MLS: Cheer For Fan Friendly, Not Family Friendly

TSG’s Nick Sindt with verbiage on MLS fan support

Swearing in MLS Stadia

Posh Spice is a trollop, Posh Spice is a whore,

When she’s shagging Davey Beckham, She thinks of Joe-Max Moore

-       Chant told to Dan (FBM) and I by a New England Revolution supporter at a Chicago Fire game

Earmuffs!

Earlier this past season, the front office of the Philadelphia Union sent an open letter to its season ticket holders highlighting that the fans of the Union come in all shapes and sizes and they all have a right to enjoy the game.  This letter went on further to highlight vulgar chants directed towards the opposition are not fostering an environment that is suitable for fans of all ages.  In years past, the Nordecke in Columbus have come under similar fire from the Crew’s front office.

Sixteen years into its existence, Major League Soccer has come to an interesting stage of its development/maturation.  No longer is the sport viewed as just a game for kids to burn off energy.  No longer is it a spectator sport just for mommy, daddy, little Tommy & Suzie.  Instead it is showing continued growth amongst the most important demographics and most of the teams can count on fervent supporters groups to be at each and every home game.  At 16, and given the examples mentioned above it appears that MLS clubs need to make a decision about who’s money are they more interested in; the family dollar, or money from the 18+ crowd?

As the league continues to grow it is less and less dependent on the fleeting family dollar and therefore it would be in each club’s best interest to not agitate their passionate season-ticket holders with open letters condemning their language.  However, the clubs and league cannot yet ignore the soccer moms and youth teams.  For one, these butts in seats are still butts in seats, and two, the parents bringing these kids to games when they’re young creates that link to future fandom.  The question then becomes should the clubs’ front office personnel go out of their way to continue championing a family friendly environment?  Or, should they simply let their environments develop as they will?

Personally I would like to see MLS franchises begin to care less and less about the family friendly environment as that money is exceedingly transient (especially in a recession) and families tend to create library-esque environments unless a certain blond-haired Englishman is marauding up and down the pitch.  Is there really a concern that five-year olds are hearing foul language and asking their parents what the word means?  Better yet, if the kids are hearing the words and recognizing them, then this isn’t their first exposure to the word then, is it.

Make it loud...but creative....

All of that being said I am in agreement with the MLS brass when it comes to profanity, but not for the same reasons.  The profane chants that I’ve been a part of when attending MLS and US games (You suck asshole, single finger salutes, etc.) are rudimentary, pedantic, and just plain uncreative.  Essentially we’re using profanity as if we were the middle schoolers (the ones we’re supposedly offending) and we just learned these fun words.

If we fans were to come up with more creative ways to get under the skin of the opposition (like the New England fans’ chant above though it does involve a word that isn’t acceptable in most conversations), especially if there’s less profanity being used, not too many front office types will have anything to say to about it.  Let’s consider it a challenge to come up with better chants and not just to reduce the amount of profanity for profanity’s sake, but to reduce the amount of ennui that emanates from the tired vocal stylings of that one techno song that you hear in every stadium from Leverkusen to Los Angeles.

As for the soccer moms and dads and their spawn hearing these chants…here’s where the front office can have an impact without alienating their more ardent supporters.  On the ticket selling website(s) indicate that certain sections are designated for families and some are not.  This way when they bring their two toddlers to a game they know what they’re getting themselves and their impressionable ears into before they get to the stadium.

This is something that’s become somewhat important to me recently as my wife and I found out that we’ll be having the next Kristine Lilly in late April.  While I realize that having a child, and especially a daughter, will change me forever, one thing I don’t want to change is where I sit when I catch a match live.  I’ve sat in all parts of a stadium and the game and atmosphere are infinitely more enjoyable when I’m amongst the hard-core supporters.  It is this atmosphere that helps make soccer the best sport on the planet, and it is this atmosphere that I want to expose my children to.  However, I don’t want to have to explain why every chant HAS to involve the F-bomb.

