Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The Villain

Landon Donovan looks harmless, doesn't he? He's pretty small, and his Irish heritage makes him seem fey more than threatening.

But Landon can be a terror to opposing teams and he doesn't hesitate to take on opposing fans as well. His shushing gesture, combined with the throat slit, was definitely provocative.

Here's the thing, though. Soccer isn't golf, and I don't mind passionate interaction between fans and players, though I know some will disagree.

I remember when Cobi Jones scored in an Open Cup match versus the Minnesota Thunder, and he ran over to the traveling fans section and bowed low. It was a taunt, for sure, but I thought it was clever. Bruce McGuire (of DuNord fame) disagreed completely and thought it was low class.

Where I draw the line is at sexual taunts - grotch grabbing to me is low class.

But a challenge to the fans should be taken just as that - a challenge to not shut up, to yell and support your team even more. The Crew's one-time goalkeeper, Bill Guadette, had a finger wagging, "no, no" gesture to opposing forwards in a game, and Eric Wynalda rightly called out that it would make them want to score on him more than ever. Live by the taunt, die by it - but I still think the game is more interesting with such displays.

Your thoughts?


Nathan said...

Sports are entertainment. A classic trope of entertainment is "good vs. evil", which sports play into so very well.

Taunting, when done in a way that doesn't denigrate opposing players (no personal attacks, no sexual innuendos, no saying you slept with someone's sister/brother, that kind of stuff), just adds to the whole trope.

The evil side becomes more evil. The good guys become knights in shining armor.

People use phrases like "the team you love to hate" and "America's Team" which play directly into this good vs. evil thing.

Last night Donovan was Evil.

And it was delicious.

Anonymous said...

People love to hate Donovan. Either he's too wimpy or too cocky. He can't win, so I say let him do what he wants!

Anonymous said...

I think now would be the perfect time for the Galaxy to take advantage of Donovan's added value and sell him to an East European team or a Turkish team. I would pay lots of money to watch him do that same move in Istanbul to the opposing fans. It would be extra fun to watch him run for his life in the ensuing riot.

chris h. said...

"Why is taunting not allowed? In every other league on the planet, after scoring the forwards put their finger to their lips as if to say "shush now" not the crowd. Let's not go the way of the NFL and ban celebrations!"

Completely agree with this comment as well as with AC, this kind of player fan interaction adds some flair to the game. Clearly the Hoops were able to get over their hurt feelings to score again before Donovan/Pavon put it away.

Anonymous said...

I think MLS has to come down on taunts as it could be a security/safety risk. When the Rapids taunted Dallas fans last year it caused a near fight with the fans. If one of those fans get hurt its on the league. Also Rapids taunting RSL fans and Eddie Johnson taunting Toronto fans caused objects to be thrown on to the field. Thats obviously a safety issue for players and again fans. Not to mention the possiblity of a irate fan jumping on the field to fight a taunting player. If players want to taunt fans and get away with it then they shoud not complain when objects get thrown at them, you get what you asked for is how I feel. I dare him to go to Azteca in September and make the throat slashing jesture there.

NCGuy said...

My favorite was years ago, Clint Mathis scoring, running over to the supporter's section, clutching his gut, yelling "who's the fat bastard now!!".

Bonji said...

As a Colorado Rapids fan I love players taunting fans, so long as it is not vulgar. The Rapids are famous for going on the road and getting the opposing fans to hate them. Bring it on.

Jesse Erdmann said...

Mostly I agree with you, AC, on this one. The Thunder fans seem to be particularly good at getting a response out of opposing players, and Bruce is one of the primary reasons for this.

For instance, before the trip to LA in 2005 that you mention, the Thunder faced Real Salt Lake. Cletus had been taking a large amount crap from the supporters section who, as always, were directly behind the visitors' bench. I believe it was in the second half, a free kick was given to RSL at the sideline just at the end of RSL's bench. As Cletus lined up the free kick, he took a little extra time to spread his cheeks and scratch his brown eye in our general direction. Crass, but funny, and subtle enough that not many people outside of the supporters' section even noticed.

Of course, this year's Open Cup had it's own set of incidents in the game with California. The biggest one happened in the second half of extra time when Ricardo Sanchez scored an amazing free kick from about 35 yards to put the Victory up 1-0. After a game in which the supporters were in tremendous form, including the interval before extra time and the short half time break in extra time where incessant, calamitous noise was rained down upon the Victory huddle, Sanchez had apparently had enough. Having scored what would be the winning goal, he ran straight at the supporters' section, dropped to all fours at the sideline and lifted his leg in simulation of a dog peeing. This earned him a second yellow card. Five minutes later, his teammates finally shoved him off the field into the arms of his coach, who had to put him in a headlock to restrain him. Then a few minutes later, Glenn Van Straatum, the Victory coach, turned to the supporters' section to make sure we knew what the score was, signaling 1-0 and pointing at the score board.

Of course, I much prefer the memory of Dustin Brannan scoring a glorious header from a corner kick in the 2004 Open Cup against Landon Donovan's San Jose squad that sent the game to extra time, but the many bizarre moments of player and coach meltdowns including those above are cherished memories of my seven years as a Thunder season ticket holder. So yeah, maybe they are low class, or whatever, but it's just so much fun to make a professional athlete lose their mind and respond like that. All the better when you're at the level of the USL and you can buy the guy a beer after the game. Or at least offer to in the case of Cletus (he politely declined).

