Beyond the Boxscore
When it was over — after David Beckham got his hugs, Steve Nash received his face time with the commissioner and the Houston Dynamo played their part as the dutiful loser — the best coach in the MLS tried to put his personal pain in perspective.
"I don't know if I want to cry of throw up," Dominic Kinnear told the assembled media in California, including plenty of TV stations that took it upon themselves to broadcast a MLS press conference. "One of the two."
It's easy to feel for Kinnear (at least if you're not completely obsessed with an over-the-hill Beckham, which 98 percent of the outlets covering this MLS Cup were). His Dynamo keep making Cinderella runs to the MLS championship game — and keep getting knocked down by their much more star-studded, much more budget free big brother.
Dominic Kinnear is crushed and his ownership is happy. How messed up is that?
This time it ends in a 3-1 Galaxy runaway, with the rich kids erasing 59 minutes of brilliant Dynamo work in a six-minute spurt.
But hey, maybe Kinnear will get a raise out of it. For the Dynamo did exactly what its ownership hoped it would do on its league's biggest stage — lose. Dominic Kinnear is crushed and his ownership is happy.
How messed up is that?
This is the Dynamo reality that threatens to forever doom the most clutch franchise in recent Houston sports memory to always be second fiddle. The MLS absurdly allows the powerful Anschutz Entertainment Group to own both the LA Galaxy and the Houston Dynamo — and completely favor the Galaxy over the Dynamo in every way.
Which gives us these farces of an MLS Cup where LA is LA and Houston might as well be Peoria, Illinois.
That's how little regard AEG shows for the fourth largest city in the country, treating it like it's a minor market. Hey if Tom Cruise doesn't hang out in a city, does it really count?
This situation would be akin to the NFL allowing Jerry Jones to buy the Houston Texans too. Gee, which team do you think good old Jerry would favor? Which franchise would be suddenly operating at a huge competitive disadvantage?
Texans fans would never stand for that. Yet, because soccer's been so downgraded in America, Dynamo backers are conditioned to almost routinely accept this asinine outrage.
It's time for Dynamo fans to stand up and demand respect. To expect owners who actually burn to see the team win.
Spend almost $13 million on your LA team, bring in designated player after designated player (Beckham, Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan) for the good celebrities of California to clap for? Turn around and provide little more than $3 million for the entire Houston roster, don't get a single star who makes even $200,000?
OK, we'll still pack your new stadium in EaDo. Please sir, I want some more gruel.
It's time for Dynamo fans to stand up and demand respect. To expect owners — majority owners — who actually burn to see the team win championships.
If these back-to-back surprise runs have shown the brilliance of Kinnear's coaching, the final results have also driven home the limits of it. Yes, the Dynamo won titles in 2006 and 2007, but it was a different MLS back then. The league is growing and the Dynamo are being held back.
Would Major League Baseball have allowed George Steinbrenner to buy the Mets in his Boss heyday and then limit them to a $50 million budget while he spent $200 million on his Yankees? Of course not. And if the MLS ever wants to truly erase its small-time image, it needs to make a similar ownership stand.
The most devastating thing to happen to the Dynamo this season wasn't speedy forward Calen Carr — who the Galaxy absolutely couldn't cover — going out with a knee injury in the 59th minute of the MLS Cup on Saturday. No, that came when AEG pulled the plug on Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander's attempt to buy the team.
This franchise desperately needs an individual owner who will put its interests first.
No, a new owner who puts a legitimate soccer star in Houston (preferably a striker who defenses will have to fear in ways they never will the overachieving Will Bruin) will not suddenly have Kobe Bryant at BBVA Compass Stadium. But J.J. Watt shows.
Shouldn't that mean something?
LA is LA and Houston might as well be Peoria, Illinois.
All those orange-clad fanatics who pour into Houston's most intimate (and arguably best) stadium game after game after game need to count. Sure, the Dynamo's local TV ratings are atrocious by anything but hockey standards. But all of the TV ratings in Don Garber's league are largely horrible.
This is an experience-it sport. That's why you have 2,000 Dynamo fans traveling to California for the MLS Cup, leaving the often-stoic Kinnear with a lump in his throat.
"I was so proud of our little corner," Kinnear said in that press conference.
Those people didn't show to coo over Beckham or to completely overstate the impact the Englishman's had on the league as so many are rushing to do. They didn't get on a plane to try and run into Kobe or Nash or any of the other Lakers stars sprinkled in the MLS Cup crowd.
They came for their team — you know, the forgotten bunch in orange?
Those Dynamo fans deserve an owner who cares as much as they do. It's really not much to ask.