FugeesAny time I see the term “ferocious” combined with “bidding battles”, I envision nothing short of severed limbs slapping to the floor, eyeballs hanging from the danglies and stuffy old executives leaping at obnoxious young executives in a battle to the death. A situation way cooler than the usual anxiety-driven melee of phone calls and panicked colon-checks that fuel most bidding processes.

For example, take the recent bid-tastic gropefest over rights to a recent New York Times story by Warren St. John about an eclectic group of refugees and the Beautiful Game that unites them
(and by recent, I mean three days ago- article here). The "bidding battle" didn’t encite any violence, just lots and lots of money being thrown around for the rights to tell the story on film. Thanks to $3 million, Universal won the four-way grudge match between Sony’s Columbia Pictures, Dreamworks and mother-of-all-produced-sports-movies, Disney.

In detail, the New York Times article highlights a group of children from war-raped countries like Iraq, Bosnia, Sudan and the Congo who are given purpose and hope by coach Luma Mufleh, as she brings them together under the banner of a soccer team named The Fugees. Since this is a sports story, the invevitable conflict comes from the relocation town itself, Clarkston, Georgia. An influx of refugees since the 80s has left the residents fuming and unwilling to allow the international game to be played on fields reserved only for football and baseball. Naturally, the team is wildly successful in competition and is narrowly defeated in the championship by rich, white kids. But hey- everyone’s a winner because it’s the journey, not the destination, right?

There’s no doubt Universal will most likely fast-track this project to capitalize on its immediacy and the fact they’re donating half a million dollars to pay for a new field the soccer team can actually play on.

Take that, Clarkston. You assholes.

UPDATE: After reading this story, CHUD reader Josh Sewell let loose some righteous indignation upon Mayor Swaney, quoting both this and The New York Times articles. Josh lets it be made known that the Mayor has heaped a perception of red-neck racism upon Georgia and that I indirectly called him an asshole.

Mayor Swaney’s office emailed back with a pre-written response to explain their side of the story:

January 26, 2007

Statement to the Citizens of Clarkston and the Media

from Mayor Lee Swaney

The City of Clarkston has received several emails expressing concern for the Fugees soccer team stemming from a recent New York Times article. There is a misconception that the Fugees team and soccer in general is banned in the City of Clarkston parks. Please be assured that this is not the case and the Fugees have been practicing on Armstead Field since October 2006.

The New York Times reporter repeatedly confuses Milam Park Field – which is dedicated to little league baseball and unsuitable for soccer – with Armstead Field which is where the Fugees continue to play. The only limitations we have ever placed on either Armstead Field or Milam Park field are to restrict the usage to children only.

We are deeply disappointed in the tone of Mr. St. John’s article. The report is factually inaccurate and several statements are taken out of context – apparently to present a more dramatic story and arrive at his own conclusions.

We are very proud of the Fugee’s success which is a positive outcome from Clarkston being among the most culturally diverse cities in Georgia. Our population is 55.7 % African American, 19.4% Caucasian, 12.6% Asian and 12.3% representing over 52 nationalities. Our diversity is also reflected in Clarkston’s City Council of six members with two African Americans and a Vietnamese refugee. I am delighted to see the recognition that Coach Mufleh and her team are receiving for their impressive success story. The Fugees represent the best of what the human spirit can accomplish by overcoming oppressive conditions in their native countries and coming together in their new community to achieve success through the power of sports and team work.

In October 2006, I encouraged Coach Luma Mufleh to attend a City Council meeting to request the use of Armstead Field for her soccer program. At that meeting, the Clarkston City Council unanimously approved her request to use Armstead Field for the remainder of this soccer season which is March 2007. Because of her program’s tremendous success and positive contribution to Clarkston, I see no reason it will not continue. In fact, Coach Mufleh will return to the February Council meeting to renew her agreement to use Armistead Field for another year.

In December, we did receive several complaints that groups of adult men were playing soccer on Armstead Field. This is a violation of the allowed use of the field. We tried to contact Coach Luma several times to determine if the men were affiliated with the Fugees. When she could not be reached, a letter was sent to the YMCA to put the program on hold until a newly hired sports coordinator was on board. I was then contacted by Coach Luma and she assured me the men were not affiliated with the Fugees Soccer Program. I immediately reinstated the use of Armstead Field for their practices.


Mayor Lee Swaney

City of Clarkston

You can make up your own minds here, but Universal is still making the movie and there’s a good chance it’s not going to shine well upon a few Clarkstonians.