Note this is the conclusion to a 2 part series. For the first segment, click here.
As I discussed the other day, the need to build a bigger fan base is crucial for the continued growth of FC Dallas. Attendance hasn't been that bad, but if you look at the crowd for the USA match, it's hard to argue that Toyota Stadium couldn't be more happening than it already is. The idea of adding Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez is enticing, and he would undoubtedly draw a lot of curious eyes out to Frisco. That said, the projected cost over his contract wouldn't yield a return on investment for years (and then only with a big rise in ticket prices and a stadium expansion). It's also no guarantee that a single big signing will consistently draw the eyes of two fairly untapped demographics who might help boost average attendance.
One such group are flatteringly called 'the Eurosnobs'. Dallas is full of the Eurosnob, and they're spread all over the Metroplex. Dallas had the 11th best share amongst major TV markets in 2014. They love the 'Spurs', but that's Tottenham. They love the 'Gunners', but they play in London. They enjoy the upper-crust life of the soccer 1%, and they enjoy expensive imports all the way down to the farcical employment of English lingo and slang. They enjoy calling soccer 'football', lament the fact you call the game 'soccer', and do so without any sense of irony that the term 'soccer' originated in England. They certainly can't be troubled by piddly MLS.
You could import Arsenal to the United States, but the wages alone would cost you $259 million. That will get you 2 well stocked expansion sides here paying LA Galaxy money. Honestly, we should wave this in their faces and show them what suckers they are. Even with that, they probably still wouldn't be happy until you added other perennial losers like Liverpool and Tottenham (and their high payrolls) imported to the US as well, so I'll avoid trying to add these 'wankers' to the ranks of the FCD faithful for now. Instead, I'm going to focus on the 'Big T Texan'.
When I use the term 'Big T Texan', I'm talking about your neighbor who knows nothing about soccer but who enjoys a good beer (using the term loosely), sports, and all things Texas. They may have lived in Texas all of their life. They may have 'gotten there as fast as they could', but regardless of where they were born, they embrace the bravado of the 'Everything is Bigger in Texas' mantra.
Texas is big on patriotism. Texas is big on Stars and Stripes pride (again see USA Gold Cup game), but even more so, they love the Lone Star State, flag, and all things Texas. Texas pride is a big deal regardless of political leanings, but it's an even bigger deal when you incorporate them. If you're a 'Big T Texan', you're more than likely a 'Big C Conservative', and there's a huge untapped demographic here for FC Dallas. In fact, FC Dallas offers excellent, if not unmatched, value to this demo which is why I think overflow crowds are a possibility if you can win these hearts and minds. Given some of the rhetoric about soccer, It won't be easy.
Making FC Dallas more 'conservative-friendly':
After Deford's commentary back in April, I started looking at examples of conservative revulsion with the sport, and it was easy to find.
Those are just 2 from that weekend. Where does thinking like this come from? Well, to find the source of most 'anti-fairy' tweets lamenting 'the happenings to this exceptional country', you need only dip into the work of conservative political pundits to find out that we're all getting ready to head to the forcibly gay-married gulag where we're all to be converted to Atheist Muslims.
"I've held off on writing about soccer for a decade — or about the length of the average soccer game — so as not to offend anyone, but enough is enough. Any growing interest in soccer can only be a sign of the nation's moral decay."- Ann Coulter.
"It doesn't matter how you try to sell it to us, it doesn't matter how many celebrities you get, it doesn't matter how many bars open early, it doesn't matter how many beer commercials they run, we don't want the World Cup, we don't like the World Cup, we don't like soccer, we want nothing to do with it."- Glenn Beck.
"I haven't watched a lot of soccer on TV because I've always found it to be slow, monotonous, boring, low scoring, no drama, plus it just makes me tired." - Rush Limbaugh
"The ninnies of America, who tend to also love soccer, root for teams other than America because we are number one. They feel comfortable rooting for the USA team in soccer, because we are not. It makes them feel good."- Erick Erickson
With the use of Google, I could probably publish a book of similar quotes. Even when commenting on the full National Team, the conservative playbook is to diminish soccer. If it isn't solely an excuse to demonstrate their mastery of the English language by utilizing the term "ninnies", then soccer is a forum to discuss their disgust at the death of the '50's', integration, and nativism in general. It's pretty weird that they think a team sport could be so boring, uninteresting, and at the same time, so corrosive.
That said, these sentiments are pretty common amongst conservatives, and as demonstrated in the table, Collin County is really conservative. Collin County is so conservative that it makes Salt Lake City look like Vermont. What on earth do you do to change this mindset? I'm going to make a few suggestions that I hope will bring out more Big T's and Big C's.
