Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Franchino's Quiet Return



Joey Franchino's second half substitution for Avery John may have been the spark the team needed to obtain their 3-1 victory over the Chicago on Sunday. It allowed Micheal Parkhurst to move back from an unfamiliar holding midfield role to his favored position of central defense. It also provided the physical deterrent needed to free up Jeff Larentowicz who began creating attacking opportunities. That performance, combined with the brief runout against DC last Thursday, solidified the rather anticlimactic return of the former Revolution captain from his mysterious five week "leave of absence for personal reasons". (click title to read more)

So where has he been? Well, the appropriate question should be why hasn't anyone in the press made a serious effort to find out? There's a very good answer for that. There's also a reason why a blogger like myself, who's relatively free to speculate all he wants and spread rumors and half-truths around the blogosphere, hasn't tackled this issue until now.


You read about them all the time. College basketball players stealing laptops, MLB players fathering children in various cities, NFL players making it rain money in a gentleman's club and then bouncing a stripper's head off of the stage, European footballers getting really bad mullets. The press seems to have a fascination with some of the unfortunate things athletes do in their private lives. The reason for this is simple: it sells newspapers. Reporters can make names for themselves or solidify their reputation by breaking such a story. So why didn't the press dig deep enough into the Franchino situation to find out the specifics?

As much as we like to praise the growth of MLS, it is still not anywhere near important on the national landscape. I recall an Eric Wynalda interview on the Jim Rome Show from 2005 where the host asked if there would ever come a time when he would pick up the sports page and MLS was featured on a regular basis. Wynalda, to his credit, said he wasn't sure if that would ever be the case. He then went into some of the negative byproducts of professional athletes automatically achieving celebrity status and how MLS could develop a niche in the short term to benefit as an alternative.

Like it or not, Joey Franchino isn't a celebrity. No media outlet would make any kind of money from uncovering the truth behind his absence. They are better served getting the inside scoop of the songs on Big Papi's iPod than delving into the private lives of MLS players. Not a qualified celebrity, Franchino has the benefit of keeping his private life private if he has the opportunity and chooses to, within reason. To the team's credit, they have stood by their player and kept the reasons quiet. The press has asked about it periodically, but coach Steve Nicol has been tight-lipped and the front office has issued a statement saying they wouldn't comment on the situation.

Writing a New England Revolution blog, you would figure I would be all over this issue. There was the original article which gave a few clues, a mention in MLS Underground that mentioned he was in rehab in a matter of fact kind of way (When I inquired, a "source" gave them the info. The wording has since been changed.), and several second hand rumors on messageboards mentioning very personal issues.

Besides the fact that tabloid issues don't get me that excited, the main reason I haven't been fanning the fading embers of this story is I don't wish to speculate on this issue, and then be wrong. I've seen my fair share of rumors float around in my personal and professional life. They usually get legs when there's a scenario that is logical and people, for one reason or another, want to believe it. I have seen a handful of those rumors seriously backfire on those gleefully spreading them when they turned out to be false.

Several fans around the league don't like the aggressive way in which Franchino plays. Some of those people loved hearing bad things were happening in his personal life and he was taking a leave of absence. Something that did surprise me was the amount of people who were despicable enough to start rumors and the amount of people who were gullible enough to take those rumors as fact. It's a good thing the number of diehards on the BigSoccer boards are limited to the triple digits and these antics don't spread to the household of joe america yet. Again, this is one of the few positive aspects of MLS failing to live up to the expectations the founders had when it kicked off in 1996.

So where does that leave the Revs in regards to this issue? Joey has done surprisingly well coming off the bench. He will prove vital for the team when the inevitable injury occurs seeing he can competently play at least five positions on the field. His ability to be an effective leader behind the scenes is most likely seriously diminished. However, he can be a leader on the field which will be important throughout the season.

Odds are, we will eventually find out the truth. Having this information released on his own terms is a luxury few professional athletes possess. Most MLS players hold the status of role model only when they choose to based on their own involvement in the community. They aren't celebrities who have that status thrusted on them based on who they are. The trade-off is they are allowed a certain amount of privacy in these situations so they can go about their lives like normal people.

We American soccer fans suffer from an inferiority complex at times. Take solace in the fact that we can afford to behave like humans in these issues. Fans of other "major" sports certainly can't make that claim.

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