Sunday, July 22, 2007

Fan following

In my All-Star game preview, I mentioned as one storyline how the MLS fans would compare to the Celtic support.

A few readers took issue with me on that, griping that fan support in the U.S. couldn't really be measured by support for an All-Star team.

Thing is, the MLS fans stepped up. Here's my postgame notes - I was going to write an entire column, but I fell asleep.

They came out in the fabled green-and-white jerseys, with over a hundred years of tradition behind those venerable hoops. They planned to bring something of the true sporting experience to the yokels of Major League Soccer. It’s possible that they overlooked their opposition, because they were utterly vanquished.

I’m not talking about Celtic FC versus the All-Stars. I’m talking about the Celtic supporters who are considered among the sport’s most passionate, versus the rag-tag, cobbled together combination of fans coming out to cheer on some of the best players in the league they support.

It seems a strange thing, to support a league. Fan passion is usually more directly centered on one squad and the tradition that organization embodies.

Indeed, it probably felt strange to more than a few loyal fans of the local team, the Colorado Rapids, to cheer for the players that they normally boo when their team faces them in league competition.

For one game, however, all those rivalries were put aside, and the best in MLS stood shoulder to shoulder in an effort to defeat the outside opposition. Something akin happened years ago when the Greek city-states, normally fierce competitors, took up arms together against outside invaders.

The chorus that supported these league warriors wasn’t polished or rehearsed. Except for the “We want Pablo” refrain chanted by the locals, any wording of things yelled out was mostly unintelligible.

Some actions transcend words.

The MLS fans yelled, cheered, stood on the concourse watching, booed their adversaries mightily during corner kicks and even managed to get the wave going around the stadium.

In other words, they clearly demonstrated that they were fans with a pulse, not the comatose, clueless U.S. soccer audience that has been described by many foreign press reports.

3 comments:

briguy said...

You're definitely on to something with this, A.C. I'd like to see you expand this and publish an article on the greater phenomenon of "league support" for MLS.

I'm one of those fans. RBNY is "my team," but I support those other, much newer "hoops" in Dallas, and as much as I dislike the Galaxy, I watched the ridiculous coverage last night with a certain amount of pride in "my" local league.

There's really something fantastic about seeing Beckham running around in the new LA kit next to the blues of Chelsea.

Silly as it may sound, I even read with a strange sense of pleasure this morning that RSL (a team for which I'm truly apathetic) took it to Everton. I love seeing MLS do well, whether it's the crazy fans in Toronto or the (sometimes) menacing presence of arch rivals DCU in international competitions.

So, I really enjoyed this post, and I'd like to see a feature-length article regarding the same in next month's ESPN the magazine or SI. Think you can make that happen?

A.C. said...

Now you make me wish that I'd finished the column! The issue we web people struggle with is timeliness. Things "hot off the press" and just after an event, are what get attention. If I take my time with an article, a lot of places don't want it any more because it's not as relevant in their eyes.

On the other hand, even if I have six great story ideas right after the All-Star game, it's not really humanly possible to write thoughtful commentary on all of them the same night. Sleep prevails.

I'll keep the topic in mind, though. At some point, it might be relevant again.

By the way, if I write it, it will never show up in SI. They have an exclusivity clause - I can't write for them because I write for espn.com. Also, I've never written for espn the Mag. I wish, but in general, look for my articles on the website.

Anonymous said...

I really like the idea for this column as well. Oddly enough, I take a lot of pride in the league when other MLS teams win these so-called meaningless friendlies. Perhaps you could tie the column to some of the historical examples of friendlies that have really ignited interest in the sport in other countries. Traveling teams from Britain would often take on teams in Germany, Italy, and Spain at the turn of the century, and it was the often the unexpected results from these matches that really sparked interest in football. Nothing is more satisfying than watching your home-grown talent pull off a huge upset against the supposed favorties, even if they are in preseason. Imagine what would have happened if the MLS selects beat Madrid in Madrid?