Soccer….Family Style


Be Classy, Soccer Fans
November 10, 2016, 4:35 pm
Filed under: FIFA, Supporter Culture, US Soccer | Tags: , , , ,
I wrote this blog post back in June, and I kept finding reasons not to publish it. As you’ll read in this post, I find it exhausting to be the one-woman clearing house for everything that’s wrong with soccer supporter culture, particularly related to American Outlaws. But today I feel like it HAS to be said. It scares me to go into US vs Mexico on the heels of a political campaign that was so contenious regarding women and immigrants. The way women (and minorities and immigrants) are treated matters to me, particularly in the soccer community. I’m asking all of you to do better for our collective soccer family.

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Last night I got the worst news, but at least it came from a friend. Here’s what was posted to my Facebook Timeline:

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Vindication is nice, but at the price of even one more woman’s suffering, it’s also horrible. The flood of emotion I felt staring at this post is pretty indescribable. So sad to hear that another woman was hurt. So relieved AO was FINALLY talking about it. Vindicated that even one person remembered that I talked about this so long ago. Let’s rewind…

In 2013, I reported to AO National in writing that at an AO LA Night Before an AO member who I had photos of had touched my breasts inappropriately and other women at the party had negative experiences with men, and that as a chapter leader, I felt it was important that we deal with the rise of sexism within AO in the interest of protecting all our members. I was told that if anything had really happened, I should have called the police. Which is pretty much THE WORST way an organization could respond to such a report. AO confirmed this was their response in the article by Fusion published March 2015.

I shared the letter I wrote to AO with a Facebook group of all women, asking them to please share their stories. What was meant as fact finding was seen as an attack on AO. I never wanted to attack AO. I was a chapter leader who felt deeply connected to my #AOFamily, but I’m also a mother, and I didn’t want anyone hurting another woman at an AO party, and I thought it was an important discussion to have in 2013. AO was growing fast, and I thought thing could mushroom out of control if we didn’t confront it. My attempts to start that discussion were taken by many as treasonous, and ever since then, I have faced an almost constant barrage of harassment from AO members and sympathizers.

  • A man in chapter leadership of AO Knoxville created Twitter accounts to harass me and release personal information about me. I reported it to AO National and never heard that they did anything to even speak to him, let alone public or private discipline.
  • Supporters from KC seem to have a particular taste for harassing me, one of them even approached my son at a game to try to intimidate him. Again, no response from AO, but I was able to get support from stadium ops in KC so I could feel safe bringing my kids there.
  • I attended the AO party in Canada last Summer after ensuring it was legal to bring my kids to the venue. This was the first event with #AOWatch, and @USAGunnerWalsh tweeted an image of my child at the bar and suggested we call DHS about there being a baby in a bar (which was really a restaurant, and she was in no harm, but hey! Like that matters to a Twitter troll). At this point, I’d lost all faith in AO and their watch, but a friend reported the incident for me with my permission. Neither he nor I ever heard from AO National.

That’s far from all the harassment I faced, but it’s the high points. When I wrote my memoir of following US Soccer for two decades and published it in 2014 my anti-Tanya hate peaked with accusations that I was trying to get rich off soccer fans (writing!! The path to the millionaire life!….said no one ever). It was not that I was hoping to get rich. I wrote a book about my love of soccer and soccer supporters, and I genuinely thought it was so closely tied to AO’s mission, that chapters could use my book in their recruitment (some did and had great events). When I asked National to support the book and back me up, they responded that they get hundreds of requests per year and they can’t support everyone. Really? Hundreds of requests from long time chapter leaders who have written in support of you in crisis? Once I reported my negative experience, I was persona non grata with AO, making it painful for me to read the now hypocritical #AOFamily hashtag ever again. But never quite so much as when I clicked the link posted on my FB and read this:

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That title. I was so happy they were FINALLY standing up for someone. You see, I’ve become the clearinghouse for everything that is wrong with AO. YOU MAY HAVE NEVER EXPERIENCED ONE NEGATIVE THING WITH AO, because in reality, there are so many amazing, wonderful people in AO. But bad things happen, even at AO events. Given the publicity of my story, I’m now the person that gets sent every wrong thing AO does.

