Fans' View

Fans’ View: The value of sentimental value

Photo: Scott Pugh

“How come Brian Carroll isn’t the captain anymore? Did he do something wrong?”

“What!? They sold McInerney? Why? It’s not fair!”

“I’m so so so so so happy that LeToux is back!”

You can probably guess these aren’t the words of local soccer pundits, but rather those of my 7 year old son. As I tried to explain to him the analytical value of the latest managerial decision, I could see his eyes glossing over. He just wanted to know why the guy who was supposed to be “the best” player on the team, was sitting on the bench. Or why the guy whose name is on the back of his jersey now plays for another team. Through the eyes of kids, the “business” aspect of the game we love just doesn’t make sense.

Yet maybe they’re on to something. When all of the X’s an O’s (and $’s) have been accounted for, there is still an aspect of the club left off the ledger sheet that is vital to its success: Fan loyalty.

Loyal fans show up when the team is on a losing streak. Or when the game is scheduled at an inconvenient time. Or when it rains…or dust storms. They applaud good ideas and effort even if the result is lacking. They speak enthusiastically about their experience which brings in new fans from the fringe.

But how do you create this? It’s not as simple as giving us free parking (although I’m not complaining). I think some of the management decisions made for the team, and how they are done, whether it be trading a player or firing a manager, can reflect how ownership views its relationship to the fans. Mr. Sackewicz said as much when he explained his decision to fire Hackworth as largely driven by his perceived expectation of the fans deserving better results.

Like Jim Curtain signing a one-day contract to retire as a Chicago Fire player, I think there is value in making some decisions purely for sentimental reasons. That’s why I applauded the re-acquisition of LeToux so much. It may not have been the perfect strategic choice at the time, but the ownership clearly showed loyalty not only to LeToux, but to its fans as well. Decisions like that give my son the ability to form a lasting relationship with the team.

Moving forward, I would like to see the club fight hard to keep fan favorites. Amobi Okugo needs a new contract for starters. Kids (and a few of us adults) need to see players returning year after year to give some stability to our support. It’s hard to fall in love with a new player too quickly when you fear they could be gone the next year (cough, Noguiera). The guys that work their tails off for the crest on their chest and stay late to sign autographs are the ones that deserve the loyalty of the management when it comes time to renegotiate contracts. If a player’s loyalty isn’t worth anything to the club, then what does that mean for fan loyalty?

I’m sure some would argue that there should only be one question relevant to management decisions: How does it affect the win percentage. Yet I would hope that for the sake of the kids (young and old alike), some decisions take into account the sentimental value as well.

12 Comments

  1. Dean_Moriarty says:

    Fair take, but I couldn’t disagree more. I don’t want the FO to make big decisions based on sentimental reasons, I want them to make decisions because they are trying to put together a winning side. Winning heals all wounds. Making sentimental moves is like putting on an infected band-aid, it might cover somethings up for a bit but it is only making it worse.

    • Exactly. How has that strategy worked out for the Phillies the last few years?

      • The Phillies didn’t suffer from sentimentality. They suffered from having a piss poor GM who signed away 5 years and $125 million at one position 2 years before they even needed to do anything about it. The Howard deal has killed them through the 2016 season.

      • Dave Montgomery made decision on utley Rollins and Howard. Ruben has made mistakes yes but he is not to be completely blamed for the piss shape Phillies are in.

    • Agree 100%. The FO should make any decisions based on sentimental reasons. Not just big ones.

  2. Bob the Used Car Salesman. says:

    I thought I read somewhere in the French media that Nogueira signed a two-year deal?

    • My understanding as well. This “he’s leaving” stuff keeps cropping up. There was a first refusal right if Sochaux gets promoted, but that would be in the middle of 2015. And again, if that’s accurate, Sochaux of course has to get promoted.

  3. Dan C (formerly of 103) says:

    Moral of the story: NEVER by jerseys with names on the back, MLS rosters are way to volatile…..

  4. John O'Donnell says:

    This next CBA is really what will shape the league for the next four years. Young players who come up with the team like Amobi are what you want to build around as they have a chance to become USNMT players. If MLS can find a way to pay these players, the league should grow in quality and respect. If not,I think it just gets looked at as a feeder league and will only appeal to the diehards. I know people think everyone should go to Europe but I think the league should come first.

  5. Old soccer coach says:

    Your most important sentence is, “Decisions like that give my son the ability to form a lasting relationship with the team.” My wife is more casual in her relationship to soccer than I, but she always is hoping that the Union still have Le Toux. Getting the balance between consistent identity icons for the young and young-at-heart and profits is the challenge for any sports owner. The Phillies are on the downslope of that balance. The sixers are at the very beginning of the next upslope. Where the Union are is unclear.

    • You hit the nail on the head. A balance is key in my mind. Sure, winning will probably result in a big uptick in fair-weather fans, but that’s not sustainable in a single-entity/salary-cap system. You can’t create a dynasty. You need some brand loyalty to carry a club through the doldrums. And for that, having steady fan-favorite players is crucial.

  6. Not related to the article, but since this is under “Fans’ View”…Rally House has everything Union half off on their site today. Authentic jerseys – not the crappy replica ones missing the pinstripes on the back – are going for $60, t-shirts are all $10-15ish.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

%d bloggers like this: