Major League Soccer announced this week that it will add a second franchise in the New York area. It will be called the New York City Football Club, will be jointly owned by the Manchester City Football Club and the New York Yankees, and will start play in 2015.
I know these things based on looking 'em up this morning. Previously, I heard this was going to be the coming together of the two mightiest names in sports, and I thought the co-owners were going to be the Yankees and Manchester United.
See, I know me enough futbol to know that Man U. has been much mightier than Man City for most of the time I've been aware there was something called the English Premier League.
And I know this because when I was making a trip to London 15 years ago, my late, great friend Dark Star asked me to pick him up a Manchester United jersey. The Darkman knew his soccer and didn't say a dang word about Manchester City, so there's no way this is a coming together of the two mightiest names in sports.
I woke up as if struck by a thunderbolt at 5:10 a.m. today. This happens often. Generally, I'll peruse the print edition of the Star Tribune for a half-hour, then go back to the rack for a couple more hours.
Occasionally, I'm too awake to do this, so I'll get on-line and try to inform myself on the important issues of the day ... such as, what's John Sharkman Tweeting about from Toronto, or how many home runs did the two Miggys, Cabrera and Sano, hit last night.
On this morning, I looked in the mirror while sloshing a mouth full of Listerine (original flavor) and said: "You know what, oldtimer? We're going to get an MLS team here in the next few years, and you don't know diddly about it. For instance, you don't know when the season starts, when the season ends, or how many games the teams play.
"Heck, you didn't even know how many teams there were in the MLS, until taking note that the New York City Football Club would be 20th, which allowed you to assume that there were now 19.''
Yup. I had all those thoughts while conducting a double dose of Listerine sloshing this morning, and made the decision to no longer accept my status as an MLS stupe.
I looked at the standings and noted the 19 teams had played in the range of 15, 16 games so far. I also noted that Houston and Kansas City were in the 10-team Eastern Division (or maybe conference). That screwed up geography led me to muse, "Rather than East and West, maybe the MLS would be better off going with something like Leaders and Legends.''
The next big mystery for me was this "Real'' stuff. I was aware of the famous futbol club in Spain, Real Madrid, but what in Hades was Real Salt Lake? Teams in Salt Lake City are supposed to have names closely tied to the city's heritage, such as Jazz.
I went to the Wiki, of course, and some team official explained Real Salt Lake thusly:
“Internationally, the Real brand signifies soccer at its highest level — soccer with excitement, tradition and flair. The name symbolizes dignity, history and, quite literally, royalty. It is our daily mission to establish those attributes for our team.”
We got that straightened out.
There's also a team called CD Chivas USA, which is sadly holding up the bottom in the Western standings. The only Chivas with which I'm familiar is Chivas Regal, and even in my long-ago drinking days, I had no taste for Scotch whiskey.
Mystery solved: CD is Club Deportiva, and deportiva refers to a sporting activity in Spanish, and Chivas means "goat'' in Spanish, and there's a team in Mexico referred to lovingly as the "goats,'' and the owner there has an ownership stake in the Chivas team in L.A.
There hasn't been nearly as much chaos in MLS franchises as I had imagined (an imagining based on zero research). As it turns out, from the league's start in 1996 until today, only two franchises have been disbanded: Miami and Tampa Bay.
San Jose also was put on a leave of absence for a couple of years, but came back. There have been five franchises added since 2009: Seattle, Vancouver, Portland, Philadelphia and Montreal. And New York City (expected to be located eventually in a new soccer stadium in Queens) will make 20.
Don Garber, the MLS Commissioner, is making no qualms about future expansion. He was quoted at the New York City announcement as saying, "There's activity in Miami, activity in Orlando, Atlanta, and other places.''
