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TFC 2010 | Week#1

On Being A ‘Supporter’

What Is Owed To Us As Fans?

As fans go, supporters of the Toronto FC have set a high standard for our side. True, we’ve made our team one of the few profitable franchises in the MLS, and our stadium one of the most entertaining sporting venues in North America. For that alone, we probably deserve some on-pitch payoff for our loyalty. The MLS certainly wants to reward us, as it looks like we’re getting this year’s MLS Cup Final game.

Seattle Sounders, the other profitable team, certainly threw it down in 2009 – they finished fourth overall in their inaugural year. They certainly spanked us hard when they came to town for our home opener. I still cringe at the memory of owner/entertainer, Drew Carey bellowing into the dead silent BMO airspace when they scored goal #2 that day. If it’s any consolation, Seattle has been the exception and not the rule for expansion teams entering the MLS. Most have fared like Toronto FC, or worse… like San Jose’s second coming of the Earthquakes.

Why Are We So Impassioned?

This all brings me to the nature of fandom and the varying styles of its expression I see around me. The folks sitting nearby at BMO cover the full gamut. Some are proud fans, quiet and restrained perhaps but ever patient and hopeful. The down side of fandom near my section ranges from the harmlessly oblivious to the brazenly boorish.

There are dazed teenagers excited only when ticker tape is thrown at opponents from the south end stands. And then there’s the toxic curmudgeon uttering curses and gruesome threats toward our players every time there’s a mistake or play goes against us. In the same category, there’s a father of three motor-mouthing shit about our roster and how much they suck between bouts of screaming insults at particular players on the opposing team in the hope of distracting them (from the second tier of the west side). At least he’s an equal opportunity jerk.

I’m not opposed to complaining. I’m even prone to it myself. I can’t believe, however, just how negative the tone can be when I listen to the crowd around me. I’m not talking about those moments of poor luck, bone-headed mistakes or bad officiating. We see that all the time, and it’s endured by all teams at some point. I’m talking about the constant drone of negativity. The louts described above give way to the 8 year old who spent an entire half singing “A rope, a tree, hang the referee.” There’s a time and place for feeling down, for being realistic and for getting upset too.

The ticker tape gawkers aside, it all speaks to passion. There’s no other single explanation that covers all the motives we have for being fans. It’s not a rational process. Our blood has been infected, and our hearts beat it through our flesh and bone.  We don’t think this allegiance through, we feel it and we like it. Somewhere between the foolish devotion of blind faith and the cynical ‘hate-ons’ of perpetual disappointment, there’s a sweeter spot of boosterdom. Hope and ‘support’ can lead the way. Toronto FC is still a young Club, neither slumped in epic failure like the Maple Leafs nor desperately grasping to regain a bygone legacy like Everton. It’s a great time to be a Toronto FC fan, and the team has lots of future potential.

Why Blog?

We have enough jaded press voices, slyly deconstructing the management’s boardroom maneuvers or the MLS’s foibles. Journalists’ passion flows into their ‘objectivity’ – a posture rooted in doubt and skepticism, a perspective that never really lets them speak from the ranks of any team’s fan base. Criticism and suspicion have their place, and I’m sure I’ll dish my own share. But within these columns, you’re going to find more faith than flame-outs, more devotion than damnation.

Better Red than… you name it.

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