Toronto's Fans Plan to "Make The Crew and Columbus Pay"

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In current cultural parlance, the important thing to do in the wake of unfortunate occurrances in our lives is to "move on".

No need to linger on the negatives. Bad for everyone's psyche.

But unfortunately, when we "move on" without learning anything or changing anything or - worst of all - allow ourselves to indulge in the warm comforts of denial over what really happened in the first place, you can pretty much guarantee that the situation is going to happen again and again and again until you finally admit that there's a problem and deal with it.

So it is with our friends in Toronto today.

In the wake of the incidents (note the use of the plural here) in and around Columbus Crew stadium last weekend, Toronto FC's fans have been subjected to a good deal of criticism. Never having gotten anything but huggie love previously, like any spoiled child, they aren't happy about it.

Now, when that criticism comes from someone like me, they just tell themselves that I'm a "Canada basher" (as if that made any sense) and it's easy to ignore.

But when that criticism comes in the form of editorials in most of Canada's news outlets, it's a lot harder to sweep under the rug.

Harder, but not impossible, because they've now managed to do just that.

The Official TFC Fan Explanation of What Happened in Columbus, which is currently being chiseled into marble for permanent enshrinement on a large plaque someplace at BMO Stadium, goes like this summary, which comes to us COURTESY OF TOM ANSELMI, CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment:

“I think you put it in context: there’s 2,500 of our fans going down there....and 2,497 of them behaved themselves. And you get two or three that get a few too many cocktails in them and get carried away and cross the line.”

Anselmi expressed this same theme in THIS CANADIAN SOURCED ARTICLE wherein he blames "a couple of guys on the fringe" for what happened.

Which, per the now Official Explanation of the Red Patch Boys, courtesy of Geoff Miller, "the away-game organizer for the Red Patch Boys" who tells us that the whole thing was "really, really minor". This now-popular version of events says that, again according to Miller, the "problems began when security mixed TFC supporters, who had been in their own area of the stadium, and Crew fans together at the end of the game.".

The Official End to All of This comes to us from Red Patch Boys President Jack DePoe, who says simply: "it's time to move on".

Now I want to be clear here: I firmly believe that these men are all completely sincere, honorable and responsible people. Unfortunately, they're apparently blind both to what the real problem was and what they themselves have to do about it.

Lest you think that they're the only ones spinning this like PR men for a politician who just got caught in bed with various farm animals, there's columnist Steven Brunt who says that what happened IS NOT HOOLIGANISM. Which is interesting, since that's hardly the point.

The worst whitewash is from Jeremy Loome of the Edmonton Sun, who helpfully allows that ripping out a section of stadium railing is no big deal at all because "IT WAS ALREADY FALLING APART and that Crew Stadium is made of "tin".

This is a particularly interesting thing for him to say in the middle of an article about how the media (meaning everybody else) got the story wrong.

And what would something written by a Toronto fan regarding anything at all relating to Columbus Ohio without SOME MORON SAYING THAT THE REAL ISSUE HERE IS RACISM?

Again, for the record, Sir (I'm beginning to sound like Keith Olberman - please kill me now), the Mayor of Columbus Ohio is black. So is the Chief of Police. So are 3 out of 5 members of the City Council.

Now I understand you and your fellow Torontonians enjoy the fantasy of the CPD as a bunch of potbellied backwoods crackers who sit around the general store chewing tobacco and planning cross burnings, but the reality is that you have us confused with Selma, Alabama.

In 1959.

Columbus Ohio in 2009 is almost entirely administered by African-Americans, and they don't generally tolerate their employees running around town looking looking for dark skinned people to beat up.

And as they say on cheezy TV commercials: "But wait - there's more!

According to the usually reliable BEN KNIGHT today:

As I write this, TFC supporters’ groups are finalizing a formal response to the city of Columbus, Ohio, and its threat-happy police force. It’s simple, practical, and will cost the Columbus Crew soccer team and their city a fair chunk of money. Details to follow soon.

Now wait - I thought that we were supposed to "move on".

Now all of a sudden the little prats in Toronto are not only accepting no blame at all but they intend to prove it in court?

Or is he saying that they're going to boycott Columbus? Does he think anyone will cry about that?

Would someone please tell these morons that MLS is a "Single Entity". Do they know what that means? Do they not understand that anything that costs the Crew money costs MLSE money, or is this concept too complicated for them?

To all of you folks out there who've been complaining about how I treat Toronto FC: I told you so.

I can't freakin' wait, pal. Bring it on. And someone call MLS HQ and tell Don Garber: his pet little babies are about to destroy the league.

Good work, Don. Thanks ever so much.

What this all amounts to now is this:

Toronto fans, having had a few days to work on it, have agreed on a version of What Really Happened that goes like this:

3000 TFC fans went down to Columbus to have a good time end enjoy some good sporting atmosphere in rickety old, falling apart Crew Stadium. Unfortunately, either "a couple" or "three" of them - who nobody knows or saw but they're absolutely positive are not members of any organized group - had a little too much to drink.

