Hi everyone. I know we're all pretty happy right now. Boyd's contract is no longer with us, the Timbers have traded Mike Fucito for a promising young CB, and there are even more moves just over the horizon. It seems like we have gone through this hope phase every year since the blog was founded, but as cliche as it sounds, this really might be the year. Sadly, against the backdrop of what should be an exciting and expectant time of year, we are faced with a major controversy. It's a controversy that shouldn't exist, one with absolutely no rational grounds for existing, and one that makes me question the very point of everything I believe in with regards to American Soccer. I'm referring to MLS's decision to attempt to trademark the Cascadia Cup.
The goal is to have a trademark that’s managed, so that we – the league that has its teams playing in the Cascadia Cup – can ensure that that trademark is managed properly. That it’s not exploited by people that shouldn’t be exploiting it.
Now, before I continue, I should just get some housekeeping out of the way. I have absolutely no personal connection to the Cascadia Cup, or to the people who created it. As such, I really can't claim any credit for the remarkable work done by a small and committed group of supporters across Cascadia that has made the Cascadia Cup such a rousing success. With that said, however, I have followed MLS since 1998. I have taken people to games, gotten into lengthy arguments about the merits of supporting local soccer culture with "Man
United City fans," and have generally attempted to support MLS in whatever way possible. As many of the people here surely remember, MLS is something of a zombie league. It should, by all means, be dead. I have an incredible amount of respect for the work Don Garber has done in not only saving, but expanding MLS, putting it on solid ground. As a result, I am perhaps more willing to give him and the league leeway when it comes to certain issues than others. But not here. Here, Garber took the rope I (and others) gave him, and fashioned himself a nice little noose. And now, with his comments at the MLS Superdraft, he has gone and hung himself with it.
[MLS can] ensure that it’s controlled. Prospective fan groups, in theory, could offer that trademark to a competitive sponsor.
Now I'll be clear, I'm quite certain that MLS doesn't have even the thinnest of legs to stand on in this issue, and that any even slightly competent arbitrator would rule in their favor is pure fantasy. That's not the problem (well, it's part of it, but I'll get to that later), the problem is the condescension and disgusting smugness that reeks from every word. This isn't new ground for Garber, and it's not necessarily a problem in and of itself. The guy has been a tremendous success over the past 8 years or so. He's earned his ego. But part of our responsibility as fans is to know when to push back. When the news of this issue first broke, I was dismissive. It made sense for MLS to trademark the CC, because it prevents another party with no affiliation from doing so. But once the supporters who came up with the idea decided that they wanted to retain control over the name, MLS should have backed off.
There are so many things that go into intellectual property management.
"Intellectual Property Management." It's a big concept. One of those things that lawyers and prosecutors sometimes like say to confuse and pressure people into making rash and bad decisions before they understand what's going on. But Garber seems to be a little confused here. I could be wrong, but the last time I checked, "intellectual property management" and "intellectual property theft" were two separate concepts. Maybe he missed that day in Business Class. I don't know, and I don't care. What he and the league are doing here is a clear case of theft. Let's take an example: I invent a board game. I invite some people from the neighborhood over and we all have a great time playing my brand new game, which for the sake of thematic cohesion we'll call Monopoly. Eventually more and more people from the neighborhood start showing up. Monopoly is a hit! It's just a game, nobody's really profiting, but it's fun and we're all having a good time. Eventually the neighborhood association catches wind. Property values have been skyrocketing recently, because people want to live nearby and come over to my place and play Monopoly. Well, they don't want other neighborhoods stealing it, so they decide to trademark the game, just to be safe. That way they can control the future development of the game known as Monopoly. They can change the rules, change the board, even make it into a crappy movie starring a Bill Murray as a CGI hat. Eventually, it doesn't even have to resemble Monopoly anymore. It doesn't matter, because it's still called Monopoly, and I'm out of luck. That's a rough outline of what Garber is doing here. Except in his case, the people who invented Monopoly did it before they even moved to his neighborhood.