So to the MLS brass, ease up on your supporters; they sign your paychecks.  I don’t see the Philadelphia Eagles (who used to have a courtroom in the basement of their old stadium to immediately arraign drunks), the Cleveland Browns (known for years for having the rowdiest fans in the NFL), or the Raiders (who are well, Raiders fans) saying anything to their fans.  If you truly are receiving complaints then get off your ass and find different ways to work around some of the filthy language that gets strewn about during professional sports matches; create a family section as far away from the supporters as possible, put disclaimers on the ticket selling websites – AO and Sam’s Army have figured it out…

To my fellow supporters, let’s put our heads together and come up with a few more ways to put down the opposition than simple swearing.  We’re better and more creative than that.  If you’re part of a supporter’s group that has fun chants that taunt the opposition without swearing for swearing’s sake, that’s awesome.  Leave some of your work in the comments section so we can all be inspired to come up with some more creative chants.

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57 responses to this post.

  1. “that one techno song that you hear in every stadium from Leverkusen to Los Angeles.”

    why you gotta hate on Zombie Nation – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5LW07FTJbI – some of us like electronic music.

    Completely agree with the post though. I can’t ever think of a family I knew that turned another family into a hardcore fan that attended games regularly. I can think of a lot of hardcore fans who have exposed their friends and now all of them have season tickets. There is a fine line though with ensuring that the atmosphere is friendly though, and I greatly support that notion as well, as turning off a first time visitor with the repeated use of swearing is a bummer. Turning them off with creative funny chants is their loss.

    Reply

    • Biggy – I wouldn’t hate on the techno, just tired of hearing Zombie Nation in every stadium. Nice video link, though.

      Reply

      • haha I’m being sarcastic, I love electronic (GONZALO EURODANCE TRAIN) but yeah zombie nation gets old. fast. that video is ridiculous though. so ridic.

        Reply

  2. Posted by bq on 2011/01/26 at 6:04 AM

    Good stuff and I agree. In regard to your comment, “(You suck asshole, single finger salutes, etc.) are rudimentary, pedantic, and just plain uncreative. ”

    It’s funny because I’ve been saying almost those identical words for some time now. If we both think that way I bet there’s a whole lot more of us out there.

    In that vein, impromptu soccer songs, chants and heckles are some of the most hysterical moments of pure genius that I’ve experienced in all of sport. Those moments have been etched in my mind when the actual result of the game has faded. The supporters vibe is what sets soccer apart from other sports in the US. MLS is realizing that and is in most cases now trying to foster that environment because they understand it’s uniqueness.

    Let’s continue to encourage the inventiveness and discourage the boring and totally uncreative, “you suck asshole.”

    Reply

  3. Posted by busdriver stu on 2011/01/26 at 7:26 AM

    Amen to the “you suck, asshole” banning. so lame. change it up, start SCREAMING when the keeper is about three steps from kicking the ball. maybe it’ll throw him off.

    no more Zombie Nation, Welcome to the Jungle, etc.

    Replace “ooooooooh, USA…..” with “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” or something similar.

    Reply

  4. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/01/26 at 8:13 AM

    Ipswich Town fans made me laugh yesterday. They sang “one nil to the rugby team” and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”, in response to Fabregas’ comments in the press.

    I think one of my favourite chants ever was the one sang at Andy Goram. It was rumoured that he had mild schizophrenia, so what did the opposition fans sing? “Two Andy Gorams, there’s only two Andy Gorams”.

    And being a Londoner, there were a few songs that ‘highlighted the North-South divide’, [especially Liverpool] to put it politely…

    Reply

    • The ‘Two Andy Gorams’ chant is pretty good. Not nice on a human level, but pretty creative and damn amusing.

      Reply

      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/01/26 at 9:16 AM

        It’s genius. But you also have to understand that England is more of a culture of banter. Obviously, there are some really vile and nasty chants, but hopefully they’ve been consigned to the 1980s.

        The one thing that I really promote is ‘celebrating’ your own team, rather than ‘hating’ on your opponent. I have been to Fenway Park and it doesn’t matter who the Red Sox are playing, you’ll hear “Yankees Suck” – never really understood that one – why would you give your arch enemy the satisfaction?

