Fans' View

Fans’ View: And here come the pretzels

During Saturday’s game against NYCFC, an ugly incident occurred in the stands that included bottles being hurled between Union and City supporters. Luckily, it appears that no one was seriously injured.

At first, I thought it was comical, tweeting the famous Simpsons line, “and heeeere come the pretzels.” But as I sat and watched with my young sons by my side, I admit I got a bit spooked. Just how bad could this get? Should I leave early to avoid having them around any violence that spills outside the stadium after the game?

Despite groups in MLS now naming themselves some flavor of “hooligans,” the days of soccer-based gangs and riots causing death and dismemberment are thankfully dwindling. Yet, we should be alarmed when the passion and fervor of MLS’s recent success crosses the line into physical violence. It has to be taken seriously or it runs the risk of escalation.

A quick perusal of social media discussions around Saturday’s incidents run the gamut of typical reactions, but a dangerous trend is evident. Some clearly take the stance that it’s “us vs. them” and that the only way to respond is with retaliatory violence. This kind of cave-man logic is exactly what leads to real escalation.

There are lots of reasons why we can be reassured that we won’t see violence on the level seen during hooliganism’s heyday. For one, ticket prices aren’t cheap. In Europe, the common thinking is that rising ticket prices drives out the most violent supporters. In addition, it’s hard to be anonymous now. With video technology and social media, it doesn’t take long to figure out the identity of someone who attends games regularly.

Yet, thinking that “it won’t happen here,” is a dangerous position to take. To me, it appeared that security was ill-equipped to deal with the crowd. If things had gotten just a little bit worse, they easily would have been overrun. The club continues to place unknowing families directly in front of or adjacent to away supporters in sections 133 and 132. There needs to be a better way to prevent this from happening. I appreciate the video of Ben Franklin telling us to text problems to security at the beginning of the match, but nobody is saving that number in their phones. Why not post the number in a couple visible spots throughout the game so they can be notified before drunk unruliness escalates to violence?

As a season ticket holder, I am saddened that there hasn’t been any official statement or response by the Union. Is the incident being looked into? What should happen to members of either supporter group who are found to have thrown objects? How is the club going to ensure that it continues to be safe to bring my kids to games?

In fact, this is the situation that I would expect MLS to speak up about, rather than handing out a year-long, league-wide ban to someone who used a smoke-bomb in the parking lot during a unity march.

Perhaps the Front Office doesn’t want to add any more publicity to the violence in fear that it will hurt their family-friendly game day image. I for one, would much rather see them out front of these problems with a proactive plan to prevent future incidents.

By remaining silent, the club tacitly implies that it doesn’t see fan violence as a serious problem.

Editor’s note: The president of the New York City FC supporters group The Third Rail posted an apology on Facebook to “the Philadelphia Union, Corner Creeps, Sons of Ben and other Union fans.” At Brotherly Game, Eugene Rupinski has the responses to questions about the incident from Mike Scanlon, the general manager of Talen Energy Stadium.

22 Comments

  1. MikeRSoccer says:

    Fyi, I spoke to a STH rep yesterday. They said they are aware of the issue, as is MLs. When I asked if NYCFC supporters would be permitted at the next home game – given that this is the second incident with them – the STH rep said “No comment at this time.”

    • I am glad that they’re aware of it, and I did just see Mike Scanlon’s responses to BG questions this morning, but it still falls short of an official public response. I’d prefer to see an open letter to fans. Mr. Scanlon’s answers included repeating the sentence “We do not make this information public,” three times. Why? Why not make it public. Show us that you take this seriously and tell us what you’re doing about it. I know that the FO is full of good, intelligent people, and I’m certain they care about fan safety, but I think they can be more transparent about it.

      • Zizouisgod says:

        Agreed, Scanlon’s answers were weak. If you agree to do that type of interview, you should have better answers than that.

