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Let it be

If you’ve been to a Union match, whether at PPL Park or the Linc, you’ve heard it.

If you’ve watched a home game on TV, I’m told you can hear it, too.

A post criticizing it on EPL Talk following the friendly with Manchester United resulted in, at the time of this writing, some 326 comments.

The Sons of Ben thread about it on Big Soccer has 40 pages of comments.

You know what I’m talking about. Whenever an opposition goalkeeper has a goal kick it’s time for the wildly popular—and widely reviled—”You suck, asshole!” chant.

The Union has been forced to acknowledge the controversial chant. In an email sent to season ticket holders earlier this week, Union president Tom Veit says that, of all of the topics surrounding the Union match day experience, “the hottest right now is language around the stadium.” He continues,

I’ve received quite a few letters on both sides of this issue; those saying that the chants provide the atmosphere and are no worse than what they hear at any other stadium, and those that truly find any questionable chant or phrase offensive.

For what it’s worth, I would like to suggest that there is at least one more take on the chant. Many season ticket holders don’t like the chant, not because it is offensive, but because they find it juvenile, unoriginal and simply stupid. I know I was not alone in thinking that it was absolutely hilarious when Columbus keeper Will Hesmer threw off the chant by stepping over the ball and then kicking it.

Reading comments from Sons of Ben members it’s clear that feelings about the chant are mixed within their membership, too. A poll on Big Soccer showed that, while just over 44% expressed approval, nearly 33% disapproved and just over 22% said they could go either way.

Even so, I say “Let the chant be.”

Yo, gotta problem with Philly?

Ya gotta love 'em

Ya gotta love 'em

Reading the comments on the EPL Talk piece, the first thing you notice is how the perception of Philadelphia sports fans is based largely on events that happened 40 years ago, namely the snowball incidents. Perhaps misperception is the better word here because it appears that many people have no idea who the targets of those snowballs actually were or why they were targets. The behavior of Philly sports fans is now firmly in the realm of urban myth.

The widespread negative perception of Philly sport fans actually seems to have affected the ability of author of the piece–and many of its readers, judging from quite few of the comments–to hear correctly. The author complains about Union fans chanting “Fuck You” when they were actually chanting “Come on, the U.” (For myself, I was shouting “Show us your passport” to any person wearing a Manchester United shirt who made themselves noticed.)

Whatever. People will think what they want to think. If it isn’t the “You suck, asshole!” chant that confirms their perception of Philly, it will be something else. What these people don’t get is that we embrace our reputation.

You get a minus for lack of originality

They do it too!

Many people used the piece as an opportunity to explain that the “You suck, asshole!” chant is widely used throughout MLS and beyond. (One commenter helpfully provided a link to Seattle fans using the chant, although judging from the replies it appears the chant is equally controversial there.) It’s a kind of “we’re not the only ones” argument, and it is one that is likely to have little effect. If you search “You suck asshole chant” on Google, for example, the first five hits are Union related.

So, for now at least, the “You suck, asshole!” chant appears to be associated with Union fans. Which is a shame, because the “we’re not the only ones” argument only points to the unoriginality of the chant. Call Philly sports fans rude, crude and offensive and you’ll just make me shrug. Call them unoriginal and you’ve hit a sensitive spot.

Whatever. We’ve had what, eleven home games? Ever.

Think of the children! (Photo by Paul Rudderow)

Judging from the 40 pages of comments on the “Opposing Goal Kick” thread on Big Soccer, you can rest assured that creative minds are, in addition to discussing the interpretative possibilities of whether or where a comma is placed in the chant, working fervently to come up with something better, something truly Philly. Just give them a little bit of time.

Personally, I’m going to try to get everyone around me to shout “Yooooooooooooooouuuuuuuuuuu—ball sack!” No? Anyway…

We are not in church, people!

Quite a few people simply find the “You suck, asshole!” chant offensive. And for those bringing kids to a game, I have some sympathy.

Some. But if parents say they are shocked by “You suck, asshole!” chant, well, I don’t know what to say.

We are, after all, talking about a professional sporting event, not church. Most people who attend professional sporting events are adults and I think it is safe to say that most adults use curse words. It is natural that many of them will be passionate. Passion can lead to colorful behavior, colorful words. Some of those words might even be considered curse words. In soccer, such passion is often organized into chants. Sometimes chants include curse words.

Truth be told, I’ve even seen—gasp!—players curse. Maybe parents can think of the match day experience as a learning opportunity for the kids.