        Many teams sing little ditties regarding their own players, unless an amusing piss-take is thought up due to ‘current affairs in the press’…

        Reply

  5. [...] This piece argues that MLS should strive to be more fan friendly, not more family friendly. [...]

    Reply

  6. Posted by Matthew N on 2011/01/26 at 8:33 AM

    Even if American fans were more creative (won’t happen), MLS would still do everything it takes to take all the fun out of going to a live football match so that little Tommy and his parents can enjoy a quiet game in peace. It amazes me people still have faith that this organization can make the right decision EVER.

    Reply

    • Posted by John on 2011/01/26 at 10:18 AM

      I won’t dissect the rest of your statement, but the fact that you happen to think that American fans can’t be creative flies in the face of the many creative things I have seen from fan organizations.

      On that base ALONE I find it difficult to regard the rest of your argument.

      Do not sell MLS fans short simply because the they haven’t been around for 120 years.

      Reply

  7. Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/01/26 at 8:43 AM

    The UK tradition of singing witty, profane and pointed lyrics is vastly different from what I’ve experienced at MLS games. Most take the form of songs and are celebrating the virtues of the homes side.
    My MLS exposure is limited to a handful of Union games with friends, their kids and my son-in-law. We’re tailgating Phillies Eagles and Flyers fans but the sophomoric frat boy “chants” from the supporters sections were just boorish and got really old really quick. You suck a-hole etc is just not that funny after the 15th goal kick. I agree that originality is needed along with some level of respect to your fellow attendee and the clubs are well within their rights to try to guide the hopefully maturing fan base towards an overall positive experience.
    Andy Cole….he scored the goal….that Andy Cole….

    Reply

    • Posted by aalok on 2011/01/26 at 2:01 PM

      What about the Philadelphia Union chant about Peter Vermes (99 bottles of beer on the wall after his DUI)? If it wasn’t creative enough, it was absolutely impressive solely for how long it endured.

      Reply

  8. Posted by John Tyler on 2011/01/26 at 9:08 AM

    To me, MLS does not need to make a choice between supporters or families. Stadiums, even modest-sized soccer specific ones, are more than big enough to accommodate both groups of fans. All there needs to be is segregated seating and clear communication to ticket buyers of what sections are family oriented, and what sections are supporter-oriented. As long as this information is effectively communicated, most people will self-select the section that is most appropriate for their spectating style. MLS needs all the money the can get. They cannot afford to exclude either supporters or families.

    Reply

  9. Posted by John on 2011/01/26 at 9:25 AM

    Of course many of the songs (without many people knowing it) have just been passed on from team to team.

    This being a good example, (Timbers modifying a Leeds/Man U/Political/(just about every other team) song)

    Reply

  10. Posted by JW on 2011/01/26 at 9:34 AM

    As a former member of the Crew at UMD, I would like to relate a bit of their story. The student fan section at Maryland is quite vocal. Quite loud. And now, quite big. In the beginning, it also had a bit of a, we’ll say unsavory, reputation. The Crew always stayed behind and taunted the opposition goalkeeper, even switching ends of the field. This also had the delightful effect of putting us closest to where Maryland scored goals, but to the censors this fact was less important than the vulgarity and conduct of the section.

    Several times before and while I was with the Crew, there was a threat to remove the bleachers behind the endlines and ban any fans from those sections. What happened next was something strikingly mature for college undergraduates with a reputation for being rabble-rousers.

    Behind a few good leaders (Hi Mike, I hope you’re reading this and that I got it right), the Crew banned profanity (even “suck” was disallowed for a long period) and focused on creative verse and taunting that, while rowdy, threw out the vulgar and replaced it with praise songs, taunt songs, and utter nonsense.

    I can only hope the “knock-knock” “who’s there” sequence still exists.

    That being said, I hope that the soccer community will put together a songbook of common songs that fan sections across the country can reference. A cookbook to creatively keep the blood boiling, but keep the censors at bay.

