Women’s League Soccer

We’ve had a decade and a half of professional women’s soccer in the U.S.which is often lost on people not paying attention.  Yes there have been three leagues in succession – because the first two only last 3 seasons each – but taken in total there has been professional women’s soccer in the U.S. since the famous 1999 U.S. world cup victory.  The first league, Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA) launched a bit late – 2001 – to fully capitalize on the popularity of the U.S. women’s team victory but it did have most of that team plus a number of international stars.  It lasted three seasons — closing up shop after the Washington Freedom won the third championship in 2003.

There was a painfully long break after that with Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) not launching until 2009.  (In that gap there were two really semi-professional leagues –Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL) and the W-League.)  After 1999, the U.S. won Women’s Soccer Olympic Goal Medals, but didn’t win the world cup again until this year (2015).  I don’t think the U.S. networks every fully invested in Olympic soccer the way they do for a World Cup — regardless there was never quite as much of a surge of popular interest after the Olympic victories as there was in 1999 and now in 2015.

The WPS played three seasons and probably would have limped into a fourth season except for numerous business issues adding up and the spectacular legal fight it had with Dude McDude Dan Borislow who bought the Washington Freedom franchise, moved it to Florida and renamed it magicJack, after his company.  Borislow was to say the least, not a team player as far as the WPS was concerned and the finances were more than tight enough that the prospect of a big legal fight was probably a legitimate reason to throw in the towel.

Both of these leagues had financial mismanagement or at least if not mismanagement not good enough management.  WUSA spectacularly blew through its planned 5 year budget in one year.  WPS had a number of franchises with financial problems in every season.  At this point someone at the U.S. Soccer Federation or maybe it was someone in the Canadian or Mexican soccer federations realized that a successful women’s soccer league was no sure thing and that if these three countries wanted to keep dominating (U.S.), step up to the elite (Canada) or become more competitive (Mexico) — having a successful women’s soccer league was necessary for current and developing players to get playing time at a high level.  All three federations put up money to help pay for the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) which debuted in 2013 and has now completed three full seasons with no obvious problems preventing it from returning for a fourth season.

The good is that the NWSL is running on a super lean budget with assistance from the three federations so it will be difficult to to screw up the finances.  On the other hand they really are not paying the players much at all.  That is not a recipe for long term success (but important to remember that MLS paid pretty poorly too for many of its early years) and may leave space for a league in Europe or Asia to steal away international stars.  At this point MLS is in the middle of its 20th season and while it has a lot of work to do has many lessons to offer the Women’s game in the U.S.

First – get the right stadium in the right setting.  Almost none of the Women’s teams have anything close to this.  The only team that regularly draws in the five figures is the Portland Thorns who play in the Portland Timbers stadium.  As more and more of the MLS teams have obtained soccer-specific stadiums with 20,000 to 30,000 seat capacity the women’s league teams have to find a way to share those stadiums.  There is zero chance that any city is going to build a second soccer specific stadium.

Our local franchise the Washington Freedom Spirit is a great example.  They play in distant suburbia in a 5,000 seat stadium with bleachers on one side.  It’s hard to get to – it has limited concessions.  It in no way feels major league.  However, the MLS franchise, DC United has finally sealed a deal for a stadium in DC that will seat around 25,000 and has an amazing location in the city near the baseball park with a riverfront view..  It’s a very central, accessible and nice location in the city.  The only answer for long term success is to put the women’s team in the new DC United stadium.

Which also raises the real question of whether or not NWSL should be talking to MLS about greater cooperation, investment or outright ownership of NWSL teams.  The downside to greater cooperation could be a permanent second class status for the women’s team or a failure of MLS executives to understand the needs of the women’s game and its audience.  Or other things — I am fairly confident there’s a lot of digits spilled over this argument.  The upside though is leveraging the infrastructure of MLS teams — basic operations of running an organization, the stadium, the practice facilities and other assets that could be used by both teams.  Marketing if done intelligently could add cross-promotion to the mix.  And let’s not forget the emotional investment of fans.  MLS at this point has been around long enough to get some real buy in from fans.  At this point there are actually parents who have raised their kids to become fans of the hometown team — there are probably a growing number of three generations of fans now.  A separate identity for a NWSL team has to build its brand and raise awareness all on its own.  A women’s team linked to the MLS team could build off of that existing awareness.  I could be wrong but put the Spirit in the new DC United Stadium, put them in similar colors to DC United and sell me tickets to both and I think that works.  I’ve been a fan of DC United from day one (really before day one) and I could completely get behind expanding my love of that team to two teams under the same banner.

