Tuesday, May 12, 2009

5/12/09: Sirk's Notebook & More On The Nordecke Delay

Picture by G.Bartram/Getty

Another solid notebook from Sirk can be found here. Also, talks about the Nordecke delay from a couple of bottles thrown. I'll give some of my thoughts real quick below and after the excerpt.

First off, I'm against GTFO, especially when it's against Kansas City with no away fans. That just doesn't make sense. Against Toronto with 2,000 of them, once in a while, fine whatever. But, against KC with no away fans? I was really confused why some were chanting that.

But, I think the reason is pretty simple and relatively easy to fix, and comes down to a lack of other interesting things for some people in the section to chant. I think it comes down somewhat to a lack of new chants, new creativity in the section, and complacency. I also think it comes down to a lack of drive from the section as a whole when it comes to new chants. Myself and a couple other guys have been trying to push a couple new chant ideas since the start of the season, with success in Toronto with at least three new chants started with a smaller group. The problem back in Columbus is that after you sing "le soy le voz" or "we love you" so many times, there just isn't anything else in the chanting repetiore of some folks in the Nordecke. And, it's much easier for a new chant to catch on with a hundred people as opposed to 2,000. I would really, rather have CAPO's(captains in charge of a section with a megaphone, that can take over chants, introduce new chants, and drown out unnecessary chants like GTFO against Kansas City). That would be an excellent solution and also would get the whole Nordecke on page with one chant, instead of multiple chants going on at once. Yet, I'm sure lazyiness and complacency will make sure that never happens. Anyways, it takes time for a new chant idea to catch on as with "We Love You" which took over half a season to catch on. But, I do expect new ones to catch on soon, especially one for sure that could be legit and pc and is currently gaining momentum. The more new and interesting things the section has to chant, the less of a chance of some resorting to the same old unnecessary profanity chants.

Secondly, throwing things on the field is flat out wrong. Just don't do it. It delays the game and hurts the team. It also hurts the Nordecke in terms of it's displays, as if you drop a smokebomb at your feet(something I don't think is a problem since it doesn't affect the game), you're more likely to get away with it. But, now with some drunk fools throwing stuff on the field. You now invite security to have to now be in our section, which means we get away with a lot less. Also, it means that if we get security on a power trip, you could be thrown out for mumbling profanities now to yourself or for standing on the bleachers. Who knows with security.

Thirdly, some of this organized swearing and bottle throwing has been going on since the beginning of last year so I don't get why McCullers and the FO are so red faced now? I know the Nordecke isn't always the most perfect angels, but I think we deserve a little more respect than this. Were always there for this team, which is more then you can say for some of the other fair weathered fans of Columbus.

Excerpt on the Nordecke Delay and the impending resolutions coming from the Front Office, from Sirk's notebook:
Nordecke Delay
The match was halted in the 56th minute during a Kansas City corner kick when the Wizards' Claudio Lopez and the assistant referee were pelted with bottles and other objects flung from the Nordecke. Referee Jorge Rodriguez halted the game for two solid minutes to both check on their condition and then make his way to the technical area to request more security for the corner. He made no comment or warning to Crew coach Robert Warzycha.

This was the second match in a row that the Nordecke has bombarded a corner kick taker with debris. In the prior game, Chicago's Cuauhtemoc Blanco was on the receiving end of a bottle barrage shortly after he had drawn the game-altering red card call against Gino Padula.

Now, to be sure, nobody outside of Toyota Park, Azteca Stadium, or a Marrufo family cookout would argue that Blanco is a sympathetic figure, even as he gets pelted with trash, but the larger point remains - stuff got thrown, and it was unacceptable. Yes, it's still unacceptable even if the target was as inviting as Blanco.

The thing that made this week's outburst so strange was that, well, there was no apparent motive for it. With the Chicago game, emotions were running high due to a controversial call involving a despised player. It's not an excuse, but one could at least pinpoint the cause of the stupidity.

But Claudio Lopez? In a game the Crew were winning? Really? That's just idiocy for idiocy's sake.

Even worse, the delay made the Crew fight to maintain focus at a crucial juncture of the match. Frankie Hejduk, unquestionably the Nordecke's No. 1 Fan, had no idea what caused the delay, but said it had an effect.

"I didn't understand what was going on, and I told (the officials) to hurry up," he said. "That was a time where we needed to stay concentrated, and a delay like that can take you away from the game for a little bit, so I was just trying to keep all of the guys into it."

Worse yet, the delay contributed to five minutes of stoppage time as the Crew tried to close out their first win of the year. The worst crimes are those that are both senseless and stupid. Saturday's bottle-fest certainly qualifies.

