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Fuel For the Fires

July 21, 2009

Fake Sigi (who has been outstanding lately, how he has time to fake coach and real blog is beyond me) and others have already covered the “Boozeless BMO” situation. Perhaps it is a little overblown by Duane Rollins’ description that the stadium sounded more like a churchyard rather than the still passionate, if far more sober, sellout that it was. It still got me thinking in a roundabout way about alcohol, Toronto FC, and supporters.

I guess I have always wondered what role alcohol plays in the development of supporters culture in the United States. Beer and sports have been tied together for decades if not longer. The ads on TV are ubiquitous and a cooler is a bigger requirement than a grill for the pregame tailgate. I would like to think that beer is doing what it has for centuries, help bond together a group of people, cementing social connections. Everyone has a good time at the pub watching their team or having a pregame beer.

On the other hand, alcohol can escalate passions quickly. Earlier this year, a few Toronto fans I can only assume were inebriated destroyed some of the seating in the south end of Crew Stadium. Some of these fans were also aggressive to those around them. This rowdiness, coupled with a problematic security plan in place led to the Columbus police taseing at least one fan and arresting others. Ultimately, what had been a gathering of supporters between the two teams ended with both sides pointing fingers and Toronto fans vowing not to come back.

Soccer fans are travelling in greater and more organized numbers and there is more interaction with opposing fan groups. I wonder, with the intersection of immense fan passion and the ubiquity of alcohol, which of these  types of situations are going to happen more often. Will there be a rise of mistrust and anger or will there be an understanding between two similar groups of people, soccer fans, who happen to wear a different color shirt on game days. I, as always, hope for the latter.

Author Note: Don’t take the above as a tirade against anything, especially beer. It’s more a question rumbling around in my head.

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