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Steve Gilliard, 1964-2007

It is with tremendous sadness that we must convey the news that Steve Gilliard, editor and publisher of The News Blog, passed away June 2, 2007. He was 42.

To those who have come to trust The News Blog and its insightful, brash and unapologetic editorial tone, we have Steve to thank from the bottom of our hearts. Steve helped lead many discussions that mattered to all of us, and he tackled subjects and interest categories where others feared to tread.

Please keep Steve's friends and family in your thoughts and prayers.

Steve meant so much to us.

We will miss him terribly.

photo by lindsay beyerstein


eos0000: "The Clothes That Make The Midfielder"

Thanks to eos0000 for this great soccer post!

When Major League Soccer emerged onto the American sporting scene in 1996, its ten teams were saddled with nicknames like Wiz and Burn and Clash. (The punchline to a particularly bad joke at a urology conference? What a cymbalist does during the 1812 Overture?)

Considering what the league was already up against -- the failure of the NASL twelve years before, a potential audience that at best could be described as fractured, and the irrational hatred for the sport displayed by some Americans (among them a disproportionate number of sports journalists) -- it could not have been helpful that MLS teams were labeled with meaningless strings of text bearing no relation to their locations or the sport that they played.

Instead, the league's marketing department attempted to endow these generic labels with distinctiveness by other means. So every team got its own font -- ranging from D.C. United's stately serifs to the New England Revolution's spray-painted lettering to the Tampa Bay Mutiny's 1970s computer font.

(When Kappa outfitted the Mutiny in 2001, they not only put the team in their signature skin-tight jerseys, but they used that computer-inspired font for the players' names and numbers! The Mutiny folded after the season.)

And this eclectic typography was accompanied by iconography that ranged from the imperfect -- D.C.'s too-Teutonic eagle
and New England's fuzzy flag -- to the vaguely strange -- the Dallas Burn's fire-belching horse, the LA Galaxy's Wankel engine -- to the unidentifiable -- the San Jose Clash's lobster-scorpion and the Mutiny's mutant bat -- to the completely inexplicable -- the Galaxy's flaming carrot secondary logo to the Columbus Crew's men with hats.

And then there were the uniforms, featuring celery green, chlorophyll green, olive green, teal, and -- presumably controversially -- plain old green.

Granted, the 1990s weren't exactly a golden age of sporting iconography and attire, but MLS teams looked cheap and gimmicky even by those debauched standards. And because these ten teams had sprung full-grown from Alan Rothenberg's forehead mere months before, they had no history, no long-established presences in their communities, and thus no built-up reservoirs of good will that could have counteracted these disastrous first impressions.

To their credit, the league and its outfitters quickly recognized that they'd made serious mistakes -- for example, Nike's 1997 uniforms were markedly less odd-looking than those of the previous year (although they did introduce the world, for good or for ill, to "cloudy jade"). And, over the past decade or so, quite a few of those weirdnesses have fallen by the wayside.

Indeed, it could now be argued that -- identity- and appearance-wise, at least -- MLS teams have veered too far toward the traditional (or, considering that the league is only entering its twelfth year, the pseudo-traditional). Among the league's thirteen teams are FC Dallas, Toronto FC, CD Chivas USA (an affiliate of CD Guadalajara), and, most bizarrely, Real Salt Lake. And apparently only the objections of a certain
footwear company
prevented the rebranding of the Colorado Rapids as Arsenal Colorado FC.

And a league originally known for its idiosyncratic (and sometimes even interesting) colors of clothing now sees nearly its teams attired in red and blue and black and white -- the last traces of any sort of green will vanish when the gold-and-green Galaxy change their shirts when you-know-who arrives.

So while Major League Soccer would seem to have shed its initial identity as a cheap and gimmicky collection of teams with silly colors and sillier names, it hasn't yet established its new (and hopefully improved) identity. Perhaps this shouldn't be a surprise: after all, MLS has only just begun its twelfth season -- it's just another confused adolescent.

- posted by eos0000