View from the Cheap Seats: Parity rocks

with its bevy of winner-take-all games -- would be awful!!!

But it does rock so it's not awful.

Either the league's scheduler consulted the Oracle of Delphi before the season, or else he's one of those MIT geniuses who took Vegas for millions and he just pulled off the most sophisticated gambling scam in the history of sports. I mean, what were the preseason odds that the final playoff teams would be decided in head-to-head games on the season's final day? Maybe 13,001-to-1? Those are Keira Knightly-stranded-on-an-island odds.

But how else do you explain this weekend's match-ups?

  • Chicago and New England play for the final playoff spot in the East.
  • San Jose and Dallas play for the final playoff spot in the West.
  • L.A. and K.C. play for the Western Conference title.
  • MetroStars and D.C. play for second place in the E.C.
  • And Columbus and Colorado play for the right to say they played each other.

    Thing is, I have absolutely no idea how either of these games is going to turn out. For that matter, I have absolutely no idea who's going to win MLS Cup. And that rocks, too!!!

    Last night, I shot the bull with a couple of other soccer dorks at the USA's MLS-led destruction of Panama, and we concluded that everyone has a chance of winning. Dork A still thinks San Jose will win it all and even considers a San Jose-Chicago final rematch a distinct possibility. Dork B likes a Kansas City-MetroStars. Dork Greg envisions a K.C.-D.C. final, which includes the bonus that the league could make MLS Cup T-shirts that rip off the AC/DC logo. (And if that happens, you miserly MLS execs, I expect my share of the kitty!)

    How cool is it that on the final weekend, everything is up in the air, everyone has reason to care?

    The Parity Effect, even at this late stage, is turned up to 11. That means all the slinky ladies are shaking their moneymakers on the dance floor, and you're the only guy with enough sense to not wear a Von Dutch hat. The options are wide open: Selma Blair in a little black dress. Sandra Bullock in knee-highs. Maggie Gyllenhaal in Catholic school pigtails. Anyone could win still. Everyone can be a hero still.

    If you don't think that rocks with three exclamation points, then you're either blind, dumb, or wearing a Von Dutch hat right now.

    ***

    A quiCK wORd about a wORd. The spelling of ReAL Salt Lake's name is a marketing gimmick. And as such, it works. People are talking about it. People have opinions about it. Mostly they hate it. But I -- fearless devil's advocate that I am -- have decided I like it. It might be strange and unorthodox, but you can't go through life being afraid of the new and the different. Those wacky capital letters echo past genius as diverse as the poetry of Emily Dickinson and the essays of Hunter S. Thompson. Who cares if it looks goofy and every serious journalist (luckily, I don't fall into this category) will cringe and refuse write it that way? It's fun, and that's what this is supposed to be.

    Furthermore, it sets a nice precedent for future MLS teams. I, for one, can't wait for DYnamo Rochester and OlymPIQue Seattle to join the league.

    And just to be even more contrarian, I have a suggestion, so listen up, Check! Why not just pronounce the word "Real" the way we Americans pronounce it -- "reel" -- instead of pretending to be native Spaniards with "ray-ahl"? I understand the reason you want it to be "ray-ahl," but Salt Lake City is not in Aragon and John Ellinger is not the Man from La Mancha. Plus, the connotations of the Real Salt Lake are nice, as in, True, Genuine, Honest, Real. "ReAl Salt Lake -- truly Salt Lake City's team." And there are a ton of marketing tie-ins. During games you could jam Eminem and shout out, "Would the Real Salt Lake please stand up!" And the potential slogans: Get ReAL! Keepin' It ReAL! Soccer in ReAL time! And, of course, ReAL Rocks!!!

    Greg Lalas played for the Tampa Bay Mutiny and the New England Revolution in 1996 and 1997. Send e-mail to Greg at cheapseats@g73.org. Views and opinions expressed in this column views and opinions are the author's, and not necessarily those of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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