The Attack of the Cheer Nazis

Let's make something clear up front: everybody wants to same thing here, namely to beat the stuffing out of El Tri tomorrow night. Dos a Cero would be OK, but if there's one thing we agree on it's that Cinco a Cero or so would be even better. To that end, no one person or group of people's egos matter the slightest bit. The only thing that matters is that our team on the field gets every single bit of boost, assiatnce and, yes, love that a team can get.

Which is why this game is being held where it is.

To quote Brian Sciaretta of the New York Times after last September's match against Jamaica.

After writing:

On Tuesday night, the United States walked out of the tunnel at Crew Stadium to a deafening roar. Nearly 24,000 people packed the stands, waved flags and made the venue shake with a raucous atmosphere not often seen in the U.S.

He included, in his player ratings, this final note:

I have never given a rating to a venue or a crowd, but Tuesday’s is worth noting. On Sept. 11 and with the U.S. team needing a win, Columbus put together maybe the best crowd ever for the national team. The atmosphere was electric and it clearly gave the team a boost of energy. Rating: 10

I could fill this page with quotes from from players and coaches since 2001 who've called the atmosphere in Crew Stadium for these important matches - particularly Mexico - every superlative they can muster. But I can't do better than the endorsement of US Head Coach Juergen Klinsmann, who personally lobbied Sunil Gulati to schedule tomorrow's match in Columbus.

So why would anyone want to change it?

Let's go back a couple weeks to the infamous - not to mention widely distorted, misunderstood, falsely reported and, eventually, lied about - conference call between American Outlaws "National Leadership", AO Seattle, Garret Drexler of USSF and various representatives of local Columbus supporters groups.

The main purpose of the call was so that the guys who run AO - and did you know that the entire leadership consists of a small group of guys in Lincoln Nebraska who don't hold elections? - that they had decided to "standardize" the US Soccer fan experience from now on by having a handful of "Boss Capos" from Seattle handle all future US Supporters sections, starting - incredibly - in Columbus on September 10.

Other "under capos" - does that terminology ring of The Sopranos to you, too? - would be brought in to serve as their facilitators, and the locals could feel free to nominate someone too, but the AO Seattle people would be calling the shots at every USMNT match from now on.

Then the Seattle people, demonstrating a stunning level of cluelessness, started asking questions about where "the capo stands" are located in Crew stadium and how the PA system works. One can only imagine the shared smirk of superiority when they were informed that there is no such thing in CCS. Clearly, they weren't arriving a moment too soon.

Let's pause for a moment to look at the numbers.

We keep hearing about how there are going to be "9000 supporters" in the stands, and clearly they need to be told when to start various little Lincoln Nebraska-approved vapid little songs.

Well, yes and no.

First off, 2000 of those supporters tickets were sold to Columbus groups.

Which leaves 7000 AO, a still impressive number, until you consider some things:

1) That number could have been anything you like. 10,000, 2,000 or anything in between. Hell, They could have sold all 24,000. Furthermore, if USSF had given the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Communist Party USA or your dog Rover 7000 tickets to sell, they would have gone just as quickly. At which point I guess that they'd have said that there were 7000 Communists or Crusty Old Women in the stands who longed for "coordination" by imported cheer Nazis.

2) Since AO made very little effort to screen who they sold tickets to, and a goodly number of them appeared immediately on the various secondary ticket sales sites, there is no denying that a healthy number of the tickets USSF allowed AO to sell will walk up to the gates in the hands of people wearing green.

3) As Matt Goshert, the AO Columbus rep on the ill-fated phone call, told the MLS podcast last week, at USA/Mexico games in Columbus, there aren't 9000 supporters, there are 24,000.

We don't know what the official "AO National" position is on any of that, since they refused to participate in the call, just as they have refused any and all interview requests from any source whatsoever since this whole deal erupted.

Seems a bit odd, doesn't it?

Except that, frankly, they don't care what you or I or anyone else thinks. They answer only to each other and, possibly, to three people in Seattle.

All we have is part of an interview given a few years back by the then President, who told The Free Beer Movement:

(The local AO chapter') function is to unite fans from a certain area, give those fans a place to meet for EVERY game, and a banner to display at the bar. Then, if that area were lucky enough to host a US game, the chapter gets to plan the national party.

Seems to have been a policy shift. Maybe we can discuss this the next time they hold national elections. Oh wait....

Bottom line, anyone who thinks that "standardizing" or "homogenizing" or "McDonaldizing" US fan support so that there's a "consistent" cookie cutter feel wherever the team plays ought to be kicked to the curb with a crudely made cardboard "Need 2" sign around his neck.

US/Mexico in Columbus is an insane, riotous, anarchic, raucous, over-the-top, deafening celebration.

In fact, US matches in every city are, should be (or can be if you allow it) uniquely local affairs. Diversity is the best thing about our country and particularly it's soccer fans.

When England's national team plays in Wembley, do you know how many Boss Capos, sub-capos, capo-stands are needed to "coordinate" support?

None. Zip. Nada.

If that's what works in Cascadia, and what the locals want, great. Have at it.

But let everybody else decide what's best for them, too.

And so it goes.