You know those car commercials where for Christmas, a spouse surprises the other spouse with a completely new car? The recipient is jubilant to have their new ride, and they don’t ask any questions like honey, we just went over how we needed to try to stretch out the old ride for another year because of the budget, and then you made a five figure purchase behind my back? It must be nice having as much money as the people in these commercials. Generosity, fiscal irresponsibility, what’s the difference?
This story is a bit like that one. Except instead of a car, the husband dips into their retirement savings to buy his wife a brand new soccer team. And then the wife tells strangers she’s never met before about how he’s being wildly irresponsible by cutting himself checks from their fancy team. They have plenty of business objectives defined and ready to go. The only problem is that many of them are contradictory or mutually exclusive.
I’m talking about the team that was formerly known as the New Jersey Teamsters, of course. Yes, they were named after the union. No, they were not affiliated with the union and weren’t licensing the name. Hold on to that thought.
Our interactions with them would begin in the summer of 2020. Before NISA suspended the season due to COVID, the Teamsters had been announced as coming in 2021- but that was only noticed by a few people at the time, and I wasn’t one of them. Until one day, somebody dropped in a tweet made from owner Sibrena Geraldino’s personal Twitter account. Her social media intern had asked for his birthday off, and she blasted him publicly for it, saying that kids these days don’t have enough hustle. Make money [for her] today, take time off tomorrow!
Of course that struck most of us as tone-deaf. Just give the kid his birthday off! And if you’re not going to do that, at least keep it to yourself that you can’t or won’t do that. A few people went off on her publicly for this. So what happened the next day? The team’s account posted a happy birthday GIF for the kid. We assume that he was required to make it himself (possibly on his birthday!) to cover for the mess she’d made.
It wouldn’t be long before the post would be made that the Teamsters were in need of a new social media manager once the internship was over. Wouldn’t it be hilarious if I acted like I wanted the job? What if I just responded to everything this person posted, buttering her up and feeding her ego? I would just keep saying increasingly over the top things until it became clear that I was just a jokester and not actually looking for the job. She’d stop giving me attention, we would get some cheap entertainment during peak pandemic and isolation, and maybe she would be a little more careful of how she treated people in public. I would act so ridiculously that she would never schedule an interview with me, and it would go no further.
Yeah. That seemed like an easy plan to stick to.
In August of 2020, the Teamsters ownership was one of several groups to appear on the Discovery show “I Quit”. The premise: several business owners who had quit their day jobs to found their own businesses, and were now competing on the show to get investment. You know the format of these reality shows: there always has to be at least one contestant whose job is to be the entertaining dumpster fire. The one who never had a shot at winning the show, but you’ll just have to tell your friends the ridiculous stories about them to make them watch too.
“New Jersey Soccer” was that contestant. No, they were never referred to as the Teamsters on the show. Remember when I said they were never actually affiliated with the union? The problem is, the Teamsters didn’t know that they were this contestant until midway through the show airing.
Sibrena was proud of their position on I Quit and was convinced that it was a major boost for the Teamsters brand. Shopify’s Harley Finkelstein was on the show, and Sibrena was convinced they were best friends and business partners already. Regular tweets from her would extol his virtues and boost him as a great guy; he never reciprocated. But I’m sure he was just busy.
Until one day, one episode aired where the showrunners lit into the Teamsters for massively overvaluing their brand and essentially being delusional about where their business was going. Something clicked and Sibrena and her husband Alex finally realized that breaking the rules with “hip hop soccer” wasn’t going to carry the day. They publicly and loudly turned on Harley, who had gone from being their best friend into being an idiot who knows nothing and would feel ashamed when they won. I Quit was evidently no longer a great asset to the brand.
Which makes it weird that they never took it down from any of their marketing. Any time they had a chance to mention I Quit, they had done it. And they would keep doing it, even though they hated their appearance in it.
Meanwhile, I had been buttering up Sibrena the whole time. I wish I could show you some interactions, but she blocked my main account over a year ago, and that old account is now locked. Maybe at the behest of a PR person? That seems like far too reasonable of an explanation, but you never know.
Anyway, no matter how ridiculous I wrote something to seem funny, it seemed to keep working. I had taken off any Detroit City-specific content from my profile and mostly stopped talking about City during the build-up. (It wasn’t too difficult- there wasn’t as much to talk about now that the crowdfunding campaign was over.) Finally at the end of August, we set up an interview. An actual, serious job interview over Zoom.
Of course, by “serious job interview” I mean I would reply with some basic answers, and then she would spend 5 minutes giving me an infodump of all of their future business plans and strategies which “weren’t for Twitter”. Again, I was interviewing for an internship position, and wasn’t even an employee yet. No NDAs had been signed or even considered- I wouldn’t have signed any, of course.
