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Op-Ed \ John Haydon

Logan may be missed but not for that long.

Special to SoccerTimes

(Monday, August 9, 1999) -- There's one thing I will miss about former Major League Soccer commissioner Doug Logan, who got axed last week -- the old fishing hat he used to wear.

After the first two MLS Cups were played in a steady downpour, Logan took to wearing the hat. You had the sense he was dealing with a number of storms.

Logan was a pleasant guy with a sense of humor and I wish him the best, but I can't say I'm sorry to see him go. He tried hard to fit in, but I often thought he was in the wrong sport.

Logan has been replaced by Don Garber, a former National Football League vice president who has little experience on soccer matters but says he will surround himself with experts on the sport. (That sounds nervously reassuring.)

Garber was responsible for the NFL's European league. "Don has got tremendous marketing skills," D.C. United president Kevin Payne said. "With those skills, he will take us to the next level."

One hopes that in his travels overseas, Garber caught a soccer game and has an inkling of what the offside rule is.

It's not been a good year for MLS and Logan. It started badly in February, when Logan dismissed deputy commissioner Sunil Gulati, supposedly over the re-signing of injury-plagued Tab Ramos. In a news conference following Gulati's ouster, Logan said nothing about his hard-working former partner -- not one kind word. A "no comment" was all Logan could muster.

Logan and Gulati ran MLS from the outset and looked like a pretty good team at first. Soccer aficionados _ a sensitive, persecuted bunch -- accepted the pair with open arms. After all, they were both hired by MLS founder Alan Rothenberg, who had done a good job running the 1994 World Cup.

Logan, a sports and entertainment executive, was supposed to be the salesman to pitch MLS to the American public, while Gulati was the man who made the trades and tried to lure foreign talent. But the ubiquitous Gulati often overshadowed Logan. There was even a joke that MLS stood for "more or less Sunil."

Gulati was instinctively a soccer man, while Logan was always trying to catch up and play the part. Logan wasn't as diplomatic as Gulati, a former World Bank bean counter, and had a habit of making enemies with people he really needed to work with.

In 1997, Logan got into a public row with D.C. United's Bruce Arena, the league's most successful coach. "He frequently only opens his mouth to lace his shoes," Logan said of Arena, in one of his lesser moments.

Logan also was testy with the media and got into a tiff with Soccer America's Paul Gardner, sometimes called the "dean of soccer writers." Instead of humoring the irascible Gardner, Logan took him on personally, using the MLS web site to attack the veteran writer.

But Logan really lost it when, in a bitter denunciation in December, he accused the media last year -- and ESPN's "SportsCenter" in particular -- of being racist over the scant coverage it gave United's victory in the Interamerican Cup. "Apparently, this is some kind of clever, new marketing approach. Either that, or Logan has totally lost his mind," wrote one critic who labeled him the "Mad Commissioner."

Logan's job wasn't easy. He had to stroke some very large egos and attempt to practice "soccer socialism" (because of the league's unique single-entity structure) with some of the biggest capitalists in the world. The list of MLS team owners reads like the Forbes 400. In the end, Logan just couldn't make the rich boys happy -- or maybe they just didn't like that stupid hat he wore.

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.