Minneapolis is one of those other places, with the magnificent Taj Ma Zygi scheduled to be available for soccer by the 2017 MLS season. And let's face it, with Vikings owner Zygi Wilf set to pay dang near nothing in his own dollars when you throw naming rights, the NFL's free money and personal seat licenses into his pot, the crafty old Zygmeister will have whatever it takes to get the 24th team in the MLS (after Miami, Orlando and Atlanta, where there's activity).
And if they can be that pretentious with a name out there in bumpkinville, a k a Salt Lake City, we here in cosmopolitan Minneapolis surely need a name that symbolizes dignity, history and an international flair.
I got it:
The most famous soccer team in Sweden is IFK Goteborg. With that in mind, the name for our 2017 MLS expansion team has to be Idrottsforeningen Kamraterna Minneapolis. And, yeah, you can call 'em IFK for short, or Angels or Comrades, which somehow are involved in the definition of those I and K words.
As for the MLS regular season: It runs from early May until the end of October, with 34-game schedules. Ten teams advance to the playoffs to compete for the MLS Cup. Meantime, the regular season points champion gets the Supporters' Shield.
I presume this is somehow based on the old locker-room bromide, "If you can't be an athlete, be an athletic supporter.''
Sunday will be the 40th anniversary of my father's death. Richard was fulfilling his Sunday obligation by attending Mass on late Saturday afternoon at St. Olaf Catholic Church. He was there with my sainted Aunt Peggy (in contrast to my other sainted aunt, Helen), and left her to take care of Communion, while he went to get the car so they could beat the crowd.
Aunt Peggy found Richard dead from a heart attack in the driver's seat. He was illegally parked, of course, near the church's entrance.
A few years earlier, Richard had prepared a pot of his famous rabbit stew to share with his best pal, Joe Miller. And then Joe went home to Chaska and suffered a fatal heart attack.
Joe was a beauty, and my brother Michael and I allowed a respectable amount of time to pass before we started needling my father about having killed his best friend with a large serving of rabbit stew.
Lo and behold, when we entered Richard's apartment on the day after his death, we found another pot of rabbit stew growing cold on the stove. We shared a laugh and agreed: "Richard not only killed Joe with his rabbit stew; he killed himself.''
Richard was a character of the first magnitude (as was Joe), and he's the reason that as a sportswriter, I've had incredible fondness for people such as Jerry Burns, Glen Sonmor, Billy Gardner and Calvin Griffith.
On occasion, I've been accused of having an over-the-top appreciation for irreverence, and my excuse for that is, "I grew up with Richard Reusse.''
He also gets credit for steering me into the newspaper business, even if he did so by accident. We had lived in Fulda, the heavenly burg of 1,100 in Murray County, until my mother Cecile's death in 1962 after a hideous battle with breast cancer. Richard sold his mortuary business in Fulda and we moved to Prior Lake, where Richard could be closer to ballgames at Met Stadium, and to relatives who also had moved from the farm fields of southwest Minnesota to the Twin Cities area.
I went to Prior Lake High School for my senior year and then enrolled at the University of Minnesota. Liberal Arts ... which means that I had no idea where I hoped a college education was going to take me.
Richard called Ted Peterson, the domo of the Minneapolis Morning Tribune's coverage of outstate preps and also state amateur baseball. Richard was energetically involved with the Fulda Giants of the First Night League in the late '40s and 1950s, and that's how he met Ted.
Richard was trying to get me a job, so he wouldn't have to pay all the bills as I went to the university. Ted hired me as a copy boy in August 1963, with the approval of Sid Hartman, the Tribune's sports editor. If Richard hadn't made that call, my guess is that today I'd be a dead bartender.
Last summer, the O'Rourkes of St. Paul (my Aunt Helen's family) who are part of my generation had a small gathering in Austin -- after a much-larger gathering of the whole O'Rourke clan in Easton, Minn. John and his family were the hosts. Darren and his family had traveled from Australia, Fr. Brian from Los Angeles and Sheila from Tucson.
