Steven Wells has begotten quite a spawn: ever since Britain’s punk-poet threw a shaky spotlight on MLS supporters’ groups, and pumped up by the arrival of David Beckham, there has been a torrent of articles in the media supposedly shedding light on this heretofore unknown world.
This week have come three more articles in the mainstream press: one in the Washington Post, as Josh and Max noted yesterday, was excellent; another, in the New York Observer by Vince Levy, was also very good; and today comes a piece in the Guardian by John Doyle, on Toronto FC fans.
There is no doubting the success of TFC thus far, and much credit goes to U-Sector and the Red Patch Boys. Our very own RPB, Michael, has covered it here. It’s certainly good to see them get major coverage overseas, so credit to the Guardian on that score.
But to completely ignore the years of solid support for other MLS teams (as documented so well by David Montgomery in the Post today in DC’s case), as this article does, strikes me as pretty churlish.
In other MLS cities soccer barely registers. Here, there was immediate fanaticism. Nobody had to explain to the offspring of Italian and Portuguese immigrants – or those from England, Scotland, Ireland, Chile, Peru, Brazil, Poland …keep going until you’ve got the most ethnically diverse city mix imaginable – what to do at a game and how to enjoy it.
. . .
Fans who couldn’t get tickets for the first FC games had to watch on TV. Now, other MLS teams are lucky if a game is shown on the obscure cable channel ESPN 2. Here, Toronto FC had an immediate TV deal with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), an over-the-air channel, publicly-funded, available to anyone in Canada, free.
ESPN2 might be a cable channel, but it’s hardly “obscure”: the arrival of Thursday night soccer on that channel has been a small but important step for the league, one that has to compete with a panoply of sports deeply embedded in American culture. The sudden success of Toronto doesn’t negate the slow but steady growth of soccer in the U.S. since 1996, nor the tireless work of Barra Brava or Section 8.
I don’t really understand why reporting on the success of Toronto FC so far — which has undoubtedly been good for the league — has to dovetail with an unnecessary denigration of soccer south of the Canadian border. Toronto needs MLS as much as MLS needs Toronto, let us not forget.