Monday, January 15, 2007

On Becks, the MLS & Soccer in America

This past week the Los Angeles Galaxy announced the signing of David Beckham for $250 million. He's a celebrity-athlete on par with Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan. His moving to the U.S. from Europe is reminiscent of Michael Jordan retiring from the NBA to give Major League Baseball a shot. So regardless of what folks say about cashing in, he merits credit for the boldness of the move. (Michael Jordan was bold for giving baseball a go - as legendary as he was in the NBA, when he tried unsuccessfully to make the Chicago White Sox roster, he transcended basketball & established himself as a sports legend beyond his game.)

Soccer stateside now has a much better chance of making SportsCenter highlights because of David Beckham and the LA Galaxy. This past week The Ticket 1310AM spent an entire segment talking about it. Never mind that the Morning Musers don't think Soccer has a snowball's chance of making it here with or without David Beckham - the point is that they discussed soccer for an entire segment during the NFL playoff season - they hadn't spoken of soccer since last summer's World Cup. ESPN's "Pardon the Interruption" discussed soccer for an entire segment last week as well (also dissing its chances, but nevertheless spending airtime on the sport.)

That is all it will take to get the sport up an eschelon in America. If the NHL in the 90's was able to get folks excited about a bunch of Canucks, Russians & Fins all the way down in Miami, Dallas & Los Angeles, the MLS can get America to embrace pro soccer.

The arguments against Pro Soccer as a popular spectator sport here usually refer to the lack of scoring, "it's boring", the tie-results & the anonymity of its players. Here's Alexi Lalas, GM of the Galaxy speaking to the lack of personality.

ESPNsoccernet: You were always known as a showman, on and off the field. Who in MLS right now brings that type of excitement to the league? Is MLS lacking in that department?

AL: Hell yeah, it's lacking. For the most part, we've created a generation of players who are unwilling or unable to show any personality. At times it's mind-numbing. Somebody do something. Grow some Valderrama hair! Date a supermodel! Clint Dempsey isn't everyone's poster boy just 'cause he scored in the World Cup. He made a rap video and plays with that attitude he's got. It's great. Like it or not, controversy, rumor and speculation are good for the game, and we don't have enough of it. So, like I tell my players: Don't bore me. Have an opinion. Make me and everyone else interested in who you are as a player and person. Make an impression.

Baseball can certainly be boring - dismally so in August in Arlington. The NBA in October is boring. Arena League Football is boring period. Average Joes can't possibly relate to 300 lb. Pro Football linebackers or 7 ft. tall NBA centers the same way they can Soccer stars. What gets us talking about sports are the personalities. And David Beckham gives us an instantly recognizable global personality - European Sports shows will show highlights from Major League Soccer this season. Every local newsteam in America with a local MLS team will cover Beckham's road game in their town.

Women are paying attention now too. As much gossip press at Posh Spice gets, MLS is bound to sell a thousand more seats because of that alone.

When I was a kid, Dad took me to see Pelé play the Dallas Tornado. I will never forget that. And I still fondly recall our very own local Tornado - Kyle Rote, Jr., Kenny Cooper. Now that we have a fiscally solid soccer league firmly established in the US, it's the perfect time to start this kind of transatlantic player acquisition. It will put butts in seats, sell beer & programs & get the media talking soccer in non-World Cup years.

TV Notes: The NBA has its Inside Stuff show. Major League Baseball has This Week in Baseball. The NFL has for years had the groundbreaking NFL Films. No sport since pro football has gained so much ground because of great camera work & narration. Major League Soccer needs a weekly highlights show along the likes of these. It's possible to watch these kinds of reports online at and elsewhere. But clearly a weekly highlights show showing the best plays & interviewing the personalities would help people engage with the sport. Worldwide coverage could also be included in a segment. Five minutes to go around the world and see highlights from the English Premier League, the German Bundesliga, Spanish, Italian & Latin American leagues provides viewers with a taste of the global magnitude of the game.

One suggestion for Major League Soccer would be to engage the services of Paul Crowder, director of Once In A Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the NY Cosmos & editor of Dogtown & Z Boys & Riding Giants. The presentation of the game using slow-motion footage, great music & narration would do wonders for its popularity.,8599,1576807,00.html

Sunday, January 07, 2007

MacWorld 2007 Prediction - Beatles on iTunes

Apple's big MacWorld conference begins tomorrow. Steve Jobs is the Wizard of Oz for Apple. I suspect that along with the iTV & iPhone release, we'll hear about iTunes Music Store's exclusive package to distribute The Beatles' entire record catalog. I know in 2006 that the big Apple vs. Apple Corps legal fight ended in England with an Apple Computer victory.

Look for Ringo or Paul to be along for the show. This will mean a nice few months of Beatles' iTunes ads - right on time for the Super Bowl.

