Skip to content

How do you respond to Sepp Blatter? Don Garber shows you how

Jan 2, 2013, 10:47 PM EDT

Beyond Sport United Hosts "Sports Teams For Social Change" Getty Images

It’s been a painful four days in U.S. soccer land, and not because Sepp Blatter took a shot at Major League Soccer. His comments were ignorant and unnecessary, but it’s not the first time the FIFA president has said something ignorant and unnecessary. It’s just the first time this week.

As far as stupid Sepp tricks go, this was far from the worst thing he’s ever said. His contention that MLS is struggling is so demonstrably false, it could be dismissed without comment. Yes, MLS can be bigger, but it’s not closing its doors anytime soon. This isn’t 2004.

But having been through this Blatter rodeo a number of times now, it’s frustrating that we can’t just treat Blatter like the metaphorical troll he’s become. Instead, we overreact. Every time, we overreact. We light up social media, start our protests, ignite the same debates we’ve been having for the past three years. Every time Sepp opens his mouth, it becomes Groundhog Day.

Nobody goes to a circus and expects wisdom from a clown, yet we take Blatter’s words at face value. We break out petitions, say something has to change, but then quickly move on, the whole process playing out like short term immersion therapy which, while making us feel better about all the insecurities we exposed, also wipes our memories. The next time Sepp peeps, we jump back on the wheel.

All the while, we never stop and ask: Why do we only only react when Blatter’s ignorance hits us? Why do we ignore the fact that Blatter Rage was non-existent before the U.S. failed to win the rights to the 2022 World Cup? Those factors don’t absolve Blatter’s comments, but they do help explain why we can’t move on.

In a soccer world that’s produced Jack Warner, Mohammed bin Hammam, and Ricardo Teixeira, it’s unlikely the mere ouster of Blatter would change the international landscape. And nothing Blatter says will change the fact that the games will go on, tournament will be waged, and MLS will continue to grow. While there’s almost nothing to recommend Blatter for the position he holds, there’s also (for good and bad) more to this picture than this caricature of a man prodding a sensitive fan base.

His words are just air, air I’ve wasted too much space addressing here. Either ignore them or roll with them, but don’t get worked up over the crazy guy barking at the moon. And if you do, at least wait for something sexist to come out of his mouth (again). Major League Soccer can take care of itself.

On Wednesday, MLS commissioner Don Garber gave a great example of how to deal Blatter’s semi-annual hiccups. His overall approach: Don’t take it seriously, focus on the positives, and try to convert (not reject).

I’m not sure I agree with the last tactic, but that’s why I’m not Don Garber. From reporting by the Washington Post’s Steven Goff:

In a phone interview with the Insider, Garber said: “I really don’t believe the president believes we are struggling. I don’t think anybody in the pro sports community would describe us that way. In no way are we struggling, but we are less than 20 years old; we haven’t gone through a full generational term.”

Not that you’d expect hyperventilation from somebody like Garber, but this is a direct, measured response which, devoid of defensiveness, ends up presenting the league as confident and self-aware. Seems like a pretty sound approach.

More:

“The other major [U.S. sports] leagues are so deeply embedded in the culture and have been for generations,” Garber said. “MLS, in a short period of time, has made great progress. But we have not been around for 100 years like [some] other [U.S.] leagues and certainly like the European soccer leagues, and as such, our development is appropriate to where we are from an age perspective.”

It doesn’t make good Twitter fodder, but Garber’s response is much more sensible than hitting a big red button every time Blatter speaks up. Hey, MLS is fine, he’s saying. We’ve got a ways to go, but struggling? I know that’s not true.

We all know that’s not true. And we knew it before Sepp sounded off.

There’s more in Steven Goff’s piece, but more valuable than hearing Don Garber react to accusations so prima facie ridiculous is sensing his approach. No commissioner likes to hear his league denigrated, but Garber’s been in this position before. Rather than sound the alarms and treat the remarks as something harmful, he just rolls with it.

Though you never know. He may have still signed a petition.

Latest Posts
  1. Philippe Coutinho open to an extension at Liverpool

    Sep 14, 2014, 8:20 PM EDT

    Liverpool v Borussia Dortmund - Pre Season friendly Getty Images

    Philippe Coutinho said that he would entertain an extension at Liverpool

  2. Jeremy Menez shines for AC Milan in riveting victory over Parma

    Sep 14, 2014, 7:28 PM EDT

    Jeremy+Menez+qojlhLjziL0m Getty Images

    Jeremy Menez tallied a brace and a spectacular goal as AC Milan edged Parma in a high-scoring affair.

