Sunday Morning MLS

Since you're just sitting there nursing a cup of coffee and a hangover, take a couple minutes and check out THIS SOMEWHAT SCHIZOPHRENIC ARTICLE from Sportsnet Canada.

The writer starts out by observing that, as many of us have noted, the ESPN crowd shots during the TFC/NYRB match seemed more like commercials for frat parties than the usual "fan atmosphere" stuff that networks normally toss in to every sports broadcast.

The writer claims that ESPN went out of their way - for no apparent reason - to show the "shirtless, two-fisted" beer-swilling drunken louts, which he insists is not representative of the overall BMO crowd.

Then, after referencing Ives Galarcep's recent slobbering TFC knob job ("I sat with actual fans! They sang actual songs! And wore red!") he goes on to concede that maybe the scenes ESPN showed us were not necessarily shots of isolated drunken louts but at least in part entirely indicative of the BMO experience.

Personally, I have no doubt that the majority of Toronto fans are neither shirtless nor hammered out of their minds, (although having spent considerable time in Toronto, there are a lot of people I'd truly love to see shirtless) but neither do I think that ESPN's producers conspired to misrepresent the overall atmosphere in the building.

(I also understand that our little frozen brothers are somewhat sensitive about being seen as a bunch of overweight, beer-swilling moose chasers, and will resent me even bringing this topic up, to which I say: "eh".)

I watched four MLS games yesterday (or as much of four games as five straight hours on the sofa allowed) and tried to pay particular attention to the obligatory "supporters group" shots in each one. And I have to say that, indeed, if you looked closely at the wider shots there were always one or two guys holding what appeared to be a cup of beer in one hand.

By and large though, there were no shots that reminded me of the 12th day of Oktoberfest, which was what I kept thinking of during the TFC game. Put lederhosen on some of those guys and they'd blend right in with the rest of the chubby Bavarians leering at Dirndl-clad women carrying 10 gallons of Paulaner or Hacker-Pschorr.

Perception? Reality? ESPN plot? Anti-Moose bigotry? Honestly, I have no idea.

What I do know is that complaining about the crowds at NHL games being far worse (and they can indeed be ugly) or about drunks at baseball games (a guy once tossed himself out of the second deck at Cleveland Stadium onto the backstop netting because he "wanted to see what it felt like to be a foul ball) gets us nothing. Nobody will listen.

From the beginning, a lot of MLS fans have moaned about every last detail of our league that wasn't a slavish copy of some abstract European model. The one that baffles me most has been the excitement over "uniform sponsors", as if having Xango or Glidden or VW logos plastered on your team's shirt made MLS somehow more legitimate. The only reason I can think of that explains why fans would be gleeful over the prospect of their team's players advertising vitamins or cars is that "that's how they look in Europe".

Which doesn't prevent MLS from selling 300,000 vitamin billboards with "BECKHAM" on the back. The Work-at-Home crowd must be delirious over that one.

I've noticed the same impulse from prospective fans of the new Philadelphia team, which won't even exist for another two years.

A disturbing number of posts and comments from guys swelling the ranks of Sons of Ben have a lot less to do with "I hope we can find a coach who'll stress attacking football" and a lot more to do with "Finally, a place where we can get really drunk, like they do in Europe, and get in fights and stuff because we're Philadelphia and a crowd here booed some guy in a Santa suit ten years before I was born so we're really tough"

To their credit, the SoB leadership has also noticed this and is working on coming up with some solutions.

But the point here (if there is one) isn't to pick on Toronto (I don't need an excuse to do that) or Philadelphia (where I'll be attending a lot of games - I'll be the guy in the Crew shirt over Kevlar Body Armor) or even Bavarian Beer drinkers (and notice I didn't once make reference to the Beer Hall Putsch). If that's your thing, a tu salud.

Rather, it's to point out that maybe we all need to remember that this is North America, where soccer is already unfarily associated with drunkenness and where drunkenness (or at least off campus drunkenness) is considered undesirable social behavior. It frightens away people we need while attracting elements we can do without.

If you're going to copy Europeans habits, try taking up smoking. People will still think you're a dirtbag, but they won't blame soccer.

Nobody's suggesting that we ban beer from the game, but if we can't manage to act like grownups about it then at some point the league is going to have to take some action. And nobody - least of all them - wants any part of that.