Herriman • Mike Petke does give a s---.
Contrary to the concluding sentence delivered in yet another Petke postgame rant gone viral, he gives immensely, and without measure. He has to. In order to circle back to the Real Salt Lake postgame show on KMYU in the hallways beneath a college football stadium, to get back on live TV for two minutes and 25 seconds, to air the seething frustrations that boiled over and became a worldwide talking point, you have to give plenty.
So when a wears-his-emotion-on-his-sleeve kind of guy sees red, he has to let loose what he views as a wrongdoing, because if he doesn’t, if he’d let it just fester, then it wouldn’t be Mike Petke, it wouldn’t be the 42-year-old New Yorker, who in less than two years in Salt Lake City, has become a hero to the RSL fan base for one simple reason: He refuses to let things slide.
After RSL’s 3-2 loss at Minnesota United Saturday night, Petke got on the mic and delivered a crescendo of displeasure. In Major League Soccer, video assistant review (VAR for short) is about as hot-button of an issue league-wide as it gets. And there is a disconnect coaches and players have expressed as to what is reviewable and what’s not, what needs a second, third or fourth look, as opposed to a standard play-on.
Petke’s night in Minneapolis will be remembered for the tirade, for his ejection in the 52nd minute, for kicking a coach’s chair on the sideline, all because there were moments he felt were blatantly missed. And by missed, just not even reviewed, so what’s the point of having VAR if a studs-up tackle on RSL’s Danilo Acosta isn’t reviewed? Or if a forward plays the defender instead of the ball and shoves him to the ground?
You get what happened Saturday evening shortly before 9 p.m. Mountain time. You get Mike Petke, who can go viral, and can do so in a captivating animated instant. You get a coach — perhaps inadvertently — being the voice that so many don’t dare to become.
“I don’t go into a situation like that saying, ‘Oh, I shouldn’t say this because I’ll get in trouble,’” Petke said after training Monday. “I have to say what I feel.”
What’s the alternative? Burying it?
When a reporter asked if voicing his irritation is for his own sanity, to avoid a sleepless night on the road after a maddening result, Petke said, “Well, I said that last year.”
Oh, that’s right. Last year. How could we forget? The freakin’ printer didn’t work.
“Mike’s organic. Mike is authentic. Mike is original — this is his truth,” said RSL analyst Brian Dunseth. “There’s no pre-planning. There’s no agenda from Mike Petke. I think that’s why we see this fan base so quickly gravitating toward him.”
A GoFundMe account was soon started by fans with a target of $5,000. It’s entitled: “Mike Petke Doesn’t Give A S---.” As of Sunday night, it had over $800 in contributions. Fans made T-shirts featuring the catch phrase with a silhouetted outline of Petke swiftly kicking the chair in Minneapolis. Hours after his rant, someone edited Petke’s Wikipedia page to say: “As of July 14, Mike Petke doesn’t give a s--- anymore.”
L.A. Galaxy defender Ashley Cole tweeted this weekend that he’d help pay Petke’s fine.
The RSL team Twitter account immediately posted his postgame interview and in less than 48 hours it had 1,500 retweets and counting and over 175,000 views. Sky Sports News in England picked it up, too. ESPNFC had a five-minute-long segment debating whether or not Petke crossed the line. On the day of the FIFA World Cup final, no less.
Former England national teamer Stewart Robson said: “Mike Petke cannot act like that.”
Former MLS forward Alejandro Moreno supports Petke’s approach: “I’m defending his position because this is what every manager wants to say. And he is going to be fined for it and he is going to reprimanded for it. The truth of the matter is, that these mistakes have to stop. At some point they have to stop, and somebody has to bring attention to it.”
Let’s just say this: Petke doesn’t go viral merely for the sake of going viral. These are conversations necessary for the evolution of MLS, he believes. It might not be the most ideal of situations to bring attention to it, but as Petke noted once again Monday, he just wants to see transparency, consistency and accountability from MLS refs. He’d love for refs to explain the reasoning for calls to the media, or even head coaches, for that matter.
“I’d love for MLS to be groundbreaking,” he said.
Petke fully expects to be fined and suspended by the league. The bank account may indeed be drained a bit. That decision will be made public in the coming days, no doubt. And RSL owner Dell Loy Hansen, who gave Petke a three-year extension last offseason, might even cover some of the costs himself.
Petke is, as RSL captain Kyle Beckerman explained, a fiery personality in a league where, frankly, you don’t see that many, if at all. That sort of response, according to Beckerman, further proves to the players in the locker room that he’s got their back.
“A lot of coaches and players — myself included — would keep holding stuff back because we don’t want to get fined,” Beckerman said. “He’s just so passionate and cares for us and cares for this job and he knows how important it is. He’s really just taken the job and really made it his.”
It’s who Petke is. RSL fans certainly know that now. MLS followers, too.
In June 2013, he had a similar situation play out during his first year as coach at New York Red Bulls. After a home loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps, Petke’s post-game presser was terse. It lasted about two minutes, and just as the media throng was walking toward the locker room the Red Bulls communication director rounded the group up and walked them back to the press conference. Petke apologized and returned to answering questions.
“There is no question where his mind is — he will tell you, even if you don’t like it,“ says Dave Martinez, a journalist covering soccer in New York City, who was there that night. “Petke is a throwback in many ways. He isn’t interested in guarding his words or protecting initiatives, which may run counter to his beliefs.”
This week his tone was serene compared to Saturday night on the road. Informed of the GoFundMe page and the T-shirts being lifted off the press, Petke said he wants to see all proceeds go to any sort of charity.
“That’s where it has to go,” he said.
It might not be a while before Petke is again roaming on the sideline. Instead, he’ll likely find himself in a luxury box either in his home stadium or somewhere across the country. You can bet that if it’s at Rio Tinto Stadium, there will be brand new banners there not only to piggyback off this latest pontification, but to prove that the supporters have his back, and that they too give a s---.
COLORADO RAPIDS AT RSL
When • Saturday, 8 p.m.
TV • KMYU