Tuesday, March 31, 2009

International incidents of epic proportion, indeed

Our own Duane Rollins has a first-person account of the "gong show" (his term) that occurred after the Toronto FC-Columbus Crew match last Saturday.

Duane makes a pretty salient point when he saw a much smarter approach to crowd control when he was covering the Grand River land dispute in Caledonia, Ont., than he did last Saturday. Think about. There's centuries-old simmering tensions present in the first instance. Toronto and Columbus have only been opponents for barely two years and it got out of control (we'll thank you to not say it was due to the bumbling of the Officer Bartlebys working security at the stadium).
"The police were everywhere, they did not appear to be communicating with each other and 'hands on' was a matter of first response rather than last resort. About all they accomplished was to further enrage the group and to put those not involved at risk – at one point two police cars took chase after a fleeing Toronto fan. Driving about 60 km/h they weaved their way through a crowded parking lot."
A couple TFC fans who happened to be off the wrong skin colour, in the cops' eyes, were also targeted. That's brutal, but not shocking if you know about who can be licensed to carry a badge and a gun in the U.S. That story about NFL running back Ryan Moats having a cop draw a gun on him when he was trying to get inside a hospital to see a dying loved one is, well, not atypical.

This is not about doing the smug Canadian routine or being a cop-basher (two in my extended family, thanks). The mind does reel when you're presented with how the U.S., in some precincts, just has a different concept of law and order, compared to its backwards neighbours in countries which astonishingly manage to not have more than one in every 100 adults in prison. That mindset is probably best expressed by the twitbag who covers the Columbus team, but thankfully not the local courts:
"The highlight from my vantage point on the concourse had to be the perp running toward the railroad tracks who eventually ran out of gas and was taken down with a perfect form tackle by one of the city's finest."
That's hilarious.

Sober second thoughts: Send in the clowns (The 24th minute)
TFC fan Tasered, others arrested after U.S. game (Lance Hornby, Sun Media)
"Like We Were Dogs": The Story of Ryan Moats (Dave Zirin)


Anonymous said...

I know, I know.

"It's all the police' fault"

And nice touch there, claiming racism.

The poor, poor band of drunks that tore up sections of the stadium and tossed them off the second deck, the small children who were screamed at and drenched in beer, the "2 Girls 1 Cup" sign, on and on and on, that was just a bunch of lovable guys enjoying themselves until the jackboots arrived and started kicking people around because they're so stupid"

Very believeable.

GoGades said...

Yes, let's bring soccer to Ottawa, that sounds like a great idea.

John Edwards said...

Tasers? Even MLS cops are lame. If this were a real league, they'd have gone straight to using batons!

[Figured I should beat Kinger to the "MLS sucks" crack for once....]

sager said...

@ Anon. 7:35: Some people would delete a anonymous commented which was that narrow-minded, but on second thought, let's leave it up so everyone can see there's no shortage of ignorance in the world.

If you didn't click through, here's what Duane (a white man, and the son of a police officer) saw, and he's not a liar: "I had been attempting to video tape the police as they zeroed into two black men wearing Toronto colours. I can’t say for sure what the two men had done to attract attention. However, they certainly did not appear to be any more aggressive than any of the about 250 fans of paler complexions that were in the south concourse of Columbus Crew Stadium."

It's not claiming racism, but you can't deny the hint of it, either.

@ GoGades: No one was ever drunk or abusive after a CFL or NHL game here?

Anonymous said...

They want to act like British working-class louts, but when they're treated that way, they cry like the North American middle-class pansies they are.

I'm with GoGades - we need those arseholes in Ottawa twice a year like we need a stadium in Kanata.

Anonymous said...

Closed minds think alike!

GoGades said...

@Sager: if this was a one time incident, I'd brush it off as temporary madness. But we all know this is part of the appeal of the 'beautiful game' to a minority-but-still-significant part of its supporters.

sager said...

Fair enough, so long as you say that element is there in say, the NFL or major college football in the States. A good friend of mine went to a Bills game last season and treated it like a matter of course when they got thrown out in the fourth quarter for having brought in their own alcohol.

Ultimately, one TFC supporter was arrested. That's a slow Saturday night near the downtown bars. No one's saying we don't need any bars here.

I've been to Toronto FC home games and had a blast. As for Ottawa, if I'm still around, I'll be there whatever team in whatever sport Ottawa gets, but I'm taking the "con" side on bringing in MLS, rowdyism is about 83rd on the list.

GoGades said...

@sager: are you actually claiming that soccer mob/hooligan violence at all compares to whatever happens at CFL/NFL/NCAA football events ?

I find that laughable, but feel free to rub it in my face when 19 people get killed at an NCAA/CFL/NFL game.

