Soccer….Family Style

Beating the American Outlaws Stereotype
September 12, 2013, 12:11 pm
Filed under: Supporter Culture, US Soccer | Tags: , , , ,

girlCLAre there any real journalists left out there? I understand when MassiveFC writes a blog without getting comments, but when a “journalist” like Mark Zeigler starts tweeting things like “All those cheers you hear on TV are not spontaneous. A guy is on a mic with speakers telling people what to chant, and when. #contrived” and “@PCHartwell @AmericanOutlaws Guess it’s the sausage factory deal.” it makes me wonder if anyone knows how to actually write something above the blogosphere fray where people hear rumors and race for pitchforks and torches.

Mr. Zeigler, while it’s clear you have your bias against American Outlaws, have you done any work to see what’s actually going on out there? If you had, you might have seen this group of women at the AO Chapter Leaders meeting. That’s not all the women who are Outlaws. Those are the chapter leaders who were in Columbus. There are many righteous women in American Outlaws, and you insult us when you stereotype AO as a sausage fest.

Now back to your lackluster reporter skills. Did you do any research on the backstory of the capos, or were you inadvertently throwing fuel? Maybe catch up a little…first, Massive wrote about a supposed Seattle takeover, which was a piece with more emotion that whole truth, which prompted me to tell people to step up or go to their rooms. There’s certainly an intelligent discussion to be had about capo vs no capo, in fact, @ClevelandGooner and I already had it. When you talk about the frat boys being off key, you should know that you are insulting some of the finest men who support US Soccer, men that I have traveled around the world with, and men who deserve more credit than your playground bully sniping about being on key. Had you bothered to leave the press box and do your job, there was a story to write here. It goes like this: ***EDIT I AM SWITCHING TO THIRD PERSON BECAUSE IT IS SUPPOSED TO BE A FAKE ARTICLE….

song sheetAfter all the debate about capo vs no capo, the American Outlaws were ready to go with their first attempt at blending the noise level you can get from mic’d capos with the spontaneity of Columbus in section leadership. The plan was in place, capos stationed around the stadium. Song cards with truce plans to share the stage between AO and local supporters were distributed. A last minute security alert nixed the plans for capo stands, which was fine with AO Des Moines’ capo Tanya Keith. “I’m used to capoing from the section, so this is more comfortable for me.” But Keith would not be comfortable for long. The speaker system set up and tested pre game failed to convey the sound from the North End to the South end, leaving the South End capos to work out plan B on the fly. Keith’s children, ages six and ten, who often attend games dressed, got the crowd fired up by running up and down the South End with an American flag. When asked if this was her first cap, daughter “Wonder Woman” told the shocked fan “This is my 23rd cap, and my brother’s 14th. It’s my third #dosacero match. Dos a Cero is the nickname supporters have given the quadrennial 2-0 beat down of Mexico, and clearly, even the children understand the importance of the match.

The South End’s capos did their best, coordinating with the North End, who could often be heard clearly without speakers, when they could, allowing organic Columbus-style chants to fill the void. Once Keith finished her first half obligations, she sprinted to the North End at halftime to try to coordinate a plan for the failed speakers. She arrived just in time to see Eddie Johnson’s first goal hit the back of the net and explode the Nordedecke into a riot of sound, smoke, scarves, and red, white, and blue. Keith said “Once that happened, I was too superstitious to go back to the South End, and we were so loud, it was the best I could do to help out my family and friends back on the South side.” Anyone who has traveled to all the qualifying matches has to admit, Columbus lived up to the folklore, once again delivering an amazing fan experience, and a Dos a Cero mythology so strong, it even blocked a late game penalty kick attempt by new Seattle Sounder, Clint Dempsey. Keith summed it up, “I love traveling the US following and supporting this team. People see us capos as people who spend the game with our backs to the field, and they don’t get it. We watch the game reflected in the faces of our fellow supporters. They tell us when we need to turn around and watch the field. When I feel the energy coming out of the stands from a crowd like Columbus always brings, it’s the best natural high I know.”