A girl gets roofied at an AO event in Portland and National does nothing. Message Tanya.

AO events fall short of family friendly. Message Tanya.

AO screws up a tifo in Chicago? Message Tanya (OK, that one was funny…but I didn’t share it because I really want us all to get along).

You may never have a negative experience at AO, but I hear about everyone’s bad days. It’s toxic on top of toxic for me. So imagine my rage as I read “Standing Up…”

“The safety of all our family, particularly our female members is paramount. This is the way it has always been. This is the way it will continue to be.

Even one incident is too many. Which is why we chose to address this immediately. Every member deserves to feel safe at our events.”

The way it has always been? Um, no. At best, it was the way you wanted it, but it’s not the way it’s been.

Address this immediately? I’ll let a comment from AO’s own page cover this one.

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When something like this happens to a woman, we should not have to wait for AO to get their messaging right. We should be informed immediately and updated as the situation develops.

This is a good start. I’ll say what I wish AO had said. To this woman, and every woman (or man) who has had a bad experience at an AO event, I am with you. I know the pain and betrayal of bad things happening within your AOFamily. I know how hard it is to keep doing the things you love when it just brings you back to a hurt place. I love you, and I am here for you. I am so deeply sorry this happened to you, and I’ll continue to do everything I can to keep it from happening to anyone ever again.

My defense of AO is to say that I’m not going to take the “told you so” bait. One experience is too much. The fact that their post should have come ANY TIME over the past three and a half years should not detract from the fact that they are doing it now. AO National are the soccer nerds who suddenly found themselves at the cool kids’ table, and they didn’t know how to deal with this stuff, but they’re learning, and we should give them the support to create the best possible environment for all soccer supporters.

Full disclosure, I left American Outlaws after my experience at the Canada World Cup. I just couldn’t stand by any longer. I am now working on building Sammers SC. At some in the past three years, Korey Donahoo said something about how AO couldn’t be everything for everyone. We are a big enough soccer family that there should be multiple groups. I want to be a part of that diversity, with no hard feelings to AO. I was Sam’s Army, I was AO, and now I’m Sammers SC…it’s all supporting US Soccer, and that’s what’s important.

It is my hope that we can meet in the bar of our choice in an environment that’s a positive experience for all, then join forces in the stands to create the best possible environment for our teams.

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LET’S DO THIS!
March 28, 2016, 2:27 pm
Filed under: International Soccer, US Soccer | Tags: , ,

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10 hours. It takes 10 hours to drive from our house to Columbus, Ohio and MAPFRE Stadium, not allowing for stops for the Hat Trick Baby. We did it in December for MLS Cup Final (someday I’ll get that blog posted) and we’re doing it today for USMNT. I’m starting to wish rest stops came equipped with paper bags for hyperventilating.

As a US Soccer lifer, it’s a lot of time to think about this moment in our history. My love of Klinsmann is well documented, but even I am having a crisis of faith. Where are we as a nation of soccer supporters if we can’t score on Guatemala, even away? What is happening if we can’t sell out our home of all homes, Columbus?

I got into a Facebook conversation with my friend Bill about the parallels that can be drawn between Bernie Sanders’ campaign and US Soccer at this moment (I know, don’t talk politics, but bear with me….I’m from Iowa, I promise to keep it civil). Both movements have young followers who want to believe anything and everything is possible. I sense a similarity in these campaigns in the rising sentiment of “if we don’t win, I’m done” and a willingness to profess love on social media, but not make it out to the voting booth/game day.

But support isn’t about the fair weather days. It’s about picking up your team when they are down. I wish politicians were talking about the unfairness in rising tickets prices. I get it. It’s a pretty big leap from $40 being the typical, pre-Hex price for a qualifier in 2013 to $60 for tomorrow’s match. I hope we’re getting another round of collectible scarves at this price, but given how fast Columbus has sold out previously, I’m surprised to see “cheap” seats available the day before the match.

