A good year for me. I was a freshman in college and was finally away from my parents beginning to learn what it was to be an adult. (Disclaimer: I took two years off between high school and college so I was almost 21 when I started). I remember thinking I was so cool driving a Jeep and watching ESPN on my black and white TV that my folks gave me. It was pretty terrific.
The World Cup was in the United States for the first (and only time--thanks FIFA) and I had the opportunity to see two matches at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, California. I loved soccer and played in high school and the chance to see the best players in the world was something I would not pass up. I went with my Old Man and we had a blast. It was a terrific sporting summer.
My favorite sports at the time were easy to pick out: Hockey, Soccer and Baseball. I had always loved hockey and San Jose (where I grew up) had gotten their first team back in 1991. I played soccer growing up and always had an affinity for the sport. And baseball? Hell, it was the national past time. I grew up a San Francisco Giants fan and LOVED going to Candlestick Park. A game at the Stick was always cold, but always fun. But I loved it.
Everything changed in August of 1994 when Major League Baseball players went on strike. Now, I get that they had their reasons and they felt justified. I am not here to cast blame on one side or the other, but after that strike baseball lost something for me. It was never the same. And baseball did not truly come back into the American sports psyche until the ludicrous home run chase of 1998.
And we know that both of the players involved were juicing. We have the benefit of hindsight now, but baseball only came back when drugs were introduced into the game and people starting crushing home runs.
One could argue now that baseball is back and better than ever. And yes, it is true that my Giants have put on a good run in the last five years. But baseball was never the same for me after that.
Which brings me to 2015 and Major League Soccer. Much has been said about the differences between the Major League Soccer Players Union and Owners. I am not party to those discussions and I will not take a side. I believe that both sides have their points on this and are trying to do what is best for them. But what is the best thing for the league as a whole.
To avoid a strike at all costs.
Look, I love my Colorado Rapids as much as the next guy. I am distraught when they lose and I am overjoyed when they win. That is sports. But losing part (or more) of a season would be disastrous. You have to look at it like this: it took years for baseball to come back and it has been around for over a century. MLS is celebrating its 20th season.
A bit of a difference.
Soccer is not as popular as baseball or football or basketball or hockey. Work stoppages in those sports were overcome with time and energy, but people were able to forgive those sports because of their long storied history. Plus, when the NFL or MLB stopped playing there was not any other professional football or baseball to watch. For a soccer fan, there is the Premier League, the Bundesliga, La Liga, and USL. There are options for the soccer loving supporters out there.
I certainly do not think that if there is a strike that people will just suddenly forget their teams and give up on MLS all together. But I do think a strike really damages the momentum that MLS is making. The League is becoming more important in international circles and is being viewed more and more as a destination league. A strike would make MLS look foolhardy and petulant.
So to the Players Union and the Ownership I say this: do not strike. Figure this out. There is too much on the line to just let this season start with a strike. Don't let the Ghosts of 1994 haunt this league like they did Major League Baseball.