Thursday, February 20, 2014

Comments From The Front Office

I was going to keep these private, but somebody has already shared them from the Rapids end and had them posted on BigSoccer, so I can share them here.

Yesterday I received the following email directly from Rapids President Tim Hinchey in response to my post on Saturday:
Perhaps it might be worth your energy to at some point actually investigate your “concerns or claims”  with our club prior to your blogging.  Or perhaps not, clearly you’re call.  Every “fan” has their right to criticize their home club even if completely unsubstantiated or inaccurate.

However, we are not “killing time” on our coach search nor do you have any clue how to run a professional sports organization and any such complications when hire a head coach.  Therefore, if you value actually learning more, give me call as like I did with SI last week, I’m happy to fully and honestly explain our efforts.  If not, I find your blog completely ridiculous and nothing more than your own personal venting tool.

This morning I sent the following response:
Tim, I appreciate the interest in my blog.  My writing is from the point of view of a dedicated Rapids fan, its not meant as reporting.  My points in the article about our coaching situation were based on conversations Rapids fans are having this off-season.  While I'm sure you have valid reasons for the decisions you are making you must realize that a major professional sports team not having a head coach a month after training camp opened and less than 4 weeks until the start of the season is highly unusual.  Particularly since this isn't a new situation, Pareja left the team at the beginning of January.  The fans are wondering what's going on and are understandably concerned about the effect the missing role will have on our season and on the players.

I appreciate the offer to talk, but honestly I'm not interested in being a reporter.  That type of media requires more work and focus than I can give it, and I wouldn't want to do a halfway job.  If it helps you to look at my blog as "ridiculous" and "my own personal venting tool" then so be it, though I would hope that having fans interested enough in the team to go through the trouble of setting up a blog would be something welcomed by the Front Office, not belittled.  I want nothing more than the Rapids to succeed and win another MLS Cup along with their first Supporters Shield and U.S. Open Cup as well as retain the Rocky Mountain Cup.  

If I can answer any more questions for you I'd be happy to, otherwise thank you for the feedback and good luck to the team in 2014.  Please keep reading View From the Couch if you want the fans view from outside the organization.
I then received the following from Tim Hinchey:
If you make personal attacks and criticize me or staff in an ignorant fashion than simply expect my direct response.  I choose not to do this to embarrass you publicly.  Whereas that's how you chose to communicate your points, which is your right.  As evidenced over my entire tenure, I rarely feel compelled to seek out our fan bloggers in any challenging way.  However your comments where totally ridicuolus.  Your email response asking and suggesting whether "I realize" we need a coach is offensive.  I have worked in professional sports for over 20 years and I doubt I would be in my current position if I was so clueless. 

Bottom line is that blogs are public.  If I feel any public comments about our club or my staff are offensive I will respond directly to the author.  If the author or fan would like to have a true better understanding of how professional teams actually operate, then as always, I offer my accessibility to educate.  

As for what the fans think, I actively engage and respectfully respond daily.  I also feel the majority of our growing fan base, including C38, feel more supportive and less critical of our current status. In fact, we've set a club renewal record for season tickets and have sold more than a 1000 new full season tickets thus far.  These business metrics clearly indicate our fans are supporting the club and our efforts to find the absolute right coach for this club.  Simply appointing any candidate to satisfy any minority outside pressure would be foolish. 

I have always read and supported all our fan blogs.  We work hard to provide all of our bloggers as much access to this club as they need or want.  I would match our front office against any in any sport for this access and interest. 

Sorry for my rant but like you, I have tremendous passion for this club and when I feel it has been unfairly harmed, I will fight for it. 

90 minutes after my email to Tim, excerpts of it were posted on BigSoccer.

Comments welcome


idiovoyager said...

As a fan/season ticket holder and regular reader of your blog, I took your previous post as nothing more than it was, a passionate fan using his personal voice to express misgivings about his clubs immediate future.

Hinchey's response was over the line in my book, not particularly in what was said but in the tone of how it was said. Frankly, I do not see any attacks in what is written here and am not sure what "personal attacks" Hinchey is seeing. Hinchey's retort that he will respond to allegations in private while concurrently leaking those private conversations to another website are quite disingenuous, if what is written here is indeed true(I am not a BigSoccer user.)