Soccer fans will note, nothing is forever. Azteca was once the most fabled, unbeatable, home field advantage perhaps in all the world. We have seen the beautiful diversity of supporter clubs in America as we’ve traveled following World Cup Qualifying and Gold Cup this summer, from the consistent quality product of Seattle to the crab cakes and pit beef of Maryland. But as long as the Dos a Cero wall continues to stand at Crew Stadium, Americans know where their home field advantage is for US vs Mexico, right here in Columbus, Ohio.


Drops capo mic.

Portland, Don’t Make Me Cut You
January 8, 2013, 9:16 pm
Filed under: Supporter Culture, US Soccer | Tags: , ,

I’ve been pretty clear that I’m only 100% confident when I’m chanting “US Til I Die.” I am pretty passionate about soccer in general, and I’ll stand with almost any supporters section, typically with me US Soccer buddies from around the USA. But, as previously reported, I’ve had a special place in my heart for the Portland Timbers for the past eight years, and purchased several Rose City Til I Die items without a hitch of hesitation. Timbers were the centerpiece of last Summer’s MLS Road Trip, and it makes me happy to think of Timbers Army and the friends we made there, as it made me happy to read Grant Wahl’s tweets about Portland perhaps getting to host a World Cup Qualifier next Summer.

Then I read Andrew Brawley’s Op Ed on Timber’s hosting, and I can honestly say that I’m disappointed for the first time by a Timbers Army experience. He whines about the recent USWNT games held in Portland as being over-run by pre-teen and teen girls, and complains about AO’s chants being stale, and implies that they are below the awesome that is Timbers Army. In addition, he feels that Timbers Army is only qualified to bring it to Timbers games, which was as close as he came to making sense and sounding informed.

First of all, for those of us who’ve experienced USWNT and USMNT games, I think we can say that the two don’t look at all alike. Are the USWNT games drawing better atmosphere at meteoric rates….yes, absolutely. But it’s not the same as a USMNT match, and a USMNT match isn’t the same as a USMNT qualifier. Many of us who travel and bring the noise (and the giant flag) to US Soccer have to pick and choose our games. I dream of the day I can make every men’s game and every women’s  game, but that’s just not practical, as I’m sure Andrew could understand, since he admits not even dropping the coin to see USWNT in his own back yard, a concept that’s insane to those of us for whom EVERY US Soccer and/or MLS game is a road game.

Second, nice to brag about being a “torch bearer among American Supporters groups,” but fold your hand before it’s been dealt in taking it to the next level of supporting American soccer. Does AO sing U-S-A more than I’d like? Yes. Is it a reasonable thing that happens in a new supporters group …particularly one that doesn’t play an annual regular season where we can meet up and practice an arsenal of song and chants? YES. I capo US Soccer games, and we sing a variety of songs and typically have new chants made up for that particular opponent. You might not hear them on the broadcast, but it’s there in the stadium. It makes me wonder if Andrew’s ever experienced a USMNT match in person? I certainly have, and I’ll say this about American Outlaws: we tifo stadiums, despite the fact that our members carry all that stuff in, paying airline check fees and not having the luxury of leaving it in a stadium storage locker. We sing songs and chants over multiple sections, with variety and unison that hasn’t happened before AO started. And we do it all without any local bar or HQ where we all get to meet up and organize week after week. Show some respect, son.

Third, I know you’re better than this Timbers Army. I blog as a soccer mama, so please picture my disapproving glare when I say “you’ve really disappointed me, I expect more from you.”  When I came in for Timbers vs Chivas, I had the good fortune to meet Phyllis Hayes, and not Andrew, who probably would have freaked out that my pre-teen daughter might ruin his night. Phyllis showed my kids how to do some Timbers traditions, and made us feel welcome by running to the office to copy off the song sheet as well as the sheet of songs that were new to the Army that night. I’ve SEEN YOU INTRODUCE NEW SONGS!! I know Timber’s are capable of hosting USMNT and maybe, just maybe, teaching American Outlaws a few things, but that won’t happen with an attitude expressed in Andrew Brawley’s Op Ed.

