It’s time to address a couple issues that are growing along with us as a group. We can no longer act like 15-30 guys & girls at a division 4 amateur game with no one around. Those of us who’ve been around for the last 2-3 years all know each other and have become a family. We’ve come to expect crazy/silly behavior and we know when someone is joking or serious. We’ve been with each other through great times and bad times. That’s awesome and part of why I love coming together every other weekend throughout the summer and occasionally getting together during the offseason. BUT…
With the news that USL Pro is coming to town we’re going to experience some exponential growth. We have to realize that things have to change. We’re still going to be silly and have fun well beyond the cost of admission, but we’ve also got to realize that some of the old behavior won’t fly at the professional level. We’ve got to become pro fans. We’ve also got to appreciate the fact that as much as we love Rocko’s brand of swift and insane justice, it may scare the bejeebus out of someone who’s never met him. (I promise any new people reading this that Rocko is a teddy bear on the inside.) So with that in mind I want to address a couple issues.
Beer and Soccer is one of the best combinations in the world. God knows I’ve spent many years trying to perfect the balance of the two. I’m not gonna lie, sometimes I get the mix wrong and end up face down in the ivy. That said, 99% of the time our group has enough beer to be friendly, outgoing and provide loud support for our teams on the field. However, on occasion, we go too far. With that said, let’s make a much better effort not to get blind drunk and keep an eye on our friends to prevent any problems. When you’re wearing the Louligan colors you do represent the whole group. Anything you do wearing the shirt or scarf reflects on the whole group. While this isn’t necessarily fair- it’s true. So, police yourself and your friends.
Language. Language is always an issue. Even though we all know you can go to a Cards game, Rams game or Blues game and hear bad language and we’ve all made peace with that fact, a lot of people still complain when they hear an F-bomb. We do a pretty good job of being clever and funny, but we’re all guilty of dropping F-bombs. I will say 90% of these problems could be solved with separating us from the family/soccer mom crowd. Fire & Ice and Piasa have done a great job by giving us our own section and rarely do we get complaints there. The Lions have kept us in the main stand and that continues to cause problems. You get loud passionate fans around families and there are going to be complaints. SO, if we’re around families- try your best to monitor what’s coming out of your mouth and don’t be afraid to grab anybody who’s not making good choices and sending them to the other side of the stand. Next year it will be better because the new USL Pro understands this issue. Not only will they have a section for us, they’ve got a specific section for families at the opposite end of the park. BUT, we’ll still have non-Louligans close to us. Hopefully they’ll join in on the craziness and they’ll be more likely to do so if it’s not a non-stop curse fest. Again Clever & Funny beats vulgar.
Songs and chants. We need to do better. We’ve got a couple that we go to, but this department needs to get in gear and get some new material. If we have more group songs and chants that will curb the language and also get more people interested in joining the party. We want to be the focus of the celebrations. We want people on the other side of the park to join in and be a part of the game. We can’t do it with biting sarcasm (although that’s fun)- we need songs and chants to do all game long. A couple guys are trying to organize it. If you want to get in on that, let somebody know and we’ll help facilitate that. WE NEED IT.
Violence. No place for it. Period. The end. We’ve taken away the cane of justice- it’s caused more problems than the laughs it provided. Also, the rough housing and wrestling matches that occasionally break out, while funny to people who know you, it looks scary as hell to a newbie coming upon the group for the first time. Soccer fans have enough of a bad reputation for being hooligans and violent, let’s not perpetuate that. We picked the name Louligans to mock the term hooligan. Make sure no one thinks we’re glorifying that nonsense.
Hospitality. Everybody knows Louligans don’t piss on hospitality. (sorry old joke). Anyway, we can seem to be very insular with our inside jokes and tribal sort of behavior. People want to come out and have fun and we have to be welcoming at all times. When somebody new shows up at a game/event/tailgate party- it’s everyone’s responsibility to make them feel wanted. Obviously some people are better at this than others, but at the very least introduce yourself to anybody you don’t recognize. And take the time to introduce them to everyone nearby. You may meet your new best friend. At the Dome on Friday night a lot of people came up and asked me about the group. It takes a few minutes to talk about what we’re doing and invite them to come out to an event. 90% of the work is done. If they know who we are or like soccer it shouldn’t be that hard to sell.
Next season. Next season is going to be huge. The Chupacabras are doing everything they can to make it easy for us. This is soccer 3.0 in the States. They need us and want us. Every team we work with wants us out there. They recognize the importance of having a vibrant supporter culture. But they also need soccer moms and casual fans. They can’t do one with alienating the other. So recognize they’re protecting us from the people that don’t like us- do your best to reward that effort by not making their job impossible. We’ve been wanting to grow for years and we have. Slowly and painstakingly dragging people out to watch lower level soccer. Some people were never going to get behind amateur soccer. Now is our chance to welcome all the people from the AC STL days back and also tap into the growing fanbase of American soccer. Everything we do needs to be in the service of bringing more people in. These are our people. People that love soccer and want to have fun at games. Forget the past. Take pride in the fact that you slogged it out at Lions’ park all these years, but don’t lord it over new people. We’re all equals in this group. The person that has been to one game is just as much a member as somebody who’s been to everything. We were all new once. Seniority counts for nothing. SHOW UP. MAKE NOISE. HAVE FUN. Earn your place in the crowd, and by bringing new people in you earn respect.
Finally, the last piece of this puzzle is that “Hater’s Gonna Hate”. No matter what we do. No matter how perfect we are (and we won’t be perfect). No matter how welcoming we are. Some people just won’t like us. There have always been people who take shots at us. They don’t get it. They don’t know us or how great we are. Some of my best friends in the world are in this little family of ours. Every week somebody tweets or posts something about how awful we are on facebook. I’ve tried to argue about it, but the truth is that they’re just miserable people. Just this week I had to finally ban someone from our facebook page because they continually post what they think we’re doing wrong. This person has never been to one of our gatherings and has routinely complained about us for a year or so. This time they complained that we “talk about supporting” but that we didn’t have enough people at the Fire & Ice home opener. I was going to say it’s been a busy weekend with the friendly at the Dome and the USMNT tune-up matches (because most of us are American Outlaws members too). I was going to talk about having spent the last several weekends at Lions games and pre-season games. I was going to mention that several of our members have been out to the Bordo matches. I was going to talk about that with so many soccer dates lately some of us needed a day off to be with our families. But I realized it doesn’t matter. That person likes to take pot shots from behind his keyboard. Nothing I could say would get through to him. He wants to hate. Let him hate. He won’t change his mind. He doesn’t want to sit with us at games and have a good time. He wants to hate. So let him. Do your best to welcome everybody, but occasionally you’re going to run up against somebody that is so bitter and anti-fun that there’s nothing you can do to change their minds. Do me a favor and don’t try. No good will come of the argument and we don’t want their kind anyway. We want to have fun and support our team(s).
Next year it’s going to get more difficult as far as supporting all our teams. I imagine most of us will be concentrating on the Chupacabras and take in the occasional Lions/Bordo/Fire&Ice game. It is what it is. I won’t feel bad about missing a game to do something with my wife and kids and I don’t expect anyone else to either. We have lives outside of soccer but all of the Louligans I know give 100% to the game every chance they get. That’s more than I can say for the haters.
Thanks for reading. Have some fun and watch some soccer this week.
Brad- Vice President of Silly Hats