Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Supporting one's own

There was a good turnout for the Mexico-Colombia match on Wednesday at DSG Park in Colorado. Mexico brought a team full of relative nobodies but the fans still came out to watch El Tri.

As I was watching the match (which was pretty dull to be honest), I wondered if people would question why more of the fans who showed up for the game don't go out and support the Rapids. It seems like a logical question. After all, if you like soccer then you should support your local soccer club, right?

Well, it's not quite as straightforward as that. I'll try to put it in a way that might help some people understand why fans will come out for one soccer game but not another.

I like baseball. The Dodgers are my team, though they're not doing that great right now. One minute they're fighting for first and the next they're seven games back of the Snakes. Still, I'll bleed Dodger Blue 'til the day I die.

In 2002, I had the opportunity to go to Japan for the World Cup. I flew into Tokyo and caught a train to Yokohama, where I stayed that night. I was pooped when I got to my hotel, the New Otani Inn (as an aside, I didn't have a great time in Japan so I literally shuddered when I typed in that hotel name).

I got into my cramped room and let myself fall on the bed; I was pooped. Soon after, I picked up the remote and turned on the television. I wasn't quite ready for sleep. I came across an old Western movie, where the bad guy was russlin' up some trouble. It was in English with Japanese subtitles as opposed to all the rest of the channels which spewed unintelligible gibberish at me, so it appealed to me.

I changed the channel again and came across a baseball game. It seems the Yokohama Bay Stars were playing a home game and I was lucky enough to stumble across it. Now, I like baseball and was hard up for watching something so I left it on the game. But it took about three pitches for me to lose interest. I changed it back to the Western, and the sheriff was now chasing the bad guy out of town.

Even though I like baseball, the Bay Stars weren't doing it for me. I've since thought about that and wondered if I were to live in Japan would I follow the Japanese baseball league? Would I latch on as a Bay Stars fan or perhaps follow the Nippon Ham Fighters? I know I wouldn't follow the Yomiuri Giants; those guys are probably a bunch of, uh, losers. Probably I'd still be a Dodger fan. They'd remain my team and if I were to pick up a Japanese team it wouldn't replace the los doyers.

So why would I expect then for people who grew up following a team in Mexico or Argentina or England to suddenly follow the Galaxy or the Fire or FC Dallas simply because they live nearby those clubs?

Just as the Bay Stars didn't do it for me, MLS teams just don't do it for a lot of people. That's not a slight against the league. It's just what happens when people swear allegiances to soccer clubs.


Anonymous said...

Your post is valid if only referencing Mexico NT supporters who were born/raised in Mexico. What about the millions of Mexican-Americans, who probably do support an NFL or MLB team, that still choose to root for El Tri/MFL? I find it hard to believe that every time USA & Mexico play in the States that all of those thousands of supporters caravan from south of the border to Chicago, LA, etc.

There ought to be documentary on the reasoning behind Americans doing a very un-American thing-- rooting for another flag, country, allegiance.

Joel Aceves said...

You cant go wrong with a name like the Nippon Ham Fighters, sounds better than The Crew or The Wiz, LoLz.

Still, I cant see how you had a sh't time in Japan!! If you go to South Africa, we can meet up, fun times guaranteed.

Rusten said...

I think that is true, to an extent, certainly. However, the children of those folks who moved to Colorado likely will become Rapids fans in addition to remaining as fans of El Tri . . .

East River said...

Oddly enough I had a conversation with a roommate's ex-friend yesterday on a related subject. She asked me why I cheer for the USMNT despite all the things the US has done in the world. I told her that my main reason was that I admire how the US players play so hard regardless of how much hate they may get which is expected in foreign soil. But what really impressed me was them getting booed on US soil and still playing hard. I explain to her how a player named Josh Wolff was from Stone Mountain, GA just miles from my families and sister's houses and how Clint Mathis comes from a town that some of my favorite cousins live in. How could I cheer against people so close in culture and proximity to me? I told her how messed up it was that people who have your accent, may eat similar food, listen to similar music, and live and go to school just miles from you may be cheering against you just b/c you rep the US. For those born somewhere else its understandable to not root for the local team club or country. But for those raised here I for one am proud of where I'm from and who I am.

