The Fan In You: Main Street Hooligans

En Espanol

TSG is starting (yet another) new series today entitled: “The Fan In You.” Consider it a brother series to the Supporter Series.

USA vs. Morocco: 2006

TFIY will explore how you, yes you reading this column, became a fan of the USMNT, or your favorite club team. Were you always a soccer fan? What drew you to the national team or what characteristic or geography pushed you to support your local squad?

Without starting the series, TSG communicated some of our reasons back in our first Thanksgiving piece entitled, “USMNT: What We’re Thankful For.”

Connor Walsh, a frequent commenter and guest writer on TSG, contributes the first in this series this morning. We couldn’t think of a better guy to get this series a rollin’. Thanks Connor. (Connor writes over at his blog, Ninety-Plus.)

If you want to add your unique take on fandom, drop us a line.

—————

In 2006, I attended my first ever US Men’s National Team match.

It was in the send off series of the 2006 World Cup, against Morocco at LP Field in Nashville. The US lost that match 0-1, but I’d never had so much fun in my entire life. My friends and I were given tickets amongst the hundreds of Morocco supporters who were there. Now, I had heard chanting and singing from the fans on TV, but never had I been thrust into the middle of such a ruckus.

It was controlled pandemonium, it was intimidating, and it was fun. Over in the end zone of the stadium I see a group of red clad US supporters, sporting a massive US flag and trying their hearts out to will their team to victory. I told myself then and there, I want to be a part of that passion.

Three years later, and that passion had only grown, through a spawning domestic league, a national program on the rise, and true love of the sport. In January 2009, I joined the American Outlaws, a family of thousands of fervent and staunch US Supporters, from across the nation.

Founded in 2007 in Lincoln, Nebraska, the Outlaws mission statement is “To support the United States National Team through a unified and dedicated group of supporters.” With 25 local chapters in major cities across the country, the Outlaws have officially taken over as the most visible of the US supporters groups.

Its elder cousin, Sam’s Army, which once claimed to have over 15,000 members, has diminished in its prominence and now many former Sam’s Army members are now Outlaws. The Outlaws have made their presence known around the world, following the Yanks wherever they go. Outlaws have been sighted in the Netherlands, Mexico, throughout the Caribbean, and Central America.

Growth of soccer in the United States has not gone unchecked by its fans, who for the longest of times had to watch their Yanks flounder in the melting pot that is international football. The birth of Major League Soccer in 1993 combined with the United States hosting the World Cup in 1994 sky-rocketed the growth of the sport. Today the growth of MLS has led to the formation of local “firms”.

True to the sport’s European identity, a firm is a group of fervent supporters, who like the Outlaws, stand and chant for the entirety of the game and often engage in tifo. Section 8 in Chicago, the Screaming Eagles and La Barra Brava in DC, the Nordecke in Columbus, the Empire Supporters Club in New York, the Sons of Ben in Philadelphia, and the Emerald City Supporters in Seattle are among the more vocal and well known supporters groups in MLS.

In 2002 the sport was suddenly thrust to the forefront of nationwide headlines, when the USA made it to the quarterfinals of the World Cup, and would’ve possibly made it farther had it not been for the infamous hand of Torsten Frings. This was the US’ best finish in the World Cup since 1930 and it contributed to a rapid growth of interest, coverage, and fandom in the United States.

It was in 2006 though when I really started following the US team and watched as much soccer as I could on TV. One thing I always heard when watching a big European match was the fans, entire stadiums singing and chanting and carrying on until their lungs turn themselves inside out. I envied the soccer culture of Europe and really wished the US could pack a stadium full of only red clad, screaming fans.

When I went to the US- Trinidad & Tobago match in April 2009, I had finally become satisfied with how far the US fan had come. 28,000 US fans filled the lower bowl of LP Field and it was the loudest I’d ever heard a stadium of exclusively US fans. Ever since then, you can hear the fans for all 90 minutes, see them standing, holding signs, etc.