A win tomorrow puts us back into “likely qualifying” percentages. A loss puts us into that 10% range that might even get me reaching for the pitchforks. But that is for another day.

Tomorrow is about getting this effing job done. I drove 10 hours with an 11 month old baby and I want my THREE POINTS. I came to sing. I came to yell. I came to love. I hope you’ll come too. Come out and support our boys on the Road to Russia.

Let’s do this.



Bomb Pops, Party of Five! #FIFAWWC #USA #USWNT #1N1T
June 12, 2015, 4:58 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

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Three Bomb Pops for Game Day
June 12, 2015, 2:42 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

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These three…that’s what it’s all about. Happy World Cup game day everyone!



Polka Police Stopped Us at the Border!
June 12, 2015, 12:52 pm
Filed under: Family Fun, International Soccer, Womens Soccer | Tags:

wpid-20150607_181400.jpgGetting out the door with an infant is never easy, but we figured “What’s the rush? We’ll get to Canada eventually.” We didn’t realize that there’s ordinarily an hour wait at the border on Sunday evening, and on June 7th, as American soccer fans invaded Canada en masse in preparation for our June 8th match, that we would overwhelm their capacity. Friends who crossed around lunch time made it in under an hour, but the line grew steadily throughout the day, and by our attempt at 5 PM, the wait was almost three hours.

As reality set in, people started leaving their cars with just the driver and walking around, meeting each other, kicking soccer balls around, and having a chat. We walked around a bit and took photos at the Canada signs, but then a two man band approached and my son ran back to the car to get our drum. He joined Lt. Lederhosen and Sgt. Squeezebox and went on a march along the highway, making music to entertain the travelers, thus introducing us to the great entertainment that is “Polka Police.” I’m going to have to try to catch a full show, because they were certainly welcome entertainment on a long afternoon at the Canadian border. Hope you have the pleasure of meeting these funny guys here in Winnipeg or back in Omaha where they live. More people who make the World Cup the awesome party it is!



Back From the Dead….uh…Bed
June 11, 2015, 2:20 pm
Filed under: Family Fun, International Soccer, US Soccer, Womens Soccer | Tags: , ,

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It feels like I’m coming back from the dead, but it’s really more like coming back from the bed. Publishing my book was all the feelings multiplied by fire hose delivery. It was so satisfying completing a project I’d worked on since 2010, and the feedback from other writers and true soccer fans was amazing. The internet backlash and misogyny was not. I learned so much, so fast, about so many things, it took me a while to process it all.

Then came the MLS All Star game in August and a funny thing happened. I woke up after a night of drinking and felt awful. Luckily, I was staying with my friend Phyllis, who gifted me the best memory of this particular morning. I drug myself out of bed and up to the kitchen and said,

“I can’t go drinking anymore this weekend. I think I’m pregnant.”

Phyllis, having witnessed my four year struggle to conceive our third child tried to steady my rocky seas with reason.

“You’re just hung over. Did you take a test?”

But I knew. The eternity we’d waited for our “Hat Trick” baby was coming to an end. The pregnancy gave me an all to welcome excuse to enter a hibernation-like sleep. I was tired of rolling my eyes at internet trolls accusing me of shamelessly self-promotion of my book (because y’know, artists, writers, musicians never promote their own work). I was hurt when American Outlaws withdrew their promised support for my book, and worse, I was angry when they offered little support when their own members made Twitter accounts to harass me. To have internet trolls announce my deeply wanted pregnancy on Twitter and joke about it being a mistake was the last straw. It was a good time to turn off my blog and block my internet haters for a while, because telling a pregnant woman to be unemotional about such things was unreasonable, and I had better things to focus on.

Now she’s here, our Hat Trick, and the fog of pregnancy and early motherhood is lifting just in time for the Women’s World Cup. Two games in Winnipeg sounded like a great idea for a ten hour road trip to my husband and older kids and I didn’t have the will to be the fun-hater that would point out the a ten hour drive with a newborn would take almost twenty hours (when you throw in the three hour wait at the border). YES! Let’s take a seven week old to Canada!

