Categorized | Commentary

Pitch Invasion beats the Red Bull dead horse–from Chicago

Posted on 02 March 2010 by Nathaniel E. Baker

New York Red Bulls fans finally have reason to be excited. The team’s 14-year purgatory in Giants Stadium is mercifully, and finally, over. The massive Swamp was never meant to be anything beyond a temporary waystation for the New York/New Jersey Major League Soccer franchise. Two ownership groups, one “rebranding” and a decade and a half later, the team has finally bid adieu to the Meadowlands stadium.

Red Bull Arena, in all its glory ©Scott Marsh/ASN

This season the soccer franchise takes up stakes in its new home on the banks of the Passaic River. The new ground, Red Bull Arena, in Harrison, N.J., is everything the Meadowlands was not. For one, it’s a proper soccer stadium, with real grass. It’s right sized, sitting around 25,000 at maximum capacity. It’s easily accessible via public transportation. Most important of all, it belongs to the team. The soccer team is not a guest in this stadium, nor does it have to rent the space. There will be no American football lines on the pitch. The team will not be third-class citizens here. Its name and logo are plastered all around the ground for all to see.

Therein lies the problem for some people. Well, for one person, at least. The venerable PitchInvasion, one of the best-respected soccer blogs out there (for good reason, it should be added), today saw the need to take issue with something local fans had long considered dead and buried: the Red Bull moniker.

A few disclaimers are in order: I do not like the Red Bull “brand”. I hate the colors, the stupid logo and the images of X-d out Eurotrash club kids it evokes. If I had my choice I would have it changed in a heartbeat (though not back to the Metrostars, which itself was a corporate moniker and whose colors had absolutely no basis in local custom or history). And for what it’s worth I really do respect PitchInvasion’s work a great deal. I read the blog regularly and honestly think that for what it does it’s the best in the business.

But I think they overstepped their bounds here. Throughout its 14 year history, Giants Stadium was an albatross weighing the team down and dragging it into the filthy morass of the Jersey swampland. For most of this history, a new stadium was a pipedream. There were countless promises, sure; none more notorious than the “30-60 days” pledges by former GM Nick Sakiewicz that effectively became a cruel inside joke among fans. But for all intents and purposes prospects of a new stadium were very distant, at best, during the Metro years.

Enter Red Bull. The Austrian energy drink company took control of the team in 2006. Ground was broken the following year, but only after Red Bull refused to go along with plans to build a stage at one end of the stadium.

PitchInvasion does not take this into account in their piece. They act as if the stadium still would have been built, to identical specifications, under different ownership (and less abrasive branding). But this is simply not the case. The stadium will be a centerpiece for soccer in the U.S. only as a direct result of Red Bull’s involvement.

There are other problems with the piece. PitchInvasion criticizes a Grant Wahl’s review in Sports Illustrated for being uncritical. Fine. But PitchInvasion hasn’t seen the stadium. Wahl has (so has ASN). This makes PitchInvasion’s critique ring completely hollow.

PitchInvasion even admits “I’m not qualified to offer an opinion one way or the other on the state of New York’s culture of fan support.” Okay, so what are you doing telling them the Red Bull sponsorship constitutes “a discussion Red Bulls fans don’t want to have”? Had PitchInvasion paid any attention at all to the Big Soccer or MetroFanatic message boards the past four years, he would know with absolute certainty that fans have been discussing this very matter at great lengths–too great, in fact. For God’s sake the thing has been beaten to death several times over already.

So yes, Red Bull Arena still is Red Bull. Guess what? You sink $200 million into building a soccer specific stadium in my back yard and I’ll let you call it anything you want. Even a stupid name that I happen to hate. With very few exceptions (seriously though, you couldn’t do better than dig up a three-year old Metrologist piece?) Red Bulls fans have made their peace with this by now. It’s about time others did as well.

8 Comments For This Post

  1. Mark Nealon Says:

    Well said sir, well said.

  2. viper Says:

    Great piece, thanks!

  3. Mark Nealon Says:

    Well said sir, well said.

  4. viper Says:

    Great piece, thanks!

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  6. IQ Test Says:

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