April 2. My favorite day of the year. I can look at the Internet again.
Once, and only once, I had a good soccer-related April Fool's joke. I went to the Riot Squad board and posted "Can you BELIEVE the front office is having Plastic Horn Giveaway Night?"
Thank you, yes, that was funny. I haven't been able to live up to it since then, so I've stopped trying. George "Getting Even" Hayduke had the best advice...on New Year's Eve, real drinkers stay home.
Besides, April 1 this year was the first Galaxy-Sh*theels game of the season, and I was NOT in the mood for comedy. CUSA games are not funny. Even dark, hateful mockery is somehow inadequate. The presence of the Muse Thalia will not be required. Why is this night different from all other nights, indeed.
All the more reason, I suppose, that I've spent more time than I needed to pondering this article, and why it annoyed me.
It shouldn't have, really. It's difficult to argue with the central point, the fundamental irrationality of fandom.
Yes, we split ourselves into tribes and learn to hate one another - but that's a species issue, maybe a primate issue. God knows if I see a chimpanzee decked out in soccer gear, I'm crossing the street.
I think the issue is that we soccer fans hate each other because we live vicariously through athletes we worship and envy...rather than because of something sensible, like religion or skin color. And yes, sports is, at bottom, a sad thing for us to care about. A private show business enterprise stencils city or state names on their stage gear, and hires mercenaries to represent that community. The audience buys into the act so completely that the performance of those mercenaries become much more important to them than, say, voting for judges or school board members.
Sure, it's a farce, and sure, it can be destructive. I can be extremely tedious about the depressingly wrong priorities places like Baltimore, St. Louis and Oakland have shown towards the National Football League, and when it comes to the riches-to-riches story of the New Orleans Saints supposedly making up for all that unpleasantness in the Superdome a few years back...well, I can be downright annoying.
But...us? MLS fans? Who are we hurting? Can't we have some fun? Are Carson, Frisco and Bridgeview worse off for our presence? I mean...I happen to have seen those places before MLS, and, well, one hates to be indelicate, but, what else was gonna go there, another damn Wal-Mart?
Why are we few MLS diehard fans the jackoffs? Why us, and not Celtic fans who think they play in Ireland, or Serie A fans who couldn't find Juventus on a map? Why us, and not Cowboys fans who have never been to Texas, or Brett Favre fans who spend more on their autumn wardrobe than freaking Isaac Mizrahi? Why us, and not the overpaid vandals who saddled New York with two new baseball mausolea? Can't I sit here and wonder aloud whether Sacha Kljestan should eat a bag of dead ferret faces without being charged with the decline of civilization?
Andrew Guest's article focuses on Portland and Seattle, as if their sporting rivalries are somehow new. I don't know how we've gotten as far as 2010 without figuring out that when it comes to sports, Northwest sports fans aren't exactly laid-back dope-smoking hippies. (Trivia time - the Seahawks have retired two numbers. Name the players that wore those numbers.) (Trivia question two - Oregon and Oregon State's annual football game is referred to as what?)
Yes, some of this enthusiastic passion will be expressed somewhat impolitely. Much handwringing was done over the sign Timbers fans waved at Kasey Keller, but my only problem with that was that Keller had a Portland connection, and whichever fan brought that sign should have known better. If the sign requested, say, Sebastien Le Toux to re-enact Kurt Cobain's divorce proceedings? That would have been fine. In fact, much better. Nothing against Le Toux the human being, but at least he was really a longtime Sounder.
Would the sign still have been offensive? Meh. So's booing. If athletes only want to be cheered all the time, let them join Cirque de Soleil or something.
In fairness, this is a topic close to my heart. I don't bring offensive signs to games anymore, but when I did...well, me and my magic marker, we've had some times together, let me tell you. There's a well-known saying I like to use in these situations that ends "if they can't take a joke."
Which brings us to tonight's game in the increasingly ironically-named "Superclasico." Hatred was literally the only redeeming value of that game, unless you're a big Edson Buddle fan - and even then, you had to wait something near two hours between highlights. And yet, I'm as happy as a guy on Maury Povich who heard the magic words "You are not the father." Because I'm good friends with Phil Anschutz? Not so much.
Turns out I'm a Galaxy fan. There are dozens like me.
So I hate the San Jose Earthquakes for no reason. I like hating them.
So I hate Chivas USA for - screw that, I got a thousand good reasons. Me:Chivas USA::Yassir Arafat:Israel. I do not recognize Chivas USA's right to exist. I read some guy on some Internet or other who said he's supporting Chivas USA because he hates David Beckham. I've never been angrier at a computer screen. "You only THINK you hate David Beckham," I yelled. "Only a Los Angeles Galaxy fan can TRULY hate David Beckham!"
Are we MLS fans perhaps overwrought at times? In the words of Professor Farnsworth, oh my yes. "I know I am, I'm sure I am, INSERT TEAM NAME HERE 'til I die" and "Dale INSERT TEAM NAME HERE" have become painfully generic, but compare that to the "Let's go, NICKNAME" and "NOISE!" exhortations in mainstream sports.
Would it be nice if instead of wasting our energies caring about sporting trivialities, we channeled this energy into making a positive contribution to our communities? Sure. I'd also like a rocket-powered space pony.
And for all we know, these hardcore fans waving scarves and hating those ********ers over there? Maybe they do contribute to their community during the week, and this is how they unwind.
I mean, I don't contribute to my community. You probably don't either. But, it's not the soccer that stops us.
I'll go further, in fact. Being a soccer fan has actually made me a better person, frightening as that sounds. I'm more assertive, I'm slightly less of a physical coward, I've met a spitload of people from all kinds of places and backgrounds I would never have met otherwise, I've been to lots of new places, and I feel I'm part of something fun that the mainstream hasn't completely screwed up yet. I can look back and say, I waved an American flag in front of 100,000 screaming Mexico fans in the LA Coliseum. After that, well, by and large I've felt less of a need to compensate for my shortcomings.
If I may dare say it - being an American soccer fan is good for you.
And if being a well-adjusted person means not staying up at night picturing gruesome and hilarious deaths for Chivas USA players? That price is too high.