Jozy 3-Spot: Eat your heart out America....I'm just getting started

In October the fans around the country made the miraculous happen. In the lone good thing to come out of the Charlie Davies accident, the fans used modern technology to unite and the culmination would be forever known as “The Ninth Minute Salute”. Not only the fans in DC that night, but fans and players at the MLS matches in Seattle, Salt Lake City, and other locales around the country followed suit, uniting under one banner, it was truly moving.

Television coverage of the national team and Major League Soccer has grown exponentially over the last several years. Most notably being in MLS, where all teams’ matches are shown in the local markets at the very least.

In 2005 MLS implemented its Direct Kick package, and today it allows its subscribers to watch over 130 MLS regular season and playoff matches at a cost of only $79, a fraction of what other comparable packages cost for other sports, making it very fan friendly. ESPN is also slowly becoming a major contributor to the growth of soccer as it airs at least one high profile MLS game per week and even purchased broadcasting rights to show MLS matches around the globe. ESPN also covers in some facet nearly every US National Team match. The matches it chooses not to cover are then picked up by one of Fox Soccer Channel, GOL TV, and/or its Spanish broadcasters Univision, Galavision, or Telefutura. It is estimated that MLS will make $30 million over the next 8 years in television revenue alone.

With the World Cup just two months away, even my baseball and basketball loving roommates are becoming fans. Its games like the World Cup produces that turn fair-weather and casual fans in to die-hards. That’s how I got hooked, so let June come and let the trend continue.

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14 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Jeff D. on 2010/04/16 at 5:41 AM

    I really like the idea of this series. Its interesting where people get their fandom from. Personally, my love for soccer started when I lived in the same hall as some soccer players my freshman year in college. They got me hooked on Fifa 06, and me and my friends played the game endlessly. Since I played the game, I was more interested in watching games, and naturally I wanted to learn more about the world of football. I started following the USMNT in that summer’s world cup. I remember watching them battle Italy, the eventual WC champs, into a draw with only 9 men. That game was great and showed me what USMNT soccer should be all about; grit, determination, and never backing down. I look forward to more reading more entries.
    Jeff

    Reply

  2. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/04/16 at 6:19 AM

    Connor, thanks for the read man. Really good to read stories like this**. And it’s people like you who will get US soccer to where it wants to be rather than people who always point to other countries’ football culture and saying that the US’ is lacking – attitudes like that don’t help the progression of the sport in this country. Remember, football in the USA is still in its relative infancy, and hopefully, sooner rather than later, MLS games will be selling out stadiums all over the country.

    **My story is boring. I didn’t have too much say in which team I was ever going to support. Hopefully, it will be the same in this country where ‘the baton get passed down from one generation to another’.

    Keep supporting the US, your country needs you!

    Reply

  3. This is a good post and a great idea. I started loving soccer when I was a senior in high school. I moved to a high school in semi-rural Virginia that had never had a soccer team until that year, so having played when I was a child, I was more than qualified to be the new goalkeeper for the team. I’ve been playing goalkeeper on intramural teams ever since. My love for the USMNT happened the same year, in 1998, when I watched our boys get crushed in the World Cup. I guess what made it so fun was that the WC was happening during senior beach week and it was a good time to wake up in the morning, grab a beer and watch some games before hitting the beach. The 2002 World Cup was a blast, even though as a college student I had a pretty rough time waking up for those 5AM matches, and we’d get a bunch of friends over at our place to watch despite the time of day. If there is one club team I follow more closely than others, it is Fulham… but I mostly watch club football to see the Americans.

    Reply

  4. Posted by jake on 2010/04/16 at 9:33 AM

    Though my understanding and ‘fanship’ has grown quite a bit since then, I have to say my original interest in soccer came from the great, “FIFA Road to the World Cup 98″ on Nintendo 64. Without that game, and it’s good reviews in the magazines of the day, I would likely have never started to notice soccer even existed.

    Being from a small rural town in the midwest, I was unable to experience any soccer firsthand – ours was a baseball, basketball, and football community. However, that game taught me a heck of a lot about the rules of soccer, and began to familiarize me with some of the players worth following. I think the worth of video games, especially modern ones, cannot be understated in terms of familiarizing casual gamers/fans to the game. The rules are easy to pick up, but you even get a sense of flow and attacking strategies as you play more and more. This is coming from someone who knows nothing about hardcore soccer strategy, but I feel like I’m starting to understand whats going on.