Garber told reporters he’s unsure if registering the trademark will eventually lead to monetization via merchandise or brand sponsorship, but insisted that league officials will be the best caretakers of the trademark because “that’s what we do for a living.”
This statement would be insulting if it wasn't so ridiculous. If condescending asshole was bottled and sold at your local supermarket, this is what it would look like. Garber is "unsure" if this will lead to monetization? Exactly how stupid am I, Mr. Garber? I personally can't wait to win the 2016 Bi-Mart Cascadia Cup presented by Starbucks. Then, I can proudly stroll around in my "official" Cascadia Cup (tm) Champions T-Shirt, despite the fact that I root for the only team in Cascadia that didn't make the playoffs. Delightful. The Supporters came up with this idea. Just because I think I can run Apple better than Tim Cook doesn't mean I can show up and insist that I be made CEO, because "being awesome is what I do for a living." If you're such a good caretaker, why not focus on all of those fantastic rivalry brands that MLS has built. You know, the "I5 rivalry," and the...well...the various rivalries within the "I5 rivalry," and the...oh, wait. That's right. MLS is terrible at astroturfing this stuff. Nevermind.
"We’re very confident that by communicating with [Cascadia supporters] better and just talking about what our plans are that they’ll be pleased that we’ve got their interest and the interest of the league in mind."
Have you met any "Cascadia Supporters?" We can't agree on anything, and we actually by and large like each other. The odds of "Cascadia Supporters" rallying around the communicative skills of some guy who has done more than anyone to try and prop up LA and NY as the centers of American soccer, or the guy who after 13 years still has not quite figured out how to wear a soccer scarf seems rather unlikely. And here is where my earlier point comes in. Again, MLS has no leg to stand on. They have no chance of winning unless the deck is already stacked in their favor. Giving them the legal system the most basic benefit of the doubt, why is Garber pursuing this? Basically he is going to piss off some of the most passionate fans of his product, all in the hopes of ripping off some of the most gullible. He is committing intellectual property theft, and doing so in the most brazen of fashion. All the while, he is nicely informing the people who worked so hard to develop the property MLS is trying to steal that he is doing so for their benefit. So why is he doing it? Money. Garber is playing the long game. Sure, he takes a short term hit, but MLS is relatively stable now. He can afford to look decades down the line. And decades from now, when this "minor controversy" has been forgotten, MLS will still be raking in piles of cash from their CC merchandise. In 2041 MLS will be happily selling "retro" 2011 Cascadia Cup Championship t-shirts to Seattle fans to commemorate the anniversary of the "first ever" Cascadia Cup Champions.
All of this (and sorry for its length) is to say that I was wrong. Dead wrong. Completely bumf**k loony (or whatever Canadian for dead wrong is). I tried to give Garber the benefit of the doubt, I tried to defend MLS, the league which I have spent so much time evangelizing for and fighting for. And it bit me in the ass. I can't say I'm surprised, but I am disappointed. The question now isn't one of blame, however, it's where do we go from here? As I've said, I have no real claim to the Cup. But I do have one on MLS. I'm curious to see what you guys think, but I'll start off with a suggestion. It's time to mobilize, and more importantly to do so against a specific target. Regardless of what team you support, ask your owner to define his stance. MP is relatively easy to reach on twitter. I imagine Drew Carey is also relatively reachable, as well. This may seem pointless, because let's be honest, Garber isn't pushing this issue without the support of the Cascadia ownership. But we can start chipping away at that. Force MP to come out and say that he supports Garber. Force Carey and Hanauer to do the same. At least then we'll know where we stand, and our opponents won't be able to hide under Garber's wing.
What is happening right now is wrong. It's an assault on those who have put so much of their lives into making the Cascadia Cup such a fantastic tradition. It's because of them, and not poachers like Garber, that the Cascadia Cup is a tradition worth fighting for. And that's exactly what I propose we do. Fight.