As good as the play was on the pitch during the MLS Cup, the show during halftime was even better. MLS Commissioner Don Garber appeared during halftime as Max Bretos, Alejandro Moreno, and Kasey Keller asked him about various aspects of the announcement from Saturday (not the least of which was the new rule regarding selected All-Star players actually playing or else; along with the desire to expand MLS to 28 teams).
So many good things came out of the interview itself. While I won't address the particulars of the announcement from Saturday (yet), consider what did come out:
- Each year during the MLS Cup, Garber makes himself available for questioning. I do not recall in recent memory NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell appearing with the host network's halftime panel to face such questions. Imagine this: "Commissioner Goodell, your comments regarding concussion policies seem lacking. What's your thought process in this, given all the side effects that happen to both current and former players? Don't you feel you are responsible to step up and help the players who've made your league as popular as it is?" Garber made himself available. While his answers seemed lacking (possibly due to time constraints), he at least put himself out there. Kudos!
- Bretos admitted that his questions weren't 'PC,' but kudos also to ESPN for pushing back on Garber's comments. That, my friends, is in the neighborhood of journalism. You could tell that they had a vested interest in seeing a game and a league they love excel. They rightly pushed back about basically red-carding a player for not playing in the All-Star Game if selected. While Garber conveyed he wanted the players to take the game seriously and not skip--I totally understand this--he at least had to field that question that many of us MLS fans were asking. And they asked it! Let's not underestimate how important this is.
As I congratulate the Portland Timbers for taking home the 2015 MLS Cup, I also congratulate ESPN for asking tough questions to Don Garber. That is one important piece in making MLS stronger and taking it more seriously.