Tuesday, October 6, 2009

How to Be A Hooligan, DC United Barra Brava Style

It only took 14 years, but I finally made it out to a DC United game this past Saturday at RFK, seeing the good guys take on Chivas USA. I had heard that the games were fun if you sit in the Barra Brava section, so that is exactly what I did. I will let the pictures tell my story a bit from here.

The MLS banners are not worthy of this temple.

The Barra Brava in full voice.

More Brava madness.

Flares should be incorporated into more American sporting events.

Unfortunately, the men in black lost, and were generally outplayed. The highlight of the game was probably Ben Olsen getting frustrated by a hard tackle by a Chivas player, and promptly taking the free kick directly into the offending player's back (2:49 into the video), which resulted in a red card.

A big issue for me on the night was I did not enjoy watching the on-field 'performance'. Don't get me wrong, I am a huge soccer fan and an avid follower of Arsenal in the EPL, paying the ridiculous $15/month for Setanta USA so I can watch European games every weekend. I am kind of like a stay-at-home hooligan. My not-so-outrageous theory of why the MLS has not risen to great heights is because the product is not very good. I think there is a huuuuge market of soccer fans in the US, so the MLS has tremendous potential. The problem is that the biggest fans would much rather watch the more enjoyable non-American product. I also believe that as more American soccer fans are exposed to the better product, they will have a tougher time enjoying the MLS. I feel a need to note this because I knew going into the night that the game itself would not particularly entertain me. Hence my decision to sit in the Barra Brava section, which pretty much compensated for a lackluster on-field product.

The Barra Brava is an interesting group of people, to say the least, but despite the constant chanting and beer throwing, I couldn't get over that fact that the fans seemed generally indifferent to United's performance. The fact that the biggest cheer leaders had their back to the field the entire game says enough. United is not having a great season, but is on the fringe of the playoff race, so it's not as if this wasn't a big game.

That said, I did have a decent time. The highlight may have been the regular Lot 8 tailgate before the game, where a few sponsors setup shop and a few groups serve beer to the young professional crowd. The Barra Brava were in full force at the pregame festivitites, so I felt like I was doing something right (the beer was the other clue). I also am still giddy that they had $2 bratwursts in Lot 8, can't beat that. The Barra Brava kept the beer drinking going during the game, partly to drink and mostly to throw their last sips into the air, spraying their section-mates. These supposed hooligans also sit on the famous RFK bouncing seats, which brought back a flood of Redskin memories (of when the team and stadium didn't suck).

Even with the elements of beer drinking and throwing, singing, and bouncing, the in-game energy was not great. The fact that the rest of RFK was pretty empty may have also been a factor in my experience. In the end, I can't help but feel that the Barra Brava have been a bit spoiled by the past success of DC United, and are not appreciating a mediocore team playing in an important game. I had a decent time, and it probably won't be another 14 years before I see a game, but I think one DC United game per year is probably enough for me.


  1. I've ventured into the Screaming Eagles section before and it's pretty exciting. A lot of hardcore soccer fans that actually seem interested in how United fares. Not to mention some pretty sweet coordinated cheers and, of course, the constant bleacher shaking.

  2. As Americans, we're conveniently accustomed to having our domestic leagues double as the best in the world. Unfortunately, this is not true of MLS. ESPN's acquisition of Premier League rights and the Champions League undercuts the strength of their MLS rights, which is an interesting business move.

    And c'mon Marion, only Yanks call it the EPL. You're better than that.

  3. I went to United games pretty regularly before European games were easily available on tv here. Since then, I've been to maybe one or two games. So yeah, I agree with your comment that the more Americans see the game played well, the less they want to see of MLS.

  4. You should hang out with the hinchas de Club Echa Panza, we give our brats away! You'll find us somewhere between the SE's & BB


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