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Interaction: Deconstructing Mike

Kügenliche: Hello everyone. Welcome once again to Interaction on this Saturday evening, the second of August 2014. I’m Charlotte Kügenliche. And we are here tonight to discuss a video posted on the Internet last month, one that can be described only as epic. And that is, of course, the famous “Mike Magee’s Day Off” video posted by KickTV, featuring the reigning most valuable player of MLS, Chicago Fire forward Mike Magee. The video itself is an homage to the 1986 Matthew Broderick film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, showing Magee and assorted other figures in the footballing world recreating scenes from the film. It has immediately captured the imaginations of football supporters and film buffs alike. But today we ask: why? What precisely has made this video such a hit? Is it the beloved film from which it draws its inspiration? The choice of star? The cameos by Magee’s teammates and opponents? Is it all of these? Or perhaps none of these? We will find out today, thanks to the four people who currently sit on our panel. Joining us first from Los Angeles, CA, USA is a filmmaker whose short films include Playing a Piano in Black and White and The Narrators’ Disagreement, Ms Violet Furwich.

Furwich: Hi Charlotte.

Kügenliche: From Chicago, IL, USA we have the president of the Greater Chicago Lesser Historical Society, Ms Lila Makanaga.

Makanaga: Good evening.

Kügenliche: Next are two guests who are with me here in Warwickshire. First, a former footballer for the United States men’s national side and for several clubs in Major League Soccer, and who inevitably seems to show up any time it is discussed, Mr Alexi Lalas.

Lalas: Hi there.

Kügenliche: And finally, an economist and actor who appeared in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and who inevitably seems to show up any time it is discussed, Mr Ben Stein.

Stein: Good evening, Charlotte.

Kügenliche: Hello everyone. Thank you all for being here with us today. I’d like to go to you first if I may, Violet. You are a filmmaker. How would you rate this video?

Furwich: I would give it three Brodericks. For all Americans, and I’m sure for many other people in other parts of the world, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a classic. Most everyone can quote at least one line from the film, whether it is Ben Stein’s perfectly monotonous “Bueller?... Bueller?...” or Matthew Broderick’s sage advice, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it”. So we love to see anyone recreate any portion of the film. When the people participating have jobs that they are otherwise known for, that makes it so much more special.

Kügenliche: Well, noble sentiments certainly. Lila, though Mike Magee is a Chicagoan and current player for the Fire, there are many other professional athletes who could have featured in such a video. Why Magee, and why now?

Makanaga: I believe that Mike Magee represents everything that makes our town what it is. He was never recruited by big teams. He was never rich or famous. He has never been the biggest star on his team, not even now that he is the league MVP. He simply puts in a workmanlike performance, year after year, regardless of whether it gets him noticed. Last year it did get him noticed, and this video is one of the outcomes of that.

Kügenliche: All right, well, much to think about there. Alexi, having played in MLS, you have some familiarity with its players and its supporters. How surprised are you – if at all – at this video? Not only the reaction to it, but the fact that it was even made in the first place?

Lalas: Well, this, I think, perfectly captures what’s different about MLS. Sure, you have your big stars, your Donovans, your Dempseys, your Keanes. But here’s the thing. Being a big MLS star is not the same thing as being a big star. Certainly, you can be both, like David Beckham. But for the rest of the stars in MLS, they’re not superstars or global icons. They can go places without being mobbed. They can have time off without having handlers who plan out every minute of their day. And that means there’s some humility there. There’s some self mockery there. This has never been a league that takes itself too seriously, and this video – this hugely entertaining video – is clear proof of that.

Kügenliche: Certainly a fresh perspective there. Ben, nearly thirty years on from the film, it is still hugely relevant and recognised in our society today. Why is that?

Stein: Well, it’s quite simple really. We all have a basic longing for freedom. We all want to be free, even if only for a moment, for a day. But so rarely do we ever get a day to ourselves, especially now that we have the Internet and cell phones and all these other devices that tie us to each other. Yes, they help us keep in touch, but they also create an expectation that we are to remain in touch. And that’s what the movie is about. Ferris makes a decision that he will have a day to himself, with only the people who matter the most to him, and over the course of the movie, we see the results. It’s exactly what so many of us wish we could do.

