Monday, February 28, 2011

Why Do I Write?

I made a chart for myself today to try and figure out what it is that I like about writing. What I learned was that there is I write for several reasons, not one thing. I write to humor myself, to entertain, to communicate and to organize. In short, to share something. At different times, I have written for different reasons; sometime because I was in school or because I had an idea for a story to tell. I knew why I wrote when I had to, but the idea of writing specifically to share something is new to me.

This is different from "writing for the sake of writing" which would mean I can do it in a notebook no one sees. To be fair, I do that too, but that is when I am trying to visually organize thoughts or put down ideas without consideration for an audience.

Here is an example of what I mean about sharing. At bed time I often read stories to my daughters. The younger of the two wants me to read her the classics: Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree or Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are or sometimes that magnum opus of children's literature Barbie's Mix and Match Fashions. I enjoy reading these very much (mostly).

Reading to my ten-year-old is more difficult because she prefers I read chapter books. She has read all the Harry Potter books, the Percy Jacksons, she has memorized factoids for many children's series. Nonetheless, she will ask me to read to her from these books. While I do not dislike them, I find it difficult to read aloud at bedtime. My eyes are tired and my thoughts are on resting, not on building a story I will not finish in a few minutes. In addition, she often wants me to start reading half-way through the story. Maybe it would be different if she asked me to read from the beginning, but even then I would last only a few short pages. In order to vary the stories or keep them somewhat concise, I have started writing down or memorizing children's stories that I have made up, which I can then read to them, discuss with them or improvisationally change for effect.

What I am trying to do, is convert story reading time into storytelling time. Here I can use classics already written, or employ some of my own stories. This allows me to add variety and turning a bedtime exercise into more of an experience; a finished product, instead of a random idea.

Writing to share something is great! The experience of sharing with my girls? Amazing!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Can DC United's Schedule Help the Club?

The announcement of this year's schedule came last Thursday; it was a long time in coming. With the season kicking off in just over a month, MLS took until the last possible moment to announce who would be playing which team, where and on what date. What stood out most for many DC United supporters, was that the first five home games or so are truly the MLS’ top clubs. Front loading all these teams seemed odd at first. Why would they do that? Given that MLS takes into account who teams want to play on specific days, is it fair to believe that DC United had something specific in mind?

Over the last few months, it has become clear that United’s owner, William Chang, is working through two challenges: a search for a co-owner to help alleviate the financial burden, and a need to find a stadium deal. By front loading United’s schedule with MLS’s top teams-clubs that fans would want to watch play live- United will kickstart the season and game attendance.

The obvious question then, is whether these are in fact the teams that fans want to watch? In an online pole posted on United’s website, the games most respondent wanted to watch were the home opener against Columbus, and the 2nd, 3rd and 4th matches (against LA Galaxy, New York Red Bulls and Seattle, respectively). Because of fan interest, this may allow for attendance at these games to break the 20,000 mark, and help bolster United’s value.

In dealing with possible investors, Chang will need to demonstrate that the club retains a high level of support despite missing the playoffs for a few years now and last year’s atrocious record. A turnout of 20,000+ per game would pay dividends on this end.

Secondly, a good turnout will also help Chang when dealing with DC city officials. At present, the city earns ~10% from sales at Nationals Stadium concession stands and merchandising. If DC United are hoping the city provides them with some assistance, or builds the stadium, they will need to demonstrate that they can generate approximately the same attendance per game as the Nationals average at their 22,000 seat stadium.

The frontloading of the home schedule will have additional indirect benefit. By playing this many of the league’s toughest home games early in the season, United ensure that they will not have to face them at home late in the season, when the race for the playoffs commences.

Monday, February 7, 2011

What Signing Charlie Davies Could Mean to DC United

The news last week that Charlie Davies was going to DC to trial with DC United generated much media attention, but whether or not he plays in DC remains uncertain. A host of interviews and press conferences led to only a single conclusion: Coach Ben Olsen will only retain Davies if he believes Davies can improve the club ability to compete in 2011. There are three key variables here that I think the club should account for in determining whether or not to accept the terms of the loan: health, competitiveness and ability to sell tickets.

Prior to his injury, Davies was easily the best US forward on the national team. In 2007, he scored 4 goals in 17 games in international competition. Whiles he only scored twice for Sochoux in 2009, he only played 8 games. Prior to that (2007-09), Davies scored 21 goals in 56 appearances for the Swiss club, Hammarby. Numbers alone can only tell so much, but it is clear that Davies found the net frequently in the two years before his injury. In order to reestablish himself, Davies will need to be in top physical form; not only to play 90 minutes (or close to that) per game, but also to heal quickly enough between games to be able play again or train.

At his best, Davies’s game is very physical; he is very fast and aggressive in the attack. This is important because Davies will be considerably less effective if he is not as quick as he used to be and therefore less confident. As a member of DC United, Pablo Hernandez arrived in camp mid-season last year. Interviews and articles indicated he was good on the ball. But he never developed much chemistry with the rest of the team; he kept the ball too long and his shots on goal lacked any real conviction. This is because the focus, confidence and determination that great strikers have were not exhibited by Hernandez.

Finally, DC United needs to benefit by selling tickets. Attendance was low last season, owing to the team’s poor performance. This season the team is aiming to increase per-game turnout and Charlie Davies’s signing could lead to just that. A source in the ticket office told me as soon as Davies’s name was mentioned, season ticket requests started coming in. This should not mean anything to Coach Olsen. But for DC United’s front office, increased turnouts and public support could yield increased revenue and perhaps a slightly better chance of coming to an agreement to build a new stadium.

So far, Davies seems to be doing well. He scored Friday in an inter-squad scrimmage and today had a goal and an assist in 74 minutes against the Canadian U-20 squad. Most importantly: for now he is showing that he can play long minutes and score at the same time.