We all heard it.
In the 75th minute of Saturday's apocalyptic Hudson River Derby, Frank James Lampard made his long-delayed 2016 debut, subbing on for the punchless Andrea Pirlo with New York City FC trailing 5-0. The boo-birds came with him.
It certainly didn't help that stadium announcer Paul Olden introduced him, with preeminent tone-deafness, as "Super Frank Lampard."
Lamps, to be sure, is a serious professional. He has systematically built a reputation as a rugged, hard-charging offensive force through his star turns with Chelsea and the English national side. But when asked after the Derby about the fans' jeering reception, his response was bafflingly off-base. Pathetic, even.
"I don’t think the fans are aware of the injury I had. If I’m getting booed for being injured, then there’s not much I can do about that."
Oh my god.
Frank: do you seriously think that's what this is about? That you were taking the piss from the fans -- your fans -- because your calf flared up in the preseason?
"I’ve been training morning and afternoon to get fit. People don’t see that."
Dude. Just stop. Your manager, Patrick Vieira -- who is so much more charismatic than you are that it's as if you're from different planets -- told us as much every chance he got. We heard it from him loud and clear, unambiguous. But we didn't hear even a peep of committed reassurance from you. In fact, until this past week, you were listed as 'questionable' on just about every official injury report! Yet now you want to complain about the fans misunderstanding the severity of your ailment??!? (That's what you're doing. Complaining.)
"I had a nasty injury which was an 8-10 week injury. In the beginning doctors thought it was a small injury and it didn't turn out to be that... So if they’re going to boo for being injured, as I say there’s not much I can do [other] than get fit, play and show what I can do on the pitch."
Don't insult the intelligence of your own people like that (City Football Group has done enough of it on their own). This is the New York sports scene. The team never once listed you as 'out' on an injury report for more than two straight months! How on earth can you possibly blame the fans for getting it wrong? If you still choose to ignore what this whole saga entails after all this time -- it is a choice -- then you haven't done your homework. It's not uncommon for New York sports fans to boo their own teams out of pure loyalty. Commitment. Love. We hold our players to a different kind of standard. When you betray that standard, or willfully deny that it exists, you're only making things worse.
Here's what you could have said: I understand the fans' frustration. Getting manhandled like that, I was frustrated, too. We all were. All we can do is move on and get ready to take three points in our next game. That's my sole motivation.
Let's be clear-- you got booed because you have never, at any point, done nearly enough to convince this uniquely headstrong big-city fanbase that your heart was really in it from the start.
Yes, barring Saturday, you've often said the right things. In fact, I'm pretty sure that you really and truly do want to score goals and win games for the Five Boroughs.
You've just done a god-awful job of showing us that you want it as badly as we do.
THAT, my friend, is why you got booed. It had nothing to do with anything that's happened in calendar year 2016. No, this goes back to the very beginning of New York City FC's history, when you allowed the unthinkable to happen, the fans be damned. Shit, we made a whole podcast series about this a year ago.
Let's recap, for the millionth time:
- You never corrected the record, despite infinite opportunities, and clarified to the fans that you were actually never under contract with NYCFC until summer 2015. You were content to parade around in the NYCFC shirt throughout 2014 -- playing dress-up on a Times Square billboard, no less -- even though you were a Manchester City player, full-stop.
- When you made the decision to stay at Manchester City into 2015, you rode the bench while New York City FC needed you as much as ever. The Bronx Blues suffered. And thousands of miles away, you sat.
- No matter how much you said you wanted to build this new club and do right by the fans, it never, ever sounded like you really meant it, especially with all your sightseeing, British panel show appearances, and upcoming summertime commitment to the BBC's coverage of Euro 2016.
- It still doesn't sound like your heart and soul are really in this thing, and your postgame comments Saturday only serve to reinforce that sad, sad fact.
"The only plus for me is that I feel physically very good. It's been a difficult injury. To feel good, to feel 100 percent and to come on and play a part was good for me personally, but obviously it was a very bad day for us."