I’m not going to rehash the entire contents of the interview in here, because it would spoil the rest of the post. I’ll note when a major strategic move was something that she had leaked to me months prior when I get to each section. I did impress enough during the interview that she wanted to meet with me in-person during the so-called “biodome tourney” when all NISA teams would meet in a single location to play during COVID restrictions. She also said a lot of nice things about other NISA teams, yet singled out New Amsterdam in particular as an unserious team run unprofessionally. Oh, and having made a recent video talking about her husband having no business sense for cutting himself checks from the team, she did so again to me during the interview.
I do still feel a little weird that I went through with the interview at all, for whatever that’s worth. I never expected to get that far, and I certainly never expected to receive all the information that I did. I don’t think I regret it, though. For one thing, I would have taken the job if it was offered. Unfortunately, that never happened. One individual in the DCFC community heard about this and proceeded to alert her about the whole setup- and rather than try to patch things over and see how much further it could go, I chose that as an opportunity to go ghost and pull the plug.
Hell Horses and Porky Rollers
OK, so they’ve just gotten a set of Twitter interactions out of the blue that were too good to be true, and they blocked the instigator. If somebody started up a new account that seemed too good to be true within a week, then that would get caught. Right? There would be no fooling the team again. But maybe we could fool the league into believing that an imaginary supporter’s group existed for this team. Who was going to call me out? COVID protocols meant no supporters at games. Twitter was it!
I grabbed a picture of Clan Hell’s Horses from Battletech, which seemed like some appropriate imagery for a supporter’s group. I just started tweeting in support of the Teamsters, telling off other supporters’ groups, and making myself seem like a tryhard for a team that still hadn’t kicked a ball in the league. I wrote chants there were based on sea shanties but messed up the number of syllables on purpose. The Teamsters had already developed a reputation for being ridiculous team, so naturally any group supporting them must also be ridiculous, right?
So of course despite having believed that fooling them twice would be impossible, I woke up to this one day. They did in fact believe me. They interacted with this account for months. Some outsiders were fooled, others called shenanigans. Either way, the interactions were priceless.
My friend Illuin decided to get in on the fun quickly, creating the “NJ Porky Rollers”. If the Hell Horses were designed to be ludicrous tryhards, the Porky Rollers were meant to be so obviously fake that nobody would believe that it wasn’t a member of NGS. Taylor ham (I still don’t know what that is, but I guess it’s a Jersey thing) was put down regularly. Conspiracy theories around the moon abounded, followed by her fervent desire to attack and destroy the moon.
But the Teamsters’ reputation was already so far in the tank that people assumed that both of these accounts were being run by the team as a publicity stunt! No matter how hard we tried to escalate things until it reached the point that it would be clear that both of these accounts were being run by NGS, a fervent contingent kept calling us out as being front office plants. We would feud with each other- the Hell Horses would yell at the Porky Rollers as being an obvious parody account, the Porky Rollers would just ask for a seat at the table, and everyone outside NGS would tell us to shut up and go back to arguing in our work Slack or whatever.
The final results of this were documented in this Twitter thread, where we convinced the Teamsters to love sentiments like “New Jersey is rouge and gold” or “THE MOON IS FAKE”.
After the successful Chattanooga FC and Detroit City FC WeFunders, there’s been a trend of other WeFunders for teams offering supporter ownership. The Teamsters were the first of these to show up- as I had been told of ahead of time during my job interview with Sibrena. At the time, she said it would be a $250 buy-in. When the campaign showed up, the rewards were basically patterned off of DCFC’s, down to the tiers and rewards. They were offering it up at a $3.1M valuation. Yes, they were claiming to be worth 30% of DCFC.
I wrote a much-longer review of the WeFunder when it leaked on this thread, which included pictures and broke down the entire WeFunder point by point. I’m not rewriting all of that, so go read it and come back. The WeFunder’s minimum of $50K would fall far short despite the campaign being extended for many months, only to finally fail and be taken offline. Because the minimum had not been met, all money was returned to investors.
We’re Real Madrid!
During a First Team Podcast interview, the Geraldinos claimed to have studied Real Madrid and its business model and that they would be patterning their business off of them.
At the time of writing, Francisco Franco was unavailable for comment.
Dublin County FC
I had been told during the interview that the Geraldinos were intending to invest in an Irish team. Allegedly, the Irish FA does not impose a domestic player limit for their squads. Thus, there would be no limit to the number of players who could be developed by the New Jersey Teamsters, then sold off to the Irish team for a transfer and/or solidarity fee to help fund the Teamsters! Since their time in the UPSL, the Teamsters has intended to be a player development and transfer vehicle, and this would finally make that into a money machine!