As is always the case in the gathering of the Irish side of my parents' family tree, we made pleasantries about family for a half-hour, and then the cousins started telling their favorite "Richard stories.'' Even for me, there are always new ones about what he did to agitate, or to get a laugh, and on occasion, an act of kindness.
I've been telling assorted stories about Richard and his buddies for almost three decades on the radio, and invariably my long-time partner, Joe Soucheray, says, "You have to write a book ... Fulda Stories.''
That would make it work, remembering the Richard stories. For now, I can bring one back when stuck in Twin Cities traffic, and give myself a smile.
When it came to life in general, Richard did leave me with several important lessons:
One, don't sweat the small stuff; two, money exists to be spent; and three, never, ever make rabbit stew with his recipe.
The Twins had scored a run and there were runners on second and third with two outs in the first inning on Wednesday at Target Field. Oswaldo Arcia was getting in the lefthanded batter's box when Don Cooper, the White Sox' pitching coach, signaled for time and headed to the mound for a quick discussion with his pitcher.
Righthander Dylan Axelrod was making his 18th big-league start. Presumably, there were two messages from Cooper: Don't throw Arcia a first-pitch fastball in the strike zone, and feature changeups and breaking pitches.
"That's exactly what he was saying to him,'' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "The scouts have done their work on Arcia. He's getting lots of offspeed pitches, and now he's going to have to adjust.''
Axelrod came inside with his first pitch, then struck out Arcia on slower stuff. Included in this futile at-bat were hacks at two pitches on the ground. He wound up going 0 for 4, with two strikeouts and six runners left on base.
Nobody said it was going to be smooth sailing for the 22-year-old -- not after Arcia split last season between Class A and Class AA, missed most of big-league camp with a pulled muscle, and played only briefly for Class AAA Rochester before getting the call to Minnesota on April 17.
Gardenhire has been playing Arcia most every day, in order to avoid the call from General Manager Terry Ryan that says, "The kid has to go back. He needs regular at-bats.''
There's another reason Arcia seems safe for now:
Darin Mastroianni is way behind in recovering from a foot injury sustained in spring training. With Mastroianni not an option for the forseeable future, there isn't an outfielder on the horizon that Gardenhire would prefer over Arcia.
But that offspeed stuff ... Arcia is going to see more and more of it, until he proves that he can stay back and handle those pitches. For now, the slower the pitch, the worse Arcia has looked with his hacks.
Arcia has used Wilkin Ramirez as an interpreter for most of his interviews this season. I just had a couple of questions and went directly to Arcia.
Cooper's visit? "Changeups, sliders ... that's what he [had to] tell him,'' Arcia said.
And the day-long diet of offspeed pitches? "Yes,'' he said, nodding his head, "It [will be] OK.''
FOOTNOTE: My favorite story about hitters and those irritating offspeed pitches ...
Earl Williams was catching for the Orioles in 1975. Jesse Jefferson was a top pitching prospect (it didn't work out for him) and a hard thrower.
On this night, Jesse was featuring changeups and curveballs, rather than his big fastball. When asked what in the heck was going on, Williams was alleged to have nodded toward the opposing dugout and said:
"If I don't get fastballs, they don't get fastballs.''
Earl just died, by the way. One of the worst defensive catchers imaginable, but he could mash a baseball.
The White Sox and the Detroit Tigers had a makeup game in Chicago last Sept. 17. This was the last game of the season between the two contenders for the AL Central title.
The Mighty Whiteys won 5-4 to push their lead to 3 games. Chicago won again the next day in Kansas City to keep the lead at 3 and to push its record to 81-66.
This was a season of surprising success for a Sox team that was coming off a 79-win season. At that moment, there were three tremendous candidates for AL Manager of the Year: Bob Melvin in Oakland (the eventual winner), Buck Showalter in Baltimore, and Robin Ventura, the new manager in Chicago.
And then the White Sox stopped hitting. They scored three runs or fewer in 10 of the remaining 15 games. They lost 11 of the last 15 and finished three games behind the Tigers.