1. Let's make Toyota Stadium more 'gun-friendly'- Last month, Governor Greg Abbott signed a law that allowed licensed owners to carry their firearms without concealment. Here, FC Dallas and Toyota Stadium has a clear path to separate itself from anti-American and anti-Texas firms like Whataburger (note: I really miss Whataburger). Pair this with a few pre-game gun shows, and you'll see a huge spike in attendance. You'll also see the birth of the most intimidating soccer venue in the Western Hemisphere.
2. Big Oil= Big Money- Hooper branding a patch of leather is a quaint nod to Timber Joey's theatrics in Portland, but is branding cattle even effective anymore? And don't they have cows in Vermont?
Yes, there are cows in Vermont (and a lot of other places), and as much as Texas is viewed through the prism of cattle ranching, the oil business is huge here. The patriarch of the Hunt Family, H.L. Hunt, was a tycoon who bequeathed a massive fortune to his family (and his other family) that was built on the back of petroleum. At one time, his son William Bunker Hunt (Lamar's older brother) was considered one of the richest man in the world based on the discovery of oil in Libya. It's pretty fitting that, a team in a big oil state that plays in a stadium where the theme song for the tv show Dallas is played by the trumpeters of the Lonestar Legion, is owned by a family that, on the surface, very much resembles the Ewings.
In a tip of the ten gallon hat to the locals and the owners, Toyota Stadium needs oil derricks. Ideally, after every goal, they'd launch oil geysers 100 feet into the air in a spectacle that screams TEXAS. If Hunt Oil is counting their pennies (ahem) and can't spare the inventory, we could compromise with pyrotechnics (locals love fireworks). Given the Hunt's heritage, I'm really surprised I even have to suggest this.
3. Sell the Homegrown thing a little bit- FC Dallas currently boast a squad with several players who grew up in the area and learned their craft playing for the FC Dallas academy. They currently lead the league in minutes played by developed players, and in Zach Loyd, Matt Hedges, Mauro Diaz, and Fabian Castillo who have all developed from MLS rookies, the team is as Texas as Texas gets. These guys should be featured on billboards wearing ten gallon hats, bandoliers, and big-ass belt buckles.
In the end, the well-armed stadium probably won't fly with the league office (dumb Libs). Massive oil geysers after a goal would definitely set the fan experience apart from anything in MLS, but your Greenpeace tree-huggers will get all bent out of shape about it. The fireworks would probably be banned by the nanny state since it's a 'safety issue' and both groups will probably whine if we decide to turn the derricks into 'coal-rollers'.
This leaves us with the Homegrown plan, and if you guessed that the rest of those suggestions were made in jest, you nailed it. Kellyn Acosta, Coy Craft, Danny Garcia, Jesse Gonzalez, Moises Hernandez, Victor Ulloa, and Alex Zendejas all came directly from the academy to the first team and are true locals the club should be marketing aggressively. Zach Loyd and Matt Hedges (both capped with the National Team) have developed here as drafted rookies, and you could definitely market them under the banner of 'Got here as fast as we could'. Mauro Diaz and Fabian Castillo also belong in this group since they came here as very young players and have used their time in Frisco to develop into two of the bigger names in MLS.
That's an entire starting lineup that could, at least hypothetically, form a starting XI for FC Dallas, and they all cut their teeth in Frisco. Not only is that a rarity in professional soccer, that's almost impossible to find across all professional leagues in North America. For a provincially proud place like Texas that national firms market with Tex-centric advertising (because it works), the fact that the club is not currently using this to its advantage is almost criminal. Furthermore, with the contract status of these players and the success of the current crop in the academy, this appears to be sustainable for the foreseeable future.
Conservatives are notoriously difficult to persuade when it comes to trying new things (no really- ton of a studies out there), but I suspect in any region that's solidly on either end of the political spectrum, some leanings are guided more by tribalism than instinct. There should be plenty of potential fans out there who would be open to the idea with the right persuasion.
It also bears mentioning that conservative derision of soccer is pretty much a uniquely American phenomenon. There are plenty of conservative-leaning fans and fan groups across the world that are in to soccer- some of them, frighteningly so. For those whose conservatism is rooted in their psychology, they'll probably never embrace the game unless they actually go to a match where the speed and physicality of the game is more evident than it is on the television. To win these fans over, I'm thinking video ads highlighting the physicality and speed of the game (close-in shots) might be enough to get some to come out for a reasonably-priced night of entertainment.
In ten years, none of this should matter. Collin County will become more purple as it urbanizes. A lot of that growth will come from outside of Texas as more corporations look to enjoy the
corporate welfare business-friendly incentives to re-locate there from commie enclaves like California. I'm also pretty sure by then that soccer won't be something that registers as something that's wrong with America. Until that day, it would behoove the Hunt Sports Group to take advantage of the impressive organization they have built which is almost singular in professional sport and almost singularly Texan.