Category: aztexan

Open Letter #4, To: My Fellow Supporters

[Originally posted on the now-defunct “Aztexan” blog.]

My first 3 open letter posts have been full of anger and attack, but this fourth and final one is quite different. This one’s addressed not to those who have done me wrong, but to those, near and far, who are victims along with me.

My message is as short as it is predictable: thanks. Thanks for the good times, thanks for the beer, thanks for the hilarious chants, thanks for welcoming me in.

I’m done now, both with these post-mortem writings, and with this blog. Though I sometimes covered things other than the Aztex – UT, Pelada, WPS – those were all just extras. I was using my little soapbox to promote a few side things that I thought might be of interest to Aztex and Division-2 fans. But this blog isn’t the CentralTexasMiscellanean, it’s the Aztexan. No Aztex, no Aztexan.

Who knows what will happen with pro soccer in Austin now. I go back and forth between being certain that it will be a long, long time before anyone even tries again, to wondering if the crazy schemers on the BigSoccer Aztex forum who are talking about a community-owned team might actually be able to pull something off.

If and when there’s a team to watch again, you’ll be able to find me in the bleachers at their games. I’ll be the one lost in the beauty of the game, transported to a place a million miles away from the pain of this week.

Open Letter #3, To: The Leagues

[Originally posted on the now-defunct “Aztexan” blog.]

USSF-D2I’ve let Mr. Rawlins have it pretty good the last couple of days, but these shenanigans didn’t happen in a vacuum (even though. . . they really sucked rimshot). They took place in the larger picture of American soccer, where everything below the stability and strength of MLS is more or less complete and perpetual chaos.

Until this sudden development, Aztex fans thought we already had worries enough at the league level. Namely, we didn’t know which one the team would be in. Nor were we alone, as the threat of another winter in limbo loomed over all the USSF-Division 2 teams, except the MLS-bound Vancouver and Portland. That threat still looms, for people that still have teams in their city.

USSF had laid down the law about minimum standards for future second division leagues, NASL had applied to be sanctioned as that league in 2011 even though they fall woefully short of the standards, and USL had given them both the finger as they attempted an end run around the whole mess with USL PRO (aka the LEAGUE where EVERY second WORD is SHOUTED for NO apparent REASON).

That’s a little background; here we go.

NASL and USL, you two incompetent douchebags, you’re a disgrace to the sport. Your combined ineptitude has stunted soccer’s growth in this country like a 6-year-old smoking a pack of Marlboros a day. I know you claim that you’re working for what’s best for the sport, but I just double-checked, and YOU ARE NOT. What’s obvious to everyone is that what you’re really working for is yourselves, and your little fiefdoms, and your goddamned franchise fees.

That was a dig at you, Francisco Marcos, did you get that? Yeah yeah, yay for you for keeping the flame burning through the long dark years after the original NASL bit the dust. Congratulations, thanks, here’s a Certificate of Appreciation from 1998. Now pull your money-grubbing fist out of everyone’s back pocket and piss off. Come on, you’ll be okay. Maybe you can write a book in your retirement: How To Build A Profitable Business Based on Your Franchisees’ Constant Failures. Or, One Man’s 75% Failure Rate is Another Man’s 25% Success Rate. Maybe you can get a cameo as a vampire in the next Twilight movie.

And by the way, take your ridiculous fucking I-League with you, jackass. Like we need new niches and additional fragmentation.

Now your turn, NASL. Poor, crazy NASL. Damn, I hardly have the heart to attack you, now that we’ve both been shafted by Mr. Rawlins. Still, I’ll always have some small black place in my heart for you, for shattering USL-1 in the first place. You were like the greedy kid trying to wrestle the candy jar out of the grown-up’s hands. Fighting, pulling, screeching — and then, the jar slips from both your hands and smashes on the floor. No candy for anyone now, genius.