The Twins and the White Sox have played in the same grouping since Minnesota came into the American League in 1961: the 10-team AL from 1961 through 1968, the AL West from 1969 throuh 1993, and the AL Central since 1994.
There wasn't much history of fighting for pennants or division titles until 2001, when the Twins put an end to eight losing seasons and came back as a viable franchise. The Twins and the White Sox had these finishes over the next decade:
2001: 2-Twins 87-77, 6 behind Cleveland; 3-White Sox 83-79, 8 behind.
2002: 1-Twins 94-67; 2-White Sox 81-81, 13.5 behind.
2003: 1-Twins 90-72; 2-White Sox 86-76, 4 behind.
2004: 1-Twins 92-70; 2-White Sox 83-79, 9 behind.
2005: 1-White Sox 99-63 (won World Series); 3-Twins 83-79, 16 behind.
2006: 1-Twins 96-66; 3-White Sox 90-72, 6 behind.
2007: 3-Twins 79-83, 17 behind Detroit; 4-White Sox 72-90, 24 behind.
2008: 1-White Sox 89-74 (beat Twins in Game 163 playoff); 2-Twins 88-75, 1 behind.
2009: 1-Twins 87-76 (beat Detroit in Game 163 playoff); 3-White Sox 79-83, 7.5 behind.
2010: 1-Twins 94-68; 2-White Sox 88-74, 6 behind.
The 10 division titles of that decade were distributed six for the Twins, two for the White Sox, one for Detroit and one for Cleveland. And then came a new decade:
In 2011, the White Sox and the Twins had losing seasons together for the second time since 2001: the White Sox were third in the Central at 79-83, 16 games behind Detroit, and the Twins were fifth at 63-99, 32 behind.
Last season, the White Sox rallied and then collapsed. The Twins were dreadful from Day One again finished fifth, 66-96 and 22 games behind the Tigers.
The Twins and the White Sox are again destined for a summer-long battle in 2013. Unfortunately, it will be a battle for fourth place in the AL Central. The Tigers might be the best team in baseball and could win 100 games. Kansas City and Cleveland are much-improved.
The White Sox have backed up in Ventura's second season: aging, dreary at the plate, lousy in the field. The Twins entered today's matinee at Target Field against the White Sox at 18-18. That's not going to last and we all know it ... not with three or four outs in the lineup and this starting pitching.
Twins vs. Mighty Whiteys. It was fun while it mattered.
BULLETIN: The university reports that my unhappy e-mailer should have looked closer. The season-ticket package includes two games for the Minnesota Cup (or "The Herbie,'' as I'm calling it). So, there are now 22 games, plus 2 exhibitions to come, so the only thing missing from the 2013-14 ticket package is a third game for a WCHA home playoff series that most likely wouldn't have been played.
This much still stands: There were efforts to promote the arrival of the Big Ten hockey conference inside Mariucci Arena this winter. Most of the in-house videos and announcements were greeted with boos from the customers.
The idea that the Gophers would be moving to a Big Ten with one true rival, Wisconsin, and losing North Dakota, UMD, Denver and Colorado College as conference opponents did not play well with the Mariucci faithful.
And here was the e-mail:
"Some more interesting math. I am a Gopher hockey season ticket holder and last year my renewal went to $1,920 for two tickets. That worked out to $76.80 per game for 25 games -- an increase of $15.20 per game over the previous year.
"This year the renewal was the same price but the number of games dropped to 20 games. That is $96 per game or another increase of $9.40. This amounts to a 56% increase over two years. Even if you take off the preferred seating cost of $200 per ticket, it is an increase of 23% over two years.
"I am not sure that most of the season ticket holders know because they don’t show the cost per game on the renewal, just a total renewal price.''
BOTTOM LINE: Tickets are considerably more expensive than they were two years ago -- just not as expensive as my guy thought was the case.