Another Beatle Séance?

Word from England has it that Beatle Paul is keen on finishing up a track that "The Threetles" (Paul, George & Ringo) worked on in 1995 for the Beatles' Anthology project. With the help of ELO meister Jeff Lynne, they recorded their parts on to various unfinished acetates that John Lennon had worked up in the 70's between baking bread & taking Central Park strolls. More from Ireland Online:

Paul McCartney is planning to reunite with his late Beatles bandmate John Lennon and finish an unreleased track the pair sang together.

The Fab Four abandoned Now And Then during their prime. McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr tried to resurrect the track when they put together their Beatles Anthology albums 10 years ago, but guitarist Harrison claimed it was not good enough.

Now McCartney wants to go back and finish the job.

A source tells British newspaper the Daily Express: “It has always niggled a bit with Paul that they didn’t finish Now And Then.

“While George wasn’t keen, Paul always thought the song had a lot of potential. He is now hoping to complete it after all, with him singing the harmonies to John’s lead vocal. It would obviously be very moving to hear the pair of them singing together one last time.”

McCartney himself recently said of the song: “It needed a bit of reworking but it had a beautiful verse.”

The Anthology records revealed a lot about the individual Beatles' studio demeanor & modus operandi. The Threetles tracks ended up being "Real Love" & "Free As A Bird". They are weird Franken-songs. Lennon's voice sounds way out there on both of them. (Makes you wonder what his vocals sounded like before being fed through the studio gimmicks!). The "Free As A Bird" video however is gorgeous. It's fun to spot the different Beatle references throughout. See it here before the Apple Records' Blue Meanies make YouTube take it down.

I never understood why the Threetles used Jeff Lynne to produce these lost tracks for them. He's to be credited for helping get the Traveling Wilburys together. One theory I have for how the Wilburys got together is that Jeff Lynne had the stinkiest, sweetest bud of them all. Dylan, Orbison, George & Tom couldn't refuse!

My big beef with Jeff Lynne's production is the slick sheen that pervades all of the drums. It's a shame that they sound the way that they do. I think it's a real flat sound. And the Threetles' tracks suffer specifically because of this sheen. Ringo deserves better.

And perhaps that's what Beatle Paul has in mind for "Now and Then". Let's hope Nigel Godrich lends a hand. "Chaos & Creation in the Backyard" has Paul's drumming all over it. If there's anyone out there that does a better Ringo-impression on drums it's Paul. It's uncanny.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Police Reunion Tour Rumors

Day four after the initial Police reunion rumors began and no official denial has surfaced from either Sting, Andy or Stewart. Recently I read Andy Summers' career memoir, "One Train Later". Andy Summers had a career before The Police? I didn't expect to learn about how poor he was at certain points in his career.

I've had Stewart's Police home movie DVD "Everyone Stares" on my Blockbuster queue for months now. (I guess Blockbuster wants me to have the impression that they DO have a copy somewhere - but only one copy worldwide.) So, yes, I'm a fan. And yes, I'm delighted at the rumors. Sting's last few records have been dull. And in all fairness, I've never listened to any Stewart Copeland projects or Andy Summers' records. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I can't imagine I'm missing a whole lot. Point being - we need these 3 back together making music & playing great shows. The Police were THE band for us back in the early 80's.

This is a long overdue move from all parties. Get back in the rehearsal lot, work through the rough spots and hit the road. Bliss us out again with your white-English-guys-cop-Afro-Caribbean-rhythms. Let the drummer play too fast & see where it leads. (Trust me Sting, Stewart will wear himself out more quickly now that he's older!)

Ideally the rehearsals go so well that the guys put together some rough mixes for a new record before setting off on tour this summer. Assuming the tour doesn't implode amidst inter-trio bickering, the fans get to enjoy the ensuing product - great extended jams from a musical force too long overlooked. Then MTV & VH1 will dump reality-show programming and start programming music again. The stars will align. We find Osama. You get the picture.

Sting's career needs this badly. Dominic Miller has been his mainstay guitarist since 1990. He may be technically very talented- but he's still a hired studio hand. Sting needs a proper collaborator. Sting's performance at Live 8 demonstrates even more so than the lackluster solo records how much he needs his old mates. He played nothing but Police songs (admittedly the songs are Sting compositions - but at least the music is best played by The Police - not by his antiseptic solo band.) Whatever happened to the Blue Turtles?

They're probably discussing the appropriate venue-size, tour length & tour stops. Do they play stadiums, enormous European Music Festivals (Glastonbury) & "Big Day Out" down under? Should they lean towards mid size sports arenas? Or should they play exclusive gigs at intimate, small-size places like Nokia Live (max 3,000-5,000 seats)?

Maybe they can play the next Us Festival.

Bring it on.

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