Speaking of grown-ups, how about that USSF? Great job you’re doing with Division 2, USSF (he said, dripping with so much sarcasm that he had to wipe off his screen with a sponge).

Did you really think those new standards would be helpful? It’s as if I saw my kids were failing in school, and I told them: okay! Time to shape up! Straight As by this time next semester, and get part-time jobs while you’re at it, or I’m kicking you both out of the house. Okay, then, that’s settled; you’re welcome!

I know you’re busy up at Soccer House, bribing FIFA executive committee members (good luck on that part, actually; let me know if I can pitch in) and planning the U.S.’ semifinal loss to Ghana in Brazil in 2014 and everything, but this is important, too. You’re supposed to be building soccer in this country. America is a world power in just about every imaginable measure but this one. And it’s the same story year after year, decade after decade, despite the bajillions of kids who suit up for little league soccer each season. So although we have huge quantities of raw material, we still get knocked out of the World Cup by countries whose GDP wouldn’t cover the down payment on Sunil Gulati’s car.

And MLS! Yoo-hoo! MLS? Over here! You’re not getting out of this. You know I love you, MLS. I mean it, you’re the man (sexist yet accurate anthropomorphism; +1). But you kind of suck, too. I know you’ve had to be selfish. Your prime directive has been survival at all costs. But cherry-picking the best second division markets, without contributing anything back to help cultivate future crops, that sucks. USL/NASL/USSF-D2/WTFL is not getting any stronger by losing Seattle, and Portland, and Vancouver, and Montreal. Once those are gone, where will you go next? Orlando? Come on, I’m trying to be serious here.

Hey, listen. I’m just a dope of a fan. I’m obviously not as clued in to the goings-on in the soccer world around me as I think I am (self-deprecating reference to my team moving 1,000 miles away before I hardly knew it, did you get that?). But jesus, is it really so hard? There’s a bunch of fans that aren’t in MLS markets, there’s a bunch of MLS reserve players who need to play if they’re ever going to get off the bench, there’s a bunch of college-age kids who need to play during the summer to keep their game up, there’s a bunch of in-between guys who want to play and will be happy with a semi-/minor-pro situation.

It just seems to me that if you all really gave a shit about the game, you’d find a way to figure it out. Until you do, the only games that will be perfected are the ones Mr. Rawlins plays when he flips cities overnight, and whatever crazy shit those Cosmos people are up to in New York, and the greasy shuck and jive Jeff Cooper pulled in St. Louis, and on and on, ad nauseam.

Open Letter #2, To: Orlando

[Originally posted on the now-defunct “Aztexan” blog.]

Orlando City SoccerBless your hearts, you beautiful Orlando Beautiful City Beautiful Soccer Beautiful Club fans.

I’m torn, honestly. I’ve already gone public with my wishes for Orlando’s fate, which were not charitable wishes. Yet I can’t help but feel some pity, too. I was once as you, starry-eyed and hopeful, never dreaming of how badly it would end here.

And if you’re soccer fans, you’re still my brethren (and sistren). I can’t stand the Dynamo or their fans, either, but I’d take them over your typical NFL knucklehead any day of the week.

In that spirit of brother- (and sister-) hood, here are a few pitfalls to watch out for when dealing with a Rawlins-run soccer franchise.

  • Never, ever pay full face value for tickets — They ran so many specials, especially on those social coupon sites like Groupon, and gave away so many freebies, that fans who exclusively used those here in Austin made out better, even, than season ticket holders.

  • Don’t buy season tickets — See the previous note, as far as as any savings you might get. But still, you might be tempted to buy season tickets to “show your support”, just as many of us (granted, apparently not enough of us) did here.

    That would seem to make sense, wouldn’t it? Seems like it would give the organization the assurance of a certain number of committed fans, right? Well, it turns out that you might as well keep your money in your account until game day. According to Mr. Rawlins’ quote in the Austin American-Statesman, season tickets don’t actually amount to jack shit:

    Asked why season-ticket holders weren’t made aware of the team’s financial struggles, Rawlins said: “Why would they be? When you’re talking about investment on the scale and the range we’re talking about, you’re talking about investment from business people and executives in the community, not a season-ticket holder.”