I happened to be standing next to Crew President & General Manager Mark McCullers when the bottles started flying. He was furious as he called for additional security. Before the game, he had spoken to the supporters and had made two simple requests. First, he had asked that the Nordecke eliminate the organized chanting of profanities. Second, he also reminded them, in the wake of the Blanco incident, that the tossing of anything except post-goal streamers would not be tolerated. So here it was, maybe two hours later, and McCullers had been listening to an earful of profane chants, and then witnessed the unprovoked launching of bottles. One could have fried an egg on his reddened face.

That was hardly the time to talk to him about any of that stuff, so I touched base with him later to collect his thoughts after the heat of the moment had subsided.

"Those actions (organized profanity and bottle throwing) show a disrespect for the club," McCullers said. "It damages our reputation and makes others not want to attend games. It does nothing to support the team and help them maintain a home field advantage, which has been one of the key positives that the Nordecke has achieved. It's all compromised with this behavior. Furthermore, my position has been that these types of incidents have been tied to specific game situations, such as referee issues, and are not indicative of the Nordecke in general. (After Saturday's random event) I can no longer take that position."

McCullers said the Crew could be fined for the fans' misbehavior, although that precedent has not yet been set in MLS, and that the league will continue to apply pressure until the issues are resolved.

The Nordecke is unquestionably a vibrant and vital part of the Crew's home field advantage, and McCullers feels that neither of his requests would do a single thing to diminish the corner's electricity or its lifeblood link to the players on the field.

"The players feed off the energy of the crowd and this provides us a home-field advantage," he said. "The authentic soccer atmosphere is unique to us and cannot be found anywhere else in Columbus. Throwing debris and chanting profanity doesn't contribute to either of these, so the line of acceptable behavior is clear and should not be an issue. The section has gotten too big for self-policing. The security of the players and refs is paramount. The impact on other fans, particularly children, and the reputation of the stadium are also serious concerns. The home-field advantage and positive energy and atmosphere are important, but the unacceptable behavior is counterproductive and offsets the positives."

Judging by message board posts, it seems that many Nordecke denizens are equally appalled by the bottle-tossing and expect much tighter security going forward. Online suggestions have ranged from simply barring food and drink in those sections, all the way to something as extreme as installing a net or a fence to keep objects off the field. If it ever came to the latter, it would be a sad day, as the Nordecke group hug has become a standard tradition for Crew players after they score a goal at the north end.

McCullers made no mention of anything as drastic as a net or a fence, but one should definitely expect to see some changes for the May 27 home game against San Jose.

"We are discussing the situation and considering several options to address it," he said. "No decisions have been made at this time, but I expect a much greater security presence, eliminating the items being thrown from entering the section, and additional means to identify violators. The (organized) profanity is coming from the section at large, so identifying violators is difficult. Should it continue, we will be forced to take action in the form of reducing certain aspects of club support and other privileges."

Given that 99.9 percent of the Nordecke is there to support the Crew, I would hope that these changes will happen rapidly and with little fuss. Sure, it's fun to swear and throw things, but neither action has a single credible argument on its side.

Bottle throwing, on its face, is unacceptable. Many of us were appalled in March when Toronto fans tossed objects from the south end like they were reenacting a monkey poop fight at the zoo, so there is absolutely zero moral standing for throwing objects at players and officials.

And while profanity doesn't personally bother me, that doesn't mean that many others in the stadium aren't offended by it. And since the organized swearing serves no real purpose, there's nothing to cling to except the teenager-esque "No matter how many times you ask nicely, I should be able to swear because I want to" argument.

The two main sources of group profanity, as far as I can tell, are the "YSA" chant when the opposing goalkeeper takes a goal kick, and the "GTFO" addendum to the "This is our house" chant.

The YSA chant is easily amended, and in fact could be made more personal and effective, by simply inserting the goalkeeper's name or nickname. So for San Jose on May 27, it becomes "You suck, Cannon!" And for Chivas on June 14, it becomes "You suck, Thornton!" You get the idea.

And a poster who goes by "Tyneside4life" on BigSoccer has already come up with a much more meaningful rendition of the "This is our house" chant. Instead of shouting "GTFO", which especially makes no sense when there is, like, one Wizards fan in the entire stadium, "Tyneside4life" suggests replacing "GTFO" with "Thank you Lamar."

I think that's brilliant and wish I would have thought of it myself. It's meaningful to the club, its supporters and Crew Stadium's unique, trailblazing place in league history. What more could you ask for? And anyone who would forsake honoring Lamar Hunt for the cheap thrill of an f-bomb...wow...I don't have the words. So let's make this happen.

Gosh, I hate to sound like a mouthpiece for The Man, but really, McCullers' two requests have absolutely zero credible counterarguments. I, like many others in Columbus and around the league, have been blown away by the growth and performance of the Nordecke. I want it to continue to grow and thrive and be a source of inspiration for the players in the Massive banana kit. The Nordecke can be all that without synchronized swearing. And life in Crewville is much more fun when the Nordecke can rightfully claim the moral high ground over those Labatt-lobbing cup-chuckers from Toronto.

