In Part One of our two-part look at the demise of the Spokane Spiders of the PDL we heard exlusively from founder and owner Al Brown.
In the final part another voice comes on the scene with an entirely different tale to tell.
He doesn’t hold back in telling it, either.
by David Falk
Bernard Brodigan seems to be the kind of guy who leaves an impression.
I saw the Spokane Spiders play at Tacoma in May of 2010, and it was certainly true that day.
The head coach of the Spiders in their ill-fated final season stormed the sidelines for much of the match. Finally, after what he thought was an overly aggressive foul by a Tide player, he shouted “Maybe I will put myself in the match and see how YOU like it!” Sure enough, mere minutes later Brodigan ripped off his shirt and put on a Spiders kit, and into the match he went.
I don’t recall there being any rough stuff after that, but Spokane fell that day to Tacoma, 4:1.
It would become one of 12 losses the Spiders would suffer in the season before they folded. The club ended with a 2-12-2 record. There was also a detour to Edmonton to play future NASL club Edmonton FC. That trip to nowhere ended in a 14:0 loss for Spokane.
In early 2011 I sent out an email to Brodigan in hopes of finding out more about what happened to the Spiders. He answered back nearly half a year later with a litany of charges against the club and founder Al Brown.
Brodigan’s view of the Spiders’ final season
“The winter of last year I decided to move from Seattle to northern Idaho,” Brodigan begins in his email. “While in my first week of settling in I was approached by a young man who had recognized me and asked if I was in town for the Spokane Spiders. I had zero idea at the time of the Spiders.”
“A few days after I called the USL office for information about the Spiders. I also reached out to local players that I knew who played for the Shadow when I was with the Everett Bigfoot and asked them about the team and its history since becoming the Spiders. I was informed of the team owner, financial predicament and poor standing with the community and league. I was told to walk away. Knowing the facts and ignoring the friendly warnings I still moved forward and extended my services to the owner Mr. Al Brown. I figured since I had successfully coached two high caliber PDL teams in the Mid South Division I might be able to bring some experience to the table. Even perhaps turn the team around. After a month of negotiations with Mr. Brown he finally set his pride aside a little and let me run the show. However I was not to be known as the head coach for quite some time and Mr. Brown reluctantly gave me the wheel (only at) the very end.”
So starts Brodigan on his side of the story, a side which I shared with Al Brown, and which Brown says is untrue.
More from Brodigan:
“Call me spoiled from my own USL pro days as a player and coach, but I couldn’t believe that the Spiders organization was even allowed to participate in the USL. Shocked by the lack of organization, lack of facilities, equipment and so on I knew change needed to happen soon. The one thing I knew that had to change was Mr. Brown’s position. I had zero support from any of the local colleges because of his close involvement to the players. I foolishly walked myself into a large mess and knew I was in for long difficult season. It turned out to be more of a disaster than I thought.”
“For a short time I thought I had seen some light when three local colleges finally allowed me to take players and use them. My first order of business was to cut all those players who came out year after year and did nothing for the team or the community. I still needed quality players if I was to compete against my home town of Kitsap, so I reached out to LIU’s (Long Island University) head coach for players. A few years before I obtained four great players from LIU who played for me in Dallas and two the following year in Laredo. With promises of work and housing LIU gave me four amazing players.”
“If I could go back I never would have turned to LIU. That decision nearly cost me a friendship with LIU’s head coach and an important contact for players in the future. Needless to say there were no jobs for the players like I was promised and no housing. I housed seven players in my small two bedroom unfurnished apartment. I paid for food and supplies from my own savings. To make matters worst, it took Mr. Brown almost half the season to register my players from New York. When I asked Mr. Brown why my players were not on my roster, He simply said it cost money and to use the players I already had. What players? I asked.”
“Finally after days of fighting I had the roster the way I wanted it just in time for our first road trip. Our final home game and training session before the road was great in comparison to the past few seasons, let alone the past month leading up to this point.”