Kügenliche: Yes, we may wish we could, but none of us actually do it. Ferris Bueller did it, of course. And now Mike Magee has done it. Going back to you for just a quick moment, Alexi, Mike turns in a solid acting performance in the video. But are there others in MLS who could have been selected? Other players who could have been the subject of the video?

Lalas: Well, sure. Any player with decent acting capabilities could have done this. Although admittedly, that does rule out many of them. But the fact that it was Mike Magee... well, he is the reigning MVP, but he’s one of the quietest MVPs we’ve ever had in the league. Look at his predecessor, Chris Wondolowski. 27 goals and the Supporters Shield. And sure, Magee had 21 goals last year, but Chicago didn’t make the playoffs. And there are a lot of people who would say, if you didn’t lead your team into the playoffs, you can’t be the most valuable player in the league. So yes, other players could have done this video, but with Mike Magee, all of a sudden you get to make all of these jokes about people not recognising him, like Thierry Henry as the snooty French maître d’.

Kügenliche: And surely Mike Magee is also a bit of a cult figure amongst MLS faithful, having played in several memorable matches for both Los Angeles and Chicago – even in goal at one point. Lila, just how well known are the Chicago Fire in general, and Mike Magee in particular, in Chicago?

Makanaga: Soccer is certainly big here. There were massive viewing parties, of course, during the World Cup earlier in the summer. But it remains to be seen whether that will translate into support for the Fire. I believe it will be some time before Bill Swerski’s Superfans on Saturday Night Live begin to toast “Daaa Fire”.

Kügenliche: And turning to you once more, Violet, give us a brief critique if you would of the other roles besides Mike Magee. Who in the supporting cast jumped out at you?

Furwich: I did feel that Sydney Leroux and Omar González were good as Sloane and Cameron. I always felt that Cameron’s growth over the course of the film, from a hypochondriac afraid to get out of the house, into a man who accepts responsibility for his actions, was a hugely important subplot in the film. And I would have liked to see some more scenes involving González trying to capture that. Although of course, with only three minutes to work with, that was never going to be a priority, nor was Sydney Leroux.

Kügenliche: Well, perhaps a sequel or an extended version is forthcoming. But in the meantime, we would like to get to the questions from you, our viewers. You can reach us in a variety of methods, including E-mail, telephone, our online form, our accounts on Twitter and Facebook, and text messages. Let’s now have a look at the relevant addresses for all of those. And there they are. And let’s put them on one side of the screen, and add a freeze frame of Judah Friedlander calling Magee’s name on the other side. Wonderful. Okay, we are ready for your questions, and we have one first from Rebecca from Joliet, IL, USA. Hello Rebecca.

Rebecca in Joliet: Hi.

Kügenliche: Welcome to the programme. What is your question?

Rebecca in Joliet: Is Mike there?

Kügenliche: All right. Thank you for that question. Well, as it happens, I can actually answer this question. No, Mike is not here. We wanted to get him, but the Fire are currently occupied with a match against the Columbus Crew coming up later in the evening. We also reached out to Sydney Leroux and Omar González, but their respective clubs, Seattle Reign and Los Angeles Galaxy, have matches today as well. So bad luck for us there. We’ll go now to a question we received by E-mail earlier in the week, and it’s from Joy in Globe, AZ, USA. Joy asks what other players were considered for this video. Well, I am afraid that we haven’t anyone here who actually worked on this video. So instead let me turn the question around and ask who else you would have liked to see. Alexi?

Lalas: Well, the one player who is noticeably absent is Robbie Rogers. And for better or for worse, Robbie Rogers is now linked for all eternity with Mike Magee, because they were involved in that huge LA-Chicago trade last year. And sure, we all say that the Fire got the better of that deal, because they got a player who went on to become the MVP. That’s true, but let’s also not forget that when they traded Mike Magee away, he was LA’s leading goalscorer on the season so far. So Magee’s performance has not been surprising. Bruce Arena knew what he had in Mike Magee, but he still chose to make the deal, because he said, “We have plenty of goalscorers, guys who can put the ball in the back of the net. What we need is a guy who can play out wide.” Someone who can really stretch the opposing defense, get in and send crosses into the area, and give the Galaxy that width they have so rarely had.

