Last week Commissioner Garber sat down with Brian Straus of the Sporting News. Well, maybe he stood. I wasn't there. By the way, I'm so old, I was all, the Sporting News is covering soccer these days? They didn' t used to. The backdrop of the American societal zeitgeist towards the beautiful game over the MLS era undergirds the loins of that fascinating interview. The league is at such a strange point right now, with catastrophe and triumph around every turn. (Much like a "Gaspard and Lisa" episode, only MLS has some French spoken occasionally.)
Every big issue is addressed, save for the issue that the host team for the All-Star Game are the biggest bunch of tax cheats since Samuel Adams. I recommend it highly.
Naturally, all I want to talk about is "You suck, asshole."
The obvious reason for this is, I'm a blogger. Excuse me, "citizen journalist." I can't begin to explain to you how teams carrying debt on stadiums, as opposed to their clubs, is a wonderful thing. Or even what kind of thing it is. I can't even pretend to have an intelligent opinion on why Columbus used to be popular and now isn't, while Kansas City used to be unpopular. Or how best to explain that replicating Portland, Seattle and Vancouver's success in older franchises without downtown stadiums but with lots and lots of sports and leisure competition is Not That Easy.
But swearing? I'm a ****ing expert.
Let's address some of the topics that have come up in this regard.
1. The chant is homophobic.
Nah, I don't see it.
"The hell? Dan, wasn't literally your last post about how 'take it up the ass' was obviously and clearly homophobic? How is this different?"
Hm, yeah. Maybe I should explain. Hopefully, I can make a conversation about blow-jobs boring.
Maybe kids today know about fellatio in first grade, but I sure as hell didn't. Things suck all the time when you're a kid. Had I been asked what, in particular, school or running laps were meant to suck, I probably would have said lemons. Try accomplishing much of anything with a lemon in your mouth.
Other non-sexual sucking things include babies (something to which no grade schooler would brook a comparison lightly), vacuums (who swallow dirt and old food and God knows what else), and various parasitic or bottom-feeding members of the animal kingdom. I distinctly recall a rich metaphorical trove around the word "suck" long before I knew there was more than one thing you could do with a ding-dong.
Was "sucks" always evocative of the unzipped lollipop? I'm still skeptical. You can put the same amount of effort into the topic as I have (viz., laughably little) through these links to the New York Times, Slate, random posters on The Straight Dope boards, and whoever the heck you like. The longstanding public provenance of "Don't teach your grandmother to suck eggs" and "Yah boo, sucks to you, Fritzie" (what do you mean, Blackadder Goes Forth wasn't a documentary?) tells me that "You suck, asshole" is innocent of homophobia.
Still, saying "sucks" on network television probably would have gotten you fired back in the 70's, so there was something unsavory about it. (Or perhaps, too savory.)
I have to believe it's the "A" in "YSA" that's the problem. I'm not sure, despite Denis Leary's yeoman efforts, you can say "asshole" on the airwaves. TV versions of "A Fish Called Wanda" were proof of this. I always thought that when they called Dr. House an "ass" every week, they really wanted to add the second syllable. Perhaps my mind is, well, not in a fragrant place.
2. The chant is uncreative.
If you're going to say a chant isn't good, you should at least try to come up with a better one, Mr. Garber.
Actually, I would love to brainstorm with Don Garber about what to shout at an opposing goalkeeper. "How about, 'May you be as infertile and impotent as your father, whom your mother ne'er knew'?"
The commissioner is probably the wrong person to be giving that message, however true it is. Chants aren't always, or even primarily, about creativity anyway. They need to be concise, easily enunciated, easy to remember, easy to spread. Even if True Supporters were receptive to notes from the front office, creativity isn't the issue here.
The real issue is atmosphere. We're talking about fans who want to participate. The fans want to feel involved. That's why it's actually a little important to come up with something to fill the void. It should be "no, but," not "no butt."
3. Lists don't even qualify as writing, let alone comedy.
Perhaps it is I who am the asshole that sucks. Did I just BLOW YOUR MIND?