    Anyone else have a similar experience? I know a lot of my friends (still not fans of soccer) play FIFA because it’s fun. Personally, I’ve taken this fun experience and turned it into a genuine interest in a great sport.

    Reply

  5. Posted by cesar on 2010/04/16 at 11:22 PM

    that AO video is great. I was actually standing about five feet behind the cameraman. you can even hear me booing with the rest of them when Sunil says that FIFA don’t think we’re passionate enough. watching that again gave me goosebumps! yowza.

    I can really relate to that last paragraph you put together. I’ve been noticing the same effect on my roommates too, and it doesn’t hurt that I’ve got the one addicted to FIFA ’10 now.

    Reply

  6. Posted by tnnelson on 2010/04/17 at 1:36 AM

    i agree with you in the fact that i love that the world cup will bring many new supporters of soccer in this country, but it also kind of pisses me off. i hate that throughout my whole life, kids have made fun of me for being a soccer fan, because, for some reason, soccer has always been nothing to a lot of Americans. but you know, that no matter what happens this summer with the USMNT, all of those faggots that used to make fun of soccer and all of us faithful supporters will all of a sudden be die-hard soccer fans. i love that the sport is growing and i love that one day, it will be a top tier sport in this country, but i hate that all those cunts that used to ridicule the sport and make all of us soccer fans feel terrible will suddenly be the biggest USA soccer fans ever. fuck them. i do want the sport to grow on them, but i hate that they will miraculously change their minds all of a sudden just because we are good.WE WILL ALWAYS BE THE TRUE AMERICAN SOCCER FANS AND THEY CAN NEVER TAKE THAT AWAY FROM US, NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS

    Reply

    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/04/17 at 4:33 AM

      Wow, that’s passionate. You get people who jump on the bandwagon whatever sport, whatever country – people come out of the woodwork with success**. I think if the WC is the trigger for long term fans, then I’d turn a blind eye to said mocking. But if they disappear after the WC, then yeah, F ‘em.

      It’s a bit like people who go to Mass at Christmas but never during the year…

      **When all of the nouveau fans started popping up when Roman bought Chelsea, we used to sing “where were you when you were shit?…………….”

      Reply

  7. Posted by Freegle on 2010/04/17 at 8:42 AM

    I grew up playing soccer but I didn’t realize how much the USMNT meant to me until April 20th, 1997. My 15th birthday present was a family outing to the Mexico WCQ match in Foxboro with tickets in the 17th row even with the penalty area… the same penalty area where Kasey Keller kicked the ball off Carlos Hermosillo’s head and into his own goal. Up to that point, I was a soccer player but not really a fan of anything but Cobi Jones. But I was maybe 25 yards away from that play and it made me sick (that moment also began what is now a well cultivated hatred for Mexico). Who would have thought a football match could make me feel like that? I was/am generally a very calm and quiet person who doesnt get worked up about anyting. But, the passion of the fans, the intensity of the match, the entire atmosphere that day was intoxicating. Well, we USA fans (probably outnumbered 2/1 by Mexicans that day) got loud and cheered like hell to help our boys rally to earn an important point in a 2-2 draw. And I was hooked for life.

    Since then most of my best television sports days (ex. Portugal victory in 2002, et.al) and worst for that matter (ex. Czech loss in 2006) revolved around the USMNT. I’ve been to Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park, NBA and NCAA basketball games and none can come close to the feeling that I get walking into Rentschler field for a match vs Latvia or Gilette to play against lowly Cuba.

    My own passion continues to grow as well. I will be at both “Send off series” matches in May. I delayed my engagement partially because my fiancee wants June or July wedding and I want to be able to devote my full attention to WC 2010 this summer (she doesnt know that – I couldnt explain it and she would NEVER understand)

    Sadly, many people still don’t understand it. After that Czech match another passionate friend and I went to lunch with some others who couldnt fathom why we were inconsolable because a “soccer” team lost. They hadn’t even known the world cup was happening. We were on an island back then (and it wasnt that long ago). However, this year, we had to wait in line for an hour just to get into a viewing party for the Honduras match. Even though it was aggravating to have to stand in the cold, we took it as a great sign. Our numbers are growing and it’s something I am proud to be a part of.

