By Ian Plenderleith
Last night saw the traditional Running of the Coaches, the 7pm ritual where the doors to the exhibition hall are first opened and the delegates charge in with the barely concealed anticipation of Yuletide tots, to grab as much free stuff as possible. This year, though, there was a palpable air of disappointment in the rush to the adidas stand, where only items burdened with actual price tags were to be found. Maybe the undignified scramble of recent years has lead to a change in thinking. Or adidas is shielding itself against the coming recession.
Not that adidas needs to give away free gear, because just about everyone at the NSCAA convention is wearing their stuff anyway. Day and night. Steve McClaren, clearly hurting from joblessness, walked into the media room yesterday and dropped a stack of the company's merchandise in the corner (all paid for, no doubt) before sitting down to tell us why he’s a better coach for having failed to take England to the European Nations’ Cup finals. He didn’t neglect to pick it up again on his way out.
I’ve always been a fan of their gear myself, but this kind of event has left me with even more serious doubts about my own fashion tastes than the ones expressed by my wife on a daily basis. It’s like coming late and sober to a party where everyone’s wasted, and you think, "I love beer, but is it such a good idea to drink it?"
Speaking of which, it was on tap, for free (one famous American brand only), at the exhibition hall. I should declare for the sake of propriety that I took some, but will nonetheless continue to agitate pro-micro brewery, anti-Bud. There were also companies selling inflatable goalposts, animated computer programs for tactical planning, ready-to-make patches, badges and shirts dedicated to your club exclusively, and myriad other stands where you’re scared to stop for fear you’ll let yourself be talked into signing your kids’ team up for a tournament in Dayton, Ohio or, more expensively still, Loch Lomond.
GolTV boasted a long line of men eager to enter its competition by filling out a form with all their personal details. This was nothing at all to do with the two fruity women staffing the stand who were wearing very low cut soccer-style jerseys. "So you’re asking for my phone number?" says one prototype adidas-man (profile: aged 50, bald, wears the three stripes on all body contours) filling out his form, half joking, half hopeful. The girl manages a good humored reply, but it’s early yet -- if she’s still laughing on Saturday afternoon, we’ll call her a true PR professional.
Here’s the inside scoop you’ve been waiting for ahead of today’s Major League event, the SuperDraft. Many young players will sign for MLS teams for very low wages. Players and coaches alike will publicly declare how happy they are with the way things turned out. Don Garber will declare the day, the league and the whole darned world one heckuva big success. You read it here first.