BryanQ said...

Taunting is fine as long as it doesn't cross the line. Personally I think throat-slashing is inappropriate along the lines of crotch grabbing and other vulgar acts.

elopingcamel said...

Landon has taken enough crap from fans over his career. If he wants to dish a little back out... it's fine by me.

jason said...

Some taunts should be taken off the table, such as racist, sexist, and homophobic epithets.

Other than that, taunts like those mentioned here can be criticized in terms of strategy and wit but not ethics.

But ethics is in play with taunts. Fandom feels "all out" but there are limits to what is permissible in "getting in their heads."

A fan of Real Salt Lake explained on another website that he helped organize anti- People's Republic of China protests at an exhibition game just to rankle the visiting national team.

It's wierd to see fans of Rangers and Celtic digging up retro taunts just for sporting purposes.

I think taunts should be sincere and humour certainly eases any ethical concerns.

Anonymous said...

One of my favorite taunters of all time is Cuahtemoc Blanco and he has so many classic hits I can't even remember them all.

Landon should be carefull, when you enter that realm you open yourself to violent challenges. Blanco as brilliant as he is was twice the player before a Trinidadian by the name of Anson Elcock tore all his ligaments in a knee after a game was already a blowout with a ruthless challenge.

Right now Landon has the speed and he feels invinceable but there are a few guys always lurking for payback. I hope he tones it down so his career lasts a long time.

brucio said...

for some reason as the last two years have gone on i have grown to love the cobi jones taunt he laid me and my thunder supporting friends

we wear it as a badge of honor now

at least he new there were road supporters at the game

ok it was only about 50 of us, but....


jamesey said...

If Landon does that in Azteca against Mexico, you won't see one American complain about it. If Fish does that to Galaxy fans at the HDC, Dallas fans don't complain about it and LA fans do.

A.C. said...

That's part of the reason that I liked what Cobi did - it really brought the traveling support into play. We get too little of that in U.S. soccer, because the distances are so vast.

I thought it was prideful of Cobi, yeah, and I can see why others would prefer that he celebrate with his own fans, but I thought to go over to the Thunder fans with that, "How you like me now" bow was kinda cool, and in a way, showed respect for them.

On the other hand, how am I to tell someone one the receiving end of that gesture how to feel? That's why I thought your take on it was valid, even if you've changed your mind now. It's bogus to tell someone they shouldn't be offended - it's always different when you're the target.

For the record, I didn't think Alecko Eskandarian's infamous celebration of spitting out the Red Bull, was too cool, because I thought it attacked a sponsor and team owner and supporter of the league (that's why I also think the AEG attacks from San Jose fans are lame - without them, there would be no league for San Jose to rejoin). I thought the Colorado Rapids' montage of a bullfight killing was much better. Clint Dempsey's "Stop, drop and roll" versus the Fire was brilliant.

Anonymous said...

I got no problem with players spitting out Red Bull that stuff really sucks. Its not like Esky critized Red Bulls ownership like the San Jose fans did. I got no issue with taunts but I can't blame the league for not endorsing such action as 1 incident involing a fan will them sued big time.

Anonymous said...

I support taunting (but, being a prude, I also draw the line at sexual taunts).

The lame-o in the stands that feels offended (or even validated) because a player looked and gestured in his general direction? I point and laugh at his self-important, delusional arse.

But that time Sergei Fedorov smiled in my general direction, that was kismet. Total validation.

Rock on, Landon.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe that Landon's actions against FCD is even an issue. Lord knows that Landon takes abuse wherever he goes -- comments about Bianca, his PK routine, his coming home from the Budesliga. The fans who taunt LD and other players bring the throat-slashes upon themselves, and it's all in the name of good, clean smack-talk and competition.

Goal celebrations (that stop short of biting a teammate's crotch) are fun and should NEVER go the way of a 15-yard penalty in the No Fun League. Landon, if we find ourselves up a goal in the second 45 in Azteca, go for it (and then, of course, run like hell after the game).

Xanthippas said...

My thoughts are, the only effective way to deal with players who taunt your side is to beat the snot of them...not lose after giving up four goals in the first 20 minutes.

yankiboy said...

jamesey: With all due respect, if Landon did the same throat slashing gesture at Azteca, I would definitely "complain". It would be a really stupid thing to do. Let's just get a win and get out.

jamesey, if you have ever been to Azteca you probably remember what an intimidating place it can be. And I'm talking about a big FMF club match.

For the Superliga, I think that it was a bit over the top. But they were playing the Hoops. No disrespcet to the Dallas faithful, but I wouldn't put the threat level as high. Had the game been an away game against Pachuca or America, then all bets are off.

Had it been against DC United, I think that most of us would have just "hated" Landon more until the next time that we was in the red, white & blue.

There is a reason why there is higher security at some matches. You have to access when to do the "theatre" thing and when it's probably not a good idea.

I don't think that Landon would do that outside of the US or Canada. At least I hope not.