That’s On Point – We Want the Wiz
Planting the Seed of Soccer Across America: Danny Beerseed
“Apu living with the Simpsons?! It happened.” — Troy McClure, The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular
Most Hollywood actors have their dirty little secrets on their IMDB pages. It's doubtful Tom Hanks is too proud of his starring role in the 1982 made-for-tv movie, “Mazes and Monsters.” (I would be.) George Lucas has spent years basically suing everyone in the galaxy who's tried to share grainy VHS copies of the “Star Wars Holiday Special.”
Hell even mega-hunk (as People magazine tells it) and current Best Actor Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper was in a SyFy original picture, “Midnight Meat Train” as recently as 2008.
These things happened. Try as you might, you can't erase the video evidence.
Why not embrace it? We all make mistakes, right? To err is human and all that jimmy jazz.
Throughout its now 18-year existence, our beloved American domestic top-flight soccer league, MLS has tried its darndest to pretend that the old NASL (North American Soccer League) never happened. Every now and then you'd hear a mention of the Tampa Bay Rowdies or Giorgio Chinaglia or the legendary “Soccer Bowls,” but under the stewardship of Don Garber, the NASL and its free-spending (most likely cocaine-fueled) adventures were persona non grata inside MLS HQ.
In the words of Basil Fawlty, “Don't mention the NASL.”
It's understandable. MLS and the NASL are two completely different sets of encyclopedias. Yes, they were both soccer leagues in America, but that's probably where the similarities end.
Riding the coattails of the 1994 MLS — a league the Jim Romes of the world never expected to last — has indeed planted roots across America and sustained. MLS has been in existence long enough that it has a history … a history which should be embraced and celebrated.
Your Rhett Hardys, your Joe-Max Moore's, your Thomas Ravellis, your Doctor Khumalos, your Maruicio Cienfuegos… these players ought to be remembered, if not for their skills, but helping the league get off the ground. I'd go so far as to say Walter Zenga's backwards baseball cap should be bronzed outside Gillette Stadium.
MLS, maybe through no fault of its own, makes us forget these players or those gloriously cheesy games from the 1990s ever happened. Or that we once had teams called the Clash, the Wiz, the Burn and the MetroStars.
Why be embarrassed by this? The Brooklyn Dodgers were once known as the Bridegrooms, albeit in 1888, but a lot America sports teams and leagues had their warts growing up. (Ok, the MLS shootout from midfield was really dumb.)
Beyond that, any soccer fan in America — if you've spent one second watching MLS — has wasted time theorizing their own ways to improve it. From the pie-in-the-sky idea of promotion and relegation, to a single table, to playing games on the tradition FIFA calendar, there are never a lack of ideas to tweak the MLS format.
However here's a simple idea everybody in the MLS community can embrace.
Say it with me now:
MLS THROWBACK JERSEY NIGHT
Okay, okay, okay. This is dumb. This is pointless. Who cares?
Understandable viewpoints and it's highly unlikely such a thing could happen considering Nike made most of the original uniforms for MLS in 1996, whereas the league today is completely outfitted by Adidas. There are likely other legal entanglements, such as who owns the original logos and names. Plus people simply aren't as into the color teal as they were 15 years ago, sadly.
What would you even do with our dearly departed and mourned Tampa Bay Mutiny? (Maybe have a team play in Carlos Valderamma wigs?)
MLS can try to go about its business like the Red Bulls were never the NY/NJ Metrostars or that Sporting Kansas City didn't begin its life as the Wiz — this probably makes sense in the big picture — but why not do it for one special summer night, if only to boost ticket sales?
The NBA seems to do a retro/throwback thing every week, including the Miami Heat recently wearing their mid-1990s jams. (Available for a cool $89.99, mind.) Everybody seems to love when baseball teams breakout the power blue early 1980s double-knit pullovers. Even the NFL gets some mileage dusting off uniform designs from the days of leather helmets.
Yet MLS, which has tried to market itself as a savvy, hip league fails to do this? It's not like the current, cookie-cutter (read: bland) Adidas jerseys are flying off the rack's at Dick's Sporting Goods stores, are they?
Why not try this throwback idea out?
Sunil Gulati and Garber, you guys didn't get America another World Cup on our shores, this is the least you can do to make up for it.
And that's the thing, most people tend to love nostalgia. 1990s nostalgia is only now getting into high gear. Hell, last summer I did an entire series celebrating the decade of box-fades and bowl cuts. Mother-effing Kriss Kross is going to do a reunion show this summer.
The time is right.
Think about how much money could be made selling these retro shirts to hipsters or dopey high school kids in Vancouver Grizzlies snapback hats?
A veritable Todd Hoffman-approved gold mine!
You could make an entire night out of it and boost attendance in the lagging summer months without resorting to fireworks displays. It wouldn't cost that much to book the Spin Doctors to play before the game outside the gates or maybe hire one of the Quad City DJs to throw an postmatch after party. Get a couple people to ride around the concourses on rollerblades and — BAM — 90s Night. Hell, if you want to take it to the next level, sell Zima to all the hipsters who'll show up for $7 a bottle.
MLS Throwback Night seems like such a no-brainer, that obviously the league will never do it.
With that in mind, here's my unofficial ranking the best 1990s MLS jerseys from the original 10 clubs.
No. 10 — Columbus Crew
Yowzers, these are some hideous soccer costumes. Not even kitschy good, just out-and-out howlers.
