Posted by: Ethan Johnson | November 16, 2010

WPS: Fall, Rise and Fall

Breaking news: FC Gold Pride is scheduled to be terminated.

Breaking news 2: Scratch that, FC Gold Pride has ceased operations.

Breaking news 3: WPS confirms that there will be a 2011 season.

Old News 1: Things aren’t looking so hot for the Chicago Red Stars.

MWS Tweetmix 1: Carrie Dew (@CarrieDew19) says, “Sad day for us and for women’s soccer. Thank you to the fans for making our experience so special. Wish there were more of you.”

MWS Tweetmix 2: Natalie Spilger (@nspilger) says, “Chicago’s in trouble… :(. C-mon Red Stars”

Hokay. Time to sort some things out.

First and foremost, I have been wrestling with a blend of guilt and ennui about the prospect of the Red Stars folding. I do not want the Red Stars or any other WPS team to fold. But the reality is that my $200 isn’t going to “save” the Red Stars or any other team on the brink of collapse. It’s just going to be a future refund and if that is in fact the case, I’d rather invest that $200 elsewhere, remaining faithful to my mission but feeling sad and guilty that I couldn’t prevent a WPS team from closing up shop, again.

I am keenly aware that unless me and a mess of other people pony up season ticket money, it’s not long before not only individual teams fold, but the league itself. Rightly or wrongly, since its inception I have been pessimistic about the WPS being around for the long term, to the point of faithfully recording the WPS Game of the Week to DVD for posterity, and to prove it in fact existed. Maybe if the league had more than 10 teams at the start (or a similar arbitrary milestone) I would feel less tenuous about the league. I also wonder if WPS comes off as “small potatoes” to the domestic US sports fan, and unworthy of support in favor of more established teams and leagues. I have noticed that the USWNT draws bigger crowds than any given WPS team, but then again we’re talking apples and oranges.

The other sad reality is that I don’t have $200 to pony up at this time for season tickets to anything, let alone WPS. I suspect that I am not alone in this.

I hate to make empty-sounding promises, but my hope is that the Red Stars manage to hang in until 2011 when I can finally pull together $200 to help them live to see another day. If they fold, I’ll have to pay my “tithe” to another team. C’est la vie.

Yes, this situation with WPS is frustrating. And yes, I am feeling like part of the problem.

However, I refuse to shoulder the blame for WPS being on the ropes. Come ON, they were on the ropes from day one. It was incumbent upon WPS to shore up their financial position, and I wonder how and if moving to a decentralized “every team for itself” model is going to accomplish that, lest we revisit these discussions in late 2011 and early 2012.

I was going to write a treatise concerning women’s athletics as a cause, but ultimately that’s not what is at root with the state of WPS. Cause or not, it’s a business. And it is through this lens that I glance askance at the decision made by the Atlanta Beat to sponsor not one but two men’s soccer events at KSU Stadium. Yes, it can be argued that they needed the money, so any port in a storm. But how does this build the Atlanta Beat (and WPS) brand?

Gah. I’m going to shelve my thoughts about WPS for now and hope that they keep the band together with a 7-team league. That’s really all I can do.

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