My thoughts: First, bottle throwing and GTFO need to stop. I didn't expect GTFO against KC with no away fans.

But, did McCullers or the FO seriously expect YSA to stop? And, profanity to be cured, if he got on a microphone for a couple of seconds. He should have just waved a wand as well, in the spirit of playing the Wizards, and said "ah-ha profanity be gone." It's just not going to happen like that. That's probably the one chant that 100% percent of the section actually knows and it's down to a point where it's a second nature reaction. To go every week of doing YSA 30-40 times a game and then expect everyone to change up and chant "You stink Cannon." Is going to be a tough one to pull and to inform 2,000 people on.

And, what is he all red faced about? Both of these things have been going on since the beginning of last year and actually I think the worst throwing incident was in the beginning of 2008 on a Brad Davis corner(vid below), did the FO just realize it now? The fact that the FO looked the other way for over a year and a month at these incidents building, is just as (if not more so) then anything responsible for the two minute delay last Saturday. And, does McCullers think that just because he is the GM of the Crew that every single person out there is going to listen to him. I mean that would be great and all, but the world doesn't work that way for anyone. Some people are going to do their own thing no matter what. So, what needs to be done? Identify the main violaters, get some new chants going in an organized manner, comprimise instead of control(I just don't think YSA will go away and isn't that bad anyways), get rid of GTFO, have more than one security guard in front of the section, and eliminate glass bottles from getting into the section. Also, work with us and have some respect for us. Oh, and MLS, why not just bring back streamers on corner kicks because paper can't really hurt anyone. Just a thought, brillant idea to ban that MLS. Because when someone is drunk and mad at Blanco on a corner, they have either a streamer in their hand a year ago or a bottle now. Which is better?

New development? Over a year ago:

In addition, I couldn't hear a thing McCullers said on the microphone before the game. I was in the second row trying to listen attentively, and I only caught every fourth or fifth word. Would be great if the Crew could actually invest in a PA system that worked. Can't really get mad at the section, if you can't get your message across on workable equipment. If the Crew could afford a microphone that can overcome just random talking in the section, that would be a great start.

GTFO has no place. But, YSA stopping after a 15 second mic talk, man I think that's expecting a little bit much out of us all there. That's like brushing your teeth for the Nordecke.

And, look everyone, the bottle throwing needs to stop and GTFO is too dirty and needs to be gone as well. I think that notice is starting to permiate to the ones not so attuned with all the developments online. But, this whole were all troublemakers and were hurting attendance is sort of ridicoulous.

Crew Stadium was a graveyard in terms of noise before the Nordecke. And, attendance is up at least 1,000 a game from last year. If it wasn't for the creation of the Nordecke, I think there is a good chance that the Crew would be in the attendance and atmosphere tailspin that FC Dallas is in. I think the Nordecke in a way made the Crew relevant to some of the city again. I also think passion as seen with 15,000 on the edge of their seats in last year's Eastern Conference would be much different without us. Also, for how much of a detriment we are somehow? The Crew has only lost twice at home since the formation of the Nordecke. Compared to being an easy place to pick up a win before us for years.

So, if the Nordecke wasn't there to bring that passion back after a dead three years, I wouldn't like to know where the Crew would be in terms of an organization. I would say we would be averaging 9,000 like FC Dallas is today, while having not as many people out there who would be caring passionately about the Crew. Sure, less small kids may be coming out to the games because of the occassional naughty chant, but I can guarentee more adults are. I also can't see how anyone can make a Nordecke is hindering attendance argument when each game has been up over 1,000 compared to last year during our most difficult time to sell tickets. Nordecke has attracted more then it has pushed away, hence everyone wanting to sit there and myself having to share what accounts to one seat in the rest of the stadium with three people. While seeing empty yellow sits elsewhere. Really if anything they should try to apply the Nordecke to the rest of the stadium. Then our attendance would be 60,000 as everyone would be sharing a seat with two other people.

Seriously, anytime I watch on FSC, it looks like the stadium should be tipping over based on weight imbalance.

Places that embrace a soccer atmosphere (which the FO has done and then some, but may be starting to get slightly cold feet) seem to do better then places that don't. I would just eliminate GTFO and other F chants, stop the bottle tossing, and ride it out with everything else. They will be better off for it. Just don't let the soccer mom's win.

If we go back to circa 2006 it will be very sad, and might lead to worse things.

Overall, in my opinion, the Nordecke builds passion and it is starting to infect the rest of the stadium with Guillermo and other chants. It has been a hand in hand renaissance with a markedly improved team since the beginning of 2008, which I think helps build the connection as well. The Crew can't survive without it. The section isn't out of control and will work with the team. But, it's all about comprimise, instead of talking down to the section. Most of us who invest in the section tricked ourselves into thinking we were over our growing pains from last Summer. But, we still have things to tweak, we are a young section, and it will get done.


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