Saturday, October 24, 2009

10/24/09: What Nordecke and Passionate Fans Bring to MLS.

Nordecke here to stay and still seen as a great positive by the suits, if that surprises anyone (Pic by Sam Fahmi).

When it comes to sports, what really matters (mainly whether something will be fostered or not) 95% of the time are the opinions of league officials and team owners. Sure this opinion is enriched on the outcomes of previous plans, and research, and statistics, and things that have worked elsewhere in regards to the consumer. But, the decisions obviously lies in the hands of the ones holding the purse per say.

This morning when I went to google news and saw "Crew: Nordecke a boon and a bane, but here to stay" by Shawn Mitchell, I figured well this could be really good or really bad. Well, lets just say that it made me smile. And, I'll share two quotes with you to tell you why:

Clark Hunt on how thrilled his dad would have been to of had a Nordecke- "That section would have been so important to him," Crew investor-operator Clark Hunt said, referring to his late father, Lamar, a founder of the Crew and MLS.

"Nobody worked harder, for 40 years, to popularize the sport in this country. That section is really organic. It's not something the Crew created or MLS created. He would be so proud."

And Don Garber on the Nordecke-
"That is hot passion," Garber said. "I've told Mark McCullers, just keep building that group 100 at a time."

Surprise, surprise. MLS has realized that what works in the rest of the world in regards to soccer is passion. You need people who live and die Crew, just like you need people who live and die Buckeye. It has to be a subset of societies number one sport. Sure, it doesn't have to be a big portion of society with 304,059,724 people in America, but some. Without a subset of individuals passionate about a sport, the sport will simply not succeed. I'm a subset of this group so I'll use myself as an example of what MLS should want.

MLS is my number one sport, I barely follow the NFL anymore, I paint banners in my basement, I literally threw away a thousand dollars on paint and white flat bedsheets from Wal Mart for banner material, the DC away game last Saturday was the first rival away game I haven't been to in two years.. I'm addicted. MLS has me bought in for life.

I'm not a majority when it comes to the American sports fan. But, of course Garber and company are going to want to change that. A 100 at a time.

In a sidenote, the one thing that makes me chuckle, a little, from this article is this mythical one fan who wrote a letter to a sponsoring corporation and moved them enough to reconsider sponsoring a team. Maybe they think most of us our thick in the skull. But, I find it a little bit surprising that one average fan (I'm guessing not like some hotshot lawyer or mayor or millionaire) wrote a sponsor and made them totally change their mind. I'm one fan, so your saying I can counteract that letter with a letter saying the people in the Nordecke are the best in the world, humanitarians, who just get a little wild on Saturday's; through one letter, I could possibly make the sponsor pump more money into the Crew by proving the moral fabric of the fan!? Awesome! Look sponsors are concerned about their moral image too, but they are more concerned with being seen. How many times can we embed our product into the average person's psyche.

For example, do you think Coca Cola is going to miss out on being seen worldwide through sponsorship of the Beijing Olympics because a group of fans doesn't like China's treatment of Tibet? Think again. Coca-Cola has been sponsoring Olympic dreams since 1928. It's going to take armaggeddon to make them stop.

So, as long as the Crew helps a sponsor be seen and can confer an economic benefit they are happy. It's all money people, (dollar dollar bills ya'll). Not anyones feelings about profanity, unless profanity pays. Furthermore, sponsors also usually keep tabs on the product their sponsoring (If they don't that's unprofessional oversight, so maybe the Crew should reconsider?) Anyways, I would be sort of shocked if X sponsor wasn't aware of what they were sponsoring and how the fans (if they are at all related to the ideals of the sponsored team, which really they are probably not- the Glidden guy gets it) have been the previous two years. Also, people at the top of corporations who sponsor know some things, one is that profanity happens in all sports. Do you think sponsors are concerned with swearing at OSU games? Nope because there are 100,000 people there. But, for the Crew everybody counts.

And, who knows maybe it did happen. But, one person? If all of Columbus writes, that's a different story. But, one person. That's like a Lifetime movie where a lady named Sue writes Oprah and becomes her co-host on the Oprah and Sue show.

Anyways, either real or mythical, it was intended as a message that we should cut out the profanity. And, I have been all for doing so for a long time, as have been the leaders and the majority of the Nordecke section. It's kind of funny how this is still an issue when we have dramatically reduced our swearing and have said we are for the most part against it. Personally, I find chants like "We Love You" and "Columbus Is The Greatest" more creative and fun to chant. Also, some fans have replaced bad chants like, "Get The F Out", with "GTFO"! Which is pretty humorous and non-offensive. Anyways, if we worked a little bit we could incorporate 10 more of those by the halfway mark of next year.

I'm also all for caring about what bothers our other fans because frankly there are not enough Crew fans to go around in the stands; we need everyone including compulsive letter writers. Further, I do believe overly dramatic passion that causes riots, violence, and vandalism in Europe hurts a team and is an embarrassment. Who doesn't. But, the Nordecke is nowhere near that at all and the great majority are good people who are having a little harmless fun. A little profanity and a little chest puffing, the extent of most of the Nordecke's naughty behavior in the past, in the long run, hurts who exactly?

Also, really, a little devious behavior attracts just as many people as it turns off. For example, the UFC received $222 million in pay-per-view money in 2006 and that has increased yearly for guys basically kicking the crap out of each other. The little devious behavior in Columbus isn't even close to that, the extent of it is a little profanity and a little chest puffing against rivals on occasion. Further, those 3,000 people in the Nordecke are there do or die, not there to clap politely and enjoy a buck-a-brat. They are there to see there team win at all costs and to do everything in their power to make it nearly impossible for the opposing team to do the same, evidenced by the MLS record 23 games at home without a lost.

And, these Nordecke people will likely be there for the next 40 years (its not some phase, its life, Columbus til' I die) and they will take there kids to games and there grandkids and that's how you build a successful league like the NFL. These type of fans are growing by the year. They are becoming more organized; witnessed by more elaborate demonstrations(see below). They have a financial group structure in order for the most part. They are almost there own organization of 2,000 to 3,000 per team. And, they are the best chance to grow passion and take that 3,000 to 20,000 rapid support per stadia in MLS.

Just from the last two weeks sample, elaborate European like demonstrations in North American soccer can be seen everywhere. A few years ago these type of things were once in a blue moon this side of the Atlantic north of Mexico.





For other fans, the type MLS catered to before, MLS and the Crew is usually a non-serious sideshow and a family outing.

Therefore, I'm really not surprised that Garber wants crowds like the Nordecke to be increased by the hundreds. I'm not really surprised that the Nordecke is here to stay. Further, I believe that these types of atmospheres are not just here to stay, but will continue to grow. Hopefully, not with profanity, as that effects how other fans and society views them. Instead, hopefully, this growth can be seen as a positive by all fans with intense but not overly offensive atmospheres. I think this has been the case as most have seen this growth as a positive so far. I think this will continue to be the case in the future.


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