    You’ve got the worst goalie in the land.

    Two ten.

    Reply

    • I was part of the UW-Madison Student section for 4.5 years and we were censored on multiple occasions. However, our chants really had nothing to do with our team or the opposition, but mainly upperclassman taunting underclassmen and just overall drunken absurdity.

      The least profane of our rabble-rousing actually caused the biggest stink with the brass. During construction of all those fancy skyboxes at Camp Randall we were told not to participate in our usual Post-3rd Quarter jumping around to “Jump Around” because it apparently caused the skyboxes to shake and made people question the structural integrity of the stadium.

      Getting back on point, the Crew at UMd (UMD made me think of Minnesota Duluth) is exactly the type of movement I think we’d all like to see at soccer matches in this country because it will enhance the atmospohere and entice more people to come.

      Reply

      • Posted by Berg on 2011/01/26 at 10:08 AM

        I loved Jump Around. I wasn’t aware that they banned it for a bit, must have been prior to my time. Oh and Slow Wave, FTW.

        Reply

        • The Wave at UW was awesome.

          They banned the playing of the song for a few games in 2004 but we jumped anyways.

          Reply

        • Posted by Andy_4Lakes on 2011/01/26 at 11:41 AM

          Love to see my fellow Badgers so well represented! Another good one is “rowing crew” and the taunting of each section. “O” does suck afterall.

          Reply

      • Posted by elizabeth on 2011/01/26 at 7:25 PM

        glad to see so many badgers. when you mentioned duluth it makes me think of hockey and the most memorable cheer that i’ve heard was the oh-so-clever “your tooth is over there” after a particularly severe fight. or another good one was chanting “I see russia” when playing alaska-anchorage making fun of palin

        in terms of soccer and the USMNT the most best one i heard was to the tune of row row row your boat “Clint, Clint, Clint Dempsey. Running up the pitch. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily. making you his b*tch.” but that one doesnt really solve the vulgarity problem.

        Reply

    • Posted by SamT on 2011/01/26 at 2:32 PM

      Spill the knock-knocks. Let’s hear em…

      Reply

  11. Posted by KilljoyWasHere on 2011/01/26 at 9:40 AM

    Just because it rhymes doesn’t make calling someone’s wife a whore that clever.

    To what extent should the fans curb their sexist (or homophobic, racist, whatever) language? Is it ok to have a seating section where only straight, white males with no psychological disorders (such as mild schizophrenia) feel comfortable? Teams could create an area, far from the fan section, where women and minorities can sit.

    I hope that creative chants don’t just exchange profanity for a more insidious offense.

    Reply

    • I’ll agree with you that calling someone a whore doesn’t make it better than swearing on principle. However, you cannot deny that it’s better and more clever than shouting “You suck asshole!” repeatedly.

      Reply

      • Posted by KilljoyWasHere on 2011/01/26 at 11:28 AM

        I can indeed deny that it’s “better” to call someone a whore. Sexist language is not really ever an acceptable solution to any problem.

        Reply

        • I guess I don’t see whore as a sexist term anymore since it has been applied to men (myself included) as well. If I was more creative then I’d come up with a way to call Golden Balls the whore.

          Reply

        • My point with all of this is that there are other things out there that can be said instead of the “You suck asshole,” and single finger salutes. I don’t condone truly being offensive but I also believe that a “culture of banter” (as George put it, above) is better than a culture of pure and utter profanity or a completely PC Culture.

          Reply

        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/01/26 at 12:35 PM

          I must admit, I do enjoy singing songs at rival fans. The amount of people who have jumped on the Chelsea or Arsenal bandwagon over the last 10 years is astonishing. Next time you watch one of their home games [bandwagon fans don't generally travel to away games], try to listen to the songs if you can – I am sure you’ll hear “where were you when you were shit?”