Deny it all you want, but fan violence is a long-standing systemic soccer problem. What were seeing is MLS fans simply making their events more 'authentic', a little taste of the old country, if you will.

Or you could keep blaming the cops, too.

Anonymous said...

Funny, 33 Canadians went to a Buffalo Bills game, 21 of them got arrested, 1500+ go to a TFC game, 1 gets arrested.


sager said...

@ GoGades: Hardly. The point was soccer, within North America, is hardly the only sport which ever has to deal with yob-like behaviour.

It's a little rich to bring up the Ivory Coast disaster at this point in the discussion. Nineteen people dying, which is horrible, has more to do with global economics than the sport in question. Like at someone pointed out, when it comes to soccer, it comes down to statistics. There are more than 12,000 pro teams in the world, many in poor countries, which increases the "It Happens" factor. You don't see that in pro football or hockey, count your lucky stars, since those sports are only played in relatively wealthy countries.

Also, I never blamed the cops. Everyone looked bad to some extent. I pointed people to a first-hand report by Duane, the son of a police officer, where he said the security efforts in Columbus were questionable. I'm not the first person to point out there's different attitude toward law-and-order in many parts of the US and that we as Canadians don't take this into account (but we have no right to be smug and say we're better).

I trust Duane, and I would suggest that if you feel strongly about this, talk it out with him. He's not unreachable. His e-mail is on his site: The 24th Minute.

@ Anon.: Good point. The article actually says Ontario fans make up 15% of the Bills' crowd and accounted for 64% of the arrests (21 of 33) during one game. Again, though, one TFC fan gets arrested and it's front-page news.

GoGades said...

Ok, I stand corrected, there is NO soccer violence problem. The long history of european hooligans, all made up ! When it's not made up, it's a 'global economic problem'. Besides, american football fans pee in public and try to sneak into stadiums without tickets, so there. Got it.

As far as Duane's credibility goes, it went out the window with me after his manufactured outrage at Jeff Hunt's claim that the 67s were in trouble were Lansdowne torn down. He's clearly a soccer apologist (and to be fair, much like I'll gloss over american football's deficiencies).

GoGades said...


Anonymous said...

the son of a police officer should know that the cops don't owe him or his video camera any answers.

sager said...

I'm not denying there's a global problem with soccer violence. It's there.

I'm just saying let's go apples to apples with comparisons. Columbus, Ohio and the Ivory Coast do not really compare very well. Too many variables that cannot be controlled.

Let's see what happens when we get two Canadian soccer teams going head-to-head this summer.

As for the above-linked article, that's Gareth Wheeler, who really hasn't earned the right to be linked on this site.

Paul said...

There is a major difference between hooliganism that happens in europe and south america then any violent incidents that happen around soccer in north america. And it is this, the groups in those parts of the world are akin more to gangs. They group together based on social, economic, cultural, etc. aspects. This is NOT the case in north america, there is no organized gang mentality to cause violence towards others, IT IS NOT THERE. You will always have a handful of people who may get too drunk and start a fight, or go looking for a fight before hand, but it is not the same as traditional soccer hooliganism.

Anonymous said...

More often than not it seems that fans who have followed their team out of town are the ones who most often get into trouble. Party hardier when away from their home fires?
Whether that is always the fault of the fans, or of more scrutiny of them by stadium security is debatable, but likely to be some of each.
We have seen this again with the TFC and Bills fans from Canada who got into a hassle while away from home.

Anonymous said...

It's cause the game's so damned boring. But I shouldn't blame the game, I suppose if thousands of people had paid to sit in a park and forced to watch 22 children with nets chase butterflies (same score after 90 minutes, nil-nil) while drinking beer, someone's bound to eventually destroy part of the park and throw it at others, light fires or get in a "what's your problem" style fight or two. But what do I know? I live in a country whose sports network leads off the daily show with a riveting highlight of a delay of game penalty. So I guess I can see where soccer really will take off, we like games we can endlessly analyze even when nothing is happening. I now fully welcome the NFL invasion to Canada. It may wake us up to the fact that it's fun to compete and support ALL the sports, not just hockey ad nauseum. Might get baseball back, and what the hell, even soccer. But I ain't sitting in the lower deck, or anywhere down front where I might be crushed.

Anonymous said...

From a Washington Post soccer blog re:MLS attendance:

"Very disappointing attendance figures: Um, 14,686 for Columbus's first home game since winning MLS Cup, and the total included at least 1,500 TFC fans? The second-smallest home-opening turnout (15,895) at RFK? The usual 12K at Giants Stadium and Dick's? Dallas draws 6,500? Seriously?! Thank God for Seattle and the 28,548 who watched another Sounders victory and another Kasey Keller shutout."