CHRISTOPHER MCCOLLUM - Friday, May 11, 2012
It's that time of year again, when the season is wrapping up all around the world from the various Clausuras to the various Super and Premier Leagues.
I sat down this morning to write an article about DaMarcus Beasley and his potential issues at Puebla. where the sporting director at the club has said the team can't afford to pay Beasley, while the club director says that Beasley is going nowhere. Meanwhile on Twitter, Beasley appears to be blissfully ignorant of the situation while on vacation in Scotland. One would think that he would be play-acting in his lack of knowledge of the situation when asked by fans, but considering how Eddie Johnson's training stint at Puebla went prior to the season, it may actually be possible for him to not know what his status is.
During the course of these thoughts, it dawned on me with full intensity that Silly Season is upon us, and now more than ever, people will be paying attention to the he said, she said game and jumping to conclusions about what is going to happen, based on small pieces of information. These are some of the things that let us know the end of the season is here.
Considering how important the summer is for the gossip and fan circles, here's a quick look at the origins of the Silly Season. The term, while widely used in the sports journalism sphere for quite some time, is political in nature and appropriately originated in England back in the 19th century. Not to go on a huge history kick, but it's always good to know where something comes from in case the question pops up in Trivia Night at your favorite establishment.
Silly Season was used to describe the summer months when Parliament would take off, and the newspapers were forced to write and publish a variety of fluff articles to pad their pages while waiting for the action to start again. This led to all manners of tripe, nonsense, and whimsy being passed off as news, and was officially recognized in the Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable in 1898 (http://www.bartleby.com/81/15364.html). Obviously, this became a popular term in sports journalism, especially soccer, which has a similar "off season" to the English Parliament.
It's still a popular term today though not as widely found in the political arena as it perhaps once was, but this summer is going to be a perfect storm of the Silly Season, which is why this guide should come in handy. With the Election season underway, Euro 2012 going on, and the Summer Transfer Window opening up, there will be all manners of silliness before, during, and after that will be used to fluff up content and keep readers interested while waiting for the big stories to hit.
The preparations for this Silly Season began last Silly Season when it was widely reported that Arsenal was going to make a last minute swoop for Clint Dempsey just before the window closed, but when it didn't happen it laid the groundwork for almost a year of speculation and silliness. The hype that was built around that rumored move has only intensified, and it seems like it should be an absolute certainty that Dempsey moves to a new team this summer. This is based not solely on opinion, but on his own statements that he wants to play in the Champions League sooner rather than later, and his current contract expiring next year leaving this as the only feasible opportunity for Fulham to make a hefty monetary gain off of him.
He will be 30-years old next season, and the market value of his services will begin to noticeably decrease over the ensuing two or three seasons as he approaches the downward slope of his professional peak. The time is now for Fulham to sell him, unless they can get Dempsey to agree to an immediate contract extension that would see him stay at Craven Cottage through the end of his European career.
This is all well and good, but the Silliness comes into play when Dempsey's list of suitors is named. Liverpool seemed like a serious candidate last season, but Arsenal seems like the only one so far this season. There are sure to be several managers in Europe who have an interest in Dempsey, but so far, Arsene Wenger has been the only one to make any kind of statement that seems like it could be a prelude to an offer.
How then, do teams like Queens Park Rangers, Chelsea, and Manchester United get brought into the discussion as possible destinations for the Texan? It's the whole process of the Silly Season, taking something that should barely, or perhaps not even at all, be news and creating a story out of it. There have been times in the past when a certain manager or club executive praises a player, and that becomes a headline story about how that club is interested in the player and may be targeting him for acquisition.
Aside from Dempsey, there is also talks with various degrees of certainty that Zak Whitbread, Jermaine Jones and Israeli League Champion Bryan Gerzicich will be moving to new teams, not to mention the assortment of MLS players who could make the move overseas. Players are going to move, that is a certainty. Just beware of putting too much stock into something that's not confirmed.
A prime example of how innocent remarks and statements are taken out of context can best be found in interviews with players around the world, especially among the top teams in Europe that play friendlies in the United States. An obvious and typical question to a high profile player, especially if playing against an MLS team, is whether or not they would ever consider playing in MLS. The obvious answer to that question for just about anybody is "yes," and usually follows a stock answer along the lines of "I want to play my best years at the highest level of competition, and then end my career somewhere else more low key."
Not a lot can or should be read into political answers to pointed questions, because there is usually little to no substance to them, considering that most professional athletes in their prime are not in a position to contemplate their twilight years to begin with. The rigors and stresses of every day life and the constant struggle to stay at the top of a hugely competitive field allows for few luxuries such as planning a relatively far-off retirement season in a smaller league.
Despite this seemingly obvious circumstance, headlines are generated and stories are placed in major newspapers, television networks, and of course, websites. This is the fuel that spreads the fire of the transfer rumors that make Silly Season one of the most entertaining, yet sometimes frustrating seasons of them all. See: Every star player with a rumored move to Montreal earlier this year.
In order to cut through all of the fluff and silliness, there is really just one simple rule: Don't take a story seriously unless there are pertinent facts to back up the claim. It's the same as any other news story, but that rule seems to be tossed out the window when it comes to transfer rumors. This summer will be interesting enough without stories spreading about how Landon Donovan is on his way to Manchester United because his former Bayer Leverkusen teammate Dimitar Berbatov is there and suggested to Sir Alex that the key to victory is having Donovan on the team.
People are naturally inquisitive and prone to spreading the most interesting information, which is why stories like these persist regardless of how outlandish it might be. It's entertainment, and that's one of the major drawing points of the Silly Season. It's these rumors that get us through the summer, and into the pre-season games and season openers around the world.
Enjoy the Silly Season, be silly during it, but remember that a lot of the stories coming out across all areas of the soccer sphere are going to be blown out of proportion or just the passing of a rumor. There will be gems in there though, which makes it all the more enjoyable when coming across them.