As we arrive in Winnipeg, it doesn’t seem so bad. The kids played soccer and partied with other soccer fans at the border and the Hat Trick Baby didn’t complain one bit about taking three hours off from her car seat. (Although she’s clearly letting us know she’s ready to get to the hotel now….5 more minutes baby. I’m excited to go to our first Women’s World Cup since our first born was a baby in 2003. I’m excited to be in Canada for the first time since I was a kid. I’m excited to see what WoSo looks like now that so many of our soccer buddies are traveling to support it.

Welcome back from the bed.



My Story Behind Growing Pains
March 12, 2015, 10:20 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Oh…that awkward moment the internet tries to claim you’re a shameless self promoter and you realize you haven’t updated your blog since August. But that’s the thing. When I heard Noah Davis was working on a story about people who’d struggled with American Outlaws, I didn’t race to talk to him. Truth is, I discovered at MLS All Star game (my last post) that we are finally expecting our third child this April. This is not the time in my life that I need to create havoc for my family. But it’s been bothering me that I stopped writing about the game I love.

What’s not in the article is that when I announced my pregnancy to my friends via Facebook, someone took the time to create two Twitter accounts to harass me and announced my pregnancy on Twitter before I wanted it to be public. The account talked about my family in unfriendly ways, and at the game in Hartford last fall, and the breach of privacy left me feeling vulnerable. I got the account blocked, but the invasion of my privacy stuck with me and I didn’t want to write any more. It was only made worse when an Outlaw friend of mine private messaged me that the chapter leader (edit: I believe Drew is now ex president) of AO Knoxville was bragging that he’d been behind the harassing Twitter accounts. I sent AO national this information, but their response was that the account had already been suspended by Twitter (at my request). Here was yet another opportunity for AO to reiterate their own harassment policy and back it up with consequences, and they neglected to step up.

So I just stopped posting. I stopped promoting my book. I was exhausted from the pregnancy, so I told myself it was because I didn’t have time, but in my heart, it made me sick that a group I loved and helped grow for so many years had blackened my love of the game. My experiences at the hands of American Outlaws made me not want to talk about soccer…and that’s wrong. It was wrong of me to only talk about it via private message to national leadership. When Noah Davis contacted me and said the article was practically written, but requested a comment, I thought this was a way I could live with myself again. He assured me his message was not to tear AO down, but to talk about the issues that were weakening this growing organization in the hopes that the subsequent dialog would build a better soccer culture.

Flash forward to today. I read the first sentence and closed the window. The couple lines I envisioned in paragraph six was transformed into the reality that I was headlining the article. This is not what I needed at 35/40 weeks pregnant. It took several hours for me to work up the nerve to read it, bolstered by the quotes sent by friends reminding me why I spoke out in the first place….there were plenty of people who shared experiences off the record, but if people were going to harass me on the internet over a pregnancy announcement, I should at least put my voice to good use.

It’s not perfect. There are inaccuracies. But the overall message is on target. Love me or hate me… there’s no room for harassment in sports. Women, all women, should be comfortable being a part of AO. Davis spoke to me and I shared my real experiences. If that upsets you, I don’t know what to say. If your experiences are positive, I’m so happy for you. AO is so vastly different from coast to coast, and my great experiences have outweighed my bad experiences, but they don’t cancel the bad stuff out. How can we have #UniteandStrengthen as our battle cry and not want to do better at all chapters?

The one critical point I want to make is that my family is still AO active. What I said about leaving AO was regarding stepping down as a chapter leader. I didn’t feel like I could be a part of leadership when I didn’t feel like AO Nat’s had my back. I want a strong supporter culture for US Soccer, and there’s no arguing that AO has a place in that culture. We can do better, and I hope the discussion that follows this article is less about denial and more about what the best American Outlaws and the best US Soccer supporter culture looks like.




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