    Reply

  8. Posted by NDB on 2010/04/18 at 2:21 PM

    the thing i dislike about mls is the faked nature of the fans forcing the issue of singing their songs copied from europe. i understand that they’re trying to create a good atmosphere, but go to europe and you generally don’t see fans behave like that, they’re passionate without looking like frauds. most americans only like futbol because they think it’s trendy, counter culture. basically the hipsters of the sporting world.

    ndb

    Reply

    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/04/19 at 6:39 AM

      As much as I agree that you cannot compare the atmosphere to a Euroepan game, you have to be a little reasonable here. The MLS is in it’s (relative) infancy, whereas, many European leages were formed in the late 1800s / early 1900s, so what do you expect? And before you say anything, I’ve been to Wembley, Highbury, White Hart Lane, Stamford Bridge, Villa Park, Hillsborough, Elland Road, Anfield, St. James Park, Stade de France… and many smaller provincial stadiums.

      I used to think along the same lines but instead of being negative, and highlighting (potential) weaknesses, why don’t you just go to a game and enjoy it, try to help grow the sport in this country by going?

      Whilst the level of football isn’t as good as some European leagues, it isn’t as bad as people think. I hope you change your mind and give MLS another chance.

      Reply

  9. Posted by TAC on 2010/04/18 at 10:57 PM

    ndb – i agree that it seems many soccer fans are the “hipsters” of the sporting world in many aspects, but I have a couple of issues with that. First off, a number of songs, chants, etc. used in Europe are all copied from one another anyhow. Listen to a lot of the chants, esp. for the big 4 in England, and they are all the same, but with different names inserted. Second, it’s still a lot of fun and exposes new people to the game. Sure, the Nordecke in Columbus will probably never be the Kop end at Liverpool, but I enjoy myself at every Crew match. I’ve taken football-playing buddies who have never watched a game in their lives, and now they’re hooked on soccer, from just one experience! I’ve even taken Europeans who say that it’s just about as much fun to be in the stands here as over there. Just because we didn’t invent it, doesn’t mean we can’t perfect it.

    That being said, my interest in the game and the USMNT has been a lifelong thing. I have been playing the game since I was six, played competitively through college, and continue to play recreationally when I can. I really got hooked going to the 3AM viewing parties for the 2002 world cup. Seeing that many people going crazy for the boys in blue at ridiculous hours of the night was a truly addicting and memorable experience. I’m happy to say that I see a lot more people demonstrating an interest in the game, and this summer’s WC in particular. Let’s bring it home!

    Reply

  10. […] we’re back today with our second installment of The Fan In You, a series where a fan offers their perspective on how they came to root for the team they love, and […]

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  11. […] we’re back today with our fourth installment of The Fan In You, a series where a fan offers their perspective on how they came to root for the team they love. […]

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  12. This was a fantastic article and pretty much how I became a big USMNT fan. It was definitely the watching Brian McBride’s header in the middle of the night and listening to Jack Edwards screaming “the land of the free and the home of the brave” on the broadcast.

    From that moment, I was hooked. I joined the American Outlaws just before the World Cup and instead of getting to AO parties, I went to a local bar. There were other AO members already there plus 100s of other US fans.

    I started AO: Westchester,NY right then and there.

    To be honest, we’ve completely slacked off since the end of the WC. We’re organizing big time now though. We have a bar willing to host us for every USMNT game. We just need 10 more members to be an official chapter.

    If you are an AO: NYC member and live in Westchester, Rockland, or Fairfield Counties, please join us. If you are a US soccer fan in these areas, DEFINITELY join us.

    Go to my AO facebook page to contact me here: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=127376847299937

    Or, email me at Section1GuyCom@aol.com

    Unite and Strengthen!

    Reply

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