If you can find me a Red Bulls fan who loves both these men I'll give you $3.50.
The season ticket price hikes, the idiotic quotes, the attendance drops. It's all over (well, maybe no the attendance dops). Chris Heck, public enemy number one among much of the Red Bulls fan base, is out after roughly a year at the post.
Kristian Dyer alluded to as much last night, and the Post's Brian Lewis followed up, confirming that the target of "Chris Heck Hates Soccer Fans" t-shirts was "no longer with the organization." Whether or not he was fired or stepped down himself is a question unanswered, but that's not stopping celebrations inspired by his ouster.
It's hard to believe, though, that Heck wasn't let go. Attendance, calculated in the beginning of June, showed a 13 percent drop from last year, despite the fact the team enters this weekend top of the East and third in the Supporters Shield race. Hans Backe has guided the team, with an admitted bit of luck, through injury after injury to a winning record. Erik Soler has built one of the strongest MLS rosters ever, dealing fan favorites Juan Agudelo and Dane Richards in moves that strengthened the team in the end, all the while securing a transfer for Tim Cahill and bringing in prodigal son Jide Ogunbiyi.
The soccer end of the equation was pulling its weight. Possibly even punching above it. The business side wasn't.
There are rumors that Heck wasn't given the marketing budget he felt he needed to do his job properly. Fine. And the most forgiving take on the Saga of the Season Ticket Price Increases is that he tried to make Red Bulls games a priority through price. That's well and good.
But for a company that seems constantly aware of its brand and what it means, Heck's narrative clashes with that fact and the reality of the money being poured into the squad. The priority-through-price take -- despite the fact that I wrote it, since I try and give people the benefit of the doubt -- is bankrupt from a market research standpoint. Soccer fans are overwhelmingly young. So the natural inclination is to jack up prices and make sure they can't come, obviously.
But the enduring memory of Heck, for me anyway, is his quote to the Wall Street Journal back in April...
"I'm so glad, on the business perspective, that we haven't won yet," said Heck, a former NBA executive who joined the Red Bulls in 2011. "Because I don't believe we have been ready. My hope, and our drive, is that we are championship ready by the end of this season."
Even nearly a year into his job, Heck didn't know what he was getting himself into. With word vomit like that, you have to imagine he still doesn't know he did anything wrong.