Stick an R rating on Union tickets

For myself, I do not sit in the supporters section. And I have a confession to make: I too use curse words when I’m at a game. I curse at the ref and the linesmen. I curse at opposing players. I even sometimes curse at Union players. In consideration of those around me, be they adults or children, I try not to curse all the time. But I do curse. And I curse because I care.

Here’s what I suggest:

Maybe MLS can put a “rated R” symbol on the tickets. That way, people who have never been to a professional sporting event or watched one on TV in a public place can be warned that they might hear a few curse words from time to time. And then they can get over it.

Codes of Conduct

The MLS Fan Code of Conduct says that “fans have a right to expect an environment where…they can enjoy the soccer experience free from,” among other things, “foul, sexist, racial, obscene or abusive language or gestures.” The Code of Conduct continues with a “Pledge to fans:”

MLS pledges to protect a fan’s right to…’Support’ his or her team, provided that the support is in good taste and neither adversely impacts the event experience of fellow spectators nor negatively impacts the game.

In my humble opinion, anyone who uses sexist or racially abusive language or gestures should be banned from PPL Park for life. Such language is political and offensive in any environment. In some contexts it constitutes a hate crime and it should have no place in soccer.

But words like “foul” or “obscene” or “good taste” are too subjective to enforce when it comes to adult language in an adult environment. If I think I should be able to scream “You blew the call, you fucking asshole!” at the ref, or “Nice tackle, you fucking jerk!” at Jeff Larentowicz, or “Shoot the ball, for fuck’s sake!” at Fred, than I can’t call for the “You suck, asshole!” chant to be banned, can I?

In his message to season ticket holders, Veit rightly says that “with 18,000 friends coming over to our house to see the game, it’s impossible to make everyone completely happy. But I do feel that we can find a happy medium, and we’re continuing to work towards that goal.” It’s sure to be one hell of a job finding an acceptable solution. You can do your part by filling out the fan experience surveys the Union will be sending out soon.

Our House

When I was growing up, I had an uncle who cursed like a sailor at family gatherings. Neither my parents or I came down with a case of the vapors when he did so—that was the way he talked, it was just part of the experience.

Going to the Union house is much the same. Do I like the “You suck, asshole!” chant? No. Do I want it to be banned? No. It’s just part of the experience, an experience that has been pretty fucking awesome.

But, I’ll be happy when something else replaces it. And whatever replaces it ought to come out of the stands, not out of the club’s front office.

Here’s hoping the “happy medium” doesn’t just piss everyone off.

Cover photo by dangorman 16.

19 Comments

  1. I think the league made a mistake in the beginning by marketing soccer directly to families and kids. This was a huge problem because families aren’t the ones going to every single game. Supporters do. Take a look at the EPL games and point out how many children are at the games? For one thing, they stand the whole game, and kids can’t see.
    As a fan experience, I think it is way more important to have an atmosphere to bring out the college aged kids and young adults to get them hooked onto the Union. Sanitizing the crowd is not the way to go.

  2. As someone who sits in the Supporters Section, I have to say I have much less problem with the “You Suck” chant than I do with the “SHE fell over!” chant. The “You Suck” chant is juvenile and stupid (though funny–so funny that there are always people in the section laughing as if they’d never heard it before immediately afterward, something I find mystifying), but the “SHE fell over!” chant that happens any time an opposing player suffers a foul, real or imagined, is genuinely offensive. The Sons of Ben have, for the most part, done a good job of corralling anything resembling hate speech or violent conduct in the stands, but for all that, they still allow–even encourage–misogyny, at least in this instance. I suppose I shouldn’t say “they” as I had to become a member in order to buy my tickets, but that’s definitely one chant I could do without. To finish with one last note about the “You Suck” chant, my feeling is it is basically a fad, and likely to die out over time, especially if other goalkeepers find ways to mess with it.

  3. I don’t agree. I took the time to email the Sons of Ben about it. Their response was yours- this is professional sports. I’m not against cursing per se- my wife reminded me there were children present when we played Dallas at the Linc- to stop me from cursing. If you were at that game, you know why I had so much fucking shit to say.

    The moment she did I stopped. Cursing is not part of public discourse. I teach in North Philly. My students were raised with curse words. This limits their life, the options of expression that they have. It is often a sign of an inferior vocabulary- your discussion makes creativity a paramount concern.

    I find the chant amusing personally. It often causes me to smile. It is vitriolic, and for the goalkeeper, an unavoidable insult that makes goal kicks into a chore. “When I kick this ball, they will say I suck. How well I kick, the presence I created in goal to cause them to kick this ball out of bounds rather than take an on goal shot, have nothing to do with it. They’re going to say that I suck and am an asshole.” All this being for the chant, it’s wrong.

