Before each match in the Bronx, New York City FC puts together a video package called "Soccer In The City", which highlights an aspect of New York's wealth of soccer history, and then positions the blues as leading the next chapter in that saga. And that's fine, and is something pretty much any sports franchise would do. The cynical, biased green fan in me is inclined to find some way to criticize this given how much MLS loves to beat people over the head with their chosen narrative, but that's being fanatical rather than objective and reasonable, and would be unprofessional, narcissistic, and unbecoming of a writer. No one wants to be that guy.
It would also ignore some things. The truth is this series is just a quaint little thing, and is one of the many good things about NYCFC. Despite some marketing missteps along the way, you cannot possibly deny the impact the franchise has had in raising the profile of the domestic game in the world's city. And who could possibly find anything negative in the casual sports fan and the young soccer fan being introduced to knowledge of Brookhattan, or the U.S. Open Cup's history in New York, or the Cosmopolitan Soccer League? Whether you think they're the second coming of a golden age in New York soccer or a big plastic abomination, you have to agree that NYCFC represents a rising tide that will lift all boats for soccer in the nation's media capital, including the green and red ones. And that's worth suffering through a little bit of Michael Rapaport for.
The most recent one however, before this past Sunday's NYCFC/TFC match, is a different story.
Where were you when NYCFC signed Pele?
Okay, so-- Right. ...Okay.
Alright, here's a transcript:
"During his career here." No mention of the Cosmos, the club that actually pulled off the original Beckham signing, the one without which modern North American soccer may not even be a thing. Editing with photos that I certainly hope were public use, with City Football Group's New York brand's logo ever present in the background, without any mention of the fact that Pele is in no way affiliated with their organization, and in fact is the honorary president of one of the town's other clubs. The implication that the king himself was at the match and had given his tacit approval was so strong that even NYCFC fans were misled.
This was not honoring local history. This was not claiming a legacy you are descended from, as North America's eight professional heritage clubs (in San Jose, Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, Tulsa, and of course here in New York with the Cosmos) do freely. This was appropriating another club's history and making it your own, a total whitewashing. And that is inexcusable. It's offensive to supporters everywhere - probably the first time I've ever seen Rowdies and RBNY fans tweet in support of the Cosmos - and only adds to the image of the Manchester City project as an out of touch, corporate entity, which in the end serves nobody. As explained above, we're all better off if NYCFC stops making these mistakes.
Presumably this was done to commemorate Frank Lampard's arrival (if not for injury, the Toronto game would have been his first match), something that was already controversial enough for a couple of reasons. Again, that's fine, and could have been done using the exact same video but for two things: Credit the Cosmos where their credit is due, and don't have a big giant screen saying "PELE" when you mention you're welcoming an international superstar to the club. Instead, actually showcase the star you're welcoming -- something the video didn't even do in the first place!
Quite simply: Major League Soccer and the New York City Football Club owe the New York Cosmos an apology. Of course, I won't hold my breath on that one. What "the boss" says, goes, after all.
For better or worse, NYCFC is the absolute best shot domestic soccer has at making it in the nation's biggest city. The red fans who have suffered with the MetroStars and Red Bulls for 20 years may not want to hear it, the green fans who carried the grassroots movement to bring another team to New York for years before MLS told them to go screw may not want to hear it, but it's the truth. And if it's going to be successful and if we're all going to reap the benefits of it, it needs to be done with more honesty and respect than this.