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May 29, 1997|MIKE PENNER

A consumer's guide to the best and worst of sports media and merchandise. Ground rules: If it can be read, played, heard, observed, worn, viewed, dialed or downloaded, it's in play here.

What: Major League Soccer Action

Collectible Figures (Bandai America)

Price: $6

Major League Soccer attendance is down 13% this season and it's no mystery as to why.

Bandai's MLS action figures have scared all the kids away.

"Totally realistic articulated figures in awesome action poses!" reads the breathless prose on the back of each carton. "Collectors will value the extraordinary attention to detail."

On the Alexi Lalas action figure they might. Lalas' arms move but his legs do not--just like real life!

Otherwise, these four-inch-tall plastic figurines are the stuff of AYSO nightmares.

Cobi Jones, purported MLS sex symbol, is represented here by what? A tiny "Encino Man" with a soccer ball glued to his right foot?

Eric Wynalda, lead striker for the Clash, more closely resembles Joe Strummer, lead singer for the Clash.

Carlos Valderrama, the Tampa Bay midfielder with the mushroom cloud mane, comes done up with metallic gold helmet-hair. Not blond, not yellow, but "Goldfinger" gold. Picture Rick James kicking field goals for Notre Dame.

All 10 MLS teams are represented in the collection, most of them raising the same question: Why?

Hugo Sanchez (or Bruce Springsteen tripping over a soccer ball, one or the other) represents the Dallas Burn, even though he hasn't played for the team since October and is now retired.

And, there's no Jorge Campos model. Then again, the Galaxy couldn't find him last weekend, either, so Bandai's advertising claim might be right: "Totally realistic."

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