All of this stems from the same root problem in my opinion. There is frankly a dearth of information coming from the FO. I understand the club's position in not revealing ongoing candidates or negotiations which is commendable. However, I would think that perhaps a more media savvy FO might welcome some rumors as a way of keeping fans engaged and feeling that due diligence is indeed taking place. I don't doubt that the Rapids are doing what needs to be done but perception is important, like it or not it is social media that is driving the conversations these days, not sporadic official PR reports.

As an aside, fans who follow this club closely have built up years of mistrust due to how things were run in the past. Valid or not Rapids fans are also used to feeling that ownership is somewhat disinterested. There is a perception that we are second fiddle to Arsenal/St Louis Rams/LA Rams/La Gunners(Chivas rumors)/Denver Nuggets/Avalanche. It is hard to look out at the Merritt Paulson's/Robb Heineman's of the league without making a comparison to Silent Stan. A strong owner's voice instills a sense of leadership, puts a face in the captain's chair. I don't envy Hinchey's position in this matter in the slightest. I think Hinchey has done a fine job repairing the cracks left by Plush and others, but I think Hinchey would agree there remains some ground to be covered here and there. I think it will take time and probably some very deliberate and careful media work until fans aren't still questioning whether it is Stan/Josh/Bravo/Hinchey/Mastroeni/Metgod/Future Coach who are behind any particular decision.

To return to the coaching issue at hand, Hinchey's few comments on the matter that I have managed to piece together from multiple sources paint a picture of a perhaps self limited coaching search. That any coach must be committed to a long term future in Colorado and not see the job as a stepping stone to me echo his comments about jersey sponsorship. The problem with that is that we simply cannot do without a coach while we wait for the perfect opportunity to present itself.(FO comments thus far seem to indicate that we can) We all appreciate local-ism, but given our place in the wider soccer landscape this narrow approach could be seen as detrimental of the club. Previous FO comments seem almost to downplay ambition and play up loyal local candidates(of which there are few*) such as Pablo. Again, it is a perception issue, the vacuum of news on the coaching front demands to be filled and unless the FO is the one providing the news than it cannot find fault with those who try to do so.

I have rambled a bit here but I want to emphasize I am not attempting to make any personal attacks here just to add my voice to the conversation.


*I do in fact know that cultivating relationships with previous players is a priority of the current regime, but the fact remains that it was handled poorly for many years

PS: Thank you, Jason, for the blog that you do provide, non "media" as it may be.

Matthew Grant said...

As I am not a fan of the Rapids, But one of FC Dallas, my opinion has no merit or standing on this matter. As a fan of MLS, though, this response from a "professional" absolutely disgusts me and to be completely honest it embarrasses me. This falls in to the category "why even respond". Besides the spelling mistakes, the overall tone was one full of whining and attacking nature which have no place in the FO-to-Fan relationship.

...I honestly can't believe this was the response (twice) and makes me laugh a bit more about what is going on in Denver.

Now back to my own team's struggles and the GREAT news out of LA.

UtahGamer said...

What a sad state of affairs. Your previous comment on the lack of an appointed coach 4 weeks before the start of the season was a completely reasonable expression of a frustrated fan's 'view from the couch' (obviously, not the position of a reporter). His offer to invite you to get the inside scoop appeared to me to be an attempt to co-opt you, because reporters of all stripe are increasingly offered access and information in exchange for friendly/mouthpiece reporting. I can only guess that he has some sense your blog is read by many other fans or reporters and therefore a point of trouble for the organization. That someone posts about your exchanges with him on Big Soccer is one of the weirdest stories I've heard regarding front office behavior of any club. You've kept your head while he has possibly lost his. Maybe the entire Rapids FO has lost it's head. Certainly, the on-the-field team has lost it's head and there's no clear sign when a permanent one will be found. (Full Disclosure: RSL fan who values a vibrant rivalry, and enjoys your posting.)

Jeremy said...

I stumbled upon this after having not paid too much attention to the Rapids during the off-season. I know Jason from a while back and have been involved in some Rapids supporter activities since the early beginnings of the club (Yo River Rats!!) but haven't been too involved since I haven't actually lived in Colorado since 2001.

I'm completely flabbergasted on this one. Jason has been a consistent blogger for a number of years, always with a "View from the Couch" mindset. He's astute and respectful and he asks valid questions. Part of being a fan is also being a critic. Hinchey's response is extremely defensive, without reason. Unless Stan Kroenke reads Jason's blog and values his take (Kroenke is MLS ownerships' version of a deadbeat dad - so I'm skeptical this is the case) why even take the time to respond and why take the time to post the dialogue to BigSoccer. Mindblowing...