When Chester P.D. used the h-word to describe the gentleman who caused such a fuss during last week's Philadelphia-Colorado game, I was expecting the worst. Especially when Deadspin repeated the blood libel and blamed two entire sections for the fracas. Chester Police Department booking photo
Quick action by the Sons of Ben has mitigated this particular public relations disaster. Which is only fair - were it not caught on camera, it certainly wouldn't have made Deadspin. And it's unusual that a mere brawl would sully the sports pages, even/especially in Philadelphia. You won't be surprised to read that I've seen similar situations in Los Angeles, and I think only the very, very mellowest supporters groups have had absolutely no incidents over the course of the league's history.
That said, I'd cheerfully bet that both inside and outside of Philadelphia, the disciplinary record for supporters groups compares very favorably with the general population, even in the post-Beckham era. ESPECIALLY in the post-Beckham era - some of those fangirls can be pretty vicious. Sometimes it's even as bad as a Sol game used to be.
The other reason Philadelphia fans have gotten a crummy rap this month is that "Peter Nowak blamed them for the Carlos Ruiz sale," a decision utterly inexplicable outside of Nowak having money on the Red Bulls winning the East.
The decision to blame the fans, not the decision to sell Ruiz. The swathe of destruction Ruiz has left in his wake needs little elaboration here - I can't think of a single player connected to American soccer history who has worn out this many different welcomes. Mamadou Diallo is the only one who comes close. He's now the problem of the Veracruz Red Sharks, and if there's one thing we know about Mexican fans, it's their infinite patience with high-salaried Central American stars. Unless I'm thinking of a different Mexico.
In any case, the Union fans' crime seems to have been cheering for Ruiz' backup while Ruiz was on the field. This week, fans of the Miami Dolphins went to training camp, and chanted for a player who isn't on their roster. Which, don't get me wrong, is, like, mondo uncool, but that's the kind of disrespectful behavior that would warrant a head coach calling out fans. And Ruiz was a much more prominent player than...sorry, it isn't even worth the effort to look up who the Dolphins' quarterback is right now. I think the other guy they were cheering for was Cowboy Bob Orton or something. For our international readers, the Miami Dolphins are a club that plays a form of modified rugby, when they're not swimming in photo opportunities with Barcelona players.
Nowak would have been vastly better served with either the truth - Veracruz made too good an offer. Or, if Ruiz really has been pouting all these months that he is only the second most popular Carlos Ruiz in Philadelphia sports, Nowak should have hidden that fact like Blackbeard's treasure. Far from shaming Union fans, this should encourage them. If I thought my booing had an effect on Galaxy personnel decisions - and trust me, it sure as **** don't - I'd have blown out my vocal cords five years ago. The intent might have been to protect the delicate feelings of Union players, but the lesson is the complete opposite. The next time Union fans boo a player, and he's not the recipient of a conveniently large transfer offer, what then?
Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski in "Soccernomics" supported the "wisdom of the crowds" theory of soccer management. The rebuttal is that coaches in particular have a depth of knowledge that fans, almost by definition, cannot have. Nowak seems to be saying that, despite the yawning information gap he has over Philadelphia fans, their collective input must take precedence at the expense of the team. Nowak's dedication to pure democracy is admirable, but either hypocritical or suicidal.
In other words, if he wants to quit to rejoin the US national team program, let him say so.