          And speaking of banter, during the WC game between the USA and England, I watched this in NYC and we were *easily* out-numbered in the bar [fair enough / to be expected]. The American fans pre-game were continuously chanting “U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A” at us, over and over again. So we sang back, “one song, you’ve only got one song”. I must admit, I was very surprised at how easily they shut up – but the main thing it was all in good fun. I am a massive football fan, but at the end of the day, I do realise that it really is only a game.

          And BTW – the “ooooooohhhhhhhhhhh you suck asshole” came from “ooooooohhhhhhhhhhh you’re shit, aahh” from the 80s / 90s! So stupid, either way IMO.

          Reply

  12. Posted by John on 2011/01/26 at 10:09 AM

    I’d like to see more animated/regular TIFO displays at MLS games.

    Such as…

    “Chicago Fire’

    and

    “Portland Timbers”

    and

    “Toronto FC”

    Reply

  13. Posted by Garrett on 2011/01/26 at 10:20 AM

    Down in Tampa we had a very similar situation this year, but it happened during the game. It being only our third game, we we’re doing the whole “you suck asshole” thing until security told us they would kick OUR ENTIRE SECTION OF 150 SUPPORTERS out of the game, right then and there in the 75th minute. We sat in silent protest, until the rest of the fans started booing us and security to let us continue.

    We’ve since become a lot more creative and less vulgar with our chants, and I think it’s benefited the overall atmosphere at games. We still have some vulgar mixed in during a few songs, but it’s a solution that has seemed to work for our supporters and casual fans. (“put it in, put it in, put it in, that’s what she said” gets quite a few laughs out of the entire stadium)

    Reply

  14. Posted by UUUunion on 2011/01/26 at 11:23 AM

    The Philadelphia Union version of the chant you have above goes something like:

    Posh Spice is a whore,
    Of men she’s had a few,
    And when she’s shaggin’David,
    She’s thinking of Le Toux.

    Reply

  15. Posted by UUUunion on 2011/01/26 at 11:28 AM

    Full credit to Seattle….They do all right…

    Still hate them tho…

    Reply

  16. Posted by al on 2011/01/26 at 12:10 PM

    I’m a STH for the Galaxy and have a 7 and 10 year old (they are STH, too). I’ve never understood why this debate is over language. It’s NOT about foul language at all. It’s about the aggressive drunken douchebags that come along with this language and intimidate my children and spill their beer on them. I couldn’t care less about the language, hell I’ve thrown out a few F bombs myself, next to my own kids during a match. We’re passionate fans! No one is saying you need to curb your enthusiasm here! All we’re saying as parents is, if you can’t handle your liquor or raging pubescence around my kid, then you’re going to get more complaints from parents and more restrictions from the FO! It’s the douchebag factor, not the language. Even when I’m just with my buddies I can’t stand the asshole who is spilling his beer down my back while blubbering his vitriol at Becks and getting my hair soaked in spit. There’s a difference here. It’s about having a great time, in your seat, screaming your head off, but not acting like a moron. There’s a BIG difference and it has nothing to do with language and everything to do with maturity and handling your liquor.

    Reply

    • I would agree that the douchebaggery is a bigger problem than mere language alone. However, the letter that the Union front office sent was focused on language and some of the complaints about the Nordecke were similarly language focused. That’s the point of this piece.

      Removing the douchebag factor as you put it is not something that should even be up for debate, security should escort obviously intoxicated people out to the drunk tank immediately for the sake of those around them.

      Reply

  17. Posted by Crow on 2011/01/26 at 12:25 PM

    Yes, yes, yes!!! I’ve been bringing this up constantly over the last few years. I’m an American Outlaw and now a Son of Ben and I constantly am posting on forums (ussoccer, big soccer) threads to brainstorm new chants, etc. I agree with alot of the comments- the supporter section experience is second to none, however….. we need new chants- especially ones that aren’t vulgar and are more creative. This especially goes for American Outlaws and supporters of the National Team. I think it is easier for the club teams to come up with more varied songs/chants because they are together more often than fans of the National Team, but work still needs to be done. I hope this is addressed at the upcoming AO Rally in Las Vegas. I’ve posted alot of songs and have posted others’ ideas and even personally e-mailed them to the leaders of AO and Sons of Ben, but it seems like it is hard to get them to stick. Anyone have some ideas of how we can make some progress?

