Major League Soccer’s rumor mill is, without question, one of my favorite rumor mills. Not only is it simple to understand, but as a patriot with an interest in job opportunity and economic growth, I support efforts to keep U.S. mills open. They provide precious jobs to communities in need, which, in turn, puts food on tables.
But if you’re going to be consuming rumor mill products on a regular basis, it’s important to understand the process. The mill basically operates in one of three ways (per MLS Rumor Mill Operation Manual, 2013-14):
- Category 1: Someone explicitly asks a player outside of MLS (often during preseason tours of the United States) if he’s interested in playing in the league. The player, being open and polite, says something about growth of the sport then something vague about not ruling anything out. And voila, the rumor mill begins churning, or whatever it is that mills do. “Player X didn’t say no; arrival a possibility,” says someone.
- Category 2: A player from abroad mentions the possibility of playing in MLS. Alarm bells go off. Whether it’s a negotiating tactic or a move of genuine interest, we never know. But here’s what we do know: Plenty of players mention an interest in playing in MLS. Plenty of foreign players in the league say players overseas ask about life in North America. But once the words “play in America” flows out of the mouth of a foreign player, the machines at the rumor mill start percolating.
- Category 3: Someone mentions they’ve heard that a player is interested in MLS. Even though this is third-hand information, the rumor mill has a huge capacity. It rarely discriminates.
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Now that we’ve laid out the framework, let’s dive into the latest MLS rumor mill.
Ashley Cole, a former Arsenal and Chelsea product who now occasionally features at Roma, has allegedly been contacted by new MLS outfit Orlando City. This falls squarely in Category 3 of the MLS Rumor Mill Operation Manual. Per MLSsoccer.com:
“A report by Massimo Balsamo of CalcioNews24.com claims that the 2015 MLS expansion club has been in contact with English left back Ashley Cole, who plays for AS Roma in Italy.
“The ex-England national team player could head to Major League Soccer in January,” read the Italian report. “There has been contact between the player’s representatives and Orlando City … an agreement has not been reached, but there is a desire to continue to negotiate.”
The Cole rumor is perfect in its third-handness. But is there any truth to it? Let’s go to Roma coach Rudi Garcia’s comments:
“I have no problem whatsoever with Cole. He remains an important player for us.”
Q. How do you feel about your significant other?
A: I have no problem with her/him.
Full stop. There is no love left between a couple when all you can muster for an opening Yelp review is, “I have no problem with said person.” It’s clear from Garcia’s words that he’s done with Cole, and if Cole can get a good final pay day out of MLS before continuing his career in India, a deal will get done.
I say that with certainty, but that’s because there are no repercussions to me not being correct. That’s an oft-overlooked benefit in MLS Rumor Mill Operation Manual. Anything that comes out the other end is gold. Plus, the left-footed duo of Ashley Cole and Brek Shea in Orlando just needs to happen.
They can share clothes and talk about left feet while they aren’t busy terrorizing left flanks.
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Then there’s Bayern Munich’s mercurial Franck Ribery. Last year, Ribery told Sport Bild that his next move after his Bayern adventure wouldn’t be in Europe. Guess what he mentioned as a possible destination?
“I could be tempted to go to a country like the U.S. or maybe the [United Arab] Emirates, but I would not count that as part of my real career. “That would be something I would do to wind up my career and could not be compared to what I have experienced in Munich.”
Ribery’s latest comments over the weekend to Welt am Sonntag have been neatly packaged and re-upped into a fresh rumor. The Frenchman is quoted as saying:
“I could play for another club in Europe but my heart is beating too much for Bayern. But I could imagine going to the U.S., Qatar or Dubai for a new experience.”
Ring the MLS Rumor Mill Operation Manual, Category 2 alarm. Ignore, for now, that a year ago, Ribery said of playing in the U.S., “I would not count that as a part of my real career.” We can’t let that minor detail stop a proper rumor milling. In fact, that one disparaging remark actually adds fuel to the machine, prompting further discussion about MLS, which may be the ultimate goal. Being part of the conversation is generally better than being ignored.
But the heart of this perfect Category 2 rumor is Ribery mentioning that he “could imagine going to the U.S.” Everything else he says is categorized as waste in the rumor mill process.
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Please bookmark this piece on rumor mill science, because after years of nonsense rumors, it’s important to know how to quickly distinguish useful fertilizer from pure diarrhea. It’s also vitally important to learn how the infrastructure works so you can extricate yourself from the beast, if need be.
But these practices and patterns take time to learn. So, in the interim, if you find your head spinning in an MLS rumor mill vortex and can’t find the eject button, just crawl into a fetal position and whisper to yourself that none of this is real. Because none of it is. Not even the damn 950 words I just wrote about MLS rumors.
Feel free to cite this in academic papers.