Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Sorry for the hiatus. My recent reliance on Twitter (@RedStarsCEO) has kept me away from this blog for more than a month. i will try to get back in a routine with it.
i'd like to return to my soccer roots for this return post. My start in the business of soccer more than 20 years ago was with what is currently the nation's oldest soccer club. Was it DC United? Seattle Sounders? Richmond Kickers? Nope, it was with the Milwaukee Wave of the American Indoor Soccer Association, which was a mere babe in just its third season when i was hired to do marketing and publicity for the team on March 9, 1987.
Last weekend the Wave celebrated its Silver Anniversary. For the anniversary adjective challenged, that would be 25 years in business. That's more than pretty good. In fact, it's amazing. The Wave has split its time between the 3,600 seat MECCA Auditorium, the 18,000 seat Bradley Center and now the 9,000 seat Milwaukee Arena. The alphabet soup of leagues they have competed in include the AISA, NPSL, second incarnation of the MISL and now the XSL. They have had four ownership groups and five head coaches.
The only player to play for all five Wave coaches is Tony Pierce (who's #31 should be retired by the Wave), the first player signed was Kris Klassen and the last remaining original employee still with the team is trainer Larry Sayles, who previously taped ankles for Meadowlark Lemon, Curly Neal and their globetrotting teammates.
To most of the American soccer community the Wave and indoor soccer in general is an irrelevant redheaded stepchild to the "real" sport. Its best days are certainly in the rear view mirror, but both the Wave and indoor soccer remain relevant. To most people in Milwaukee, "professional soccer" doesn't mean the EPL, MLS or even USL Division 1, 2 or 89. It's not the W-League, J-League, A-League or XYZ-League. Professional soccer in this corner of the Dairy State is the Milwaukee Wave. The first and only professional soccer games almost all Wisconsinites have seen in person are Wave games. Indoor soccer is no longer played by the best players the U.S. produces, but it is still worthy of attention and still holds meaning as entertainment and competition for those who watch and those who play.
The strategy and competition of indoor is still compelling. Wave coach Keith Tozer is among the sharpest and hardest working coaches this country has ever seen. He was a finalist for the Fire job after Bob Bradley left and i truly believe he would have been a successful MLS coach.
I cherish my 7+ years in indoor soccer and especially my 3+ years with the Wave. i learned a lot about the sport, the audience, the challenge of marketing soccer and i made some lifelong friends.
Some of them came together last weekend in Milwaukee for the Wave's reunion. Those i saw included the Cudahy Connector Pete Knezic, US U-17 Assistant Coach Keith Fulk, XSL Commissioner Brian Loftin, Chicago Storm Head Coach Steve Morris, Storm Owner Viktor Jakovljevic, longtime Wave assistant and local youth coach Art Kramer, Brookfield Academy Coach Lee Rogers, the Alioto twins, Tim and Tom, and two of my oldest friends, Chicago Fire Juniors Director of Coaching Larry Sunderland and Green Bay Lightning Director of Coaching Tony Pierce. We spent a night sharing stories of the old days and it reminded me how special this team was and still is.