I have a few problems with this proposal, if I’m being honest.
The only reason it would make sense from the side of the Teamsters is to beat the market. You’re looking to either move players that wouldn’t have sold at all, or to sell them for a higher rate than you would get from another team. And you need to make enough money doing this to make up for the fact that you spent money investing in the Irish team.
But none of that is good for the Irish team which they weren’t the sole investors in. It’s a big conflict of interest, and it’s going to quickly become obvious that they’re overpaying for talent from this American third division side. And no, the Teamsters are not being demoted to development side in the Geraldinos’ eyes. The Teamsters will always be their primary project, the hip hop soccer vehicle. But somebody told them that transfer fees are a way for lower league teams to pay the bills, and dammit, they’re going to get some transfer fees!
This is a bit like a ponzi scheme where you pay yourself to lose money at both ends. They weren’t investing in an existing Irish team with fans, either- that would have taken some serious money. No, they applied for a new Irish team, Dublin County FC. Yes, they bought their own DCFC. And it was immediately lambasted by people who lived there, with a now-suspended troll account squatting on @DublinCountyFC and forcing them to take @DublinCountyFC1, where the handle lives to this day. (I don’t know who operated this account; it wasn’t me or anyone I know, but it was hilarious.) A stadium deal fell through in 2021, and Dublin County lost its role in the league. At the time of this writing, Dublin County’s fate is unknown- they appear to be dissolved, but could still show up for a future season in Ireland.
The last thing Sibrena had told me about in advance was a coming rebrand. Many of us guessed that the Teamsters had been sent a cease & desist by the Teamsters union, and that they would ue this as an opportunity to get rid of their ugly horse logo and choose a more inspiring name. So, what got released on January 1st, 2021?
I AM BEGGING YOU TO PUT SOME EFFORT INTO SOMETHING FOR ONCE IN YOUR LIFE.
This rebrand was explained as “trying to appeal to generation Z”. Almost everyone who saw it explained it as “we liked our ripped off name and we’re going to do the bare minimum to not get sued”. The horse isn’t in the crest anymore. Somehow everything has become even more garish than it was before. And the now-_Teamsterz_ are an announced team in NISA for 2021, so NISA has no option but to put this beautiful new logo on their league website’s header. Gross.
Things can always get worse.
They cut this logo into nine chunks and revealed them day by day. That meant that the new name of the team was known before it was “announced”, before any domains had changed, before any social media handles had been made. The then-current Twitter handle was @njteamstersfc. Obviously I registered @njteamsterzfc and just squatted on it to see what would happen. I would enjoy people tagging the wrong account, and then someone clicking on it and seeing off the wall content. The team had to register @NJ_Teamsterz_FC instead.
What I didn’t expect was that when they updated the website, they redirected the Twitter plugin to my new @njteamsterzfc account. What would you do?
Remember when I was the official Twitter for the Philly Fury for a day? I didn’t expect that to ever happen again, let alone like this. Anyway, I also made sure to post some furry porn that starred a horse for good measure. Twitter filtered this for explicit content unfortunately, but it would still show up with a single click on the website at the time. It stayed like this for most of the week.
Demotion from NISA
Despite NISA having accepted their application and listing them on the website for the better part of a year, NISA was not actually prepared to have the Teamsterz play in the professional level in 2021. Something about having given them some homework to do, and them never getting around to it- I don’t know the specifics. But remember, teams that are accepted in NISA buy equity in the league website. So while they hadn’t kicked a ball, they were still “members” and were listed on the website throughout everything I just wrote about- and for many months beyond.
Eventually, though, NISA was finally able to drop them from the website- it’s not clear to me what changed. At the time of this writing, the Teamsterz have moved from the UPSL to playing their “reserves” in the Garden State Soccer League, with their “senior team” in the amateur NISA Nation. Out of 6 teams, the top three in the Northeast region have 20, 19, and 18 points, respectively. The Teamsterz are in 4th with 7 points.
The New Jersey Teamsterz had been around since 2018, but only during their planned run-up to NISA were they vocal and well-known amongst people who follow lower-league. Despite never playing a single match in NISA- or even a friendly with a NISA club, to my knowledge- they became associated with the league in the consciousness of many who saw them, their reputation rubbing off on the rest of the organization.
And much of that negative attention was all because eyeballs were placed on everything they did after the mistreatment of one social media intern. The little things matter.
Next time, we’ll look at a club that even the Teamsterz looked down upon, and who actually has been playing in NISA for some time: New Amsterdam FC.
Additional reading and sources: