The Cynical Soccer Goose Part One: The McGuinness Experiment

I used to [(use to?) I must have dropped out of college the day before they covered that] be a soccer romantic.

I once was able to write hundreds of words previewing my local club’s next match. I would get giddy when more than fifty people would view my work. Don’t get me started about the time Ropapa Mensah retweeted a piece I did highlighting him back when he played for that club who claimed beach ideologies while playing in a baseball stadium. I had oodles of time on my hands back then. I would marvel at the stats about how many passes players performed during a 90-minute period. Now, I just shake my fist angrily at circles that sometimes professionally, sometimes jokingly portray a person’s likeness.

I wish I could pinpoint a moment where it all started. Where I noticed my first grey soccer hair. So to speak of course. It was probably a moment where I was intentionally or not surrounding myself with only like-minded personalities. It was almost certainly a moment when a friend, or a so-called friend, gave me a look. You know the one, that look that metaphorically puts a mirror in from of yourself and lets you see the ridiculousness of the point you’re trying to make. The point about how the player on your club did nothing wrong and how the referee has a secret vendetta against only your club. (Thanks Chris)

I would later go on to record my voice and share it online. It’s a funny thing podcasts. You (or I did anyway) get a sense of both entitlement and obligation. I think the word I’m grasping for is ego. “Look at what I’m doing!” “Come listen to me share a take both lukewarm and hot and all together unique and one that has been said 1,000x before.” One that has an odd sense of responsibility attached to it due to its inherit niche.

Again, like the writing, I’d find these pillars of success. Like when I was able to have the first interview with Gaelic Football (I almost typed Gaelic Soccer, that’s ironic) legend and author of Until Victory Eventually, Jim “Out of His Element” McGuinness. We’d have nearly double our normal listeners on that episode with 265!!! I honestly have no idea if getting over 250 listens is a feat, but it was for me. That meant that when the club eventually fired him too late to salvage the season, the podcast would suffer. RIP to our increased Talkin’ Jacks listeners.

The Jim McGuinness experiment was certainly that…an experiment. Being a fan was difficult that season. Podcasting about the club was even more difficult. It was when I first recall feeling so heavily obligated to podcast. When my love of talking about the club felt like a chore. It’s never been particularly attractive to be an Independence fan. Between a handful of home venues and the time consuming to some not to others trips outside of the city to watch them play. The McGuinness era just felt that much more desperate. You could just sense that something wasn’t right on the pitch. I’m no tactician, but even I could see a lack of clear objective. There was no plan and as the season progressed you could tell that creativity was lacking.

McGuinness seemed to have lost the players. Who could blame them. It was painfully obvious that what McGuinness wanted to do wasn’t going to work in Charlotte. To be perfectly honest, I don’t blame him. He seemed to have big goals for his tenure. That was something that made me, dare I say it, optimistic about him joining the club. Blame McGuinness all you want, but I think a lot of blame rests on the organization. For not properly equipping him, for not setting him up to succeed, etc. Hell, for maybe not setting expectations with him on what he was getting into. It just felt like a desperate move by a club living in the shadow of a MLS franchise that hadn’t even been awarded yet. I remember, on the way home from our ‘exclusive’, saying to Chris, “Well, the season won’t be boring.”

I hate when I’m right.


To be continued…be on the lookout for Part Two soon.