Let's Play Some Soccer (10/16/20)

This year isn’t the apocalypse, but it’s had many of the hallmarks.  It’s been more so a year of

“mourning” in which, there has at times been revolving moments of sadness followed by

dampened enthusiasm. We’re constantly waiting for another shoe to drop in a year in which

the heavens must be emptying their closet. 


This week, I want to keep it light as let’s talk some soccer, football or futbol. 

Not a sports fan?  Not a soccer fan?  Don’t click away just let.  I’m far from a passionate

fan of the ‘beautiful game” though I do very much enjoy it (especially the pro indoor

version, but that is another topic).  We’ve been deprived the enjoyment of “live”

events for months.  So, let’s take a moment and just dream ahead and it’s okay to do so.

 That time in which we can all be together will be here sooner than later.


Here in Eau Claire there is an entity laying the foundation for what could be a much-needed

addition to the local entertainment and sporting landscape for when that time comes.


A soccer team!


It’s been 15 years since the area’s sporting landscape was ever altered by the arrival of the Eau Claire Express who brought a community-engagement model to the region.  Large crowds and community-pride were the norm for the first few years and while the interest has waned a bit in subsequent years, they are now very much a part of the area’s fabric, lexicon and tradition.


The same can be true with a soccer team.  A group headed by local soccer nut David Ripplinger started up a small amateur club a couple years ago and through an ad hoc grass roots effort are making it clear they have visions beyond being a “beer-league” squad that kicks the ball around a couple times a week.


They have a club called “Bateaux”, made up a variety of local athletes who compete against other part-time community teams.  Its clear though, from what we’ve seen in comments in local media from David along with things I’ve heard second-hand that they have grandiose visions.


I’m all for it.


This area very much is capable of supporting an “Eau Claire Express/Chippewa Steel” like minor league soccer franchise.  These teams are popping up all over the country and if done right, fit a niche in a local community’s entertainment landscape.


Now, anyone who knows me knows I bring years of minor league sports operation experience to the table.  From 2004-2018 I came up with loads of promotions, sold literally millions of dollars in advertising and successfully (and sometimes not so successfully) ran minor league baseball and hockey teams.  Here is my unsolicited advice to Mr. Ripplinger and his Bateaux crew.


1) Change the name.  Bateaux isn’t some common term around these parts and the effort it takes to explain the name (it’s a French term for boat, I guess) takes away from actual branding.  Go with something simpler like “Eau Claire F.C.”  or “Eau Claire S.C.”  or one I like because the indoor soccer team I follow does it…”Eau Claire City”


2) Carson Park is a must.  Work with the parks department on playing all home games at Carson Park.  Yes, the footprint of the football field would likely necessitate a slightly smaller field in terms of width (and the city would be pained to paint temporary soccer lines) but it’s an absolute must.  Playing games anywhere else comes across as…well…you aren’t legit.  Carson Park would also have beer sales, though from what I understand some random guy has the license for the football field and he gets the profits but that is another topic…


3)  Set your goal on getting into the USL League II and nothing short.  Google this.  It is the league that is the soccer equivalent to what the Eau Claire Express and Chippewa Steel are, except significantly cheaper to operate.  There are other leagues like this, but the USL has a history and stability to it.


4)  I repeat #1.  I get it, there was thought into the name and friends tell you it’s clever and smart and your “so unique” and so on.  Problem is, its not a common phrase and naming a team shouldn’t require a trip to google translate.  Being “off the wall” with a name isn’t a bad thing and can create lots of marketable opportunities but typically that involves combining a known entity and taking it out of its element.  Like naming a team the “Trash Pandas” as opposed to Raccoons.


5)  Speaking of people there is a market. Dirty little secret, for a brief time the Express management (along with the whole NWL) was kicking around the idea of starting a soccer league.  It never got more than talk but the reason was there is a market out there that is different than what Express (and minor league baseball) games attract.


  1. Your target audience won’t be families as it’ll be 18-34 year olds.  Research the Indy Eleven soccer team.  They made their market going exclusively after young, childless adults.  Games are very much a two-hour party.  They embrace a “European” model meaning little piped in music, encouraging “supporter” chants, etc.

  2. Much like in hockey, soccer teams DO NOT market towards the kids and families that are involved in the youth programs.  Why?  Those groups are either too busy with their own games and when away from the field want to stay away.  Sure, they’ll want to come occasionally but they can’t be trusted to come enough to be the base.


6) Don’t think Eau Claire could do this?  That Eau Claire doesn’t have the market to draw 1,000-1,500 soccer fans to seven-eight Saturday night home games? I have a bucket full of examples nationwide of markets that prove otherwise.


7)  A website. 


8)  See #7


9)  See #7,8


10)  Get a front office assembled right now.  Eventually you’ll want to hire a full-time business manager for about $30k and then surround them with three to four interns and some “friends of the club” who can pitch in.  In the meantime, identify those “friends of the club”, develop a board of directors and start selling that advertising and group ticket packages.