And while I know the existing NWSL has to keep treading carefully with expansion (it appears they have confirmed that Orlando will join them as their 8th team next season) I’m hopeful that with a greater alliance with MLS teams this could be a point of only growth for the women’s game in the U.S.  I suppose it doesn’t really work but there’s even an easy league name to adopt if a merger with MLS went through — WLS.  (I would also love to bring back the WPS logo – just rebrand it but keep the Mia Hamm silhouette.)

And it would be wonderful if not only did expansion continue but that it brought back former team names from the WUSA and WPS and that maybe the women’s league could consider the seasons and records from those first two efforts as part of this new league’s official history.  If money and ownership was not a problem (and again if MLS teams stepped up as well) it would be amazing to get to a fourteen or sixteen team NWSL WLS in a couple of years.

Western conference could be existing teams Seattle Reign, Portland Thorns, Houston Dash, Chicago Redstars and Kansas City FC (really that team would benefit from taking on the Sporting Kansas City name) and then it seems totally plausible to bring back a Los Angeles team — in partnership with the Galaxy or the new LAFC team.  I liked the WPS name for the  LA franchise – Sol.  You should also have a San Jose team — there was a San Jose team in the WUSA and basically one in the WPS (although they played in Hayward which is north east around the San Francisco bay).  I’ve heard as well that Vancouver – which had a women’s program – is a city that many hope will enter the league at some point.

The Eastern conference would be existing teams Washington DC Spirit, Red Bull Sky Blue FC (New Jersey), Boston New England Breakers, the new Orando team and the Western NY Flash who basically play in Rochester.  There is no MLS team in Rochester but the city has a long history of supporting soccer (Rochester Rhinos are the last non-MLS team to win the U.S. Open Cup). Great franchises to bring back would be in Atlanta where MLS is expanding to and Philadelphia where the MLS team already has a great stadium in place.  Both of these cities were in WUSA and WPS.  Last it would be great to get another Canadian team in the mix – either Toronto or Montreal would be a great location.


Bookmark: Terry Pratchett

RIP Sir Terence David John “Terry” Pratchett, OBE (28 April 1948 – 12 March 2015).

Forty one Discworld novels have been published.  Within Discworld, Pratchett weaved a narrative with many different characters that each had their own narratives across several books.  So much so that anyone approaching reading them needs a guide on how to make sense of it all.

The L-Space web has put together the above graphic which suggests starting points for each of the major “series” of stories within the novels.  There is an alternative version below.

Oingo Boingo: Danny Elfman

The artistic genius, the driving force, the hub of Oingo Boingo is unquestionably Danny Elfman.  Others made key contributions to the sound of the band but there would be no oingo in the boingo with Elfman. He put out a solo album which for all intents and purposes is another Oingo Boingo album.

The fact that the theater troupe transformed into the rock band and then ended before it faded away is all due to Elfman. Maybe a little bit to Tim Burton who hired him to score Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and then went on to work with him on most of Burton’s movies.  Success as a soundtrack composer certainly contributed to Elfman closing the chapter on Oingo Boingo and pop music.  Elfman has since contributed to a number of movie and television soundtracks — some of which is collected on Music for a Darkened Theatre, Vol. 1.

Here’s an interview around the release of Sam Raimi’s Darkman right were Elfman was making the transition from Oingo Boingo to composer.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised but he’s been nominated and won a number of awards for his work scoring projects: 4 Oscar nominations; 1 Annie win; 1 Emmy win and another nomination; 1 Grammy and 10 other nominations.  It’s almost to the point where he will almost certainly be remembered first and foremost for his move and television scoring and his pop career will come second.

