Friday, February 18, 2011

Horse Manure

As much as I enjoyed going to the Maryland game tonight, I am still pissed about the news that Julius James got cut by D.C. United. Not that this wasn't entirely predictable, as Olsen and the front office have been taking shots at last year's backline for some time (apparently not convinced that James and Jakovic constitute the best option as a center half pairing).

So, no surprise. It still sucks. James was a favorite with supporters because he is a very nice, humble dude and because he played with his heart on his sleeve and with his balls out. Andy Najar may be who we all point to in order to explain why we head over to RFK to watch a horrid team get trounced, but the people's MVP from a lost 2010 season was Julius James. At least he was for me and for those season ticket holders that sat around me (in response to the news of James' release, one of my neighbors' response was "they cut their best defensive back? he outplayed everyone else last season even through an injury!").

But wait, what's this?

James played a lot of minutes on a terrible team and wasn't very good. They shopped him around. No one was interested in relinquishing anyone or anything. He might get picked up at some point.

Posted by: Steve Goff | February 17, 2011 1:49 PM

I'm generally grateful for Goff's work covering the sport. I'm annoyed by the derision he aims at the WPS -- although, at this point, I have to admit it is probably appropriate. But, he covers a sport that few care about and does a decent job of it.

Even with that in mind, the above is inexcusable.

Set aside for a moment that it is, as an objective and empirical matter, wrong to state that James "wasn't very good." The tone of the post is not just dismissive and disrespectful, it reflects a willingness to be complicit in a hatchet job from the front office and/or the coaching staff on a decent person. Reporting that United shopped him around and no one is interested doesn't mean that James "wasn't very good," it may just mean that some within the organization had been effective in trashing him and that it was unlikely that he would be on the roster at the beginning of the season.

Nothing that James did in a D.C. United shirt merited this classless of a summation of his value as a professional soccer player. Reporters are certainly entitled to have their opinions and express them. And reporters will frequently make judgments that are wrong or write things that are lazy. No big deal. But as much as one can, a reporter ought to avoid being flippant and cynical -- if that is what you are reduced to, you ought to find a new line of work; something, perhaps, that is not beneath you.

Craig Stouffer's description of a "good soldier" fits a bit better with what D.C. United supporters saw from James over the last year and a half. Same with Martin Shatzer's recollection of James' tenure:

James was by most accounts the best defender on United’s roster last season. This very community even voted him for the Popie Award by a wide margin. He plays central defender the way a defender should: strong, fast, consistent, quick-thinking.

Also befitting of James' time with United is the general twitterverse's response to the news, which broadly consists of expressions of surprise, disappointment, and appreciation for the time Julius spent with fans around here.

Nevertheless, he's gone and it's a shame. Nothing is going to reverse the fact that James is no longer part of the club, but I do hope that some attention will be paid to the stunningly unprofessional manner with which some in the club appear to have attacked James through an ingenuous beat reporter.

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