View from 253: Why it all matters

Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

Sweet dreams are made of this
Blue and white on a field of green
I've travelled the world and the seven seas
To cheer my team to victory

I've just spent the first hour of my day reading through all of my columns from this year, reliving the highs and lows of the Southside this season.

From the distance of a many weeks away from my last match in the Southside (and the nearness of our reunion for the Canada game on Friday) I'm sitting in this rainy mid-November gloaming with a half smile on my face and, surprisingly, the occasional tear welling up. I find myself quite emotional re-living the experiences of this season.

I think that is because supporting your team is not actually about being a super fan. It's about being a human being.

Part of why I'm emotional this morning is remembering some of the things I went through this year, coded into the articles I wrote. There was an especially poignant moment when I felt this human connection, although I didn't write about it at the time, and I didn't let anyone on when it happened. Back in the spring, while I was on a business trip in Victoria, my dad suffered a complication from heart surgery and was on the verge of dying 3000 kms away in Ontario. My sister was texting me all day with news, and there was nothing I could do but wait, alone in my hotel room. That night I headed out to the Yates Street Tavern in Victoria for a Southislanders viewing party to watch the Caps play a dire match against San Jose, during which I think I tweeted that the crab dip Rituro shared with me was more solid than our team.

It felt good to be with friends, being hosted, sharing an experience, even though no one knew what I was going through. It felt good to be supported.

It's real, supporter culture, not just a hipster indulgence or naive cheerleading. I remember the story The Dog told me about his mates in Carlisle, standing together for ten years before even even discovered their actual names. He learned who they were at his birthday party, when he booked a suite at Brunton Park and invited everyone to celebrate with him.

I'm going the argue that this matters. I'm going to make a bold statement that what we do together in the upper Southside actually matters. I'm going to get all reflective for a moment. I'm going to get unapologetically sentimental too.

We live in a society that suffers from three things, especially in this overpriced and preening city: alienation, consumption and indifference. I have no idea why these are increasingly pervasive in Vancouver but they are socially costly dynamics. They create struggle and separation and anxiety, and they limit our experience of genuine community. And because human beings are hard wired for community, this has a negative effect on us, personally and collectively.

As a result, subcultures pop up to cement identity and connection. The Southside is just one of those places. Week after week we confront this societal psychosis by doing things that generate belonging, participation and passion. And friendship.

I'm lucky, because I live on an island where these positive dynamics are big part of our daily life. And so perhaps I'm a little more sensitive to evangelizing for the benefits of community because I live this stuff professionally too.

But there is no way I'm renewing my season's tickets without this connection. And, having stood next to the Tall One and The NotSo Tall One (and The Small One), The Bearded One, The Blue Crew, The Dog, Pie Girl and Jersey Boy and the others all season I'm happy that they have all renewed their tickets too. We have something going in the Southside. And in the upper Southside, the Pigeon Casuals are like that little sub culture of a sub culture, a little community within a community. Friends.

There are times when you gather with friends around a table and face each other, and there are times when you stand shoulder to shoulder and face something together. All year we have faced the Caps, blue and white on a field of green. But somehow the Whitecaps are just a proxy for the unspoken things we stand and face together: the fear of a father dying, the anxieties of raising kids, the nervousness of completing school or taking your business to the next level. in the stands you don't get to look into each other's eyes and see that. But you feel it in the singing, in the passion, in the willing on of the team of young men (or occasionally women) in front of you. You feel it in the camaraderie. You can tell when someone is feeling something, because they show up with just a bit more intensity than usual. or sometimes just a bit less.

It's no stretch or shame to say that a supporter's group is about more than just the team. It is about going through something together, something that is a microcosm of the world and our lives.

One of the things I've enjoyed most about this year is the accidental connections some of us have made with fishy army of Grimsby Town FC. I've enjoyed that connection because Grimsby boasts a terrific coterie of writers who pump out great stuff every day on Cod Almighty. And their writing kind of confirms what I'm saying and speaks to this experience of why perhaps football matters universally these days: not only because the sport is beautiful, but because the experience of supporting your team is a taste of the antidote to what ails this world. Win or lose, you stand together, you talk together and you sing together, and these are the oldest patterns of community.

It might be the fact that a southeasterly is lashing my home with wind and rain, and the ocean and the fog are every shade of dimly lit grey. But what I'm left with is gratitude. Gratitude for The Pigeon Casuals (flying solo and together!), and for my other friends in the Southsiders, the Curva Collective and the Rain City Brigade. For the fiercely independent VWFC Casuals or the socially active Vancouver Armada. For The Beaver Brigade and The Voyageurs. For the volunteers that capo until they are hoarse or blister their hands at the drums. Gratitude for the effort of tifo creation. Gratitude to those that take the extra step of welcoming newcomers to our section with song sheets and flags to wave. Gratitude.

At some level we are trying to put these tools of community in people's hands. You just need to use them to see what I mean.

And finally gratitude to you readers and the community of editors and commenters here at 86 Forever.

See you next year in 253.

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