He did do a bunch of interviews when a 25 year anniversary of Oingo Boingo collection came out.

I don’t know much about his private life.  Obviously his brother Richard Elfman was an early collaborator.  He is the uncle of actor Bodhi Elfman, who is married to actress Jenna Elfman.  He has been married to Bridget Fonda since 2003.

Oingo Boingo: The Mystic Knights Of

The pop band Oingo Boingo started off an basically an experimental avant garde theatre troupe called the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo.  When I was growing up I just missed this phase of the band and in the pre-Internet era tracking down “knowledge” of all aspects of the band was not just a badge of your “fandom” of the band — it was hard.  I’ve learned a thousand times more about the history of the band in the last 10 years then I ever did in the moment back then.

Pictures and music of them playing in clubs from Tom Sewell:

This youtube channel also has a ton of their performances posted.  There are two performances that fully capture what I imagine this part of the band history.  One, Danny Elfman’s brother Richard Elfman made a bizarre film called The Forbidden Zone that featured a lot of the Mystic Knights in it (as well as their music) and two, believe or not, they were on the Gong Show as contestants.  If you are too young to remember this show it was mostly a proto-version of those early American Idol episodes where they feature bad performers. Well not exactly — it was more like the variety show that is America’s Got Talent.  Just much weirder talents on display.  Here’s is it:

Oingo Boingo: Weird Science

The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo was the sound track to my years in highschool and some of college. For those of us growing up listening to KROQ one would think Oingo Boingo was really popular and they were, but after moving to the East Coast as an adult it was interesting to learn it was actually a bit of a west coast phenomenon.  I think I’m going to do a series of posts this week on different aspects of the band.  (Nothing too deep and probably I’ll have to come back and update them)

Their biggest hits probably came from a contribution to a movie soundtrack.  The title track to Weird Science (above) was a hit?  Weirdly enough, according to Wikipedia, they also had an almost recurring gig in Hollywood as the band in the party scene – I remember them in the Rodney Dangerfield movie Back to School.  I’m not actually sure if Wikipedia means they appeared as a band in a scene in each of these movies, but I think that’s the gist:

They also had a song or two on several movie soundtracks including a bunch of iconic “teen” movies such as Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Sixteen Candles, Bachelor Party, and Back to School. Other soundtracks featuring Oingo Boingo songs included: The Last American Virgin, Surf II, Something Wild, Midnight Run, Ghostbusters II, and The Adventures of Ford Fairlane.


Bookmark: Kim Stanley Robinson

I just finished Aurora, the latest novel from Kim Stanley Robinson.  Kim Stanley Robinson is a writer of hard science fiction who brings logical, methodical extrapolation to any topic he ponders.  He is, despite all of that, a fairly poetic fellow who often detours from physics to philosophy and the human condition. But still, hard science.

Aurora is a very interesting but ultimately somewhat unsatisfying novel.  As the book progresses it becomes apparent that the hero of the story, the true protagonist, isn’t human at all but the very interstellar ship that takes the humans on their long, long journey through the stars.  There are some very interesting philosophical meanderings posed by Robinson in the voice of the ship’s artificial intelligence.  But the human characters are much less interesting than the hardware in this book.  That strikes me as something I’ve felt upon reading previous Robinson novels – that the characters never quite live up to the world building involved.  Still large stretches of Aurora are fascinating and even if the book didn’t go where I wanted it to, it was hard to put down for long while reading.

And regardless of any complaints I keep coming back to Robinson’s novels.  They are big and intense enough that I don’t want to read his work too often — but I have finished six of them now.  The last one I finished was 2312 which I read in 2012.

Have Read

The Mars trilogy

  • Red Mars (1993)
  • Green Mars (1994)
  • Blue Mars (1996)


  • Galileo’s Dream (2009)
  • 2312 (2012)
  • Aurora (2015)

Have Not Read

The Three Californias series

Science in the Capital series



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