But as LB states once people have an emotional connection to a team its hard to just give that up or switch that dedication or emotional investment to a new team. Those connections take time and often start at an age when a person is forming their identity. As MLS clubs grow older those with a connection to the local club will grow.

Nathan said...

I agree with the first poster. LB, your explanation works well if you are visiting a country. But if you lived in Japan for 5-10 years, you would probably be able to place the Ham Fighters into your own cultural context and become more likely to appreciate that brand of baseball.

That same should hold true for people who have lived in the US for 10-20 years. The Crapids become part of your local cultural context becaues they get covered in the news (maybe!), they market to your demographic (maybe!) and they become part of what you know about where you live. Plus you get to go to live professional futbol games, like on the regular.

IF this doesn't work for a person, then the real question is why don't they feel like they are part of the local culture and/or why don't they feel like the Crapids are a part of their own cultural context.

And that's a whole 'nother question.

In re: rooting for the US despite the fact that we are kinda a major imperialist force... Simply put I root for the USA because its my country. Not only does the team represent the worst of what America can do in the world, it also represents the best that Americans can be. For every instance of deposing democractically elected Central and South American governments that stain the flag, there is someone like MLK, Cesar Chavez, Fannie Lou Hamer, Walter Reuther, Paul Robeson, and Rosa Parks. To name just a very very very few.

I'm not going to root against us just because I disapprove of our foreign policy. That means abandoning the team to only one segment of American society (people who are excessivley jingoistic) and if living in the USA means anything to me it means that people from all over with massively different upbringings and cultural backgrounds can come together and build communities.


A.C. said...

I guess I never think about this too much, because I go with what I like. To me, it's as simple as a comparison to food. I like spicy food, for example, and it's generally easy for me to adapt to cultures and countries where that's popular.
I don't really like things that are pickled or a lot of seafood. I could live fifty years in England and I don't believe I would ever enjoy watching darts, cricket or snooker.
The whole "be patriotic" thing doesn't seem to wash when it comes to food. You wouldn't tell a family eating burritos on the 4th of July that they're being unpatriotic. It's just a matter of taste. Some people like different things. Even within the same sport, there are different styles. No one should become a fan out of guilt or obligation. That's like saying "It's delicious." when you really hate the food. It's fake.
Though I do think people should just give things a try, like a new dish or MLS, before they bash it. You never know what you might like after having a taste.

Bonji said...

I've had this discussion with friends here in Devner too. Why should a Mexican fan automatically support the Rapids just because they're Mexican and like soccer? They shouldn't. They come out in full force when their local beloved team plays in Denver but MLS should never have assumed they would automatically support the Rapids. Big mis-calculation by the Rapids. They've spent years trying to figure out why more Hispanic fans don't come to Rapids games.

Give them an exciting team that is fun to watch and more soccer fans will come out. The Rapids don't get that as they continue to accept mediocrity.

jason said...

This post shows just how soccer-crazy the USA really is. There are at lest four leagues competing for attention. (MLS, EPL, MFL, and La Liga) And our women's national team has a host of followers as well as the men.

Soccer is an international sport and US soccer fans have an international mindset. We know that, say, Trinidad and Tobago will have dancing in the streets if they beat the USA and so some of us root for the team who will deliver the most joy.

People remember how crazy their families were for El Tri and so they keep it up for El Tri. They also have very cool kits that don't change every three months.

I have never heard anyone complain about people rooting for Ireland or England, which is also common. Anonymous may not have a double standard here but he is wrong to diagnose a problem.

Americans are Americans when they celebrate their heritage and we are good Americans when we let others do so without questioning their loyalty.