When he wants to be, Bruce Arena is one of the best quotes in Major League Soccer. He’s seen it all and said it all by now, but he somehow continues to throw out one-liners with a snarl or a Cheshire Cat grin that are some of the best in the league, again and again.
But Arena might have missed some of his audience with his latest line, doled out on Friday ahead of the team’s matchup against the Portland Timbers at the Home Depot Center.
Of course the questions in Galaxy camp are in the “do-or-die” vein these days, with LA reeling a bit and stuck at the bottom of the Western Conference. So when reporters expectedly asked the requisite “panic button” question, Arena went the rarely taken “Bay of Pigs” route with his answer.
“It’s like the president who’s got the black bag close, if you’ve got to send off the missiles and stuff, we’ve got it ready in case we have to do it too,” Arena said. “It’s time for us to start winning, no question about it. Is it the panic button? No, but we’ve got to win games.”
Not a bad metaphor, right? Oh wait, you have no idea what the “black bag” is? You’re not alone.
Arena’s going a little bit old school on this one, calling out a somewhat dated reference to the “nuclear football” that’s been around since the Kennedy administration. That’s right: Arena just went all Cold War on you and you didn’t even know it.
The “black bag” is actually a 45-pound leather briefcase that follows the president around at all times, and it’s stocked with a classified nuclear war plan. It first appeared in the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the government saw a need for the president to have nuclear decision-making tools at the ready, even when away from the White House.
The bag still follows the president around to this day (the instructions on how to use the football is still considered the ritual that symbolizes that change of power on a new president’s inauguration day), so Arena’s reference is a relevant one. But considering that the largest demographic of MLS fans is somewhere between 18 and 34 years old, there’s a huge chunk of folks who were born long after Kennedy stared down the Soviet Union, and most probably think the Cold War has something to do with Ivan Drago in Rocky IV.
So don’t blame Arena if you don’t know your history. Just be glad he didn’t compare Landon Donovan to the 1973 oil crisis.