"You Suck Asshole" and MLS Threatening Its Golden Goose

ooooooooooh YOU FAT BASTARD. Sorry, Don.

Don Garber's in the news trying to keep people from saying "asshole" again.

(Oh, by the way: this article will contain frequent uses of the word "asshole" and other obscenities. So if that offends you, how did you wind up on this fucking site anyway?)

Garber (and, it seems, the author of the linked article, the superb Steve Davis) dislikes the "you suck asshole" chant so prevalent around Major League Soccer. Come to mention it, so do I. What I object to most in Garber's statement, and the way Davis agrees with it, is the two-faced way people justify getting rid of it.

Garber, as quoted by Brian Straus via Davis:

That is just infuriating to me. It's just so uncreative and ridiculous, and we need to stop it.

"You suck asshole" is, as Davis rightly says, "a pointless and useless cliché". It's dumb, it's derivative, and whatever shock value it once had has long passed. I realize it's a tradition among many supporters, though. I would never ban it but if supporters groups wanted to retire it that would be fine by me. After all, it's just the pointlessness and uselessness of that one chant they're worried about...

Our broadcast partners don't like it. When vulgarity is going over the air, it's an issue with the FCC and we've got to stop it. [. . .] We can't have young kids in stadiums listening to vulgarity. No other league would tolerate it. No other public event would have it and we can't tolerate it in Major League Soccer.

Oh. Oh I see. Just the minority trying to enforce what can be "tolerated" on the majority. Again.

My first reaction was to Garber's "no other league would tolerate [vulgarity]": a thought along the lines of "clearly you haven't been to any professional or amateur sporting event attended by more than a dozen people". When I was a kid, my favourite place to pick up delightful new obscenities was at the local junior "A" hockey rink. I would have done the same at Edmonton Eskimos games but that was a long LRT trip just to hear somebody called a "jizz-slurping fuck fence".

Ah, but Major League Soccer has organized supporters groups chanting these things. It would be interesting if Garber called supporters groups a disadvantage to his league, which certainly seems to be what he's implying (because MLS's growth in recent years is because people want to experience the atmosphere of politely applauding soccer moms). Or, more accurately, they're a disadvantage to his league if the league can't control them.

I could understand Garber's concerns if MLS's popularity was dipping along with the rise of organized, rowdy, nastily-chanting supporters. But, you'll be quite unsurprised to hear, the opposite is happening.

Davis lists in his article three cities that are emblematic of the rowdy devil-may-care MLS supporters section: Seattle Sounders, Sporting Kansas City, and Portland Timbers. All three of these clubs have near-constant sell-out crowds despite not being hugely successful on the field. He then names four clubs that are preserves of the soccer moms who supposedly have a problem with the word "asshole": New England Revolution, Columbus Crew, Colorado Rapids, and FC Dallas. All four of those clubs are in the bottom six of MLS attendance.

Well, what about television then? Surely the big American broadcasters shy away from rowdy crowds that say bad words. No. Look at the MLS on NBC schedule: six of their games are in Portland, the rowdiest ticket of all. Only one is in Seattle but three are in Kansas City. By comparison none are in New England and there's one each in Dallas, Colorado, and Columbus; those cities get attention only because a marquee team is in town and fans want their David Beckham.

Attempting to rid a supporters section of Don Garber's dreaded "vulgarity" has nothing to do with what the fans want; fans and television cameras demonstrably flock to rowdy crowds. It has to do with appeasing a vocal minority who are shocked, shocked that not every place in the world is a sanitized bastion of politeness.

If the problem were just the words "you suck asshole" then I'd be willing to compromise. The Vancouver Southsiders adopted much the same viewpoint after complaints from MLS: capos no longer include obscenities when leading chants and profanity is left off chant sheets. It's "we're blue, we're white, we're bloody dynamite" now. Fine.

Except it's not fine. There's always something else. The Southsiders equivalent of "you suck asshole" is "you fat bastard"; reportedly MLS has had problems with that "vulgarity". The astonishingly few fans who were complaining that the Southsiders said "fuck" got their way and now complain that the Southsiders insult an opposing goalkeeper, or chant "she fell over" (chanting "he fell over" at women's games hasn't gotten complaints; odd because that's even more of a family event).

It isn't a Vancouver problem; I've heard similar stories in Toronto, in Montreal, and in Seattle. It has little to do with the organization front office and more to do with the majority owners of every team in this league: the league itself, and they've been consistent. One compromise leads to endless demand for more, because it's just all so vulgar.

Compromise doesn't mean endlessly giving in to ever-expanded definitions of what can't be tolerated, but that's the direction MLS goes, steered by a carping minority of irredeemable shitbags. It has nothing to do with the word "asshole" and everything to do with forcing tens of thousands of people to do what you want.

Maybe you don't want your children exposed to bad language or people being deliberately cruel. I don't claim the right to tell you how to raise your kids. If you don't want to take them to a professional game because there's vulgarity that's fine. But when you tell the 19,123 fans who pack into BC Place every week because "the atmosphere is just so great" to adjust their world view so you and yours can do what you want without being disturbed by the vast majority, you are an asshole.

I also don't claim the right to say what you individually will and won't sing. We all have our limits and if a chant crosses yours, don't do it or sing something else over it. To pick a deliberately petty example, at Canadian Olympic qualifying in Vancouver this past winter I declined to sing "Boundary Road"; the anthem of the Vancouver Southsiders, paying tribute to the Whitecaps' spiritual home at Swangard Stadium, and something that has nothing whatsoever to do with the Canadian women's national soccer team. This led to a well-circulated wire photo where the Southsiders/Voyageurs are giving it great guns and I'm off to the side looking rather derpy.

But that was my decision. If the bulk agreed with me, and joined in singing something else, the chant would have died. That's the marvelous thing about supporters' groups: we all have lines we won't cross and that means so does the group. You never hear of chants that ring out just for the sake of being profane; nobody yelling "fuck fuck fuck fuck" for ninety minutes even in protest, because there's a point where even the most hardened, devil-may-care supporter (me) rubs the back of his neck and says "yeah, that's a bit much".

Maybe that's not enough for Don Garber and MLS. In that case he should have the guts to ban supporters groups from his teams. "No, sorry, we want the New England Revolution crowd and not the Portland Timbers one. We're concerned about the FCC, we'd rather be polite than be rich, we have standards we won't sell out; whatever our reasons, we're taking a stand and saying 'no more'." That would be unfortunate but it would, at least, be principled and honest.

But he won't, because he wants to have his cake and eat it too. He wants the attendance, the TV attention, so long as the supporters do what he wants. That's why you see the rowdiest supporters in the league used in MLS advertising and promoted for big TV deals but he can then turn around and criticize them for unacceptable levels of "vulgarity".

What Garber doesn't realize is that it's two sides of the same coin: those supporters who make his league millions of dollars are there because they can sing and chant and insult and be passionate in the way they love, and a way which tens of thousands of non-participants quantifiably love experiencing as outsiders. That's an excellent definition of supporters culture, and cultures don't react well to being sliced up.

I hate "you suck asshole" and if that were the only issue, I'd say get rid of it. But it's not.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

Join Eighty Six Forever

You must be a member of Eighty Six Forever to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Eighty Six Forever. You should read them.

Join Eighty Six Forever

You must be a member of Eighty Six Forever to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Eighty Six Forever. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9353_tracker