (and, frankly, most of the teams in the NASL) are content to stay there. There’s no indication whatsoever that people who have the means to make a pro/rel league happen are doing so. (No, I’m not counting an occasional “Hey, pro/rel would be cool!” comment from an NASL official as actual progress on getting it done, nor am I counting the countless amateur leagues — including mine — that use pro/rel because there’s nothing else at stake besides giving teams reasonable competition. My team was promoted against its will this season. It stinks.)
At one time, there was some sort of movement to make change happen within U.S. Soccer, thinking that if the federation simply put in rules for pro/rel, the investors would magically appear, like the profit in the South Park Underpants Gnomes episode. I’ll guess by Sunil Gulati’s recent unanimous re-election that such a movement did not come to pass.
And nothing has come to pass. People have yelled, harangued, browbeat and screamed. And the pro/rel movement in this country is still a few people on Twitter who have lined up no sponsors, no owners, no nothing. (Ted used to raise money through his site, and I’m sometimes tempted to ask what happened to the dough.)
Here’s the funny part. Ready?
Personally, I would love to see pro/rel happen in the USA.
Perhaps a modified form that minimizes risk. Maybe something in which we have some interdivisional play so second-division teams will still have a chance to see Thierry Henry or Landon Donovan once every two years.
I wish Don Garber hadn’t shut the door so conclusively when he was asked about it before the season. But I have no doubt that he’s reflecting the sentiment of the people who have sunk tens of millions of dollars into rescuing U.S. soccer from where it stood in 1993, with a bit of semipro ball and nothing else. Garber isn’t going to force them to accept more risk, and I’m in no position to say otherwise, any more than I’m in a position to say I think it’s stupid for European national teams to ditch friendlies for this new “league.” (Yes, I’m bitter about that.)
And I would love to see the lower divisions toss aside their differences and form regional leagues with pro/rel. MLS is stable. The other leagues, not as much.
So what, exactly, should I “debate” with anyone on this topic? Whether or not pro/rel would be cool? No disagreement there. Whether or not it’s feasible? Not a debate.