Hey there MLS,
Did you watch the games this weekend? I'm guessing you did - they're your games after all. So you probably saw that moment when Clint Dempsey slapped Mark Bloom in the nethers? Ouch! Had to have hurt you as much as it hurt poor Mr. Bloom. Cos to me this soccer lark is just a game I enjoy, but I know it's a living to you and you like to talk about "product" and "fan experience" and a whole set of terms that surely look really, really good on PowerPoint.
The nine-million-dollar man snatching at some fella's man-bag probably doesn't look so great on PowerPoint. S'OK, that's what the Disciplinary Committe is for, right? Oh. I get it. It's complicated.
Well, good luck. While you're sweeping the testicle tapping incident under the rug, could you do one thing for me? Leave Jamison Olave alone.
Let me explain. Olave's a big guy. He's been that way for a while now, so I know you've noticed. And I know big guys don't always project the right optics for the product (Look at me! Three beers and a webinar and I think I have a MBA.), like that time last season when he clipped Kenny Miller's ankle and flipped the guy head over heels. Yellow card. Not because Miller got flattened, but because Olave came in late, while the guy's back was turned, and was in no danger of getting anywhere near the ball. But I feel like you also probably don't like seeing assets tossed in the air like parade batons. Fine. Whatever about how it looked, that was a foul.
He's a big man (I mentioned this, right?). He can accept the consequences of his actions. But more recently, as in his last five games for RBNY stretching back to the October 5th tilt against the Revs, it feels like you've been getting progressively harder on the guy.
That Revs game, for example, he charged forward to intercept a cross, won the ball in the air and got a yellow card for his troubles. The caption on your game highlight video reads "Olave is booked for crashing into Nguyen". OK. Crashing into Lee Nguyen is a foul. Even if Olave won the header fair and square. I get it: Nguyen didn't see him coming, didn't have a chance to get out of the way. But would it have been a yellow card, even a foul, if it had been 5' 7" (whatever you say, RBNY), 145 lbs, Connor Lade winning the header and not 6' 3", 220 lbs, Jamison Olave? I'm not so sure.
Later the same game, there was an incident your highlights caption describes as a "questionable handball", and pretty much everyone else who saw it described as "AreYouKiddingMeThatCameOffHisShoulder". Olave didn't get sent off, however, so I guess we had that going for us.
Three games later, he was not so lucky. Against Houston, in the playoffs, he did something pretty similar to the time he flipped Kenny Miller: charged in a little late, caught a man instead of the ball, and - because he's a big guy - left the unfortunate Omar Cummings on the deck. Your video caption calls it a "two-legged lunge". Not quite. He leads with one leg, misses the ball, gets the man, and the second leg follows - because, you know, it's attached to him. Yellow card? Sure. Straight red? Maybe, but probably not if Connor Lade is making the tackle. Kyle Martino wasn't sure he was witnessing an act of barbarism when the incident was fresh.
Taken in isolation, each of these matters is just one of dozens of debatable calls that get made every game. It happens. Referees will miss a lot of things - like Jonathan Osorio trying to decapitate Kosuke Kimura - or interpret the things they see differently from those with access to slow-motion replays.
We had one of those moments at Red Bull Arena this week. Referee Alan Kelly saw a clear-cut foul by Olave in the box: "I saw a challenge from behind from the defender...Did the defender initiate the contact? Yes, he did."
Call it like you see it, ref. But no - that's not what happened. Olave was stepping forward, Marvin Chavez was jumping backwards. At the point of contact, 5' 5" Chavez is off the ground and in motion; 6' 3" Olave, who can see what's coming toward him, is standing still. Does he stick out his chest a bit? Sure - it's not cheating to brace yourself for impact. Nor is it against the rules to be bigger than the other guy.
But it's beginning to feel that way with Olave. MLS, you're not helping matters with captions like "Chavez knocked down from behind by Olave in the box."
This isn't about replacement refs, or any particular referee at all. This is about what's starting to look like a pattern in the way referees view one particular player. Cut it out. Please.
Yes, I am a RBNY fan. Yes, I am conditioned to see every call against my team as conspiracy, and every decision that goes our way as natural justice. I know this, and it alarms me when I stop feeling delusional and start feeling like I'm on to something.
So please, MLS: Tell the refs to keep a closer eye on important matters, like Mark Bloom's reproductive health, and leave the big man alone.