Riding off of the coattails of recent negative fan publicity over the past few days in both the National Football League (NFL) and Major League Baseball (MLB), it brings to question whether fans are more of an aid to the live stadium experience, or are fans becoming more of a liability to the live stadium experience?
It seems in rather quick fashion, a number of fans across the boundary of sports have lost a bit of decorum in how they conduct themselves within the confines of a live sporting event and in the realm of sports over all. There is a bit of an angry mob mentality that seems to run deep within the veins of a significant number of fans in this current sporting climate.
Maybe it is a reaction to overexposure and a saturated sports market. Maybe it is because fans know more about athletes and sports overall, more intimately, than in any other era or period of sport. Nonetheless, somewhere along the way, the fan has become as big as sport and even bigger than sport in ways. And not for the better of sport necessarily. But often, to the detriment of sport.
As a season ticket holder for the Houston Dynamo, and long time Houston Dynamo supporter, it has been an honor and out and out privilege, to be able to support this team. To see what soccer has become in this country when many said soccer could never be anything, brings me great joy. Within this current domestic soccer climate, the fans are more than deserving of a competitive team and a succeeding league. And in understanding what a certain segment of the local body of fans means to the lore of Houston’s team, it is not easy to say what I think needs to be said. But what needs to be said is absolutely necessary. And what needs to be said is that a certain segment of the Houston Dynamo fan base is starting to lose its way.
Lead Houston Dynamo supporter group El Batallon, has been a staple of the Houston Dynamo game day experience since the Dynamo kicked off against the Colorado Rapids in 2006 at Robertson Stadium. In many ways, El Batallon has been the heart and soul of the Dynamo fan base during the game day experience and often times is regarded as the face of the fan base. Despite some well publicized negative publicity over the years.
But upon arrival at BBVA Compass Stadium, it seems as a collective group, El Batallon has taken a step backward in decorum. Maybe it is because I feel that with BBVA Compass Stadium now being a part of our local professional sports landscape, the stakes have now been raised because from top to bottom, the Dynamo can now say they are playing in the big leagues locally. They lack nothing in comparison to the other local professional sports franchises. Therefore with understanding that the stakes have been raised, I am not certain that El Batallon has risen with those stakes.
It was painstakingly clear this past weekend as the Houston Dynamo hosted the Montreal Impact. As the Houston Boys Choir performed both the Canadian and American national anthems, the choir was often times drowned out by the beat of El Batallon drums as they made their fashionably late entrance to their seats. It was not the first time that that has been the case. But from where I sat and from what was said by others around me, at least some fans have had enough of what seems to be an increasing amount of disrespectful behaviors from El Batallon.
Some games it is the interruption of the anthem. Other games it is swearing at the opponent in conjunction with the giving of the middle finger as a collective group, as was the case as the Dynamo hosted the New England Revolution just a couple of weeks ago.
Families of old and families taking in a Dynamo game for the first time to take in the sights and sounds of BBVA Compass Stadium, don’t pay for or expect that to be a part of the game day experience.
In a city in which media still doesn’t allow soccer to shine or have equal days on the front pages, the fan base and loyal followers of the sport in general don’t want or need anything negative to come out of a Houston Dynamo and BBVA Compass Stadium game day experience.
El Batallon owes the city and the fans the proper decorum. Especially given the fact that part of the stadium design had them as well as the other supporter groups in mind.
Nowhere else can you go to in the city as a sports fan and see any fan behavior that equals El Batallon for better or for worse. But it is their worse, that seemingly worries me.
In a call to arms, rethink the strategy El Batallon. Respect the game and the fans and the privilege that is professional soccer in Houston. The fan base needs you at your best. Not at your worst.