  3. WATCH: FC Dallas striker Blas Perez nails very steep-angled goal

    Sep 14, 2014, 7:01 PM EDT

    blas_perez Getty Images

    A very tough goal scored by FC Dallas striker Blas Perez from an MLS match last night.

  4. President Obama follows through on World Cup beer bet

    Sep 14, 2014, 5:34 PM EDT

    Barack Obama AP

    President Obama sent the Belgian embassy a pack of beer after he lost a World Cup bet on Twitter.

  5. Cristiano Ronaldo could demand $813,225-per-week to make La Liga exit

    Sep 14, 2014, 5:03 PM EDT

    Cristiano Ronaldo AP

    Ronaldo may eye a even bigger contract at the end of this season, but not at Real Madrid.

  6. WATCH: New stars show up for Man United in first test

    Sep 14, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Manchester United Angel Di Maria AP

    NBC’s Rebecca Lowe, Robbie Earle and Kyle Martino discuss the performances of Manchester United’s new players in a 4-0 drubbing of QPR.

  7. Casillas: Real Madrid fans ‘entitled to complain’ after Atletico loss

    Sep 14, 2014, 3:29 PM EDT

    Spain v Netherlands: Group B - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Getty Images

    Goalkeeper Iker Casillas wasn’t opposed to fans whistling at him during Real Madrid’s match vs. Atletico Madrid.

  8. WATCH: Louis van Gaal urges Manchester United to “make a new start” after QPR win

    Sep 14, 2014, 2:47 PM EDT

    VanGaal Getty Images

    After a comprehensive 90 minutes for their first win of the year, van Gaal is bullish on the Red Devils’ chances going forward.

  9. Report: Alan Pardew has one game to save his job

    Sep 14, 2014, 2:10 PM EDT

    Pardew Getty Images

    With Newcastle’s managerial situation deteriorating rapidly, there is one week to turn things around.

  10. WATCH: Manchester United honor 12-year Old Trafford vet Rio Ferdinand before QPR match

    Sep 14, 2014, 1:28 PM EDT

    Ferdinand Getty Images

    After 450 matches for Manchester United, Rio Ferdinand returned to Old Trafford on the opposing end for the first time.

  11. Julian Green starts for Hamburg in first Bundesliga appearance

    Sep 14, 2014, 12:12 PM EDT

    Green AP

    The Bayern Munich loanee makes his professional league debut.

  12. WATCH: Angel Di Maria opens his Manchester United scoring account for 1-0 lead over QPR

    Sep 14, 2014, 11:38 AM EDT

    DiMaria Getty Images

    It’s the first goal of his Premier League career for the $99 million man.

  13. Watch Live: Manchester United vs QPR (Lineups)

    Sep 14, 2014, 10:31 AM EDT

    Falcao AP

    Falcao is not in the starting lineup in his first Manchester United game available for selection.

  14. French report says Mathieu Debuchy out for two months

    Sep 14, 2014, 9:51 AM EDT

    Debuchy Getty Images

    Early estimates have Debuchy missing crucial Premier League matches against Chelsea as well as the North London derby.

  15. Reports say Alan Pardew on thin ice as Newcastle front office eyes Hull’s Steve Bruce

    Sep 14, 2014, 9:13 AM EDT

    PardewOut Getty Images

    Time could be up on Alan Pardew’s up and down tenure at Newcastle United.

  16. Injury plagued Holger Badstuber needs surgery again

    Sep 14, 2014, 8:34 AM EDT

    Badstuber

    A thigh tear will mean the man who missed two years with an ACL tear will yet again see the sidelines for an extended period of time.

  17. Paul Pogba tells French media he’s close to a Juventus extension

    Sep 14, 2014, 7:46 AM EDT

    Pogba

    Currently earning around just $2 million a year, it appears Paul Pogba will earn himself a stay at Juventus Stadium, and likely a raise as well.

  18. U.S. routs Mexico on record-breaking night for Hope Solo

    Sep 14, 2014, 12:56 AM EDT

    hope_solo Getty Images

    Two goals each for Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach and a shutouts record for Hope Solo highlighted a lopsided night for the U.S. in Utah.

  19. Late night sprint: Columbus comes back in Houston; Colorado, Toronto snap losing streaks

    Sep 14, 2014, 12:08 AM EDT

    Portland Timbers against the Seattle Sounders AP

    A busy schedule in Major League Soccer leaves us playing catch-up on the day’s late games.

Featured video

Week 4: Saturday recap