June 19 – 2007
I’m in crisis.Â I can’t bring myself to attend an MLS match.Â And before you get all uppity: I happen to think the quality of soccer is quite good.Â I know that if I head down to the Home Depot Center, I’ll be treated to a very decent game of soccer.Â Â It’s not MLS, per say…it’s the goddamn 405 freeway.
Though I live a mere 10 minutes from downtown LA, to attend an “LA” Galaxy match I must make a round-trip journey of anywhere from 2 to 4 hours.Â Why?Â Because the Galaxy do not play in Los Angeles proper, but instead ply their trade inÂ the suburb ofÂ Carson, CA.Â
And yes, I’d be lying if I said beer didn’t play a part in my avoidance. Â I prefer to take my soccer with enough lager to make one, how should I say, “drunk.”Â But the 405 ushers in an awful reality: at minimum, a Galaxy match involves one hour of sober driving, 2 hours of sober Chris Albright viewing, and one hour of sober driving home.Â No thanks.
I mention this because twice in the past month have MLS expansion/stadium plans been rumored, and twice have those plans included suburbia.Â First it was Portland looking 20-odd miles west to the
sleepyÂ hamlet sprawlville of Hillsboro, then Seattle casting an eye southward towards the even farther away Tukwila Sea-Tac airport.Â What’s a soccer sommelier to do?
I would assume, given the choice, current and future MLS teams would prefer to have urban stadiums.Â Fans can use public transportation, make a day of it in the city,Â and not feel like they are making a pilgrimage to some youth soccer orgy.Â Â The teams themselves canÂ be woven into the fabric of the city in the way that so many storied American sports franchises are.Â
The obstacles, I can only imagine, are financial, the cost of land and development being less in the suburbs.Â But in real estate what you pay for is what you get, and the truth is this: soccer stadiums in the suburbs blow cock and nuts.Â Â Â MLS has been approaching the problem pragmatically, but perhaps that’s a slow death.Â Could it be that the impossibility of urban stadiums will be the Achilles heel that forever relegates MLS to the landscape of second tier sport?Â Is it impossible to have a successful league with a Chicago based team playing 17 miles away from their home city?
The situation reminds me of what an inebriated Englishman said to me once in a hotel bar:
“What’s with you Yanks: yer stadiums ‘ave plenty of parking, but God help ya’ if yer lookin’ for a pub.”
Complaining about this stuff gets the MLS sheep fired up:Â “If you loved your team (or the game), you wouldn’t worry about driving so far to see it/not cannonballing tacos and Tecate once you get there.”Â Well, then,Â perhaps I really am at an impasse.Â I grew up on the stuff.Â It’s the only sport I follow.Â I happen to think it’s the greatest game on the planet.Â But I’m not going to drive 2 hours to sit sober next to a family in AYSO jerseys while some guy on the field in a hot dog suit tries to catapult a frankfurter at me.Â It’s just not in me.Â
And if I won’t do it, how the hell will a suburban MLS ever make inroads into the sporting consciousness of this country?Â I, for one, have no idea.