Cascadia Cup Controversy: Suits vs Scarves

MalcontentJake is a Supporter. This is his take on the Cascadia Cup Trademark battle.

I'm not really ready for a battle, mainly because I'm pretty sure that it's a complete waste of my time. What I really want is to have a "grown up" discussion, although even though I will be the first to admit that this is virtually impossible given the intrinsically passionate nature of the discussion to be had.

I could be talking about any one of a number of so called "wedge issues," those hot-button political topics that seem to exist for no other reason than to get people riled up and pissed off. But I'm not; I'm talking about trademarking the Cascadia Cup.

I'm not here to re-hash the debate or dive into who is right and who is wrong. If you want some background on what is happening, now is the time to open another browser window and read up on the topic. If not, let's plow right on ahead.

The Cascadia Cup trademark "battle" is an ideological divide between the "suits" and the "scarves". No amount of "round table" open discussion will solve this ideological divide; finding a solution isn't about compromise or concessions. In fact, there is no solution, because we don't really trust each other. Not to put too fine a point on it, but we will never trust each other. The best we can hope for is to acknowledge the other's right to exist and be careful pickling our spots when we decide to pick up the torches and pitchforks and take to the streets.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber is a business man. He is the executive of Major League Soccer, which is the business of soccer. We are Supporters, to us, this is not a business. Somewhere, we all resent that The Beautiful Game is a business at all. Point of fact, we usually like to point out that sports in general, and soccer in particular, is a really bad business.

But as members of organized Supporter Groups we all recognize, somewhere, that there is a business side to what we do. Many of us find this fact less than palatable. Some of us would prefer to have little to no interaction with the "suits" that run our own clubs; but only the most naive among us don't understand that that interaction is key to us getting what we want. No one is saying we have to completely trust each other, no one is saying we have to even like each other; but we do have to get along and recognize each other's right to exist.

What Don Garber and company see is a business issue, specifically a trademark issue, which is their domain. They run the business, we provide the culture; that has long been the standard explanation of the two side's roles. I would hope, at some level, that the "suits" got into the "business" of soccer because they really like soccer; just like I would hope that the Supporters, the "scarves", got into supporting because they really like the game. This may or may not always be the case, but a lengthy discussion of the exceptions to this rule will only derail what we are really trying to accomplish.

To a supporter, trademarking the Cascadia Cup is what essentially amounts to a necessary evil. It's a business move that is only necessary because it is OURS. But to say its OURS implies ownership, which is a slippery slope in and of itself. Who can "own" the game? It seems like an abstraction. Sure, people own teams, teams own rights to players, someone owns the stadia they are played in, but how can someone own the part where 22 people are running around on a field (a field that someone owns) kicking around a ball (that someone owns) and trying to put it into a goal (which someone owns)? The players wear kits whose design someone owns, that someone has paid money to put their brand name onto. We all live with this and accept it, consciously or not, because you CAN NOT own the game or the passion behind it.

Don Garber is probably very confused as to why Supporters feel compelled to get into the business of trademarking a trophy. From where he sits the business apparatus is already in place; the nature of running a sports league is all about protecting your brands. Similarly, Supporters are very interested in protecting their own "brand" from exploitation. The Supporters don't understand why Garber expects us to trust the suits with something that is ours.

What strikes me is that MLS is simply trying to do what the NFL would do. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's self-proclaimed mission to "protect the shield" goes well beyond his sometimes seemingly over-reaching attempts to control on-and off-field player conduct with an iron first. In fact, he represents the 32 franchise owners in the NFL's philosophy of presenting a well-regulated entertainment product to its customers. These customers, aka "fans" are more often than not quite content with this arrangement.

But this is where our funny little sport is so much different. Garber used to work for the NFL, and Major League Soccer is openly modeled after the NFL more than any other sports league on the planet. But the dynamic between the Game and the League is markedly different between the two sports. The suits at the MLS may not like this. In fact, I am not asking them to like it at all; what I want is for them to acknowledge that we disagree, and this is a case where the scarves feel as though the suits have over -stepped their bounds.

Like I said, I'm not really interested in a battle, but I am open for a discussion.

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