SOC 101: Fan Studies (You Can Help!)

I have taken little jabs at supporters’ groups from time to time, but I want to clarify this a little. It’s not the groups that irk me, but a familiar mind-set that permeates them: the super-fan, the “true supporter” mentality, the celebration and even promotion of obsessing over the club’s fate as a badge of pride. And, to be clear, I don’t take issue with the super-fan as a person – until, that is, they call out other people for being outside the church. So, irks seems the wrong word. I think I’m just puzzled by the hyper-devoted (while being simultaneously fascinated by the way in which being inside the group intensifies the connection between fan and team; another post, another day).

The reason I’m puzzled bears noting: what we are all engaged in, after all, is watching other people do something, as opposed to participating directly. Invested as I get in that, and as much as I feel like the game consumes my life to what I’d dub an unbalanced extent, I see and read things everyday that tell me I’m half-assing it. And that’s just odd. True, I the losses hurt me less, the wins don’t make my week, and I’d rather just watch the game and yell what comes to me, as opposed to joining with others to create atmosphere and 12th-man hostility: maybe that’s enough for “half-assed” to stick.

That, however, is just the frame for the question, and this goes to anyone who counts themselves a super-fan, true supporter, what have you: what is your passion? That’s not some Oprah-esque question about what do you love in life, but, literally, what is that passion? What creates and drives your behavior as a fan of the game and what role, and to what extent, does the community aspect of supporters group fuel it? How do you explain your fandom, from its intensity to the yen for a stadium full of people chanting the same song? Why do you value the traditional chanting and bouncing to the extent that you’re aggravated at people who sit on their hands? Why is building atmosphere nearly as important to you as the game itself, if not more important?

As noted in a separate post, I’ll be gone for a couple days, but would love to see a shitload of answers filling the comments field when I get back. Consider this an open invitation to tell the story of your fandom, specifically, what turns your crank and how it…well, gets you off.  Juice it up with anecdotes about divorces, break-ups, lost jobs, and horrible hygiene, so much the better – and, all right, meeting your future wife on a road trip counts as well. Only one answer is out of bounds: “If you don’t understand, I can’t explain it to you.” That’s a cop-out, not an answer.

By all means, float this on other sites; the more the merrier. I’m asking because I’m genuinely curious. I’m really puzzled by not only how I attach to the game, but by the way others do so more passionately. You’ve heard my bit and won’t hear any more; it’s your turn now.

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MLS Daily Sweeper, 12.13: A Contribution to MLS Underground’s New Direction; Stadiums; Collapsed Rumors; Parsed Trades

– For those who haven’t seen it already, MLS Underground is under new management and, with that, is headed off in a new direction.  And this isn’t so much a sharp right-hand turn as it’s a three-to-four-point turn with an e-brake slide.  Rather than deal in its former insider-dish/rumor-hawking stuff (and I’m still baffled by the commenter to the post who said “there are enough rumor blogs out there…says who?), MLSU is changing its focus to supporters’ groups, whether it’s history, circulating their songs, or making them go national.  It’s a cool idea.  So cool that it triggered something I was thinking about, maybe last night, maybe another night…or maybe I just dreamed it.

That can be found in the comment left by manlyferry – who happens to be me, though I’m leaning toward a change in handle (not yet affected): the basic idea – and I give this with my blessing to anyone who can get their shit together and get it off the ground before I can get my shit together and get it off the ground (should give you, oh, a decade or three; and that assumes it’s even possible, or even desirable) – is to build up a database on places for visiting fans, even away fans, to stay as they visit MLS and, what the hell, USL-1 cities.  These should be cheap options at most, free at best – e.g. places with people who are willing to put up other people (he writes, knowing he has no space of his own); but a simple guide to cheap hotels, contacts in the city to help people with getting around, etc.

The idea is to facilitate, say, summer tours for people wanting to follow MLS teams.  As I said in the comment, it’s like following the Grateful Dead, but without all the shitty music…yeah, you’d lose the drugs, but, on the upside, you get to keep your kidneys.  Pie in the sky?  Quite probably.  But a fella can dream, can’t he?

At any rate, cool concept for MLS Underground and tip of the hat to SF of The Offside Rules for making it happen. Continue reading

Coverage of MLS Philly 10.22: One Step Closer!

CLICK HERE for the video coverage in Media, PA which some of the supporter group Sons of Ben was on hand for. The stadium looks awesome and a lot different than most of the Rosetti planned sites that MLS aficionados have gotten used to.

One step closer is all I can say – now it’s up to Ed Rendell. Make it happen……..please? Only real downside so far is the ETA of the project’s finish – 2010, with games beginning in 2011. It will take 18 months to complete an over a million labor hours but all in the name of sweetness and a house of our own (for those Philadelphians that read this).

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LA Story: Humor, Soccer, and “Racism”

I started, wrote, and re-wrote a blurb on this for yesterday’s Daily Sweeper; it’s possible six or so people read it before I yanked it.  The post dealt with a touchy subject: the intersection of fan humor and race/ethnicity.  By the time I finished, though, I wound up with a blurb – not nearly enough to address so contentious an issue.  But, big and interesting as the subject is, I didn’t want to duck it.  So, I’m trying again here.

To start at the beginning, Dan Loney wrote a frustrated post in response to a preview written ahead of last night’s SuperClasico by a reporter named Billy Witz, who writes for the Long Beach Press-Telegram.  As part of an attempt to describe the heightened tension surrounding the SuperClasico, Witz reported an incident from the previous “LA derby” in which the Riot Squad, an LA Galaxy supporters group, wore sombreros and hired a mariachi band, a bit of fan theater that Witz reports left some of Chivas USA’s Mexican nationals feeling “mocked” and “irate.”  Loney responded with subscription-canceling ire growing from his sense that he’d been branded a racist.  You can best get their sides by reading Loney’s post, though the original article forms the primary source material.

But the whole thing got me thinking…and that leads me to a story: Continue reading