EoS accepts guest columns from time to time that deliver specific insights on soccer related topics in the New York area. This week, Anonymous (a stated ‘long time’ reader of EoS) unloads on the South Ward.
OPINIONS DO NOT REFLECT THOSE OF EOS OR OUR STAFF
Who am I? I won’t give a name. I will simply say that I am a Red Bull fan that is too poor to own season tickets but passionate enough to attend a handful of games – sacrificing what little money I have to do it.
Who am I? I am a guy that became a fan of the New York Red Bulls in the middle of a half empty, midweek match in 2010 when Juan Pablo Angel closed out a victory against the Houston Dynamo with a free kick that made me jump more than any televised Prem. match ever did.
Who am I? I consider myself the average everyday fan. I love reading Metrofanatic for the banter and insight. I visit The Viper’s Nest Facebook page to check out links at least once a week. I play fantasy MLS and stack my squad with Red Bull players no matter who the opponent may be.
The evolution from casual interest to hardcore fan was an interesting journey. All other sports became secondary. The Red Bulls are it for me and that says a lot from someone who played “the other football” most of my teenage life!
So when you look at “evolution” in soccer supporters terms, the next transition (well, at least according to the internet – or just Metrofanatic) is jumping in with a supporters group.
Sounds good right? Not if you are a newbie. Let me put it this way; if you are interested in rooting your team on, by all means, do so from your own seat. If you like your soccer with a heavy dose of politics, self praise and measuring contests to see who supports better, then the South Ward is for you.
Shame really. It can be so much more.
Unlike Seattle or Portland where supporters organize under one general and powerful umbrella, New York has a South Ward as diverse as the City it represents. There is the Empire Supporter’s Club, Garden State Ultras and Viking Army.
The pleasantry ends there. Because honestly, that does sound great doesn’t it? I am all about diversity. I come from a bi-cultural background so I totally understand how important and really how vital differences can be.
But in the South Ward, it’s less melting pot and more, well, Europe. It’s like you have three dominant neighboring countries and you need to go through diplomatic channels to get anything done and each section – 101, 102, 133 – have their own problems and hostilities. Again, I may be totally wrong, but from visiting each of their bars and hanging out in all of their sections, here is my description of how I identify these groups:
EMPIRE SUPPORTERS CLUB
Online, this is the supporters brand that is pushed on you – the one you HAVE to join. The problem is, they can’t stand newcomers and hold to their “veteran” status like a badge of honor. I remember walking into The Football Factory for the groups “viewing party/membership drive” (though where that table to sign up was I have no freaking idea). I took my girl and a friend of mine to see supporters culture first hand.
If there was ever a time where you would have that comedic stop in all music in action like the TV shows do, this would have been it. The gaze in our general direction told the story – “Who are you and why the hell are you here?”
Membership drive? I felt about as welcome as a Yankees fan in Fenway.
It was funny considering it was Metrofanatic and their constant enticing that got me there in the first place. Since life is one big cafeteria, I would equate these guys to the slacker seniors who have “seen it all” and therefore look down upon freshmen and sophomores because, well, they can. Or better yet, they are like the guy who has to say FIRST at the beginning of a content thread just to say he was, and then brags to everyone for his, ahem, accomplishment.
In fairness, when it comes to the South Ward, theirs is the section I most enjoyed, mainly for the organization. The death stares when I didn’t know some of the songs? Could have done without that.
GARDEN STATE ULTRAS
Best bar food wise, worst section supporters wise. They have their good qualities! There was some cute chick with colored hair that was really nice to us. But if hanging out with ESC was like the seniors in the cafeteria, these guys are the Punk kids with the chip on their shoulders. Their section, in general, was a short lived experience for me. A very faux-anti-establishment attitude with their rancor directed at their neighboring supporters. I don’t get it. It’s like the non-conformist goth kids on South Park with a violent streak. They are small in number but big on anger. Not my vibe.
The frat. Plain and simple. And of the three groups, this may be the one that does the most to welcome newcomers. Going to Catas (while UNBEARABLY crowded) was cool and friendly enough. Everyone chants and sings and doesn’t care who is who so long as you are drinking. Heavily.
Do they have their segment of jerks? Absolutely – most gathered in a corner of the bar. But they have a fun spirit to them.
But again, you get a vibe from the VA once you are in the South Ward – like there is a quiet, unspoken tug of war between ESC and the VA for supremacy. And that “get with the program and learn the songs” vibe you get from ESC becomes slightly more physical amongst them. May be the booze.
This political divide shreds what true power these sections could have but none of these groups are willing to shed their identity for the greater good. This isn’t the United Nations; this is soccer for god’s sake! There is a commonality to their presence within Red Bull Arena … THE RED BULLS.
Forget who is here longest (ESC) or who is here strongest (GSU) or who is here drunkest (VA); take a look towards the West Coast and unite yourselves under one umbrella; SOUTH WARD. Maybe then you will have a stronger, more unified voice. Maybe then your sections won’t look like they are lobbing inter-area bombs instead of singing as one.
Maybe then there will be room for regular fans like me.
Until then, you will continue to be as divided and mature as any High School cafeteria in the country.
(You can now move this to the Dead Horse forum)