Frustration Reigns as Revs and Supporters Meet

I attended tonight’s meeting between the Revolution front office and the Revolution supporter’s groups (really open to any fan that knew of it) as a self-proclaimed “unbiased observer.”

I’m “unbiased” in the sense that I’m not a Revolution supporter’s group member, I have no capacity with the team, and I was not there on the night that the ruckus began in earnest.

Yet, being an “unbiased” observer, now leaves me in the unenviable position of feeling like I’m about to make friends with exactly nobody in writing of my impressions of where the Revs and Supporters are at.

Let’s call this the lose/lose blog post.

(And by the way, much like Soccer Soap Box is NOT your home for play by play recounting of games, you will be let down if you expect me to do a similar thing for an evening meeting in Foxboro.)

Probably the biggest takeaway from the meeting for me, is that this bust-up is NOT about a specific chant. Don’t misunderstand, there was a very specific effort to stope the Fort from using the the (now affectionately referred to as) “YSA” chant each time the away team goalkeeper kicked the ball back into play.

But that’s not what this is REALLY about.

And that’s too bad, because ditching the YSA chant is something that (nearly) everyone can agree on.

But what the tempest in Foxboro is really about is frustration.

The Supporter’s Groups are clearly frustrated. The obvious target being the Revolution’s front office and its (now quite public) bumbling in communicating with them (and other season ticket holders) about eradicating the offensive chant.

But again, that’s not REALLY where their frustration mostly lies. It’s really the TeamOps security outfit that they feel has been unnecessarily heavy handed with them for quite some time. Stories of over-reaction and problem escalation, rather than the hoped for problem resolution, were plentiful if only as hearsay.

Admittedly, it was pretty credible sounding hearsay. And while the statements from the TeamOps representative at the meeting were suggestive of an open ear to problems, she might have been well served to think a bit more politically when answering some challenges. When asked if one of the main Supporter’s Group leaders would hear an apology for what nearly all the supporters in attendance thought was unfair treatment, her answer was a curt “No.” Even if you believe your security force wasn’t in the wrong, perhaps a better answer in this environment would have been an offer to stay for a few minutes and talk over the situation with said leader, who sat quietly toward the back of the room.

Revolution Supporters, I’ll suggest, are also somewhat frustrated by their plight. Relative to other fan bases in MLS they seem a bit smaller and more loosely organized, despite their tremendous efforts. This is not meant as an attack, as without these members in the Fort (and at away games) the entire stadium would even more resemble the “Morgue” that they so commonly refer to the very quiet other ¾ of Gillette Stadium on a Revolution game day. That “morgue” is a frustration point as well, since the fort has had trouble engaging other attendees in chants and noise making.

Tonight’s meeting was, unfortunately, an example of their challenge. Maybe 100 people were in attendance, mostly all official supporters, and a smattering of other season ticket holders, bloggers and the ever-present Revolution beat writer Kyle McCarthy. The Revolution set out twice as many chairs as needed, presumptively in hope of a passionate meeting, it instead served as a reminder of games with a half-filled Fort, and ongoing weak stadium attendance.

Imagine the attendance of a similar meeting if such an issue erupted in Seattle and not Foxboro.

It’s possible that the Supporters now feel added pressure as league-wide support has come in from other Supporter’s Groups, and the Midnight Riders, Rebellion and Rev Army’s success or failure in establishing their lines in the sand will be rather common knowledge.

The Supporter’s Groups, however, do not have a monopoly on frustration. The Revolution Front Office is equally frustrated.

Their frustration is centered on their being situated on the outskirts of what has been arguably the most successful sports city in America and are still struggling for the relevance, fan interest and support they feel they deserve.

If it was simply proven that Boston is a great sports city, but a terrible soccer city, they’d be off the hook. The problem is that with sixty two thousand plus fans coming to see Spain roll over the USA at the Revolution’s home stadium, along with healthy crowds for visiting professional team games locally, it’s not possible to write Boston off as a soccer problem child.

The Front Office must be frustrated with their in-game atmosphere issues, including these new challenges with the Supporters. Becoming the epicenter of a Support Group rights discussion was also not likely on their agenda. It’ not a fun position for them to be in, with 10% of their season ticket holders making 90% of the crowd noise and now perilously near protest mode.

Team management surely gets frustrated that despite having built a solid, MLS Cup competing team, they weren’t able to win a championship, and now in the thinner, rebuilding years, their own fans are convinced that cost savings is a bigger priority than winning championships.

Situational frustration for the 2011 seasion has probably kicked in as well, since despite some missteps, there was hope in the system not too long ago. Benny Feilhaber was signed. (Albeit, luckily.) A jersey sponsor was inked as the Revolution signed up for a long-term relationship with United Healthcare. But just as quickly as people were getting excited, we find ourselves back at square one.

All of these frustrations are turbo-charged by the Revolution’s poor form over the last two years. It’s clear that if this team was winning games and playing great soccer, all of these issues would seem far less dramatic.

And yet the team is not winning games and playing great soccer.

And that is very frustrating, even for those of us who are usually in the “morgue.”


4 thoughts on “Frustration Reigns as Revs and Supporters Meet

  1. Thanks for the writeup. Generally, i’m a resident of the Morgue, but i happened to be in the Fort for the mess at the Superliga match a couple years ago, and as such am not predisposed to believe much that TeamOps has to say (it’s worth mentioning that they’re pretty surly to the rest of the crowd in the stadium, too).

    Revs fans (and, up until this decade, Boston sports fans in general) are emblematic of the ability to have a good time and bond over supporting a losing team. The form on-field, and commitment to improving it will always be hotly debated, and that’s part of giving a damn, but this seems to me to be more about having to worry about a moving, blurry line between fun and trouble (fun ≠ swearing, i mean).

  2. There’s one other fact to remember about Boston being a soccer city: it’s not always been just for “the other” soccer.

    In the early days, the Revs were one of the best drawing teams in MLS. Average attendance was around 20,000 per game for the first several years, despite some awful soccer, peaking at 21,423 in 1997.

    Attendance this year is not only less than half of that peak, it’s down 32% from only two years ago (which did not have Beckham-inflated numbers).

    Attendance was great in the early years when the Revs sucked. Attendance was poor during the “glory years” when the Revs were pretty good on the field. This suggests to me that the problem is less one of wins and losses but one of atmosphere and general malaise. Things like what you write about only illustrate that even further.

  3. Further my point about the area supporting not just the “other” soccer when done right… the two MLS Cup finals held in Foxboro that didn’t involve the Revs and did involve teams from distant DC and super-distant LA drew rather solid crowds of 34,643 (despite monsoon like conditions) and 44,910 respectively.

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