The Cheeseburger ‘Incident’
“However the morale was shot down faster than anything I had ever seen when my players were handed $5 each and a cheese burger from Mc Donalds. That was it for two and a half days on the road. Not only did I pay for gas I paid for food as well.”
“I guess I should mention I never received a dime from the Spiders for my time on and off the field. The following road trip was the same but with a hitch. Mr. Brown removed one of my players from my roster and added a goalkeeper residing in Seattle that he promised would play against Crossfire in repayment for going on the road with the Spiders the season before my entering as head coach. This information was told to me the night before we left for Seattle. My team was pissed. Half didn’t want to travel because of this. The keeper, who I will keep anonymous, gave up 11 goals in one game the season earlier. I told my team do not worry, I would never let this happen. I was wrong.”
“Mr. Brown had made his deal and refused to allow me to do my job has head coach. I told Brown as soon as the game started, I wanted a sub slip in my hand so I could make my change. It took me five minutes to get Brown to give me the sub card for the officials. It took Crossfire five minutes to score two goals on a kid who had no business playing AYSO let alone PDL.”
“My team was able to rally back but it wasn’t enough. The damage was done for the season. My team would never recover. They fought through the rest of a painful season without me. Mr. Brown released me shortly after but not before my team almost beat Kitsap in Bremerton and tied Crossfire in Spokane.”
“Leading up to those two games Mr. Brown was never around. For the first time all season he let me coach my team that was built on hope and later held together with nothing but disappointment, in an organization that cared nothing about the players. I was released the night after our tie against Crossfire. I was one of four coaches released by Al Brown in mid season. Jake Mugg was the only coach to last an entire season the year before me. When asked why he was not going to coach again the year I took over. He simply said you will see.”
Brown says Brodigan’s stories aren’t accurate
Brown refutes almost all of what Brodigan tells me. “The promises of work and housing were made. But they were made by Bernard Brodigan, not by me,” the Spiders owner says. “They were made without my knowledge, and in direct contravention of what I told him, which was that we absolutely could not promise either jobs or housing, that the Spiders had no budget for visiting player housing, and that the unemployment rate in Spokane County was in excess of 10 percent.
Further, says Brown, “LIU did not provide four amazing players. They provided one adequate goalkeeper, one exceptional player from the Barbados U-21 national team, one good player (who unfortunately went out injured after only two weeks,) and one absolutely useless back, who was started by Mr. Brodigan over much better players, and who was instrumental in two critical early losses.”
It is clear these two men were not a good match. The Spiders might have folded anyway after the 2010 season, but the in-fighting likely made the death of the club slower, and more painful.
“The entire letter from Mr. Brodigan is consistent with his habit of self-serving fabrication, denial, and serial excuse manufacture. It is disgusting,” Brown wrote in an email response to me.
He also wants to clear up the cheeseburger story.
“The players were always provided $15 per day, not $5 as Mr. Brodigan claims,” Brown says. “While this was a small amount relative perhaps to other clubs, there are several sub-points to be made. Extra funds were provided if the hotel did not provide breakfast. If memory serves, (and there are always two sides to this,) on the trip in question, the Player per diem was given in cash directly to Mr. Brodigan, for distribution. What he then did with it is a mystery.”
“The Cheeseburger referred to was an extra, provided by myself, if I was present, to any player that wanted one. In fact, I usually provided two. An important note is that these cheeseburgers were directly out of my own pocket, financed completely separately from company funds.”
So where does the truth in the demise of the Spokane Spiders end up being revealed? It is likely a combination of events, some of which we’ve heard here, others yet left unsaid.
In the end the Spiders failed because they didn’t have a proper place to play until it was too late, and didn’t have an owner with deep enough pockets to sell the club to Spokane soccer fans.
Spokane has had two soccer clubs in what is now the United Soccer Leagues PDL: the Spokane Shadow ran from 1996-2005. The Spiders ran from 2007-2010.
The Lilac City is now once again without a men’s team.