Kügenliche: So another player you would have liked to see in the video is Robbie Rogers. Good. In future you may feel free to go ahead and just say your answer to the specific question. Well, speaking of the casting of the film, I’d like to ask just a short follow up question of you, Ben, and see how you felt about Judah Friedlander’s performance as the economics teacher.

Stein: I was impressed. We didn’t get to see him actually teach economics, but I thought he captured the part. I’m sure he’ll be able to show that he is also the world champion of economics teachers as well.

Kügenliche: Another sequel idea. “The World Champion of Economics Teachers”.

Makanaga: I actually had a question about that scene.

Kügenliche: Right. Well, normally our guests are meant to answer questions rather than ask them, but what is your question about that scene?

Makanaga: Well, I watched the video a few times and loved it, of course. I think that’s the natural reaction. But then on the fourth or fifth viewing, I suddenly realised that Judah Friedlander was meant to be portraying the economics teacher for the Chicago Fire. So that seemed odd to me: why do the Fire have an economics teacher?

Kügenliche: An interesting question. Ben, would you care to try to explain that?

Stein: Well, I thought they just wanted their players to become well rounded individuals and give them the knowledge they’re going to need once their playing careers are over. So in that sense I thought that it was perfectly appropriate for the Fire to have their own economics teacher. In fact, I’m shocked that more teams don’t have economics taught to their players in house.

Kügenliche: So you feel that there should be more economics knowledge amongst MLS players. Good. Let’s now go back to the telephone lines for another question, and this time it’s Daniela from Joliet, IL, USA. Daniela, welcome.

Daniela in Joliet: Hey, did Rebecca call you guys earlier?

Kügenliche: All right. Thanks for that, Rebecca – I’m sorry, Daniela. So she wants to know if Rebecca called us earlier. Violet?

Furwich: Yes?

Kügenliche: Would you be able to answer that question for Daniela?

Furwich: Okay. So the question was whether Rebecca called in earlier. Well, we did have a caller earlier who was named Rebecca, so I would have to say that the answer to her question is yes.

Kügenliche: Right. Thank you Violet.

Furwich: And I would give my answer four Kevin Bacons in terms of a certainty rating.

Kügenliche: All right then. Well, it looks as though we will have time for one question more. This is one from our Facebook account, and it was posted by LeLisa in Evanston, IL, USA. She wonders if there will be any additional videos featuring MLS players reenacting famous 1980s films, and if so, starring whom. Well, again, we have no KickTV people with us today, so we cannot present any actual information for you. We can certainly speculate and provide our recommendations, so let’s do so right now. Lila?

Makanaga: I think a tribute to The Breakfast Club would be a big success. You could have young homegrown players like DeAndre Yedlin and Harry Shipp.

Kügenliche: Interesting. Violet, what would you select?

Furwich: Well, this is nineties instead of eighties, but how about The Big Wondolowski?

Lalas: Love it. But I think we’re all missing the obvious. Why not do a Goonies tribute with the actual Goonies: Wondolowski, Lenhart, and Gordon?

Kügenliche: That’s a possibility. Ben, what would you say?

Stein: Risky Business, with Landon Donovan as Tom Cruise.

Lalas: Yeah, I’m changing my answer. I’m going with you, Ben. That would be the greatest thing ever.

Kügenliche: I would have to agree with that, and with the idea that sometimes you just gotta say “what the fuck”. And at other times, you just gotta say that there is not enough time for anything else, and so we must bring this week’s edition of Interaction to a close. Thank you to all of you at home for being with us this week, and thank you to Mr Ben Stein, Mr Alexi Lalas, Ms Lila Makanaga, and Ms Violet Furwich for joining us today. We will leave you now and then return next week with another programme. On that occasion, we will be discussing the Ukraine crisis and the investigation into the MH17 crash. We will speak with air safety experts from both Ukraine and Russia, as well as two of the world’s leaders in an activity that may or may not have anything to do with arms dealership. So please do join us then, but for now, it’s good night from us.

Stein: Is anyone still watching? Anyone? Anyone?

Lalas: You’re still here? The show’s over! Go home!