4. The chant represents soccer supporter culture.
Nobody's making that particular reductio ad absurdum, but plenty of people are saying there is a larger issue here, and that snooty prudes like me and the commish are missing the point. Steve Davis:
But the fans aren’t really attached to that chant per se; it’s the larger meaning and the desire in some fan corners to take MLS into more edgier places that a few supporters’ groups are determined to protect. So the YSA chant debate, so silly on its face, has come to represent something larger; it’s a proxy in the tussle between two disparate sets.
He[Commissioner Garber, obviously] wants the attendance, the TV attention, so long as the supporters do what he wants. That's why you see the rowdiest supporters in the league used in MLS advertising and promoted for big TV deals but he can then turn around and criticize them for unacceptable levels of "vulgarity".
What Garber doesn't realize is that it's two sides of the same coin: those supporters who make his league millions of dollars are there because they can sing and chant and insult and be passionate in the way they love, and a way which tens of thousands of non-participants quantifiably love experiencing as outsiders. That's an excellent definition of supporters culture, and cultures don't react well to being sliced up.
I hate "you suck asshole" and if that were the only issue, I'd say get rid of it. But it's not.
Though varying in degrees of severity, there have been dozens if not hundreds of reports on what happened during Fortgate. And while there are reports that prior to the actual event the Midnight Riders and Rebellion did agree to codes of conduct in the Fort, the actual event of Robert Kraft’s TeamOps – the group who runs security detail for Patriot and Revolution games, as well as other events in Gillette Stadium – coming into the Fort and allegedly removing, and arresting, people did not involve anyone sitting down with any persons with warnings of said actions.
It would appear that, Garber is not retelling but rather rewriting the story. In Garber’s world, it was a swift action. In reality however, it was a peaceful negotiation and brokerage of a deal. And thanks to the deal there is no more profanity coming from the New England supporters section.
But reality says differently.
Maybe they should go the other direction, and put YSA on the PA with jock rock in the background. True Supporters will shun it for good in two weeks.
It's their house. Well, houses. They just allow us to go see games in them. If it makes people feel better, if they made more money from broadcasting PG-13 naughtiness, they'd allow that. Merritt Paulson has come down on the True Supporters side, and as anyone who has seen his Twitter feed can attest, it isn't because he unthinkingly adores True Supporters. It's because they show up in more and lucrative numbers.
It's been pointed out that a lot of the teams that have focused on the family are among the ones who draw worse than Ted Rall, while winking tolerance of wacky antics have enabled Cascadians to swim in money. If there's simply more profit to be made marketing to younglings, then True Supporters can wait for the Invisible Middle Finger of the Market to work its magic.
Probably not so easy to think in long-term economic terms when the short-term club is being swung by an economic security guard, though.
5. The chant is worthy of Garber's attention and ire.
He seems to think so. It's not the worst thing to crawl out of supporters' craws, that's for sure. Compared to "Puto!," "You suck, asshole!" is "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" My team's fans stole that from their roommates, in a classic case of shoplifting from the landfill. Stop me if I've told you that one.
It's not like YSA even works. Has there ever been a keeper who stopped in mid-kick, waggled the finger at the supporters section and cried, "I'm not an asshole! You don't even know me!"? You'd think fans would try to do it a half-second early or a half-second late, to throw off the keeper's concentration - but no, for some reason opposing supporters are always considerate of his timing. Weird.
From what I could tell from experience with the Home Depot Center, it's organized, pre-planned profanity that really gets their, er, goats. I assume that's true elsewhere. (I could take the half hour to call or email other front offices, but what kind of citizen journalist does journalism? Not this one, bucko.) Not that the HDC is in love with random outbursts of vulgarity, but Part-Time Supporters are at least as likely to go blue as True Supporters when the calls don't go our way. It's also a lot easier to police one section of rowdies than a whole stadium of norms.
Davis is right - the supporters should just unilaterally ditch YSA, and bank the goodwill. And, of course, front offices shouldn't send in hired goons to pitch out the potty-mouths. Carrots more than sticks seem to be in order...these, after all, are your customers.