Letter I wrote to the head of the National Premier Soccer League, which is cranky at the Northern Guard supporters group for Detroit City FC for our general awesomeness (and some stupid shit that a couple people pulled).
As a Detroit City FC season ticket holder and Northern Guard supporter, I wanted to write to you about what you’ve been hearing and the communication we’ve been getting in return. I’m speaking just for myself, not as a representative of any group.
As I’m sure you heard, we gave our team the “silent treatment” for most of last night’s game because of dire threats of sanctions, loss of home field, rains of blood and general crankiness. What you might not have heard is what the response from all of the other stakeholders looked like.
The neighborhood residents who live on the street on which we march to the stadium were calling for our traditional drums and smoke and chants, complaining that they look forward to our pageantry every week. When inner-city Detroit families are sad that we were marching in silence because they’d brought their kids out to cheer us along as they do every match, that’s the “community involvement” from the NPSL’s mission statement in a very meaningful form.
When the “normal” fans who sit politely all match and who’re supposedly the people we’re offending started a “Where’s our hooligans?” chant to try to get us back to our crazy ways, that’s what we mean to all of DCFC’s fans, regardless of which side of the field they inhabit. There’ve been more and more “normal” fans every match, thanks to the atmosphere we create. Our antics have resulted in media coverage throughout the region, meaning we fulfill your mission and “create public awareness of the NPSL” with every smoke bomb and chant.
When our team captain came up to where we were sitting on the “quiet” side in protest and told us to “get the f**k back over to where you belong” so that the team could join us in the supporter stands for post-match dancing and singing, that’s the kind of relationship that’s fulfilled your mission in raising “the overall standard of play” in this league. Our management is able to recruit the cream of the amateur soccer-playing crop from our region because, for once in their lives, these guys want to play in front of a passionate and loud and crazy crowd that cheers them for the entire match, win or lose.
And when it comes to financial stability, 1,000-2,000 fans per match goes a long way toward paying for quality soccer.
Yes, we know that we’re going to catch some flak because water bottles got thrown on the field. The NGS stopped it as soon as we saw it happening and named and shamed the people who did it afterward. They’re banned from our section, and most of them apologized and claimed they didn’t know any better — when you get 2,000 people to anything, there’s going to be a few idiots. Yes, the Erie players this year and the Cleveland players last year were taunting us, but given that we’d been taunting them all game we’re willing to take our medicine. (The experienced supporters were turned around, showing our backs with middle fingers raised. We’re classy like that.) Even Erie’s keeper Daniel Craig came on our Facebook page after the playoff match and told us, “Respect is earned. You earn my respect for what you do for your team. Your abuse aimed at us is like a 12th man for your team. Wish I could play in that atmosphere every week.”
I’m exactly the kind of supporter you want for your league. I’m a middle-aged professional who’s normally at an MLB or NHL game or at a college football stadium. I, my wife and our 8 year-old son don’t watch soccer on TV and we don’t attend other local soccer matches, but all three of us are front and center in the Northern Guard’s section purely because of the community and atmosphere. If the games were full of polite “fans” like we see across the field or at away matches, we wouldn’t bother to come.
The banner on your Facebook page is a City match. The “Playoff Preview” photo was our drum section. We are, quite frankly, just about the best thing you’ve got going right now. Please take that into account when you get complaints from teams that draw 50-100 fans at best to a match, aren’t competitive on the pitch, don’t create any buzz in their towns and probably sell less merchandise in a season than DCFC does in a single match.
Because if you squash us, a league of those kinds of teams is what you’re going to get.
Thank you for your time.