  2. There is a reason upwards of 30 people wearing yellow jackets line up along the visiting supporters sections in other leagues. Not saying it needs to happen for each game within this faux league that is being built, but it stands to reason when: NYCFC, NYRB or DC United are in town the franchise would be wise to have plenty of yellow coat wearing security guards lining the aisle of away section.
    .
    This is logical….
    .
    Beyond that, just like walking out of an Birds game, don’t make eye contact, pay attention and get to the car— otherwise don’t take the kids- which I would never do to a Birds game against a rival.
    .

    • man… mls has its flaws for sure but ‘faux league’ is a bit much

    • I agree with Kyle. I appreciate what this league has grown to become, and suspect it will continue to improve. Clearly there are issues (transparency around MLS player acquisition rules being one example), but I feel like we’ve got a good thing going now overall.

      Also, I don’t think we should ever get to a place where parents need to seriously weigh leaving their kids behind. I wouldn’t bring a 3 year old to an Eagles game (not saying that’s something we should be proud of as Eagles fans), but if we’re looking to encourage a love of soccer in the younger generation, I don’t see “don’t take the kids” as something that should ever be an acceptable outcome. I do agree with increasing the visible security presence for the rivalry games though, particularly the NY teams.

    • +1. You can’t hope to stop it, only contain it.
      .
      As a non-parent I truly don’t mind the mayhem. It undoubtedly provides some entertainment during lulls. On the flip side, I can absolutely see why people (parents) think this is a real issue. It’s a very good thing there are thousands of other places to sit in the stadium.
      .
      I think the energy in the stadium kicks into a higher gear when rival supporters are in town. It feels like the boys are playing for something more tangible. I know it’s just sports, I’m just a young man with testosterone. I sit in 133.

  3. pragmatist says:

    Makes me feel better about the new security policies. Especially when you realize the new policies had about zero effect on how long it took to get into the stadium.
    .
    It just would have taken one idiot from NYC to carry some type of weapon for this to become international news.
    .
    And for those who think I’m overreacting, would rather I be wrong? Or you be wrong?

    • Agreed on the new security not having an effect on things. That was pretty awesome. I guess people actually heeded the warnings, and LISTENED!! Ha! What a concept! Anyway, I commend Talon for having increased folks at the entrances as well. Hopefully this is the norm and not a one off.

      • Jim Presti says:

        Agreed. I was concerned there would be bottlenecks, but the entrances were properly staffed and efficient

  4. Lucky Striker says:

    things sure do seem a lot different from when I was a kid up there.

    Friend or foe : get out of line ?

    take your life in your hands…………the only color they ever saw was blue. “Security” ended where back-up began.

  5. Paul Costa says:

    Good read, Scott. In the family-friendly confines of section 109, this is rarely a problem. At the NYCFC game, there was an away fan in the 2d row who was straight out of central casting’s stock “NY A-hole”; he’d attended the year before as well with some clones. This year he said or did something, not sure what, that prompted a father sitting nearby to complain multiple times to our lone security guy. Apparently nothing was done. No violence was at issue, but the behavior of away fans can be a problem outside of 133. If there’d been more then one security guard (or a more attentive one) to watch over two sections (108 and 109), maybe some more attention could be paid when problem fans make trouble — and something done about it.

  6. Zizouisgod says:

    Perhaps MLS should rework the Don’t Cross Line video and add “oh yeah, don’t throw projectiles over the line either”.

  7. Zizouisgod says:

    BTW – Great Simpsons reference, Scott. Had to watch that scene again, the Al Michaels type announcer is just so good.

    • “Whitey Ford now out on the field… this is a black day for baseball”. Haha!

    • Thanks, but I can’t take credit for it. Dan Levy (@DanLevyThinks for Billy Penn-a great sports fan follow) tweeted out a brilliant GIF of it during the Flyers bracelet throwing delay (even more spot-on reference), so it was fresh on the brain.

  8. TedWilliams says:

    Is that a “here comes the pizza”/Red Sox reference?

  9. james lockerbie says:

    This is the very reason I don’t purchase tickets past section 128.

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