So when the retards running the stadium forced them out of the gate after the game, when they should have surrounded them with a cordon of heavily armed commandos, they were pushed into a crowd of bloodthirsty Crew fans were were "waiting for them" AND an insane posse of racist Columbus Police who proceed to spray them all with chemical mace, except for the black guys, who they tasered and hauled off, probably in order to lynch them in private.

Now this two or three guys were a little out of line, but it's Not hooliganism" and anyway the whole thing is over and done with and it's time to forget it and move on.

If I were them I'd probably want to write up a fantasy like that and then quickly end the discussion too. The fact that it's total hogwash doesn't seem to matter.

And frankly, I wouldn't really care what absurd, Kafkaesque fantasy you guys concoct so that you can tell each other that nothing's wrong up there. Except that you forgot to try and sell that concoction at MLS headquarters in New York.

After speaking at length yesterday with a highly-placed source within MLS, I can say with some assurance that the the league itself is not following your command that they "put this behind them" and "move on".

They are actively discussing various actions that will - not might but will - be enacted in order to assure that this scenario is not repeated, including the possibility of patting down all visiting fans, refusing visiting fans the right to carry signs into away stadiums and limiting the number of visiting fans allowed in a stadium at any one time.

On behalf of the rest of MLS, I'd just like to thank you for that.

You guys want to talk - exclusively - about what happened in the parking lot. I don't blame you.

The only problem is, this isn't about that, not by a long shot.

It's about throwing flares at stadium officials. It's about disgusting scatological signage. (A team official told me that at least 8 other signs were confiscated at the gate for being too gross or obscene to allow into the place. I can only imagine. You must be proud)

Because here's the thing: lots of you saw someone else throw a smoke bomb. A goodly number of you saw the outrageousm, disgusting signs - one of them about 12 feet long - which were hung in front of your section. Many, many of you saw the people who tore up the railing. And there's a video up on YouTube that shows a group of TFC fans standing around applauding as one of you worked at destroying a section of seats. I doubt that the guys who tore down paper towel holders and overturned dozens of trash cans went unseen either.

You want to talk about the juvenile little ditty where you pretended to read the paper during Columbus' MLS Cup ceremony? OK fine. But how about afterwards, when almost all of those newspapers went over the railing onto the field? Are you going to tell me that only two or three drunk guys that "nobody knows" caused the game long avalanche of trash and beer that sailed out of your section?

I could go on and on, but the point is obvious:

Not one of your fans didn't know what was going on. Collectively, a LOT of people were involved, and those who stood by and said or did nothing are, I'm sorry to have to tell you, as guilty as anyone else.

You can't just say "It wasn't me, it wasn't my group, I didn't see anything, I didn't hear anything, I don't want to narc anybody out, it's security and the police's problem when stuff like this happens, not mine.

To which I say: bull crap.

MLS is a fragile thing. You've been here two years and can't possibly understand - and don't seem to want to - what it's taken to get this thing to where it is, and to protect our image from the scorn of an indifferent populace and a denigrating press. We just can't afford this crap.

DC fans had some problems. They've dealt with it. Chicago, New York, Columbus, all at various times had to deal with stuff like this getting out of hand.

And they've largely solved it and are dealing with it game in and game out.

And it happened because they COLLECTIVELY took RESPONSIBILITY for solving the problem before it damaged the league's reputation and/or forced management or the league to crack down with a Draconian security presence.

And it's never going to get better in Toronto until you guys admit that there's a problem, that it's EVERYONE'S problem and that it's up to you, as fan groups, to fix it.

A whole bunch of people got carried away and went way beyond what is normal, acceptable behavior in civilized society. WAY beyond. Forget the damn fisticuffs in the lots.

Don't try and lay it off on the police or security or the FO. The only people who can make real change is you.

And you'd better get it done. Soon.

I've got just one other thing, after which I'll be happy to read all the comments from people who think we should "move on" and pretend this never happened:

About a year ago, some foul imbecile in Crew Stadium recorded himself hollering a bigoted insult at a player. He then posted it on YouTube.

The team and the supporters groups devoted hundreds of man hours and thousands upon thousands of dollars on photo blowups and video analysis and more interviews than you can imagine, talking to what seems like everybody who was within ten miles of the building.

They finally were able to identify him, he was banned form the stadium and to this day his name and face are part of basic education for all Columbus Crew employees. It was taken very seriously, it was dealt with and it's still being watched to make sure it never happens again.

Yet on any TFC message board, on any day of the week, dozens of TFC fans refer to KKKolumbus or KKKrew or "the racists in Columbus" or "hurling racial slurs at players' and on and on.

Not on the DC board or the NY board or the Fire board or anywhere else. Just yours.

I mention this because, on Saturday, someone in your section raised a very large sign. It consisted of the Crew logo, except that instead of "CREW" across the top it said "RACISM".

The incident, as I said, was over a year ago.

If you guys want to demand, as you already are, that everyone "move on" from the incidents of just five days ago which involved a hell of a lot more than one lonely guy, then I have a suggestion:

You first.