Thursday, May 08, 2008

Pardon this interruption

I was at BMO Field last week for the Toronto FC game against New York Red Bulls (a 1-1 draw; it was a cold, rainy evening, and I drank a lot of overpriced beer to keep warm). During the game, as usual, the fans in the south stand were throwing streamers at the New York players whenever they went to take a corner kick. One of them, in fact, ended up running around the field for a couple minutes afterwards without realizing that he still had a streamer wrapped around his waist. I thought it was funny, but then I don't claim to have a sophisticated sense of humour.

And then I came across this, in which some tool on ESPN rants about how fans shouldn't be throwing things on the field, because it makes the league look unprofessional, and it made me think. Do I agree with him? (Well, obviously not, since I'm referring to him as a tool, but let's look at his argument anyway.)

First of all, he's got an unexplained hate-on for soccer, describing it as a "junk product." And I don't think what he means is that MLS less good compared to the big European leagues; he just hates soccer, period. So he's biased, but whatever. His main argument is that you don't see anything like the streamers in the major American sports leagues (baseball, basketball, football); therefore, it makes the MLS look bad. It's a pretty insular point of view. He's obviously never seen a South American football game, where things get thrown on the pitch all the time -- and not just streamers, but everything up to and possibly even including the kitchen sink. And that sort of interaction from the fans is part of the atmosphere at the games. Reproducing that, even in a small way, makes Toronto FC games better, not worse, as anyone who knows anything about the sport will tell you. Next this douchewad is going to claim that the fans shouldn't sing, or bring flags to the stadium, because that's not how they do things in the good ol' U. S. of A.

But what about the argument that it's interfering with the game? I can't find the link now, but I did come across someone who said that they'd never let the fans get away with throwing streamers at someone who was about to take a penalty kick, for example. Maybe not, and I don't think they should. But fans will yell at penalty-takers to put them off, and that's fine. It's just trying to mess with their head. And that's really what the streamers are about too. They're not actually expecting that someone's going to trip over a streamer and fuck up the corner kick (although, if that did happen, damn right I would laugh). All the players have to do is wait for the streamers to be thrown, clear them away, and then take the kick. And the game goes on, and it's all the better for the fans not just sitting there like lumps.

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