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RSL's support: Despite issues, plenty of positives to be found


If you believe, then stand up and do whatever you want to do to support your team.

Sorry, I took a little liberty with your chant, Branden.

A lot has been said this week about Rio Tinto Stadium. With the focus that the USMNT match put on our stadium, that match and the match vs Seattle Sounders FC on Saturday seem to have shined a light on the level of support for soccer shown by the fan base here in SLC. It's interesting to me that in both occasions when the focus should have been on the play on the field, it quickly turned to the songs being sung in the stands, or lack thereof.

Soccer support is an interesting thing. Different regions of the world have, and are known for, their particular style. You hear the term Ultras thrown around when discussing Italy, Hooligans in England, and in Japan the flags and the amount of coordination that goes into their support seems mind boggling to me. In the US we have taken from many of these styles and tried to create our own, but let's be honest, we're basically stealing from existing stuff and trying to integrate it into our particular team's culture. There are some things that are unique to particular fan bases, but on the whole we are assimilating right now.

The argument has been had and will be had for years as to which style is "the best" style, much like the argument about which style of play on the field is most effective or most attractive to watch. The interesting thing to me is why we all care so much? Why is it that people feel the need to enforce what we think as the best way to support a team on other fan bases?

The reason this comes up is because of the comments made by national media and fans from around the country regarding the atmosphere at the USMNT match tuesday night and again last night at the RSL v SSFC match. The comments surround some very specific points that I'd like to flesh out.

First off, I want to say that the support at the USMNT match and the support at RSL matches are two different things entirely. I won't spend much time on the chants used or not used at the Yanks match. Enough has been said in my mind. Suffice it to say that, yes, I agree it could have and should have been better.

I want to focus the rest of my attention on something that I have a say in and that I feel a part of. RSL support. I'll list the complaints I've heard and the ones I want to focus on first.

1. Piped in Believe Chant.

This one, yeah, okay. It's something that many of us have thought since the team started doing it in the beginning. Kinda weak. When you think about it though, every single team does it and as American sports fans it's what you are used to. In American sports you have chants/yells/cheers lead by either cheer/yell leaders and or announcers and the jumbo tron. Not saying that it's the best way to go about things but it is the way that we are conditioned as sports fans to interact with our teams. Think about it, at a Jazz game when do the chants start? Jumbotron/announcer. At a Bees game? Announcer/Organ. At a BYU or Utah game? Cheerleaders/Jumbotron.

So why not RSL?

Oh, yeah, because they don't do that in Europe. Or Seattle. Or something.

This argument makes no sense to me at all. "Hey, your FO and stadium staff help organize your chants. That's so lame! Neener neener neener. Ours buy us Tifo and pay for a band, and bought everyone scarves, and have flame throwers after goals!"

I know that sounds sarcastic but that's about the long and short of most of the complaints I've seen. It comes down to "Hey! You're Mormon!" or "Your beer is only 3.2%!!" or "Your FO has people with signs for the R-S-L chant!"

Wow, that hurts guys.

2. Large stretches without chanting/singing.

This one I find interesting as well. Apparently to be a good fan base we have to have chanting/singing from before minute one until after minute 90. This one I find more a personal preference thing. It's something that has become the way to do things when in Seattle and Portland. There are groups across the country that also feel this way, and I'll be honest, I respect it. It was an amazing thing to be in Portland last spring and witness the TA do their thing. To watch a group as large as theirs go for a full 90 was impressive. Is it something that I would love to see at Rio Tinto? Yes. But let's look at this like logically, and I know that may be hard for some.

RSL is now in it's 8th season. Seattle, as a team, and mostly as a fan base, (not the MLS version) was founded in 1972. You could say that there is a rather large disparity there. With time comes culture. Culture comes from making a choice so many times that it becomes a behavior and a habit. Seattle, and other fan bases like it, have had many more years than RSL to make decisions that lead to establishing a culture. Our culture is new and fledgling. In many ways it is a culture that needs guidance much like one would guide a child through his/her developmental stages to assure that it grows into what one expects it to.

Our atmosphere, with the exception of the "Believe" chant being piped in at times during matches, is entirely organic. The RSL FO has all but refused to become heavily engaged with fan and atmosphere development. Some of us look at this as a loss, others as a huge positive. The point is that we have been largely ungroomed as a fan base. We do what we can in our own way as we figure out what OUR culture will be.

3. Unorganized.

I don't even really know where to start with this one. There comes a point where we just need to admit that there are too many people trying to be THE GUY/GAL that is creating the culture inside of the stadium. For 8 years now many groups have come and gone. The Loyalists, FCB, RCB, SCU, Section 26, La Barra Real, Union Real, and Royal Army to name a few. Each have added to the RioT in some way or another, but at times they have been uncooperative and belligerent about how they feel the support in the stadium should be. Wear this, say that, sing this, chant this chant at this time. With each of these groups comes a structure and a style that, let's face it, is limiting in and of itself. We're either not "hardcore" enough or "too hardcore" (insert Tenacious D lyric here) and we have yet to be able to find that desirable middle ground.

My own section is a prime example. The chanting in our section is better than in most, I'm not biased at all though..... We have 3 "capos", well people who think they are capos, who at any given time start chants for our section. 2 of them are great and start chants that we all know and can get on board with, the third likes to throw in the types of chants that tend to rub sponsors, the league and the FO the wrong way. There's a big enough group that grab on to those chants that they are fairly audible throughout our little corner of the stadium. The one that seems to be causing the most huff and puff right now is the "You Suck Asshole" chant that so many in the stadium tend to love. Even this little chant is causing division. Many in the stadium support it, many oppose it, the fact of the matter is that a large number use it constantly.

Break that out into the stadium wide picture. Five fairly large groups all trying to start and grow their own culture and style of chants. Right now, we are our own worst enemy. Until we get on the same page or figure out a way to get the groups to coordinate nothing will change. That being said, the question really becomes whether or not we need or want it to change.

Okay, rambling over. Sort of.

The point of all of this is that it is valid saying that some things could be better. But the way that it is said and by whom is the problem. We as fans need to take, in my opinion, a look at how we are doing things in the stadium and address the concerns that are pointed out to determine whether or not they fit our culture or how we want our team and our stadium to be viewed.