After two hours of watching Rebecca Lowe, Robbie Earle, and Robbie Mustoe break down Deadline Day on NBCSN, I still can’t decide if this would be a good thing for Major League Soccer. The signal-to-noise ratio is ridiculously low, a confluence of tabloid pressures, gullibility, and potential for news (albeit slim) creating a ridiculous din, one that’s developed into a cottage industry. In this grave new world, you don’t have to be an intellect to understand. To be an expert, you just have to tolerate the content that’s being fed to you.
Not that it isn’t a splendid spectacle. Harry Redknapp talking through a car window. Peter Odemwingie denied on QPR’s doorstep. Danny Welbeck swapping Old Trafford for the Emirates. Even absent financial lunacy like Fernando Torres’s or Radamel Falcao’s moves, Deadline Day always provides something, and in a world where diehard fans are insatiable about their somethings, the twice-a-year fun is relatively harmless.
There is, however, a difference between being harmless and necessary, and with MLS always looking for ways to raise its profile, it’s interesting to consider what a Deadline Day event would bring to the league. MLS already has a couple of deadline days: The close of the summer transfer window (Aug. 6, this year), and the fall roster freeze (Sept. 15). What if we took those events and created a glorified coverage?
Imagine next year, with ESPN carrying much of the broadcast load, Adrian Healey, Taylor Twellman, and Alexi Lalas praising every obscure Romanian, as if he’s the next Dutch leaguer tempting English hearts? In front of 100 inches of touch screen goodness, they swap circles in and out of formations, asking how players we’ve never heard of will sway the title race.
Is he good? Is he bad? It doesn’t really matter. This wantaway from Club Atletico Rafaela would be a different maker for ‘Midtable FC’, they could say about anybody. Anonymity can’t keep us from assessing the move.
Unfortunately, there are a few things beyond mere interest that prevents this kind of spectacle; namely MLS’s rules. A cursory look across the U.S. sports’ landscape shows a telling, inverse relationship between regulation and transfer and trade window mayhem. Professional baseball and hockey, with their permissive systems, have active trade deadlines. Basketball’s more restrictive environment means stars rarely move at the end of a window, while the National Football League’s salary cap and early trade deadline render midseason moves irrelevant.