Chivas USA and LA Galaxy players observe a moment of silence for the victims of Sept. 11 before their match.
I first fell in love with soccer in Argentina, and I have to confess that it's probably created a bias in me about some things. I have an appreciation for quick, precise passing, tricky plays and that extra bit of magic on the field that can turn a game. I have a soft spot for Juan Toja's hair.
However, some of the things I was exposed to also created an extreme dislike. I hate cheating in any sport. I don't understand how Scott French can be a Barry Bonds fan. I don't think the "Hand of God" was a cute sort of cheekiness - I think less of Maradona and for that matter, Messi, for ever doing that.
I enjoy confetti showers from fans in the stands, streamers flying and cheering. I adore chants that mock, are clever, and get a crowd singing along. It's great to hear fans from different teams go back and forth with cheers. Banners and flags are marvelous.
I detest anything that stops a game. Leave it off the field. Never throw anything that could harm a player (Toronto fans know how much I dislike stuff being thrown on to the field). I was probably more bugged about the smoke bombs on the field in the last match than the Galaxy players were. Most of them just shrugged it off.
Every time I read about the latest violent incident in Argentina's soccer stadiums, it saddens me to think of how the country that introduced me to soccer is sinking to a place where fans are fenced off from each other and the field, where visitors don't feel safe bringing women or children, and where blatant hate is almost condoned as sporting pride and people die because of it.
It simply sucks. It does make me appreciate, though, that I live in the U.S., where I try to never miss a Dodgers/Cubs game because I have such a good time with my Chicago area friends. They'll be about fifty strong in their Cubs gear, with me in my old Dodger shirt, and we'll have a good old time. They razz me, and Dodger fans give the whole group grief, but everyone is there to have a good time.
So when I first read about problems with Chivas USA and Galaxy supporters, my heart sank. I was at the game, and from my vantage point, I was proud of both groups. I took pictures of the Legion 1908 unfurling their flags, but my camera battery ran out right then. It was too bad, because one of the memorable sights of the night for me was the Riot Squad standing with their scarves held overhead. All was lost for their team at that point, late in the game, but they were still showing their support. I thought, "That's how it should be. Two teams, two groups of fans representing."
It's ironic to think that some of those same scarves I admired might have been pulled away from their owners later that night. I don't think that's heroic in any way. Taunts are one thing, but getting physical is another, and that's where I draw the line. I don't think verbal provocation justifies physical violence. Where would we be as a civilization if we attacked every person who ever disagreed with or insulted us? That goes for both sides, because I wasn't there to see what really happened.
This was a Chivas USA home game, however, and both the organization and the stadium itself bear responsibility for keeping all fans safe during their events. I don't think danger is "cool" or "European" or "finally, some passion in MLS". I think anyone getting hurt is crap the league doesn't need.