2018 Winner For Worst Take In The World: Alexi Lalas [Soccer Category]

2018 is just hours away from being in the rearview (or already gone if you’re out in Australia), so it’s probably safe to close the voting on awards. Sure, there is still time for truly awful commentary in the world of soccer to emerge as the clock strikes midnight (as long as The Sun exists, they could easily take the prize), but this year’s award winner surely distinguished himself. Alexi Lalas, come down and claim your prize!

With SaveTheCrew having all but completed their mission, it’s also a good time to reflect on the terrible commentary since the announcement to explore moving the Crew to Austin happened in October 2017. There were any number of takes from partisans on each side of the issue putting out hot takes on whether the Crew should stay or go, and how that would be done.

But partisans are just that: partisan. They may not be thinking 100% logically in their arguments, given the emotional biases they hold on a issue.

Soccer reporters and pundits are another issue however, and their commentary/reporting generally is supposed to show some level of dispassionate or “above the fray” analysis. And Mr. Lalas certainly exemplified that in his early analysis of the potential move.

But the hottest take of the bunch by far goes to Mr. Lalas’ commentary on August 27th, when he called for MLS to rip off the bandaid and announce the move of the Crew to Austin.

Lalas calls for MLS to Old Yeller the Crew. “Rip this bandaid and make it official.”

Now, the initial call for MLS and Precourt to stop playing games and announce the move isn’t the hottest portion of this take: In a vacuum, Lalas raises a good point. Don Garber’s “Parallel Paths” speak was obnoxious corporate pablum that grated on even those without a dog in the fight as time went on.

What *really* cements Lalas with the prize was his suggestion for how this could all be wrapped up in a neat little bow: Throw Columbus $7 million dollars so they could go get themselves a USL franchise.

“You should spend $7 million dollars, and buy a USL expansion team, and give it to Columbus.”

As one might expect, Lalas got a lot of heat online for this at the time, doubled down in subsequent discussions, and it’s fair to say this is probably the one thing that will inform Lalas’ interactions with Crew fans going forward. Aside from the emotional component of the commentary here, which no doubt caused Crew fans no small amount of anguish, his $7 million “buyout” suggestion was legally and logistically LUDICROUS.

It’s unlikely that Lalas did even the basic amount of research before throwing out this $7 million proposal, but even if he did, there were so many things wrong with it that it’s hard to know where to start. I went into this in depth in my piece on Lalas’ suggestions, but to briefly break it down for the tl;dr crowd:

  1. Neither MLS, nor Columbus, nor Ohio, nor the Courts can force the USL to accept Columbus as an expansion city in the league.
  2. $7 million would only cover the expansion fee, and not things like say, signing players, marketing, operational costs and finding a place to play. You know, all of the things associated with running a team.
  3. $7 million would probably be put into the city’s general fund, as opposed to being earmarked for an expansion franchise.
  4. Columbus would likely be subjected to numerous legal challenges, which would cost them potentially millions of dollars.
  5. The $7 million wouldn’t cover the initial investment in public funds from Columbus, which triggered this whole thing in the first place.
  6. Most importantly, the plaintiffs were NEVER GOING TO ACCEPT THAT TYPE OF SETTLEMENT. I know because I asked them. Which is something Lalas probably should have done before throwing this take out there.

Of course, we now know that the Crew won’t be going anywhere, and negotiations had been going on since a bit before Lalas came up with this little sugarplum of a commentary (side note: I wonder how much the plaintiffs–and MLS–were chuckling as they listened to it). Granted, Lalas doesn’t hold himself out as reporter, but perhaps a bit of digging could have saved him this particular bit of egg on his face.

So if I could offer some advice to those with takes like this in the future: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.” Or, think before you hot take. It’ll keep you from being like Alexi Lalas, who is awarded the Worst Take in the World for 2018.

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