Steve posted a great read over at Floodplain Footy on April 5th. I really hope you got a chance to read it; if not, go read it now. Go ahead; this will still be here when you return.
A handful of people have “liked” it on Facebook or reposted; there’s enough discussion going on that shows it’s a good topic to discuss. I’ll admit, it got me riled up a bit. Not against Steve or his article, but rather against the notions that it addresses.
I genuinely want to know the answer to this question: What are you waiting for? Why are you not bringing people to the Lions games?
Lets get one thing straight early on: there is no magical money wizard that’s going to come in and make an MLS team and stadium appear. We’ve already been suckered once with that notion. NOTHING in life is free. A professional team sure ain’t free.
Look at Philly, at Portland, at Seattle, at Vancouver. Not only are they all recent expansion teams, but they had kick ass supporters groups already established. The infrastructure was there and thriving. MLS doesn’t want to place a team and hope a Barra Brava builds afterwards. They want those types of guys there NOW.
The Timbers Army in Portland was formed in 2001, combining existing supporters groups, for a franchise dating back to 1975. The Emerald City Supporters in Seattle was founded in 2005, two years before the Sounders were named a MLS franchise. In 1999, the Vancouver Southsiders formed to support the Vancouver 86’ers, a renamed Whitecaps franchise that started in the old NASL. And the Sons of Ben in Philadelphia were instrumental in bringing a franchise to Philly; they started up when there were just rumors of an MLS team.
Getting it yet? The supporters make the club.
Lets go back to the idea of the magical money wizard that so many think is going to be a super savior. I’m proud of St. Louis, but lets be honest here: it’s a city in decline. We’re not quite to the Detroit level of “shit hole”, but we’re headed that way. There’s a redline in property values and segregation at Delmar; every third building downtown is vacant or depressingly outdated; Warrenton is now a “suburb” with the white flight; and industry giants like Anheuser-Busch lay off hundreds of workers. We’re not a good investment on the surface.
But that’s just it: it’s superficial. Steve’s article mentions our talent and history, a fact we all like to refer to as a sign of our soccer superiority. We need to remember, honor, and respect our history, and build upon it. But that’s where it ends. I remember an official of a club making a comment in passing: “The old guys on The Hill have no idea who the captain is for the National team, but they can name all starters for St. Ambrose’s 7th grade team.” So why go after those old guys who clearly don’t care? Let’s get their kids, or grandkids involved. Those who grew up with the game or play today. Go to Vetta Sports, and there’s dozens of guys playing soccer. Where the hell are they? History doesn’t fill the stands, doesn’t pay the bills, doesn’t go to the combines. Those with a love of the game do.
A recurring theme is the “soccer snob”. We all know them. Polo shirts, rimmed glasses, low profile trainers at the soccer bar on saturday morning cheering on Liverpool or Tottenham, fashionable clubs. And that’s what it is: a fashion accessory. They’re aware of us, and the Lions. They distinctly choose not to support. The denial is there, but it’s obvious: it’s “below them”. Their time is “better spent” elsewhere. There’s always an excuse: work, other plans, friends in from out of town, etc. We’re wasting energy begging them to come to the games. They’ll show up when there’s an MLS team, nothing less. Screw ‘em. Their loss, not ours. Indifference never creates history.
So what do we do? Get that one more person to go. Maybe it’s your kid’s soccer coach. Maybe you have a neighbor that likes to drink beer and have a good time. That new guy at work that’s a good guy, but doesn’t have much going on since he’s new in town. That old friend you reconnected with on Facebook. Someone ask you about your “Louligan” shirt? That friend or family member who’s in town and wants to do something “St. Louis”. What’s more St. Louis than a beer, soccer, and heat in the summer?
All we need is that ONE more person from everyone. No pressure; we’ll lose some, we’ll gain some. By the end of the year, we’ll have increased our numbers. We did last year. And if Tony Glavin and crew have investors that want to see if the support is there, what will they see?
They’ll see a pre-game pavilion of Louligans, kicking a ball around, welcoming new people in. When the PA system cranks Flathead, they’ll see those happy Louilgans organize up, march down to the stands, yelling the refrain. The other team will turn at the ruckus: we’re already in their heads before the game. A few people in the stands will see this, and slide down the bleachers, wanting to be part of the fun. The loudest man on earth, wearing a luchador mask, screaming insults at the opposition. Pacing up and down the stands, a man with his allegiance tattooed on his neck starts the chants. A five-foot redheaded dynamo girl will scream as loud as the luchador, then charmingly get down on her knees with the kids to beat the drums. A stand of dedicated fans, with signs, shirts, and scarves, bonded together with a passion for the game and THEIR team. That’s pretty damn cool.
So keep making it YOUR team. Don’t waste time on the lazy and indifferent. One person starts a chain of new people. It’s still a bargain at $7. I’ve got a “hit list” of people to get to a game this year. Tony’s goal is to go USL-Pro. He can’t do it without people in the stands. That’s the only way to build this. We have to show the world that we’re ready for success. Everyone knows the Sons of Ben, the ECS, the Timbers Army. Soon they’ll know the Louligans in the same breath.