    Most probably Tom Veit is taking the line that must be taken. It is what it is, and everybody gets to do what they want.

    Also- I don’t care how silly the torhymne doo doo doo is- I want to sing with everyone when we score.

  4. As a Union fan living in California, I’ve (unfortunately) been forced to watch all of the games on TV or online. I did, however, make it to the opener in Seattle and was particularly annoyed by the Sounders fans singing the “you suck” chant. I had heard it before on TV, but in person it struck me somehow as even more juvenile, unimaginative and pointless (are keepers really affected by such a childish chant?). That chant, to me, simply overshadowed the amazing atmosphere the Sounders fans have created in Qwest.

    As I continue to watch Union games, though, I have become even more frustrated that the Sons of Ben have not incorporated a more interesting and imaginative chant. Quite frankly, they’ve just shown that they’re able to recycle this one chant used around the league. I really don’t want Philly, the Union, or the SoB to be known for such stark unoriginality.

    So I say it is time to drop it and try something else. I don’t have a problem with cursing, since that’s part of the overall experience at a live game (like it or not). And I don’t have a problem with a chant during a goal kick. But if you want to chant during that lull back into play, then why not just use something that is more creatively critical of the opposing team as a whole or more supportive of the Union. Until then, I’ll continue to lower the volume during those goal kicks…

  5. I brought my little girl to a game. (She’s 13.) She heard the chant. It turned her off. It was dumb, crude, unoriginal and basically nasty. She was falling asleep at halftime. She’s Brazilian. This shouldn’t happen.

    Then the Union started scoring goals. People went nuts. Joyous explosions, lots of excitement and celebration. She woke up. And then she loved it.

    Kids are fans too. Treat them as individuals, not appendages of parents. Eventually they grow up, and their love of the team goes with them, just like it did with us as kids and other teams. Now is when you grab them. And you can draw kids and still have the rambunctious atmosphere (even with random cursing at games) without having an organized chant that curses out the goalie. Like Ed wrote, there must be something more clever than this.

  6. I agree with Brian about the whole marketing to families thing. I find the chant amusing also, but have said since the start that the unoriginal aspect of it makes me say get rid of it. But about cursing in the stadium it is entirely 100% no question about it the parents fault for being upset. Josh Trott seems to think that SOBs and the other people who curse in the stadium walk around in their daily lives cursing and barking like some sort of wild animal. Sports involve adrenaline and anger, if you have played competitively in high school or at any point really you understand that whether your on the side lines or in the game you get pissed off, you yell and curse every now and then and use your anger to play or support your team. SOBS and fans over 18 have this same passion and many have multiple beers in their system, but their is nothing wrong with that. Going to a game once a week or once every two weeks, unless your the union this season and have 5 games in 15 days, and having 2 or 3 beers and getting your blood pressure up for 90 minutes does not make you some cursing, yelling fool all the time. Now to why it is absolutely the parents fault for everything but the you suck asshole chant. The Union designed the stadium, sells season tickets and regular tickets with specific guidelines. We all remember being asked if we would bring children, if we would be drinking etc etc. I am directly to the right of SOB section if your sitting in that section. We are almost entirely adults and are drinking. Why the hell would a family with children ignore the guidelines for suggested seating and sit in that section? Perhaps the Union did not do a good enough job with that aspect of seat selection, although I certainly remember filling out forms for suggested seating asking all those questions and was thus put in a section with a similar response group. The simple solution is for the Union to ask before every ticket sale whether you will be bringing children and if you will be drinking so that all the churchy, cookie cutter, poos themselves when someone uses a 4 letter word can be together and not have to hear it. Sorry about the rant but I grew up in a house where cursing was used from time to time, but was raised to understand not to use that language in public situations or in my daily life. The Union need to make the top half of the stadium the family section and the river end and its surrounding sections aimed towards the adult crowd. A simple solution that will make everyone happy unless the anti cursing people are offended that the words are used ever by anyone, which some seem to feel. I am a Union fan. I curse at games every now and then. I do not walk around my daily life as a cursing, sloppy drunk.

    • I play soccer- and I curse when I play- at myself usually, but occasionally at the other team. Also, as I said in my comment, I cursed quite a lot at the second home game- until someone pointed out that there were children present. I’m not judging anyone- but I think we can have a fun and passionate and hostile environment without cursing, and most of us agree it’s not public discourse- not everyone wants to hear that kind of language- so going to a game shouldn’t mean you have to hear it.

