Planet Backs 300x250

Friday, April 29, 2016

Supporting Our Silverbacks: Nothing Irrational About It - by Ben Whitehead

For many involved in the ongoing “Soccer Wars” happening all over the United States, the appearance of Major League Soccer in your city can illicit a myriad of responses, from happiness to anger or indifference. These wars have been going on for some time in battlegrounds such as Minnesota, Detroit, and most directly for myself, Atlanta. Browse the Twitter timelines of any of the supporter groups for teams in these areas and you will see arguments occurring incessantly. To look at the bright side of this issue, it reveals the passion which has been bred for soccer in these communities across the US.

A strong community is most important in the soccer equation. Any team that wishes to compete has a hard time doing so without support. Our American sporting mind has been tailored to think that there should be 28-32 teams per sport in one league and that is it. Along with this comes the idea of prestige. Fans want to cheer for a team because they win. That’s why you have multitudes of fans of the Yankees, Cowboys, Red Wings, and whoever Lebron plays for. This need for validation causes some fans to clamor only for teams “at the top” - whatever that means to them. Look no further than the thousands of college football fans who cheer for Alabama, USC, Notre Dame, Texas and others who have most likely never enrolled in those schools, much less set foot on campus. As American soccer enthusiasts, we must not give in to the idea that there can only be one option for soccer in your community.

With that in mind, our attention turns to the Atlanta Silverbacks. I have been a supporter of the Backs since 2013. That was the first year I realized that there were options for soccer closer to home than, at that time, Texas, Kansas, Ohio or D.C. For much of its 20 year history, MLS had no teams in the south - the folded Tampa Bay Mutiny and Miami Fusion being the lone exceptions. In my naivete, I accepted that the growth of MLS was equivalent to the growth of soccer in the United States. I could not have been more wrong. This idea was built on the same American mindset that “the largest league is the best league and your team is irrelevant if it isn’t in that league.” (I’ve encountered this in college sports as a supporter of Troy University.)

During my time with the Silverbacks, I have been through many highs, many lows, two leagues, an abysmal front office and both good and bad interactions with those who work there. But front office staff come and go. Supporters stick around. Patience is a virtue and is often rewarded. The club now has managing partners that include a legendary ex-Silverbacks player and a lifelong Silverbacks fan who, as a skilled player agent, helped start the career of Kwado Poku. People who CARE are running our club now - and for that we’re grateful.

As a loyal supporter of a club in the “lower leagues”, I can tell you this: we’re not in it for some agenda. We don’t do it to seem cool. We don’t do it because we HAVE to support a club that always wins (although it’s nice when that happens). We support our team because of a connection that we’ve formed with it and our community of fellow fans. Jumping ship for (or “also supporting”) something else because it promises to be bigger, better, newer, whatever - just doesn't feel right.

Current club management and passionate supporters are working hard to make sure this 20 year old tradition is here - and thriving - for the next generation. If you are interested, you should check out the Atlanta Silverbacks FC Trust (@ASFCTrust), who are working to bring at least partial supporter ownership to ASFC.

No comments:

Post a Comment