Toronto FC supporters might want to consider a class action lawsuit against Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment for false advertising.
The franchise that they have built resembles neither sport nor entertainment.
Fans have known it for years. There is a disconnect with management on and off the pitch. What is a curious development is that this divide is also starting to appear between the fan base and mainstream media. Stated simply, it appears as though both are watching different games.
Take a most recent example from this weekend's game in LA, a game in which Toronto was thoroughly dominated. Outshot 27-5. Out possessed 64-36. LA made almost double the number of passes that Toronto made. Save for LA's own goal, the scoreline was flattering at best. Am I wrong?
On the TSN broadcast, Lee Godfrey's post game questioning left me wondering if someone had spiked my Guinness. For example, amongst the leading questions:
"Paul, your thoughts on this one? The team got behind quickly but each time they fell behind... (they managed to score)... what does that say about the team, that at least not giving up over that full 90?"
"Your thoughts on Freddy Hall's performance tonight, he certainly seemed to come up a couple of key, timely big saves..."
"Are you in a similar position as the LA Galaxy were a couple of years back, where they were losing... and made the coaching change to Bruce Arena and through his leadership turned this team around, are you in that same spot right now with rebuilding Toronto FC and looking towards next year?
When prompted with a similar spin filled softball question, newcomer Darren O'Dea, who is quickly becoming my favourite Red, told it as it was. O'Dea was asked this gem:
"Now in the 2nd half, the team seemed to come out with a lot more resolve, really hung in there, was tight defensively, do you see a lot there you can take away from and say we can build on this?"
O'Dea replied with the words that virtually every knowledgeable and fully functioning TFC fan was thinking. Said O'Dea:
"No. It's easy to play when you are 3-1 down.... I spoke before about being mentally strong and it's quite clear this squad is not mentally strong enough. Everyone can play 3-1 down, there's nothing to lose. It's when you are nil all, it's when it counts and we weren't good enough when it was nil all... we'll be itching to get a win because it's been a long time coming."
Exactly. I don't mean to single out Godfrey, he certainly isn't alone in pumping up the positive tires with hot air. Kurtis Larson, in a weekend piece chose some interesting words to paint the reality that the club has given away player after player for minimal return. Wrote Larson:
"In that regard, the club's inability to discover and keep a solid nucleus of mid-level talent has made things nothing short of impossible. From Mo Johnston to John Carver to Preki, the Reds have never had a solid group of first-team players to accompany top talent.
When they did, decent pieces like Marvel Wynne, Tyrone Marshall, Nana Attakora and Sam Cronin have been traded away, mistakes made before the club's current regime took over in June."
Fair point but what of the mistakes the current leadership made after June of this year? Did the falling out with Joao Plata that resulted in a loan not happen? Was Nick Soolsma not released a few months ago? I'm not talking traded, he was flat out released, for nothing. Did Mariner not give up 2 draft picks for an injured Eric Hassli and Quincy Amerikwa in a season that doesn't matter? Picks that just might have helped build a nucleus. If we are pointing out mistakes, why are we not looking at the current management group too?
Interesting comments from the Press are matched with unchallenged comments from the leaders. We could write a whole blog on those, starting with Paul Mariner's comment that Andrew Wiedeman was "one of the best finishers (he has) seen in the modern era."
Clearly, we have a disconnect in our respective realities. If you didn't know otherwise, you'd think that this team is just a hop, step and a jump away from contending without really saying why. You'd think that we have plenty of young, and promising talent, all full of those nice words like heart and character. You'd think that there is a fresh new structure in place ready to do what it takes to build a perennial contender.
Instead the reality suggests none of that. The best players are on the other side of 30. Apart from a couple of promising pieces, the team is need of massive turnover again. And the current leadership group that consists of Anselmi - Mariner - Cochrane seems to be changing titles but not structure. Hope is not a strategy.
Why is there a disconnect? There is a growing philosophical question in mind that wonders if this is something that fans must get used to. Now that the media owns the team, does it in fact control the message?
Setting that question aside, I get that there is an element of self-preservation here. It's easy for someone like me to ask for honesty, I don't make a living off the team. If fans give up hope, do they tune out the TSN broadcast? Do they stop picking up the paper? Do they stop buying tickets?
I also get that there are people behind these stories. Likeable characters who want to win as badly as the fans do. How do you throw them under the bus and still expect to have a relationship with them or at the very least, get information, going forward? Some journalists may just be tired of the pessimism and want to believe that the team can turn it around.
But rather than give the fans spin, why not give them actual hope? For a team now owned by Canada's major communications companies, this is imperative. You don't do that by pretending problems don't exist. You don't do that by floating out what appear to be paid advertisements masquerading as analysis.
This team is bad. Let's examine why. Is it a reliance on local players? How much does the team invest in scouting relative to the league? Based on comments from former players, is there is cultural element to this? What have the leaders done to justify keeping (or even being promoted in) their jobs? More importantly what in their plans for the future indicates a reasonable chance to alter our present course?
Of course, we will continue to explore these issues here at Waking the Red but it sure would be nice to have some company.