Fanatics. They’re different from you and me. We’re just pedestrian fans. We watch, boo, cheer and then go home. Fanatics never really let go. They own face paint and have a closet full of jerseys and costumes to wear to games. They know trivia that would stump team owners. Fanatics really feel every win and loss. Itâ€™s not “just a game” to a fanatic.
Last Saturday, I traveled to Columbus, OH to watch DC United take on the Columbus Crew as part of my tour and evaluation of MLS stadiums. I ended up spending a wonderful night with a group of fanatics.
I arrived at Crew Stadium exactly an hour before kick-off to check out the pre-game scene. I was immediately struck by the lack of people and noise.Where is everyone? There were a few Crew flags fluttering in the breeze, but I couldn’t see anyone or hear the sounds of a party. Suddenly, I heard a roar of laughter. There we go! I’ll go see what’s up with the Crew Nation.
As I approached the noise, I noticed a familiar refrain. ‘Deeeee Ceeeeee U. Nite-d!” Once I was on the group it hit me: this was Barra Brava and theScreaming Eagles!
As I set up my tri-pod and camera the group approached:
“Someone said you were DEA, man”
“Naw. He’s not DEA. It was close! He’s Bobby Boswell dot com!”
And just like that. I was family.
They introduced themselves and offered me drinks and told me stories. It was great!
When it was game-time, I followed the group in and watched with delight as mild-mannered Midwesterners scurried out of the approaching Black-and-Red singing mob. Having grown up in Minnesota, I knew exactly what was going through their minds â€“ what the heck is that! (Yeah. Midwesterners don’t even swear in their minds.)
My seats were on the opposite site of the United supporters and smack in the middle of Crew season ticket holders. The family behind me was amazed.
“Look at those rowdies, over there!”
“Who are they?”
Seconds from half-time, a woman next to me marveled, “they are still singing!” But, her male dismissed the effort. “They’re all drunk.”
For the second half, I abandoned my field side seats to join the United supporters. (Partly, because I was sick how little the Crew fans around me know about the game and their amusing calls for “a card!” after every foul.)
The United fans never stopped singing and urging United on. This was too much for the small group of Crew fans with pride. But, since they didn’t have any songs of their own, they resorted to high-school tactics. Mainly shouting ‘”SUCKS!” after the “Deeeee Ceeeee U. Nite-d” chant.
I felt bad for the Crew fans. They were helpless against Barra Brava’s passion and songs.
It has rained at almost every DC United game. I have yet to return from watching them without being soaked . . . Saturday was no different. As lightning filled the sky, Crew fans â€“ sensibly â€“ abandoned their aluminum bleachers and headed for their cars. The United supporters just got louder. They were practically daring the lightning to strike.
A downpour arrived and the lightning grew too close, so the game was suspended. Crew fans assumed a victory (not that United’s play suggested any other result) and headed home. But, the United fans didn’t have anywhere to go and didn’t want to go. So they just stood in a circle under the bleachers and sang.
Crew fans slowed and gawked with bewilderment, shrugged, shook their heads and then pulled their kids a little closer and walked on by. Barra Brava didn’t notice. They just kept on singing.
A loss / A Great Performance
When play resumed, United failed to get the point and ended with a loss. But, the fanatics still kept believing and singing. Although they were wet and tired, the United players still made time to walk to the stadium’s corner and applaud the group.
The Crew announcer declared the MVP of the game was “You! The Crew fans!” What a farce. The only performance worth a damn that night was from the United supporters â€“ it certainly wasn’t Eraza’s garbage goal; or Eddie Gaven skying sitters over the crossbar; or whatever the hell United midfield was doing. It was Barra Brava and Screaming Eagles — the fanatics.