In an article at Yahoo! Sports today, Zac Wassink discusses Major League Soccer's (MLS) new directive to curb the use of profanity in chants during the match. See, RBNY Fan: NY Red Bulls Fans Taking Steps . . .
In particular, the league has told teams to get their supporters groups in line and stop shouting "You Suck Asshole" or "You Suck, Asshole" (YSA) when the opposing goalkeeper takes a goal kick to send the ball soaring back into play.
Soccer teams have supporters clubs that are independent, non-profit organizations formed and managed by by the best and the brightest fans. They organize social activities, parties, and fundraising events outside of the stadium, they organize a march to the stadium on game day, and the provide ninety minutes of constant vocal support for the team. They never sit down and they never stop chanting or singing.
I am a season ticket holder for Red Bull New York (RBNY). I have been for a number of seasons now. Originally, when the team was at Giants Stadium, there was one primary supporters club: Empire Supporters Club. They sat in Section 101. There were a couple of other, smaller groups in other sections of the stadium, but ESC was the primary group.
When the team moved to Red Bull Arena, the three sections behind the south goal were designated specifically for supporters groups. Section 132 is Garden State Supporters, Section 101 is Empire Supporters Club (right behind the goal), and Section 102 is Viking Army, the newest of the supporters groups.
My daughter and I became members of the Viking Army. We are Vikings. I joined Viking Army because it was formed by the brightest, smartest, funniest, friendliest members of the supporters club community. Viking Army feels open and inclusive, not quite as exclusive as the others.
We do not sit in Section 102 with the rest of the Army, because my daughter is still rather small and is intimidated by the constant motion behind the goal. I share her concern that it might not be safe for her, so we sit in a nearby section wearing our viking helmets and chanting/singing along with the other soldiers.
I do not know which supporters club in which city coined the YSA chant, but more than one person has said that it originated at Giants Stadium with ESC. I have no idea so that seems as plausible as any other "historical fact." The chant has spread through MLS. Some teams and cities have embraced the chant, some front offices have banned the chant, and most of us just ignore it. It's just there at the soccer match, sort of like bad hot dogs, watery beer, and pretty girls.
MLS has signed a contract with NBC that will have an increased number of soccer matches televised nationwide. This is a major breakthrough for the league.
With this increase in exposure comes scrutiny. Not scrutiny through malice, just more people paying attention. For supporters clubs this can be a double-edged sword. Of course we want our sport to be taken seriously, and we want other people to experience the joy and passion of soccer, and we want more tickets to be sold, and we want the players to earn more money. We want all of those things. With those things comes more eyes and ears paying attention.
NBC is not happy about their field microphones capturing three thousand voices shouting YSA into millions of American homes. Field mics are an integral part of the American television experience. The constant buzz of the crowd behind the action is ambiance that all television viewers take for granted. When it's not there, we notice it. So, NBC is not going to get rid of their field mics. Nobody is used to hearing the word "asshole" clearly and distinctly a part of that background noise.
When the opposing goalkeeper takes his goal kick, the YSA chant is heard clearly and distinctly on every television. NBC and their sponsor do not want this. They will not tolerate it, and if MLS is going to continue to grow and be taken seriously by adults with money, then the word "asshole" is going to cease being part of the broadcast.
If it does not cease, the big money will go away, and MLS will be relegated to the second-class citizenry it has always enjoyed.
MLS has sent a directive to each team and each team has sent that directive to the supporters clubs.
In the Viking Army, many are OK with letting-go of YSA. The comment from this camp is that the chant is old, past its expiration date, and we can do better. Another camp in the Army is of the "it's might right" group who assert that their free speech cannot be altered by an authority figure. They claim that YSA and the passion it represents are an integral part of the soccer experience.
Both positions are completely true, accurate, valid analyses of the situation. Neither side is right and neither side is wrong.
Yes, I think the MLS decision to "ban" YSA is totally lame and unnecessary. Some of the opposing arguments are even lamer. I think highly of supporters clubs, especially Viking Army. Although I do not agree with the ban, the MLS reason for banning it is dramatically more convincing than supporter arguments for keeping it. I am in the camp of: "We can do better."
The quality of the supporters' chants at RBNY matches is high. At one match, a Red Bull player lost one of his shoes in the box and scored a goal without it. The folks in Section 101 spontaneously removed one shoe, waved it in the air and chanted: "One shoe. He only needs one shoe . . ."!
This was one of the funniest incidents I have ever experienced in public. It was brilliant, and I think is a perfect reflection of the intellect, wit, and passion of RBNY supporters groups.
Still there are many who cling to the less impressive YSA chant and are offended at the notion that we will relent and dump YSA under pressure from the team and the league.
This situation is not new, it's been discussed for years. To those who think no chant should be banned, no expression stifled, I once asked a question on a message board, and I've never gotten an answer. So I pose it again.
To help me accurately explain this chant to my eight-year-old daughter when she asks what YSA means, I want to know if it is (1) "You suck, asshole." Meaning you perform fellatio and you are the opening at the end of a rectum; or (2) "You suck asshole." Meaning you place your mouth on the anus of another person and make slurping noises.
If there is a third possible definition of the phrase, I would appreciate knowing it.
I know to many this sounds ridiculous, but I think it is as valid a discussion as anything else put forward about YSA.
What are we yelling?
Where is the punctuation?
The YSA chant was funny at one time, and it really is far beneath such a quality group of supporters. I've never really pursued the issue, but now that it is a discussion in the public forum, I want a pro-YSA supporter to answer the question. Perhaps I am missing something and can be swayed to the other side with an explanation.
Row, Vikings, row! Forza Red Bull!