Machines, of the Hype and Fax Variety

Wednesday, February 02, 2011 | View Comments
- Jason Davis

Here are two things I've decided to jam together for no other reason than that they're not substantial enough for two posts, and they allow for the somewhat clever headline.

Hype Machine

MLS got a rebuke from writers and fans alike yesterday when they hyped their All-Star Game venue announcement as "major." Turns out it really wasn't in the end, with the choice somewhat expected (Red Bull Arena) and the announcement lacking for other detail. The league hasn't determined, or isn't ready to announce, who the opponent will be for example. 

The reaction to the league building up the announcement to disproportionate heights is also a function of timing. We're still waiting on a full league schedule for the season that starts in six weeks. We don't yet know what the 10-team playoff structure will look like. The possibility is also out there that an announcement on the 20th expansion team, presumably to be based in New York, is coming (this is also known as the Cosmos Effect). 

Throwing Landon Donovan and Thierry Henry on the line for the media conference call was an unfortunate and unnecessary choice that only increased the ridicule. Neither player really needed to be involved, their comments and answers were always going to be bland, and their inclusion only made MLS look desperate. Come look, we've got a major announcement, and players you've heard of will be on the line! When the announcement turned out to be a "meh" moment, Henry and Donovan became trained bears putting on a show. 

We should admit that MLS is in a difficult position, however. It was nice to hear the league apologize for their original wording and promise to use "special event announcement" in the future, but I'm not sure how fair it is to criticize them for doing everything they could to drive interest. We constantly say that MLS needs coverage, yet we give them no rope when they use words like "major." This is a league with only a handful of items in a give year that rise anywhere near the level of "major", so if they can't get away with it when announcing their All-Star Game venue, when can they?

Fax Machine

If you work in an office, you may still have reason to use a fax machine on occasion, much to your dismay. They're noisy. They jam. If a fax is coming in and the paper is out, there's a mad scramble to refill the tray lest vital information be lost (even though it's probably not vital and wouldn't be lost anyway). When faxing out, do you dial a "9" first? God forbid you missed a staple - the thing is liable to spontaneously combust when the whole process clunks to a halt. Fax machines are an anachronism. The digital age has provided us with so many cleaner, quieter, and more reliable options. We only have them because people resistant to change can't seem to embrace the new technology.

Yet the fax machine still has a few days in the proverbial sun each year. Monday's transfer deadline madness involved faxes flying into the Premier League offices, just as they do every January and August. Why does the fax still hold sway in a first world country like England, where uber-rich clubs that surely have better technology available are submitting paperwork to the administrative offices of the world's richest league, a crucial part of their annual business? I have no earthly idea. 

One computer to receive digitally scanned and emailed paperwork or a bank of fax machines, capable of crapping out at any moment? The Premier League opts for the latter. 

How do clubs lodge the paperwork with the Premier League?

In times past, the documents would be delivered by hand to the Football League’s headquarters on the last Thursday in March. Now they are faxed. Given that up to 30 pieces of paper may need to be sent through relating to a specific transfer, clubs must be careful to begin transmission well before the 5pm deadline so that everything is received in time.

How does the Premier League cope with the normal big rush of transfers that are pushed through in the closing moments of the transfer window?

A string of fax machines sits in the Premier League offices so that documents from different clubs can arrive at the same time. About five staff are in the Premier League offices on deadline day. They might stay for an hour or so after the deadline, so the moving forward of the cut-off point from midnight to 5pm that was implemented last January is doubtless a relief for them. Premier League chiefs are also on standby in case any complicated contractual issues emerge.

But the Prem officials aren't the only ones holding on to old technology. Today is National Signing Day for all manner of college sports. Despite being allowed to email in their letters, many players still use a fax machine. It has become a part of the lore that coaches must sweat over the operation of the same type of machine used by recruits 30 years ago.

Maybe it's all secret plot by fax machine manufacturers. Maybe certain people involved in the Premier League or NCAA (or the players themselves, I suppose) are getting kickbacks from Xerox and Konica Minolta.

It's 2011. What other explanation can there be?
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