  7. Not a huge fan of the chant, think we can come up with something better but not because it is offensive just boring after the first couple of games. Change it up maybe something more Philly but I am starting to get annoyed with management’s take on what is proper at the games. I sit in the SE corner section where over the last 3 or 4 games, folks in the upper part of the section have thrown beach balls, balloons & last week streamers. Security has stopped it every time and even kicked out the folks who threw the streamers after a goal. Nothing hit the field and everyone in the section was having a good time until the fun police stepped in. Not sure what they are trying to do but not a good idea to tick off the season ticker holders for a team that is not winning. First year giving them a break for now but need to figure out the right balance on letting fans express themselves.

  8. The unity of the “You Suck” chant is admirable, and the hands up visual is awesome, but it’s still unoriginal and juvenile. We should be better than that, and hopefully something is in the works. The “SHE fell over” chant is offensive in a lot of ways, too, but intensified considering the SOBs continued support of the WPS. Sort of contradictory, no?

  9. The chant isn’t the greatest. It is unoriginal and rather silly, but let’s keep a few things in mind. I, for one, don’t do it to intimidate the goalkeeper. That’s ludicrous and I think most people would agree that football songs and chants aren’t done primarily to get in the heads of professional players. Maybe in Europe and South American they can because there 25,000 or 50,000 rabid lunatics doing it. I’ve seen that first hand and that can be menacing indeed. That doesn’t happen here.

    Additionally, to Dan’s point, the epithets “you suck” and “asshole” are far too banal in this culture to be characterized as crude or nasty. Sorry, that sounds like some 17th century puritanical bullshit to me. If your daughter was asleep at halftime, I’m sorry too. Maybe this show isn’t for you. This goes to the mistake of marketing this like a family picnic. I understand perfectly why this was done, but it isn’t what it is marketed as. That’s just a fact. If you try to engineer a football match into a PG rated Saturday matinee, I believe you’re destined for failure.

    I will continue to scream YSA now simply because the controversy itself has raised it to a new level. It very well may have died out on its own (because of the ordinariness mentioned above). Now it isn’t going anywhere. In an odd turn the debate itself has created edginess to a rather boring chant.

    • Actually, the point was that maybe it wasn’t for HER or many other kids in attendance, but the soccer itself is. As for me, I just find the chant pretty weak, like I said. If you don’t think it’s nasty, well … I guess it’s kinda tame in comparison to puking on kids. 😉

  10. It was weak. Controversy has provided strength. It’s like doing something prohibited. It’s not the words… it’s that now it’s officially questionable.

    All things consider (including self induced assualt vomitting), the words are very tame.

  11. Brion Shreffler says:

    My issue with any chants that have come into question is that their use or overuse tends to reveal a pour grasp of the game. “She fell over” is spewed every time an opposing player hits the pitch. Please, hold onto that gem for RIGHT moment.

    I agree with Ed in that it is the juvenile nature of the “You Suck Asshole” chant that is at issue. I had a commenter mistake my reservations with the chant for some stodgy piety on my part. No, it’s simply a stupid, stupid chant. Cursing belongs at sporting events, but cursing for the sake of cursing only makes you look like an idiot. As does complaining about anything- the ref, the other team, the sun- for the sake of pointing out to everyone how loud and stupid you can be.

    Spot on to ponder whether and where a comma should lie, since I think the stupidity of the goal kick chant impels one to wonder such a thing. Are we implying that the opposing goal keeper is involved in a nasty bit of foreplay? More likely, we’re just saying we suck when saying it.

  12. PPL even scrolls “C’mon The U” on the video scrolls near the suites – so the kiddies and parents will say Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh that’s what they’re saying! GO UNION! C’Mon THE U!!!!!!! We love you!

  13. Mike Servedio says:

    You suck asshole is immature and I think it will get old eventually. The She Fell Over chant needs to end. It’s completely misogynistic and idiotic. I’m glad that most of the stadium doesn’t do it. And it’s not like the Union doesn’t have a few divers in the group with Fred, Moreno and Torres.

  14. pbk seattle says:

    I think this chant is ridiculous, it shows me that people don’t like the game of soccer. I love the game of soccer and have played it all my life so I love a competitive game. To cuss at opposing players is absolutely terrible and shows me that people don’t truly love the sport of competitive soccer. I will be cancelling my season ticket to the Sounders next season because I don’t want to expose myself to this type of fan culture that is ridiculous.

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