That said, have the Crew ever in their history worn uniforms befitting of “Ameria's Hardest Working Team”? Columbus missed the mark when it failed to embrace the famous 1994 USMNT “denim kit” idea and make it uniforms looked like overalls to keep with the Crew's hard-working image.
Mustard yellow stripes? Pass.
No. 9 — Colorado Rapids
|Here's the thing about the thing, Celo.|
Good move, at least for synergy, for the Stan Kroenke-owned Rapids to adopt a burgundy and powder blue color scheme of their fellow Altitude sports brethren, the Avalanche and the Nuggets, right? Actually, no the current Rapids scheme is pretty boring, not that the old set-up was all that more impressive, although the old logo at least reminded you of white water rafting and that senior trip Bayside High took.
The Rapids old dark green jerseys were relatively sharp, the ones pictured above are just ugly and nondescript, like some random college team.
Wouldn't be surprised if the Rapids tried another re-branding in the coming years.
No. 8 — DC United
|Marco Etcheverry's mullet is better than you.|
In many ways the standard-bearer for MLS especially in the formative years, the DC United uniform scheme has stayed remarkably similar, much like the constant look on Bruce Arena's face that he just smelled a really wet and smelly fart.
The three stripes on the jersey was a little more distinctive that the current solid designs DCU rocks. A little more red in the mix wouldn't hurt. You know the Screaming Eagles or Barra Brava would be all about a throwback night.
No. 7 — New England Revolution
|Rock. Flag. Eagle.|
The Revs have always had super lame jerseys. I blame Robert Kraft, naturally.
At least these old ones would look good with some fresh Reebok Shaq Attaq kicks.
(Sorry nodded off, looking at that Lalas picture made me go listen to a 45-minute Trey Anastasio guitar noodle, which is crazy since Lalas is admitted hair metal fan. Hard to find more disparate bands than Ratt and Phish.)
No. 6 — New York/New Jersey MetroStars
|AJ Soprano owned this poster.|
Throughout their sorry existence, the MetroStars never had what you'd call a nice uniform, eventually settling on some bootleg AC Milan red-and-black striped scenario. If this post is worth anything, it'll start a movement to bring back the MetroStars 1930s art deco Cabbie mascot. That lil' guy had some heart!
The original white-and-black Juventus-knockoff kit NY/NJ rocked would be a marked improvement to the current Red Bull-branded ones. Does the Red Bull logo need to be so gigantic on the uniforms? They're bigger than Mike Francesa's ego … almost.
We all get it, you're trying to sell an energy drink.
No. 5 — Tampa Bay Mutiny
|That's don't make 'em like this anymoooooore.|
Lime green and powder blue jersey … Slim Jim ad on the shorts … horizontally-striped socks … only in MLS … or maybe one of Tampa Bay's many fine gentleman's clubs.
The Mutiny eventually settled on a pretty nice striped look, not that it matters since the club flooded in 2001.
No. 4 — San Jose Clash
|This shirt got me mad bitches, yo.|
One of life's mysteries: why were the San Jose Clash represented graphically by a scorpion?
Call it 1990s trying to be “extreme” run amok. Not a bad-looking kit, overall. The home shirt holds up well.
The original Clash shirt, however? Guess they took the literal meaning of the word and applied it at the Nike shirt laboratory.
|I'd quit Twitter, too, if this image of me was floating around.|
Fun little aside. …. My father and I watched the inaugural MLS match back in 1996 together. It was DC United at the Clash on ESPN. Eric Wynalda scored the first league goal. My dad immediately nay-sayed DC United, basically calling them shit. I never let him forget this as United went on to win the league three of its first four seasons. Fun story, right?
No. 3 — Dallas Burn
|I once played for Real Madrid, but this is cool too.|
Can I interest you in a jersey with not one but TWO fire-breathing hell-horses? That's what the initial Dallas Burn shirt featured, whoa nelly!
I guess people got tired of watching a team called THE BURN in 100-degree Texas heat every summer at the Cotton Bowl, hence FC Dallas was born. I still think a horse with lightning bolts for feet is a lot cooler than a longhorn for a logo, but that's me.
No. 2 — Los Angeles Galaxy
|Once traded for Charley Steiner, straight up.|
Eventually, in the days before that Beckham guy arrived, the Galaxy would settled on a unique yellow-and-green look with a sharp horizontal sash.
The initial Galaxy get up, however?
Whomever cooked those bad boys up must have watched a ton of Queen Latifah videos back in the day.
No. 1 — Kansas City Wiz
|Preki or Hugh Jackman? You make the call.|
What can really be said of the 1996 Kansas City Wiz jerseys that hasn't been done so already?
The crown jewel of MLS hipster jersey collections.
Guarantee if you go on eBay and spend a couple hundred bucks on one of these and worn it out in public you'd have to beat the ladies away. This is Spanish Fly in jersey form … or the exact opposite. All your money would get you is a greasy loser like me giving you a half-sneer, half-nod of approval.
In other words, you'd be a winner and a loser.
Bonus: Alexi Lalas Picture
|I did NOT steal your Ugly Kid Joe CD, Vermes so knock it off.|
Sporting Kansas City, you guys like the most progressive MLS team out there. As much as we all love the new look and name, bring back the Wiz or even the Wizards for one night.
Do it for Frank Klopas.
Do it for Mo Johnston.
Do it for Mike Sorber.
Do it for America.
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