Is Major League Soccer Showing Its True Colors?

T rying to remember what life was like before the Kansas City Wiz . . .

* Soccer is the Beautiful Game, unless, of course, one happens to be confronted with a full-color layout of the uniforms that will be foisted upon defenseless midfielders during Major League Soccer's inaugural season.

* Mine eyes have seen the coming of the Tampa Bay Mutiny and the Los Angeles Galaxy, and let me just say now that I have gained a new appreciation for the Mighty Ducks' road purples.

* The Galaxy jersey, designed by Nike, inspired by "How To Make An American Quilt," is half charcoal, half teal (Nike calls it "juniper"), with triangular stabs of mustard ("Kenyan gold") and crimson ("chili red") piping splashed across the shoulders. And the controversial logo ("What the hell is it?") continues to stump dozens, but, really, it ought to be obvious. It's the original schematic for the Mazda rotary engine. Now obsolete.

* The Mutiny jersey, also designed by Nike (apparently, Nike was throwing around the college internships this summer), is neon lime green with powder blue and purple piping. I believe the very same colors were worn by the California Surf. Now obsolete.

* So where is this league headed? The early signs are ominous. No professional sports franchise named "the Wiz" has ever lasted more than one full season.

* The headline possibilities involving the Wiz are endless, most of them requiring warning stickers from the PRMC.

* I do like the name of the San Jose MLS franchise. The Clash. In fact, I'm in favor of naming as many MLS teams as possible after great punk bands. How about a whole division of them--the San Jose Clash, the St. Louis Ramones, the Boston Stranglers, the Sussex Pistols, the Monterey Iggy Pop and the Stooges, the Sioux City and the Banshees, the L.A. X and the Green Bay Green Day.

* I predict the Clash will burst upon the MLS scene with a ferocity previously unseen in soccer history, win five consecutive league championships, suddenly and mysteriously disband at the height of their dynasty and, 12 years later, begin floating rumors of a reunion at Lollapalooza.

* Clash season tickets now available in the plaza section, the terrace level, the upper deck and the mosh pit.

* Within a span of 30 hours last Saturday and Sunday, a John Robinson-coached team lost by 28 points and the Rams lost by 34 points. In Orange County, this is known as one whale of a Throwback Weekend.

* How do the fawning apologists in the St. Louis media explain away this one? The Curse of Busch Stadium? Seventy or 80 unlucky bounces of the football? Elvis is alive?

* "Same old Rams" chanted the 49ers on the sideline during the waning moments of San Francisco 44, St. Louis 10--a pure example of accuracy in journalism. Same old Rams, with a softer new schedule. But they still had to play the 49ers some time.

* Next up for the Rams: five road games in six weeks, including stops at San Francisco and New Orleans, the perennial black hole that recently swallowed the Dolphins. After that, it's three final home games against Buffalo, Washington and Miami. Prognosis: 8-8, 9-7 at best.

* Maybe that gets them the wild card, maybe not. Their destiny, as they say, is in their own hands. Now, how do those hands feel about frostbite at Soldier Field on New Year's Eve?

* USC's 38-10 loss to Notre Dame was easily the Trojans' worst defeat of the 13-year (and counting) drought, considering what USC had to gain (i.e., a potential national championship) and what Notre Dame had to lose (i.e., its third game in eight tries this season). If USC loses again this weekend at Washington--entirely feasible--what will this world be coming to?

* A: An Oregon-Northwestern Rose Bowl.

* Then again, Saturday at South Bend could have been just a one-off fluke. Since when is it not a touchdown when USC fumbles inside the other team's five-yard line?

* The Jacobs Field P.A. announcer blew it Tuesday night. It should have been: "Now starting in left field for Atlanta, No. 17, Luis Polonia . . . and the Indians are still alive!"

* I thought the designated hitter was permitted during World Series games at the home of the American League champion.

* How can Albert Belle be American League MVP when he fields fly balls as if they were interview requests?

* Rob Blake, out with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Yes, the Kings' start to this season was too good to be true.

* Pooh Richardson, out with a stress fracture of the left foot. The Clippers' starting point guard will miss three to six weeks, which could force him to miss the Clippers first 17 regular-season games. Lucky break.

* The marketing of Cherokee Parks, NBA rookie, has begun in earnest, and what took the corporations so long? Among the proposals sitting on Cherokee's plate at the moment is commercial package with a Dallas Jeep Cherokee dealer. You can write the ad copy from your living room recliner. "This is how Cherokee drives. This is how Cherokee parks."

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