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When the Boss Rolls Up His Sleeves

"This is Bob Lenarduzzi, from the Vancouver Whitecaps calling," said the voice on the other end of the phone. Jeff Joseph, no stranger to a good practical joke, almost hung up the phone, but something in the man's voice spoke volumes about hanging in there...

Vancouver Whitecaps über fan Jeff Joseph (right) is all smiles in his 3rd kit here with the club's team captain Jay DeMerit.
Vancouver Whitecaps über fan Jeff Joseph (right) is all smiles in his 3rd kit here with the club's team captain Jay DeMerit.

Yeah, I've had occasion to vent about - and directly at - the Vancouver Whitecaps this season. And with justification. But now, with the regular season winding down, I'd be remiss not to share one man's wholly positive experience with the soccer club recently - and how reaching out just might restore more than one man's faith.

I met with Jeff Joseph last weekend, as he related the story of his unexpected conversation with the President of Vancouver Whitecaps FC - and the lasting impression that it left with the software developer from Richmond.

"I'm working away, the phone rings, and it turns out it's Bob Lenarduzzi on the phone. I couldn't believe it," he said. About a week prior, Joseph had been contacted by the Whitecaps organization in an effort to get him to renew his set of season's tickets in section 246. At the time, he told the rep that he had decided not to renew.

"I felt that not renewing my season's tickets was the only way I could make my voice heard. My feeling is that the Whitecaps as an organization don't have a winning culture, and I can't support an organization that only looks at the positives after every loss rather than using the negatives as clues to how we might improve.

"The Whitecaps need to play, coach, and manage the team to win with fundamentals, intelligence and sportsmanship. They aren't doing this, and I won't support them until I see proof otherwise."

But where the back office didn't succeed, the front office just might well have.

"He told me right from the start that he wasn't going to try to persuade me, but that he wanted to hear what my concerns were. We talked for about 15 minutes, and he said he agreed with all of my points, and that there would definitely be changes for next year."

Joseph was at pains to make it clear that he's not considering bailing on the Caps because they've lost matches, and he's only interested in a team that wins. Originally from New England, he's a long-time Red Sox fan, which qualifies him as someone who knows what it means to lose for decades and still hold a team dear to his heart.

"Losing is a part of sports, and I can accept any loss as long as the team shows me that they are as pissed as I am about it and show that they are fighting with every ounce of their being to improve and get to that next win!"

It's also clear to Joseph that the Whitecaps FC organization indeed wants to be in tune with their fans. "I half-jokingly made a comment that he must be making a lot of these calls, and Lenarduzzi told me that he's been making a number of them every day.

"The first hint I got of a winning culture from the Whitecaps was that call from Mr. Lenarduzzi. For a man in his position to take the time to listen to negative feedback the fans is perfectly in line with my philosophy of paying more attention to the negatives in order to improve."

While Joseph still hasn't decided if he'll change his mind and renew, he says his experience of a one-on-one with The Duze has gone a long way to restoring his faith in the team and the club in general. In the meantime, perhaps Lenarduzzi is taking Joseph's closing piece of advice:

"I urged him to re-sign Jay DeMerit. His attitude on and off the pitch is exactly what this team needs, and if you and the other powers that be would do your jobs with as much heart as he does, we'll be in good shape - and I'll be sitting in section 246 as a proud fan, win or lose."