  • Don’t join whatever premium fan club thing they cook up — Buy a t-shirt or scarf or stadium seat or whatever freebie they offer separately (if you even want it), and keep the hundred bucks. And don’t be tempted by offers of an exclusive online forum as part of the package. BigSoccer has its flaws, but it has one big upside as far as online message boards go: there are more than five posts per season there.

  • Don’t take the brown acid — The brown acid that is circulating around us is not specifically too good. It’s suggested that you do stay away from that. Of course it’s your own trip, so be my guest, but please be advised that there is a warning on that one, okay? Wait, sorry; scratch this one, I was thinking of something else entirely.

  • Don’t think the owners are your friends — The Rawlinses are very nice, very charming people. They and the other investors will probably be very visible to fans, and you may meet them. By all means, enjoy that, it’s part of the fun. Just be sure to keep one thing in mind: despite the very friendly demeanor, they are not your friends. They’re the owners of a business, and you’re a customer. Nothing more.

    They’re like an Applebee’s franchisee, say. And you never know, they may have to close the one in your neighborhood, so that they can open another one the next town over, by the highway and the Wal-Mart. If so, don’t expect any special treatment because of any “friendship” with them, because there is no such thing. Nothing personal! It’s just business.

  • Don’t volunteer — Of course, the whole reason the franchise moved to Orlando was the piles of money waiting for them there, so surely they won’t have to ask a bunch of poor slobs to help run their business for them. The owners are millionaires, after all, and they’re shooting for the big leagues.

    But if they do, somehow, have the cojones to ask for volunteer help, don’t be a sucker. If you want to help people, find an actual charity to do it for, not a for-profit business venture. In the meantime, if they need more help selling lukewarm bottles of Powerade for $5 at the concession stand, then let them come back early from vacationing at their house in Portugal to do it.

All right! With these handy tips, you’re ready to go! Once next season rolls around, just pack the wife (or husband) and kids in the minivan and head on out to join 69,996 of your fellow Beautiful City Beautiful Soccer Club Beauty fans at the spacious! the capacious! the rapacious! the pretty much ideal stadium you have there for a Division 3 expansion team: the Citrus Bowl.

Go visitors!

Open Letter #1, To: The Rawlinses

[Originally posted on the now-defunct “Aztexan” blog.]

Note to the reader: I’ve tried to keep things family-friendly since I started here in January, 2008. That policy, like the team itself, has departed. If you don’t want to read any obscenities or petty bitterness from a jilted former Aztex fan, stop reading and unsubscribe now. This post is the first spark I’m putting to this blog. Over the next few days, I’m going to burn the fucking thing to the ground.

Austin AztexDear Phil and Kay,

There’s a saying that it’s better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all. Perhaps there’s some wisdom there, though it’s harder to see it when you’re still lying on the floor after being dumped.

I readily acknowledge that I had a lot of good times, and met a lot of good folks, thanks to the soccer team you brought here. And I knew I was lucky to have all of that at the time; I know I’ve thanked you for it more than once.


But it wasn’t all for my benefit. I gave, too. I gave a lot. Even leaving aside this blog, even as “just” a supporter, I felt invested in this club, the same way all the supporters did. We believed in it. We told everyone we could about it. We talked it up, and we also talked down the shortcomings. Yes the game’s on an astroturf high school football field, but it’s okay, the play is really good, the atmosphere is great, come with me, check it out, I’ll buy you a beer before the game, just try it.

We put your logo on our cars. We wore your shirts and jerseys all over town, looking for a flash of interest from coworkers or strangers at the store, hoping for a chance to tell them there’s a soccer team in Austin. Hey, there’s a game this weekend, you should come, it’s a blast, you’ll love it.