    Reply

    • if it isnt, bring it up. actually just straight up tweet it at them @americanoutlaws that you want to discuss it/have it discussed. they are very receptive.

      Reply

  18. Posted by RFCSean on 2011/01/26 at 12:37 PM

    Best Union/Sons of Ben chant/taunt of the season: 99 Bottles of Beer, Peter Vermes, gives us your keys!

    Sometimes a parent just needs to be a parent to their children and explain that certain naughty language is not appropriate coming from the mouthes of babes. I couldn’t imagine the atmosphere at PPL Park without the Sons of Ben anchoring the River End. Fan support is what makes soccer such a great sport.

    Reply

    • Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/01/26 at 1:08 PM

      And sometimes a fan needs to respect their fellow fans.
      Respectfully disagree. Fan support and obnoxiousness are not necessarily the same thing. There is a juvenile component to the “support” in Philly that is just over the top. Love the energy but, as presented in many of the posts above, the level of the songs and chants can be raised a few notches without diminishing the impact.

      Reply

  19. Posted by EFG on 2011/01/26 at 1:29 PM

    A Philadelphia sports fan being obnoxious? I never thought I’d see the day.

    Reply

    • Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/01/26 at 1:38 PM

      Save the stereotypes. All East Coast cities NY, Boston fans all have their jackass components. Nature of the beast. Point is the trend towards imitating the UK chants/songs model is good but the tendency towards just shouting vulgarities isn’t good for the overall fan experience.

      Reply

  20. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/01/26 at 2:47 PM

    Don’t blame it on the Donovan, don’t blame it on the Dempsey, don’t blame it on the Bradley, blame it on Clark. He just can’t, he just can’t, he just can’t control his feet…

    Reply

  21. As a long time Minnesota Thunder/Stars fan I have had the pleasure of singing man times (to the tune of Frere Jaques):

    Portland Timbers
    Portland Timbers
    Whats That Smell?
    Whats That Smell?
    Dirty Stinky Hippies
    Dirty Stinky Hippies
    In Your Town
    In Your Town

    I joy for all ages.

    Reply

  22. Posted by Jim on 2011/01/26 at 8:31 PM

    To be fair, we Revs fans converted that Joe Max/Beckham chant from an Everton one dating from Joe Max’s time over there.

    Reply

  23. Posted by Paul on 2011/01/27 at 7:28 AM

    Oh yes sir…. we face this same issue in the mile high ciity. It seems as if the Rapids front office is always angry about something supporter’s terrace related. I’m pretty sure we do the whole disclaimer thing though..

    Oh well… in the mean time…
    YA GOT ONE DAD AND YA GOT TEN MOMS… UTAH! UTAH!
    YA GOT ONE DAD AND YA GOT TEN MOMS…. THAT’S THE UTAH WAY!

    Reply

  24. Posted by JD on 2011/02/01 at 6:49 PM

    If MLS relies on 18-34 men (witless boys is more appropriate for what you see at MLS matches), the league will be dead within 10 years. Another retarded post by the economically illiterate.

    Reply

    • You’re entitled to your opinion about 18-34 year-old man-boys, and you’re entitled to an opinion about the quality of the writing on this site. However, if you believe it to be written by someone of limited mental capacity, why stop by? Further more, why make a comment befitting of the same ignorant and economically illiterate 18-34 man-boys you profess to be against?

      If 18-34 adults of either gender will torpedo the league, then why does every company aim to tap this lucrative market? As I am economically illeterate, I’d appreciate if you made a comment that contributed to the discussion.

      Reply

  25. http://www.thefreebeermovement.com/2011/06/troubling-time-for-supporters-in-new.html

    Looks like an MLS Front Office has finally gotten fed up with the profane and attempted to do something about it. Though, it’s extremely sad that Family Friendly sanitization of the the atmosphere was taken this far…

    Reply

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