He shoots... wide right.
Tobias Lopez, over at US Soccer Players, writes The Tobias Lopez Column. That makes sense, in the same way that the Alan Parsons Project, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, and Mike Doughty's band all make sense as titles. His most recent column, apparently on what American Soccer Fans "Need to do", however, makes little sense. Go read it, then come back here (and don't be surprised to see the column pop up for commentary all over the place...). The last three points in the article are perfectly fine, but the first two got my dander up.
Okay, we ready? Let's do it, my comments in bold.
The Tobias Lopez Column: Your Part
By Tobias Xavier Lopez
FORT WORTH, TX (Aug, 23, 2005) USSoccerPlayers - Soccer fans in the United States have got to do a bit more. There are also areas where soccer fans need to do a bit less.
This is a clever introduction invoking something English majors like to call parallel strucuture. We'll leave aside the fact that he doesn't use it correctly and focus on the fact that within two sentences, Mr. Lopez has already set up the following expectations for his article: 1) He wants to lecture US Soccer fans; 2) He wants them to do more and less; 3) He thinks he is an authority on matters relating to fandom. Fair enough. He may have valid points on all three, let's find out.
This column might not get me a step closer to the Hall of Fame's media award, but sometimes a coach has to give his players the business in order to get the best out of his team. So here goes.
We've now moved beyond "I'm an authority on proper fandom" to "I'm a coach on how to be a good fan. Only bad players, and bad fans, don't listen to their coach. No orange slices at half time for the bad fans."
- American soccer fans have to ditch the profanity from their chants and songs.
Yes, it's a tradition in England, Spain and other areas of Europe but so is female underarm hair, really expensive gas, and eating the culinary equivalent of bait. Perhaps all things European are not always desirable.
Oooh! Touche Mr. Lopez! You're right, we're all a bunch of Europosers who do anything that Europeans do. That's why all the US Soccer Fans have made The Weakest Link the most successful game show in the history of television. That's why we have a grand tradition of hooliganism at the hardcore supporter's groups like Barra Brava. See! Look, and be ashamed of those bat weilding thugs imitating Europe. We just do whatever Europe tells us to.
I know it sounds soft, but here's why cursing has to go. Soccer in the United States is a hugely eclectic audience and there is section of that audience that is turned off by a couple hundred fans belting chants highlighted by profanities.
Right, because Maryland never sold out a Duke game while chanting "Fuck Duke" and "You Suck" to Rock and Roll Part 2. I certainly didn't hear someone yelling "Fucking Guzman again?" at the last Washington Nationals game I was at. There's definately no profanity from the wide receiver "MICed UP" on Monday Night Football. Those sports are falling apart because families won't put their kids near that smut.
Now, I know the hardcore supporters are screaming, who cares? Well, you have to care because for now every soccer fan matters. When the soccer mom decides she doesn't want to attend a match where the kids are subjected to the organized swearing then soccer suffers. The kid suffers.
The kid suffers because, how to put this, the mother is an overprotective basket case. Show them the casual violence from the nightly news, whether it be Iraq or Columbine, let them read the Bible's descriptions of wars between various tribes in ancient Israel, or crazy anti-christ visions from Revelations, but heaven forbid they hear the F-word. That's what is really important.
If the chant was unoriginal, uninspired, and repetitive, we all suffer.
True. I can agree with that. The great thing is that most of the chants I hear don't fit that bill. There is enough inginuity that the profanity is an amplifier of humor, not a cause of it.
We're in a battle for hearts and minds here, and we've yet to reach the stage where we could care less about the individual when we're successfully recruiting by the thousands.
Any American support group that numbers 20,000 please stand up. That's what I thought.
I don't remember 20,000 caps fans singing in unison during the inevitable playoff loss to the Penguins. Sometimes I don't remember 20,000 Caps fans at most games. Name any sport in the US with a supporter's group of 20,000 people.
That's what I thought.
When the day comes that the Barn Burners, the Screaming Eagles or the Inferno sell out a stadium then you can chant anything you want. Go ahead and question a referee's lack of stable parents or a goalkeeper's tendency for pies. Let position players know what their names rhyme with. Let the coach know through a bawdy chorus that you care not for his substitution policy. And yes, let the opposition know where they are, what you think of them, and precisely where they can go.
Until then a guy can be clever without swearing.
It's like this, Buddy Hackett, Bill Hicks and Richard Pryor are brilliantly funny comedians, but I don't watch their acts with the kids in the room. There's a time and a place for everything and in this climate the swearing does more harm than good.
So let me get this straight. When there's plenty of room for a mom to take her kids and sit nowhere near the supporters, so that their chants are just a haze of syllables that sound like "O My Darlin'" as sung by the Red Army Chorus, there shouldn't be profanity. When the stadium is sold out and there's little choice in ticket placement, that's when Cobi's Mom Is A Whore should replace the National Anthem?
- American soccer fans should take a lesson from 3rddegree.net's Buzz Carrick.
Here's a guy who built what began as a "fan" site into the most informative website of any club in MLS. His dedication to developmental roster moves, draft coverage and practice reports are something that fans in every MLS city must get together and provide. Seriously, we're a long way from any newspaper being able to afford package coverage.
Simply throwing up a website and writing one's opinion doesn't cut it.
Why not? 3rd Degree is a great site, don't get me wrong, but I like reading opinion. Ramblings of a Soccer Junkie, Footcer, We Call It Soccer, Soccer Thoughts, they're pretty much only opinion sites. And I enjoy reading them. Not every site needs to be a in-depth new gatherer. When it wants to be, that's great, but sometimes I just want to read a tirade about how much Steve Sampson sucks. Actually, I'm always ready to read that.
Any monkey can write a column.
See: Dramatic Irony
Go the extra mile like Carrick does and fill in the holes in team news that newspapers can't fiscally provide.
Not a bad idea when possible, but not by any means a requirement for a given site to get the "congratulations, you are worth of the Tobias Lopez Award for Good Soccer Website design"
Tobias, I know you're trying to help. I know you are sincere. But it misses the mark to say that the problem with US Soccer popularity is that the Core Fans are somehow keeping the curious middle class away from games. It misses the mark to go after sites that, given the 2005 boom in soccer web logs, are reflection of a growing popularity. You are abosolutley right, core fans should take people that can't afford tickets to games. Maybe there is more to life than BigSoccer.
MLS had more than a few missteps since its inception. It's just starting to find its legs in the last few years. The rise of the Soccer Specific Stadium is only helping matters. Don Garber identified 3 key markets for the growth of MLS: The Core Fan, the Ethnic Fan, and the Suburban Soccer fan. Asking 2/3 of them to change their behavior to accomodate growth for one third is bizarre. We can all grow together. In five years, down in Poplar point, I expect Barra and the SEs and LNs to be singing together, as profane in ever, while some 10 year old on the other side of the stadium watches in rapture as grizzled, crafty vetran Tino Quaranta matches wits with perennial all-star Michael Parkhurst.