It has been well-documented during the past two years that Baltimore Blast midfielder Billy Ronson isn't the most popular player around the Major Soccer League.
According to Blast coach Kenny Cooper, Ronson "is sometimes not the most popular player on the team."
Cooper said: "I think Billy likes it that way. He thrives on controversy and uses it to his advantage. There's a side of Billy that doesn't want to be popular. He doesn't socialize with the other players and likes to keep to himself."
Cooper said Ronson has "little quirks and is different. But he comes to play, and he's made it in America."
Cooper said Ronson has played for 18 coaches in a soccer career that started in Blackpool, England, and continued outdoors for 14 years in the English Second Division before he joined the Blast in 1986.
"Had Billy stayed with one team, he would have been a big-time pro in England," said Cooper. "Billy sometimes treats teammates like the opposition. Sometimes that is misinterpreted by his teammates."
So how has Ronson lasted six years with the Blast?
"Billy's applied himself more over here than he did in England," said Cooper. "Billy was a rabble-rouser in England. But he's paid the price over here and deserves all the credit for becoming an All-Star [Cooper picked Ronson to play in his first MSL All-Star Game Feb. 13]."
Ronson said it was news to him that he sometimes wasn't popular with his teammates.
"I don't see it that way," he said. "And I haven't played for 18 coaches. I've played for 13, and that's because coaches on my teams were always getting fired. I only played for four teams in 13 years in England."
Ronson, 34, said he switched teams three times because he was offered more money and wanted a new challenge.
"I started in Blackpool, my hometown, and left there for Cardiff because they bought me for $275,000 [players are bought from teams in England and then negotiate their own contracts] and made me the team captain at 22," Ronson said. "Then I played for Wrexham and Barnsley. In England, that's called ambition."
Blast team captain Bruce Savage said Ronson was popular with his teammates, and midfielder Tim Wittman said he "liked" Ronson.
"I have no reason to dislike Billy," said Wittman. "There's always going to be disagreements during a season between players. But there's nothing any different with Billy than other players."
Blast owner Ed Hale is embroiled in a feud with Baltimore sportscaster Tom Davis.
Hale said Davis has compared him to former Baltimore Colts owner Robert Irsay three times on recent shows.
"I think Tom has an ax to grind because he didn't get the play-by-play job on our television games last season," said Hale. "But we checked out his references and found out he had been fired before, and we didn't like all his giggling on the air."
Hale said, "Everybody knows that nothing makes me angrier than being compared to Robert Irsay."
Davis said the feud with Hale has nothing to do with the Blast television job.
"I turned that job down because they only offered me the same amount Vince Bagli got for doing a Colt game on the radio in 1959," said Davis. "It was in the ballpark of $200 to $300 a game."
Davis said the feud started about a month ago after he criticized Hale on his WQSR radio show for front-office moves that resulted in the loss of Dan Counce as general manager of the team.
Davis said that last week he did compare Hale to Irsay on a morning show that ran twice.
"When I saw that Ed Hale was flying to Cleveland to give his team a pep talk, I said on the air that the more I see of Ed Hale, the more he reminds me of Robert Irsay," said Davis.
The first of 10 straight MSL Sunday Games of the Week on SportsChannel America will begin today with the Kansas City Comets entertaining the Wichita Wings.
However, Baltimore fans will not be able to see the game because Home Team Sports isn't picking up the MSL Games of the Week, except the March 10 Blast-San Diego game, the March 31 Blast-Cleveland game and the Feb. 13 MSL All-Star Game.
MSL commissioner Earl Foreman said he had hoped HTS would pick up the entire SportsChannel package.
"But I am glad that we're going to be seen in cities like Detroit, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Wichita," said Foreman.