John Rooney, Shadow Bound

Friday, January 14, 2011 | View Comments
-Jason Davis

A flash of mild collective surprise shot through assembled throng in the Baltimore Convention Center ballroom yesterday when the New York Red Bulls selected a certain boy names Rooney in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft. Rooney's genes are beyond reproach - they are the same at those that allowed his brother to become a world famous striker after all - but his talents are much more suspect.

It's not that Rooney isn't a decent enough soccer player. He scored at the Combine, and people who watched him there told me that he can play. Whether he merits a 2nd Round selection in the Draft (if you put any stock in such a thing at all) is the main point of contention. In MLS terms, he's average. Rooney is so far below his older brother's level that Billy Carter could sympathize. Given that John Rooney has chosen the same profession as his ultra-famous brother, he doesn't have too many options for escaping Wayne's shadow.

Word is that John took a drastic pay cut to try his luck in the burgeoning American soccer league. His salary for a year will pale in comparison to what his brother makes in a week. This either proves that he's here "just to play" or that he has carefully considered the impact being Wayne's little brother will have/is having on his career. There is no place to hide, or more aptly, no place to hide where his quality of life wouldn't be significantly impacted. America must have been appealing because it offers some anonymity (okay, a lot of anonymity, especially when he's not actually engaged in the act of playing), nominally shares a language with Liverpool, and seems to be on the upswing with its attempts to play soccer.

In other words, if John Rooney didn't really want to bounce from English town to English town while constantly being compared to, and asked about, Wayne, then MLS is a fine place to ply his trade. Aside from that bit about money (a player of John Rooney's apparent ability just isn't going to make much money in MLS, where salary caps and revenue streams restrain wages), and it's unlikely that the younger Rooney will ever want for anything, shadow-dodging in the US is more easily done. In Macclesfield, John Rooney would be "Wayne Rooney's little brother" walking down the street or having a pint at the pub. In the US, he'll only be that out on the field. It's something.

It would be cynical, but hardly wrong, to think Red Bull plucked Rooney out of the draft in part because of his name. They may trade on it moving forward, but he provided value to them as soon as he climbed the steps to make a few Scouse-laden comments on the ballroom stage. Twitter exploded with talk about Rooney. Wire services reported on a second round draft pick in a sport that doesn't do drafts outside of North America, and the name "Red Bull" showed up in many more places than it might have otherwise. Red Bull's first round pick, Penn State forward Corey Hertzog, is a good player with good potential, but drafting him didn't earn the club much in the way of free (unexpected) press. Drafting Rooney did.

Which leads us to the question of whether or not Red Bull drafted Rooney only for his name. Of course they wouldn't admit such a thing, and the club made sure to state their appropriate reasons for picking John in the aftermath of the Draft. If they did only want the free publicity, perhaps such a thing would reflect poorly on MLS. John Rooney isn't a star, won't ever enter his brother's universe in terms of fortune and fame, and could very well flame out of Major League Soccer in the very near future. Just because the Red Bulls drafted him doesn't mean they're obligated to keep him around. Breathing heavy over a run-of-the-mill player who just so happens to have a famous name, and the blood that goes with it, makes us look like a bunch of daft amateurs.

But if New York reached on Rooney, it was just barely. The first half of the second round wasn't bursting with sure things. If the Red Bulls did chose John Rooney for reasons other than his ability to kick a ball, they weren't overtly obvious about it. The consensus seems to be that the relevance of the SuperDraft is waning rapidly, a fact that actually works in favor of the Red Bulls and any suggestion that they're trading on Rooney's name. If the Draft isn't all that important, why does it really matter who they pick? If it doesn't really matter who they pick, why not pick the player with a bit more to offer than just what he can do on the field?  

Think about it this way: if reports of his salary are accurate, Rooney has already given New York publicity worth more than he'll make this year. 

He seems like a good kid, for what that's worth, and went over to meet the Red Bull supporters who traveled down for the Draft after he was selected. They welcomed him with open arms. I'm not sure he knew what to make of the viking helmets, and the "Best Rooney ever!' chant might have embarrassed him a bit, but he seemed happy to be here. 

If John Rooney is trying to outrun his brother's shadow, he won't do so here. But maybe he can find just a little bit of light. 

blog comments powered by Disqus
    KKTC Bahis Siteleri, Online Bahis



    Privacy Policy