When Being a Supporter Gets in the Way of Being a Supporter
This past Saturday, American Outlaws chapters throughout the country hosted watch parties for the USMNT v Scotland match, per the AO mission. In Tucson, our chapter hosted the watch party at our home bar, Playground Bar & Lounge.
It happened that the match would end just about 7 p.m. local time, which was the time our local PDL team, FC Tucson, would be taking on Pali Blues at home. The FC Tucson home field, Field 5, is not more than 10 minutes from Playground.
The FC Tucson supporters group is the Cactus Pricks, separate from the AO Tucson chapter. Even though a lot of the members belong to both groups, each group has different leadership structures. I should note, two of the six Executive Pricks are also officers in AO Tucson (I am one of them).
Working together, CP agreed not to host a tailgate and instead support AO Tucson at the watch party; AO Tucson agreed to promote the FC Tucson match on its Facebook page, event page and at the event itself. This made sense because the majority of members wanted to participate in both events. This choice also allowed for carpools/designated drivers to be arranged a bit more easily.
So, after the USMNT beat Scotland 5-1, the Pricks made their way to Field 5 and arrived 34 minutes late. The local newspaper reported the late arrival of the “loyal” fans. Of course the crowd took notice and others on social media did after reading the newspaper account. And, so, the negative comments began. CP was criticized - by a member of FC Tucson staff, even - for being late. The comments basically questioning the loyalty of the members to FC Tucson.
To the Tweet from the FC Tucson staff member, the CP Twitter administrator responded “country before club.” But, I don’t think it is as simple as that. As a member of the Executive Pricks and AO Tucson chapter officer, I am disappointed that our loyalty would be questioned. Our teams want their twelfth man to be present from whistle to whistle. I understand. I want the same. However, as we work to connect football supporters in our city and region, our core and most loyal members will continue to have such conflicts when schedules overlap.
I can’t ask that the general public be more understanding; I don’t think we can make non-supporters relate as easily as those who have been following US Soccer for years. The fact is, we wait long periods for international matches; we look forward to them. That doesn’t mean we don’t want to support our home team. We have to try to find a balance, and CP and AO Tucson made an effort to do so. If our effort to be loyal to both our priorities as supporters is interpreted as the opposite, then what are our options?
Do we have any? Are we stuck being disloyal Pricks? It happens that after the FC Tucson matches at Field 5, the team has yet to greet the Pricks after the final whistle. Although, one team member was kind enough to head to the CP Facebook page and post a thank you note after Saturday’s match. That was nice, I suppose. Maybe next time, CP should skip the match altogether and send a note.