Stuffed Animals and Gutless County Leadership (10/9/20)

Having children under your care is an open invitation to partake in otherwise activities

deemed inappropriate for an adult.  Eating chicken fingers at a restaurant, going down

a slide at a playground and embracing the presence of stuffed animals. Whether they

be a standard teddy bear or another shape or being, “stuffies” and the persona pressed

upon them by their handler is a reflection on that said handler.


My kids, especially our son, adore stuffed animals.  In particular, he loves teddy bears

and has so many crammed into his room I don’t fear his kidnapping for no other

reason than an intruder wouldn’t be able to find him and may very well suffocate

in an effort to do so. 


And its one of these stuffed bears that I openly admit to the public that I feel over the

course of the last couple weeks that I slowly pulled away from my son’s arms.  One of his

stuffed animals has the persona of being a huge New York Yankees fan.  My son got him

four years ago at Build-a-Bear, calls him “Mall Bear” since we got him at the Mall of America,

and dresses him up in a full New York Yankees uniform.


Well, when the playoffs began earlier this month and I was joking around and cuddling Mall Bear a funny thing occurred.  I looked into those fabric, motionless eyes and found the reflection of my soul that even my own wife can’t meet.  I sat with “Mall Bear” for the entire first game.  Then the second game and the third game…he has become my game watching buddy.


My son is okay with this, in fact, I think he enjoys it.  “Mall Bear” and I share chants, we yell at the umpire together, run around the house after great plays and sulk when things take a turn for the worse.  “Mall Bear” loves to be thrown into the air after home runs and doesn’t mind me spiking him to the ground after a bad play.


I love having kids for a bucket load of reasons and the ability to play with stuffed animals without even a second glance is just one of the many perks.


Random Thoughts

  • There will be a forensic audit of the Eau Claire County Department of Human Services through Sherriff Ron Cramer’s office as he utilizes his budget.  However, the fact the County Board of Supervisors wasn’t able to punch in their own motion from the one-yard line is maddening.  Despite numerous third-partied recommending it and overwhelming public comments in August and September supporting it the Supervisors showed themselves to be gutless and not worthy of leading us.


The 22-7 vote to “table” the motion in essence was a “no” vote without the accountability. The tabling measure prevented there being a discussion, thus allowing feeble minded and weak-willed supervisors to hide in obscurity.


It was a cowardly act by Stella Pagonis who led this charge but the 21 others are just as guilty.


The DHS’s importance to our society is only going to grow in following years.  The price tag for their services will be going up and it will all be very much necessary.  Its with that in mind, we can’t simply keep spending good money at bad execution.


I understand there are some weak-willed stomachs of some county leaders – many of whom have their positions in obscurity as opposed to the city council which gets more attention – and they feel “bad” about putting DHS employees through this but it’s the only way. 


A forensic audit would do as much to CLEAR innocent people as it would to wring out as misgivings.


Yes, the Ron Cramer will still get his forensic audit, but the lack of the county government support is a bad sign and it’s not unrealistic to think a few supervisors will be doing what they can to road block it as well.  That was the clear sentiment watching Tuesday’s meeting.











Toughen Up Cowboy  (10/2/20)

“Don’t go dying on me you son of a bitch!”    No need to fear everyone I’m doing my part to insure

I’m here for at least a little longer to watch sports and pound the table for that forensic audit of the

county DHS.  This week I have my annual physical where I expect a few things


1.  To have lost enough weight to come off blood pressure medication I’ve been on since  

          1A) And perhaps have it replaced with cholesterol medicine which would be my luck

2.  A lollipop (hey, you’re never too old)

3.   A flu shot


Number three is a big one.  I’ve never had one before without a good darn reason for it.

  I’ve worked for minor league hockey teams where they brought the shots right to the

office for the players and staff.  I’ve had nurses at the doctor’s office offer it. Simply put

I’ve had lots of access, just never got one.  I’m not afraid of shots, but it’s also not something

one looks forward too either.


That changes now.  I consider getting a flu shot in 2020 one of the small things you can do for not only yourself but your family and community.  A flu shot doesn’t prevent COVID-19, nor does it even have 100% effectiveness on the flu but it’s another weapon that we have.  Getting a flu shot limits your chances of getting the flu and if you are to get ill, increases the likelihood it’s COVID-19 that got you which helps in identifying cases and so on.


Avoiding getting a flu shot like not flossing your teeth or changing the oil in your lawn mower . Something you know you should do but instead expend even more mental exertion rationalizing why it’s okay for you to skip it.  Spare me your late night Facebook scrolling expertise that the flu shot is a conspiracy or blah blah.


Also, yeah…there is a chance that you could get sick from the flu shot itself. No doctor hides that risk.  However, need we repeat the risk/reward mantra we all have been confronted with in the last several months.


It’s time to be an adult…toughen up there cowboy…and get your flu shot this year.

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Eau Claire, WI  54701