We huddled around laptops and wired them to TVs under the gaze of puzzled bartenders, trying to watch a shitty, buffering video feed from halfway across the country. No, sorry, Barcelona’s on that TV over there, this is our hometown team, they’re in Montreal, no we don’t know why they keep showing that fucking train.

In doing all those things, we were investing. We were paying in, we were contributing in some way. They weren’t big things, but they’re how — well, we thought they were how — a soccer city would be built. A fan at a time. A thrilling last-minute goal. A ball kid. A playoff game. A scarf. We wanted to build the soccer city, just like you wanted to build the soccer city. We thought we were building it with you. We thought it would be your soccer city, and we thought it would be ours, too.

We knew it wouldn’t happen right away, and we knew it wouldn’t be perfect for a while. We wanted to buy beer at games just as badly as you wanted to sell it to us. We hated those goddamned gridiron lines just as much as you did. But we put up with what we had now. We did more than that, we loved it. And that was part of our investment, too.

Like with all investments, we hoped they would pay off someday. We hoped we’d see our boys go on to bigger teams, like Eddie did. I saw him, we could say. I saw him play at House Park, 12th and Lamar, year before last. By the way, there’s another game next Saturday, you should come, you never know which player will be big, we have this amazing rookie this year, he’s on fire, check it out.

But our investment, it’s gone now. We put in, and like I said, we had a lot of fun doing it. But that part where we thought we were building something, where we’d have a return on that investment someday, something for our city, for our friends, for our kids, for the sport we love, that part is gone.

No, it’s worse than gone. It’s a debt, now. Where before we had pride in the team and talked it up, now it’s an embarrassment, a shame. We’re suckers now, chumps. All the people who heard our pitch for the team and thought, either openly or themselves, “whatever, soccer’s stupid, nobody likes soccer, that will never last,” — god I hate those people — they were right. They were right! You made those hateful, ignorant bastards right!

Maybe the support we gave wasn’t enough. Maybe it was puny, laughable. I’ll admit it, our ranks were pretty thin sometimes. Maybe it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the support you thought you’d get, or needed to get, or thought you needed to get, or whatever. I can’t speak to what didn’t happen, and I can’t speak for the people who didn’t show up at games.

I can only speak for myself, and this theft of my investment is what makes me mad. It might have been easier to swallow if you’d handled the whole thing with a little more grace, if you’d shown some respect for what we’ve given. It still would have sucked, it still would have sucked really bad, and we would still lose that investment, but maybe some respect wouldn’t have left the city’s and the fan’s reputations in smoldering ruins.

Anyway. Let’s cut to the chase: here’s what I hope for your future endeavors.
Orlando City SoccerI hope Orlando The City Beautiful City Soccer City Club SC or whatever the fuck it’s called is an unmitigated disaster, on and off the field.

I don’t hold any enmity for coach Heath or the players, but they play for the wrong team now, in my book. Players get traded to hated rivals all the time, and fans don’t start loving that club, they hate them all the more. True, it’s usually one, maybe two players, not the entire damn squad, and yes, it’s usually to an existing club instead of a team that barely exists, but the point remains. Trade up to a real team, boys, that’s all I can say. I hope Orlando’s record over the first 30 games is 0-30-0.

I hope the whole Mickey Mouse league sucks, and your attendance sucks, and Donner skips town with half the money to start a new club in Idaho, and the other investors drop out, and that a giant sinkhole swallows whatever football stadium you’re trying to drag those poor Floridians into. I hope you burn every last cent of money from any sucker you can find, yours first, and that your ridiculous, quixotic quest for an MLS franchise in that godforsaken hellhole is as fruitless as trying to get a waitress’ attention at The Tavern.

Second note to the reader: Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Stay tuned (or don’t, that’s fine by me) for Letter #2, To: Orlando.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén