As a longtime Michigan Football fan, I’ve been a reader of MGoBlog for over a decade. I’ve always enjoyed and appreciated the in-depth, intelligent, nuanced content produced by Brian Cook and his team. In my opinion it’s by far the best team-specific sports blog on the Internet, and was one of my main sources of inspiration when I started BIR three years ago. In many ways what I’ve been aiming for is to be the “MGoBlog” of Detroit City FC.
So I was taken aback when I read Brian’s utter contempt for City and its supporters in this recent post:
Nothing is more annoying about DCFC than this. Detroit is a name frequently proposed for MLS expansion because it makes a ton of sense. It’s an excellent sports town and it’s smack dab in the middle of the Toronto-Chicago-Columbus triangle. But Detroit City is vehemently opposed:
…for this team and its passionate supporters, being included would have also presented another conundrum: DCFC’s identity is homegrown and supporters say it would disintegrate under MLS’ sanitized fan control policies.
For them, the only way to keep growing soccer in Detroit, the only way they saw the sport as having a real future here, was to keep it community and supporter-focused. The Detroit sports landscape, Wright said, was too treacherous for any team to turn their back on that model.
That is absurdly self-important and aloof. Many MLS environments are excellent and homegrown because the league was able to establish a détente with existing fans. The league has done a terrific job of crossing over from Family Fun to actually fun environments in Toronto, Seattle, and Portland.
The same can happen in Detroit, because the DCFC hardcore are not 1) particularly numerous and 2) the only soccer fans in the city. If DCFC wants to finish out of the playoff slots in the NPSL because MLS would frown on them saying “fuck” 300 times in a 90 minute match, that’s their prerogative. It should have no impact on MLS’s decision to come to Detroit or not. There’s no reason the two teams can’t coexist since they serve different markets. One will draw the interest of soccer fans; the other will draw the interest of people who like to act tough and watch colored smoke instead of soccer.
The argument that City supporters don’t care about soccer and only go to matches to get drunk and cosplay as European ultras is brought up by our detractors over and over, and each time it gets more tiresome. There may be some supporters for whom this is absolutely true, but for the core of NGS, the dress, smoke and tifo displays, etc. are simply expressions of our love for the club and the ways in which we choose to support it. We create the atmosphere in celebration of what happens on the field, not independent of it. If drawing attention to ourselves in turn makes more people aware of City, we’ve accomplished what we set out to do from the very beginning.
If I didn’t like the game of soccer, I never would’ve gone to a City match in the first place, but there are many people I know who were drawn in by the buzz created by NGS and became die-hard soccer lovers in the process. And if there are some non-soccer people who choose to go only for the event, so what? Similarly, I doubt every person who attends an MLS match knows about Matthias Sindelar, Rinus Michels, and the impact that Joao Havelange had on the modern game. (Have I passed the True Soccer Fan purity test?)
Supporter freedom of expression is important to us, but it’s not the main reason I and many fellow supporters are wary of MLS coming to town. I’d like DCFC to continue building with an eye toward eventually becoming Detroit’s pro soccer team, and a Gilbert-Gores MLS creation would likely put an end to those aspirations, as well as serve to put a ceiling on City’s potential future growth.
But isn’t that selfish? Aren’t our actions depriving innocent pro-MLS people of the team they desire?
Admittedly, our numbers are modest, so when it comes to blocking MLS expansion or HOLDING DETROIT SOCCER HOSTAGE!!!, our power in these matters is extremely limited.
As far as selfishness goes, I guess I’m guilty in that I’ve found something that I love and through which I’ve made most of my friends, and I’d like to see that thing continue to exist and grow rather than be stomped out or at the very least severely hindered.
I’m a believer in free and open competition, so Gilbert/Gores/Garber have every right to come in and create an expansion team if that’s what they want. That doesn’t mean I have to greet them with open arms, and it doesn’t mean I have to support the use of taxpayer money to build a new stadium in a cash-strapped city when the billionaires in charge of the project are perfectly capable of footing the bill themselves.
If the NFL tried to plop a team down in Ann Arbor, I’d expect Michigan fans to have a similarly skeptical response. The two situations are not perfectly analogous, but after the Dave Brandon debacle, you’d think one would be a little more understanding of our concerns surrounding the over-corporatization of sports and the treating of fans as ATMs rather than valued members of a community.
This may not change anyone’s mind or convince them of anything, but I hope it at least helped to better explain my position which also happens to be one that many of my fellow supporters hold. If nothing else, at least we can all agree that Ohio is a terrible, terrible place and no one should ever go there, except to support your team.