Just a nudge is a famous slogan from former business regulation czar Cass Sunstein. His definition is that if you can push a small change, it will have a giant benefit on people's attitudes and change their behaviors going forward. So I'm going to try an age old motivational technique taught to me by the drill sergeants in Fort Knox, Kentucky, and perfected by Rick Pitino. Tough Love. This is to the Rapids fans that are holding on to the past by sending a few strong points about the state of the Rapids franchise. I'm hoping that this "nudge" will enlighten and change the way that the fans think about sports in general.
1) Gary Smith is not walking through that door.
Neither is Jeff Larentowicz, nor Omar Cummings, nor Jacob Petersen, nor Conor Casey, nor Marcelo Balboa. The point is if we still had all those players, Balboa aside, we would have the oldest team in the league by far. We had the second oldest last year without some of them. What's the highest position we could have achieved with these players? The last playoff position? A first round exit? Is that what Hinchey is trying to aspire to? Is that what the fans want?
The truth about Gary Smith is that MLS was a stepping stone. He used it well in getting a job in England. But the way he left Stevenage might be a clue to why he left Denver. He left under disagreement with management. Sound familiar? To the other point about being a stepping stone job, Americans are spoiled by having four of their sports leagues be the best in the world. The MLS is lucky to be in the top ten in soccer worldwide. When the MLS finds great talent, they sell it. If the talent wants to stay, they have to be classified as a "designated player" to be paid market price. Although the homegrown player system is working we have a long way to go to be considered one of the best. Mexico's top division is light years in front of MLS. If the USA is celebrating winning a game in Mexico in the CONCACAF Champions League then we are the Mountain West Conference to their SEC.
2) Trading off older veterans to get young is a fact of life for sports.
Two years ago we had the third oldest team in MLS. Last year we had the second oldest. What does that indisputable stat tell us? The injuries last year were insurmountable. Pablo Mastroeni can't stay on the field this year. We had to break up the team some time. It's not as if they were to the level of the Colorado Avalanche in the late 90's- early 00's. The Rapids had one impressive run that culminated in the MLS Cup. The Colorado Rockies had a magical run to the World Series in 2007, and Clint hurdle got fired 18 months later. Ryan Spillborghs is in Japan, Ian Stewart is in AAA-Iowa right now.
Building a nucleus is hard. But you have to trade known properties for potential sometimes. It's a fact of sports. If the Rapids still had all of those players then we might have more points currently, but it wouldn't last long. Also we wouldn't have Dillon Powers or Deshorn Brown. Shane O'Neill probably wouldn't be cutting his teeth right now. I'll reserve my judgement for the Hinchey regime for how these young players develop. Right now we are currently in the playoff picture with all of our injuries and tough schedule and are on track to win back the Rocky Mountain Cup for the first time in seven seasons. The Rapids are on the right track.
3) The television broadcast situation.
I think former Charlotte Bobcat coach Paul Silas said it best. Getting Richard Fleming to be the play-by-play broadcaster for the Altitude telecasts is a major coup for the Rapids. He also has a lot more content on the Rapids website and now a weekly show on Altitude. So the guy that wants to bring back Mike Haynes so Marcelo Balboa has to explain the game of soccer to him instead of telling us what is going on? Maybe you should move to North Dakota, becase this is a hoot. I think all of the fill-ins would admit that soccer wasn't their strong-suit and am happy that Fleming has joined the team. It makes the Rapids look like a professional organization. I love Mike Haynes on the Avalanche broadcasts and Marc Moser on Avs radio, but please stay there.
And to the lady that thinks Fleming is too soft-spoken, he's English. Some of the most iconic broadcasters have different than normal voices. Howard Cosell and Myron Cope are notable. It's strange that the United States doesn't really have a signature way to call soccer matches. We hear the Mexican way, namely building the play with the tone of the announcers voice and how they build anticipation of the play on the field and connect with the viewers is a skill that few have. It's really great art. The traditional role of the play-by-play professionals here rise through the ranks by doing any broadcasting job that comes their way. Chris Marlowe of the Nuggets started by doing volleyball. So i'm sure the bosses at Altitude network thought of soccer as being a minor league sport and with their way of doing business said, "well Haynes is not doing anything, throw him in with Marcelo and the fans will not know any better." Nope. We crave the English way of soccer broadcasting. Where the PBP guy is also an expert at the game. ESPN figured it out when they brought over Ian Darke and Adrian Healey. So I'm glad Hinchey knew this and stopped insulting Colorado soccer fans with the second string broadcasts.
Also, I think a lot of people missed the fact that Fleming is being paid by the Rapids and not Altitude. It's kind of like the bosses over there at Altitude didn't think it was a good idea. But they were very far off. They are using their "our old system is the way it's always been and we can't change the formula" plan that a lot of broadcasting companies use. Hinchey goes to the Kroenke board and gets money for a first rate MLS broadcasting team. Also he pays for the best young people in our youth system to play soccer, releasing some of the burden and cost of traveling teams. Which for some young people that would not have that chance means they can play and maybe realize their dreams of playing professional soccer or at least having opportunities to get a scholarship and get educated. Which means we are going to get the most out of the Rapids Academy that we can and also produce productive citizens.
The good thing about tough love is that after the hard times it forces you to think about the hard way and what can be accomplished. Getting young to get better. Leaving the past on the ring of fame. Enjoying what we have on the TV broadcasts. Tough love time is over, now to enjoy the game.