In this week’s Around the Dorm, the “Ref,” George Tatoris, asks our panel of experts three questions: Will the MLS ever become as popular as European leagues, what does the hiring of the first female ref mean for the future of the NFL and which MLB team impressed the most on Opening Day?
1. Will the MLS ever reach the prestige of European soccer leagues?
Kevin: I don’t believe the MLS will ever be as popular as European soccer, or at least never in my lifetime. The fact of the matter is the MLS is the fifth-most popular professional American sport, while soccer is far and wide the most popular sport in all of the major European soccer nations. Even if the MLS grows exponentially in popularity, it would require the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL to all decrease significantly in popularity. The MLS just doesn’t have the star power and money that the European leagues have. In 2014, the highest valued MLS team by Forbes was valued at $175 million. In comparison, Forbes ranked the top 20 European clubs, and they were all more valuable. All in all, the money, star power and popularity of European soccer is head and shoulders above the MLS.
Matt: The MLS will never be close to being considered prestigious. Americans have no interest in soccer, except for every four years when we pretend to care for two weeks and then go back to caring more about where Gronk partied the night before. Americans will never care for soccer, specifically a league with such little talent as the MLS. Messi and Ronaldo could come to the MLS in their primes, and people would still rather watch football, basketball, baseball, hockey or even squash. Soccer is just too low-scoring to keep Americans’ interests. Nobody wants to sit through a game that ends in a 0-0 tie or see a player fake an injury every two minutes. This is America — land of the free and the home of the brave — where only Communists fake injuries.
Michael: Yes, but it will take a lot of work on their part. Right now, the league has a lot of older players who can’t find teams to pay them in Europe and younger guys who are good, but not Chelsea or Manchester City good. If they’re able to lure over players who people know and are really good, like Tim Howard or Wayne Rooney — which they have no shot of but we’ll use — more people will want to see them play. I’ll end this with a personal story; after a New York Rangers game awhile back, I was waiting for a PATH train at 33rd street in New York. All around the station, I saw people wearing New York City FC jerseys, scarves, hats, etc, and I wondered what was going on. Turns out it was their first game, and that’s when it hit me. A brand new soccer team in the U.S. was moving merchandise like that, and this, my friends, is what gives me hope it can reach high levels of popularity here in the U.S.
Matt gets 3 points for calling out soccer as the commie sport it is. Michael gets 2 points for optimism, and Kevin gets 1 point for bringing up the money side of the issue.
2. What does the hiring of the NFL’s first female referee mean for the future of the league?
Kevin: I don’t think it will be a big deal in the long run. There will be a small period where it’s a little awkward, but if she’s a quality referee, that period won’t last that long. There are plenty of women who are heavily involved in the NFL via the media, so the idea of women not understanding football is a thing of the past. I don’t think this will lead to a huge influx of women in the NFL, but it may lead to a few more women involved in the league here and there which won’t be the end of the world.
Matt: The hiring of Sarah Thomas is a long overdue step in the right direction for the NFL, just in time to repair the league’s image after the mishandlings of multiple domestic violence cases. Thomas’ performance will be magnified compared to other refs because the NFL would like to make an icon out of her, and drunk idiots everywhere can’t wait until she messes up. Thomas has proven she is a very good referee because she has already climbed the referee ladder to the top. She can’t be worse than the replacement refs a few years ago. In the future, more women may aspire to become referees in any professional league because of her, but for the immediate future, not much changes.
Michael: To be honest, all it’s going to do is give drunk fans more ammo for insults which they claim are justified because of bad officiating. The game isn’t going to change because of this, and no one should really pay it any mind. If the league hires more female refs, that’s totally fine. It’s not like they can’t call games better or worse than male ones. If I’m really thinking about it, sure, this could lead to more females in the sport -— maybe a girl could be on the headset with a team’s coach telling him to throw that challenge flag, or hell, maybe a girl will be that coach! But seriously, for right now this doesn’t really mean anything and it shouldn’t. We shouldn’t be saying, “Let’s see how this girl does.” We should be saying, “Let’s see how this new official does.”
Matt gets 3 points for bringing up the NFL’s image. Michael gets 2 points for saying female refs are equal to male refs, and Kevin gets 1 point for mentioning women in football.
3. Which MLB team had the best performance Opening Day?
Kevin: I’ll say the best performance from Opening Day was by the New York Mets. When I heard 41-year-old Bartolo Colon was going to be the Opening Day starter for the Mets, I thought it might be an ugly start to the season for the Metropolitans. However, it was the complete opposite. Colon beat former Cy Young award winner Max Scherzer and one of the favorites in the NL, the Nationals. They ended up taking two of three from the Nats this week. Every year, I hear from Mets’ fans that this is the year the Mets become relevant. I’m not saying they’ll definitely make that leap, but Mets fans should definitely be happy with the good start against such a talented team.
Matt: Without a doubt the Seattle Mariners had the most impressive opening day, downing the Angels, 4-1. The Mariners are a team on the rise and one that is expected to compete for a World Series title. All the hype was confirmed on Opening Day, when the team shut down the Angels, a team that, along with Oakland, has owned the AL West the past few seasons. The Mariners pitching held Trout and Pujols, two of the biggest stars in the game, to a combined 1-6 on the day, sending a message that its the Mariners’ time to shine in the west.
Michael: There was a lot to talk about Opening Day, from David Price of the Tigers throwing eight shutout innings against the Twins to Alex Rodriguez getting a standing ovation at his home return (I don’t know what animal the Yankees sacrificed for that to happen, but let’s hope they do it for Tanaka’s arm, too). But I have to give the best performance to the Colorado Rockies against the Milwaukee Brewers. The team absolutely wrecked the Brewers, 10-0, and had an impressive day both offensively and defensively. Colorado allowed just eight hits off of 33 at bats. At the plate, the entire lineup helped play a role, but young third baseman Nolan Arenado really shined going 3-4 with four RBIs, including a two-run home run. All in all, I understand not a lot of people expect much from Milwaukee, so them losing isn’t a big deal. But this kind of strong start for Colorado is definitely worth mentioning, especially from a team I think is worth a watch this year.
Michael gets 3 points for bringing up statistics. Kevin gets 2 points for bringing up Colon’s performance, and Matt gets 1 point for mentioning the Mariners’ pitching.
Matt wins Around the Dorm via a Trivia Crack tiebreaker, 8-7-4.