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Op-Ed \ John Haydon

Logan: ‘No more Mr. Nice Guy’ after media ignore D.C. United’s historic victory in InterAmerican Cup.

By John Haydon
Special to SoccerTimes

(Wednesday, December 16, 1998) -- Major League Soccer commissioner Doug Logan did his best imitation of Peter Finch, who as a character in the 1976 movie "Network" threw open his window and shouted, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!"

Logan vented his frustration last week at the poor media coverage of (Washington) D.C. United's impressive, and historic victory over Brazilian champion Vasco da Gama in the InterAmerican Cup December 5 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. It was United's fifth title in just three years. The InterAmerican Cup is played between the champions of South and North America. United's win essentially means the club can claim to be the best team in the Western Hemisphere.

"It's unconscionable what happened on Saturday night and Sunday," Logan said. "We're not going to sit quietly while our fans are ignored . . . From this weekend (on), I'm not going to be polite anymore."

Logan thought it would take a week to get the smile off his face after United's win, but it vanished when he saw how little coverage the game received in the major media outlets.

The commissioner saved the worst of his anger for ESPN's "SportsCenter," which failed to even mention United's victory on Saturday night. Said Logan: "(The announcers) were too busy preparing their sarcastic one-liners."

Ironically, ESPN and ESPN2 carried more than 35 MLS games in 1998.

The United game was aired only on select cable and satellite outlets. "I was shaking my head to try and understand what it will take to get these people to recognize the soccer constituency," Logan said. "We are not going to stand by while our soccer fans are disenfranchised."

United general manager Kevin Payne was just as vocal, saying, "It was mind-boggling to look at the front page of the (Washington Post) sports section and not see a report on the match."

Both the Washington Times and The Washington Post, United’s hometown dailies, ran the story inside their sports sections. To the soccer faithful, United's win was a landmark in the history of American soccer. Vasco is a world-famous club celebrating its centenary this season.

The Brazilian team is the current South American champion and recently lost to the European champion, Real Madrid, in the Toyota Cup in Japan -- equivalent to the Super Bowl of world club soccer. United, the flagship team of MLS, boosted the image of the three-year-old league around the world with its win.

"If you compare the absence of commentary about what happened at Lockhart Stadium and RFK Stadium," Logan said, referring to United's two-game series against Vasco, "with the piling on of how horribly this country did against the rest of the world during the World Cup, to me it shows a serious lack of judgment over what is important."

As champion of the CONCACAF Cup, United will defend its title next November. The winner from that tournament will likely play in the FIFA World Club Tournament tentatively scheduled for January 2000.

Payne and Logan said MLS teams needed to play in more games such as the InterAmerican Cup. Payne said he had been contacted by a number of clubs overseas that now want to play United. Payne said there also was a possibility of resurrecting the Trans-Atlantic Challenge tournament of the old North American Soccer League, a competition between top NASL teams and those from Europe and South America that was held from 1980 to 1984.

Logan said there would be no significant rise in the MLS team salary cap of $1.6 million. Top player salaries will remain around $237,500.

John Haydon is soccer columnist for the Washington Times and can be e-mailed at haydon@twtmail.com.

Articles and opinions expressed by other columnists are not necessarily the opinion of SoccerTimes.