I hope Timber’s Army and Portland do get to host a USMNT World Cup Qualifier this year. It is a great town with a great soccer culture. And American Outlaws are better than you give them credit for, as we were fully capable of singing along with Sporting KC Fans, because you know what? We all DO love bar-be-que! I’m sure we would be just as accepting of what Portland has to offer, even if “we all don’t love locally sourced gluten free” isn’t quite as catchy…I’m sure you have something we can sing. As for the AO songs you clearly haven’t heard, don’t worry Andrew, my five year old will show you how it’s done.

Here We Go!
September 4, 2012, 7:00 am
Filed under: FIFA, International Soccer, US Soccer | Tags: , ,

The Jamaica Home/Away roadtrip is underway! Yesterday, I watched my husband referee Minnesota Soccer’s win over Western Kentucky, and today, we fly to Montego Bay for the away leg of the qualifier. We’re off to a great start.

Our airport shuttle driver was Mexican, and was as excited as we were to talk CONCACAF soccer, even though I opened the conversation with “Didya see the US vs Mexico game in August?” He liked my rendition of Mexican beer ads in Spanish, and I think was impressed that a couple Americans were so familiar with the history of the biggest rivalry in CONCACAF.

We arrived at the airport in our USMNT jerseys, Doug’s vintage 2002, and mine the current Where’s Waldo? We were through O’Hare security in record speed when a guy in business attire stopped me and said “Nice jersey, are you coming from or going to a game?” I’ve never been stopped by an average American who knew 1. What a US Soccer jersey looked like and 2. Their playing schedule. You’ve come a long way, America, and you’re making me proud. Just think, my kids could grow up in a world where soccer fans aren’t the lowest form of American sports fan….

Next stop: Jamaica, for cliff diving, Blue Mountain coffee, rum, a reprise of our 1995 honeymoon, and hopefully, an excellent soccer game.

Girl Fight
November 27, 2010, 1:41 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , ,

1999 was one of those blissful pre-kid, pre-business owner years for me, when I could pick up and go to soccer games whenever I wanted, and I was a newly minted US soccer ultra fan, despite our performance in 1998 France World Cup. I wanted to see as many Women’s World Cup games as I could. My mom had a contact in New Jersey that was able to get us tickets to the opening match, which remains the only game I’ve seen with my mom (and I wasn’t even that rowdy at that game!)

That was all it took. I was hooked on the Women’s World Cup and continued on to games in Chicago and the final in Pasadena. Americans clearly loved soccer, but I remember talking with my travel buddies that night as we relaxed around the hotel pool after the final about how this was quite possibly the pinnacle for the USWNT. We hypothesized that it was only a matter of time until the rest of the world caught up to our skill level, and an unknown whether the US could support a professional women’s soccer league.

So here we are, eleven years later. Women’s professional soccer has sputtered and struggled along over the last decade. And the USWNT had become so dominant, that I think people forgot to support them. I took my daughter to a USWNT World Cup game in 2003, but I haven’t traveled the world for them as I have the Men’s team (there are limits to money and vacation time after all). We assumed that the US Women would qualify for 2011 Germany, and we’d go visit family and see them there.

Then, the unthinkable happened. We didn’t advance. And now we’re playing for our WWC lives today in Chicago. In our family, we’ve decided it’s time to start supporting the Women’s game, and I know we’re not alone. It’s fun to read women’s soccer fans learning about American Outlaws, and awesome to see American Outlaws coming out to support not just the USMNT. It makes me proud, as a soccer fan and a mother to a daughter that America has woken up to the fact that we can’t just assume our domination of the Women’s game anymore. And now that Mia has retired, we still have some amazing women playing for us, and not just Kristine Lilly (the woman I named my daughter after).

So today, while I dedicate myself to running my retail store on Small Business Saturday, my husband is taking the kids to Chicago with a few other American Outlaws to support US Women’s Soccer. I am very much there in spirit, and hope you will join me in paying a little more attention to the Women’s game. Today. Next Summer. At your local soccer games. We have to encourage our girls to stick with soccer, and continue to build our player and referee development programs for girls. We can’t afford to turn our backs on the rest of the world creeping up behind us any longer. And to the women it has been a pleasure to watch for the last 11+ years, you go girls…all the way to Germany.

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