BY DAVE ALLEN Like time, news waits for no man. Keeping up with the funny papers has always been an all-day job, even in the pre-Internets era. These days, however, it’s a two-man job. That’s right, these days you need someone to do your reading for you, or risk falling hopelessly behind and, as a result, increasing your chances of dying lonely and somewhat bitter. That’s why every week PAPERBOY does your alt-weekly reading for you. We pore over those time-consuming cover stories and give you the takeaway, suss out the cover art, warn you off the ink-wasters and steer you towards the gooey center. Why? Because we love you!
ON THE COVER
CP: A really smart, aesthetically-informed look at an art project by Angela Ortiz and Tony Rocco that aims to transform how people — both visitors and residents — see the Ninth Street Italian Market, with documentary photographs printed on tarps covering the streetside stands.
The installation is one of four featured in Journeys South, a Mural Arts Program series of non-murals unveiling in South Philadelphia this month. The projects — ranging from animations of old photographs to poetry collections placed in decorated honor boxes along East Passyunk — seek to document the immigrant experience in a section of the city that’s an entry point to the country.
It’s something about which Rocco and Ortiz have firsthand knowledge. Both are first-generation children of immigrants, Colombian on their mothers’ side. Rocco’s mom used to drag him shopping on Ninth Street every weekend as a child; she saw in the market remembrances of home. Ortiz’s mom worked at Giordano and Giordano Produce for 25 years; she saw in the market opportunity.
After finishing our drinks, we head to Triple Play Sports, an apparel and printing shop at Ninth and Christian, so Ortiz and Rocco can pick up a proof of the tarp intended for Anthony’s Coffee. The artists hold it up to the window and nod with satisfaction. Ortiz designed the images with the color palette of the market in mind: dark chestnut reds, olive greens and grays, muted tangerines. Backlit by the sky, the colors pop even on this overcast afternoon. On a sunny day, the work will positively glow.
The images were created through a lengthy process of information-gathering and editing. Ortiz and Rocco spoke with some 20 subjects along Ninth Street about their business and their family’s path to America. They met with varying degrees of willingness. A few, like fruit vendor Mary Messina, would consent only to an audio interview. Others allowed them to record video as the two asked questions. Later, Rocco returned to shoot their portraits.
Neighborhood dynamics, ethnic relations, tension over new waves of immigrants… it’s all there in John Vettese’s reporting. I’m always inclined to give big ups to Mural Arts and their impact on communities like West Philly, but this “non-wall” project really has the makings of something especially transformative.
PW: Are you ready for some SOCCER?!?! This week’s cover is an underdog story in several senses: the game of soccer, competing against other better-known and more widely-televised sports; the rookies of Major League Soccer, fighting for the chance to make their careers doing what they love. Major media, particularly ESPN, rarely pay much heed to soccer, except for the once-every-four-years World Cup, but Aaron Ross’ treatment is worthy to stand alongside ESPN’s behind-the-scenes coverage of any sport. He nails a nationwide trend — the youth movement that stands to remake MLS — and illuminates it fully.
This trend is no accident. In recent years, MLS has dramatically recommitted itself to nurturing young talent. In 2007, the league mandated that all clubs establish youth development programs, or academies, similar to those in Europe and South America. That edict coincided with the creation of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, whose Academy League features both MLS academy teams and top youth clubs.
Complementing the academy system has been the Homegrown Player initiative, also instituted by the league in 2007, which gives clubs first option on signing players registered for at least a year in their youth programs. Previously, all players entering the league were thrown into the MLS SuperDraft, where they could be scooped up by the earliest bidder. The setup served as a powerful disincentive against investing too heavily in local talents, who could just as easily end up with a conference rival as with the team that had devoted untold amounts of time and resources developing them.
Since 2007, nearly 40 homegrown players have joined MLS. In December, then-15-year-old Zach Pfeffer became the Union’s first homegrown signing and the league’s fourth-youngest player. Pfeffer, a native of Dresher, Pa., who has played for local youth powerhouse FC Delco and the Under-14, U-15 and U-17 national teams, was called up in July to compete for the Union academy team at the league’s SUM U-17 Cup in Houston. After impressing the coaches with his performances, Pfeffer was invited to train with the Union first team for the rest of the season. A few months later, the Union offered him a professional contract.
Pfeffer’s ascent is the most conspicuous symbol of the Union’s place at the forefront of the youth trend in MLS. Last year, the expansion Union had the youngest team in the league, the average player about 24 years old. This year’s group is even younger, despite the addition of 39-year-old goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon. Twelve of the 25 rostered players are 22 or younger. Seven are rookies.
All these youth soccer leagues in the U.S. and in this area are producing soccer players by the bunch; what are the most talented among them to do? Whether you follow the Union, let alone any sports, or are soccer-averse, the struggles of the young players Ross feature have an against-the-grain resonance, especially if widespread fame never comes their way.
INSIDE THE BOOK
WINNER: Strong, under-the-radar cover choices this week, but I have to go with PW’s soccer joint. It digs deep into the fears and desires of some very talented young men, and it adds up to way more than just hometown homer-ism for the Union.