Well I think it was only a matter of time before this kind of thing started to happen. As MLS grows and people start paying more attention to it, they will look for things they can exploit. For some members of the media, this will mean looking for things they can write about to "get headlines" and sometimes that happens with little regard for the truth or honest perspective.
I would imagine that probably about 10-15 percent of MLS fans might know about "The Football Factory" either the book or the movie which is described quite well on their website:
The story centres around Tommy Johnson a bored twenty something who lives for the weekend, casual sex, watered down lager, heavily cut drugs.... And occasionally kicking the f*ck out of someone. Tommy's life ambles along until a violent encounter with a rival firm top boy starts a tit for tat war and a series of nightmares that force him to ask himself the question about his life: is it worth it?
Told through Tommy's eyes and linked together by his relationships with three other generations of males, The Football Factory is a drug fuelled adrenaline rush of a story about friendship, revenge and violence.
This is England's worst nightmare. Enjoy it
So there was never going to be anything good coming out of a story called "America's football factory" and sure enough when the UK version of GQ did a piece titled that and based on The Sons of Ben in Philly it was going to raise some eyebrows. It got the attention of Jason Davis at Matchfitusa.com, one of the guys I respect most in the US soccer blogosphere wrote this:
There are exceptions, and not every group is made up entirely of nerds wishing they were English or poseurs playing hooligan. The American-ness of MLS supporters groups, that thing which makes their biggest battles with their clubs over lighting of a flare or smokebomb or the use of a curse or two, should be celebrated. Calling their passion flat because it doesn't involve a political stance or streak of violence isn't entirely wrong, but it is misleading. American sports have never involved coordinated violence or political protest in any real measure. When we started up our supporters groups, we had no frame of reference but what we saw on television or read about in books. Sure, that led to a few amusing names. So what.
more after the jump:
Jason is right that someone from the UK, and many in the stands would consider a good number of members in supporter groups around MLS to be "posers", if by that you mean guys and gals who are taking their cues from the soccer cultures of Europe and South America. While soccer has a long history in the US, trying to compare the cultural impact of the sport in the US to the UK, is well asinine in my opinion.
To try to compare a fictional (if close to reality) story of fans of clubs like Milwall founded in 1885 with fans of the Philadelphia Union founded in 2010, is just a stupid idea, but again you have to wonder if the author was simply trying to get attention in both the UK and US. Trying to draw the comparison between groups in the UK that have been around for decades with US groups who have been around for years, again is dishonest to the core.
It appears that perhaps the article was also a bit fictional, as one of the members of the SOB's (Sons of Ben) took time to respond (via matchfitusa.com) his comments conclude with this:
It also bothers me that he refers to me solely as a skinhead throughout the article. He knew my name and my age, knew my occupation and where I lived. He was shocked to find out that me and the people I go to games with are working class, with full time jobs and full time studies, and that we aren't some rich suburban kids. But knowing that the Union support isn't just middle aged accountants wouldn't do him any good. He knows who I am, but giving me a face would be a lot less interesting than referring to me solely as "skinhead," a loaded term.
Of course the author used the term "skinhead" he was trying to stir the pot, he was trying to get attention. One thing is clear to me from this story and the responses, I now understand why so many in the soccer community of Europe hold media members in such disdain. I have read each of the articles/posts that I reference and link to in this post and I can say that Jason Davis is why those who cover soccer in the US don't experience that same type of hatred as those in other parts of the world do. Yes there are no doubt that there are some "posers" and probably a fair share of "thugs", and a great number of soccer "noobs" in the supporter groups around MLS, but I don't doubt their passion for their teams and for the sport and it sure as hell isn't for me to question their motives for what they do.
OFF MY SOAPBOX