With Enemies Like These…
…you start to wonder if you’re supporting the wrong side.
You see, I am a Los Angeles Galaxy fan. Before Beckham. Before the Home Depot Center. Before our first championship star. At the beginning of Cobi, Cienfuegos and Hartman, the Rose Bowl, and multiple MLS Cup heartbreaks – I was there.
In short: I bleed teal/green/blue-and-gold.
So when a new tenant entered our hallowed soccer cathedral and set down stakes to claim a portion of its halls as their own, an instant rivalry was – no, not born – thrust upon us. The very presence of Chivas USA in “Our City, Our Home” was a call to arms.
And as an ardent Galaxy supporter, I am obligated to show our cross-town/same-stadium rivals, Chivas USA, and their fans as little love as possible. Very. Little. Love. Ever.
Yankees have Red Sox. Dodgers have Giants. Sounders have Timbers. And Galaxy has Chivas USA (and Steven Lenhart.)
And while the league standings in recent years has kept the gameday match-ups from reaching the contentious fever pitch it has in years past, the rivalry’s fires are kept stoked for the next time a meeting counts for more than just bragging rights. While they may be remiss to admit it, many Angelinos are secretely grateful to have an in-town rivalry, one that has the potential to polarize the City of Angels in the fashion seen in other cities and towns around the world; and thus regardless of the import of their matchups, both teams’ fans keep the antagonistic spirit alive for fear that it would otherwise die out.
And that is how this Galaxy fan has operated for years. For no matter how much (or how little) of a threat those Goats’ bleatings may actually pose, the fire it stirs in me is red-hot and my conviction to hurl bile in their direction is strengthened to no end.
But a series of observations from last year – and a realization from a week ago tying it all together – has me reconsidering my blind distaste for Chivas USA and at least one of their supporter groups. You see, I’ve come to the conclusion that both team and supporters are leading the league in one area very near and dear to me (and to many of our #g4s readers): the open invitation to, and inclusion of, their GLBT fans.
And this has me wondering: am I booing the wrong side?
Last week, at the Women’s Olympic Qualifying Final, a hybrid pride/Canadian flag was posted prominently at midfield, getting lots of camera time. Our TFC contributor John was moved to express his pride at being Canadian upon observing the display; editor Chris encouraged our “Stars & ‘Bow” to make a similar appearance at US matches.
And this is where the wheels in my head started turning. Because I’ve seen such a flag at a professional American sports match. And it flies regularly.
At Chivas USA matches, in fact.
The team’s Black Army 1850 Supporter’s Group is set apart in MLS in that not only do they operate with our core #soccerally principles of acceptance, equality, and inclusion in mind, but they also show their support for these principles – and their GLBT fans – match-by-match: by flying a rather large rainbow flag.
And that’s just downright cool.
When asked for comment on the flag regularly seen fluttering amongst their chanting crowd, the Supporters Group’s reply was direct, unabashed, and, quite frankly, astounding:
Now, to make sure we’re giving everyone their fair share over at HDC, it’s not just the Chivas USA fans who are setting the example for the league. The good folks at Chivas USA’s front office have done a remarkable job as it relates to the GLBT community as well. 2011 marked their first Equality Night, one of the very few team-sponsored GLBT events in the league – and the country. Ever. They also got several high-profile Chivas USA players speaking out for equality, with stars like Justin Braun, Dan Kennedy, and Michael Lahoud lending their considerable voices (and handsome faces) to the cause.
This is the way it is supposed to be done, folks. This is how you win new fans… and threaten to convert others.
Which brings me back to my original dilemma:
Will singing the praises of Chivas USA and their winning of my undying appreciation for their outreach to the GLBT community ever convert me from being a Galaxy fan?
Magic 8-Ball says “Doubtful. Try Again Later.”
And I would be saddened if they did stop trying. Because at the next Equality Night, they can count me amongst their supporters at the stadium, cheering them on to victory. If only for a night.
Hey, it’s a start, right?
As for the Black Army, I will see them again when they host the Galaxy in May;
And I will root vehemently against them, as I always do;
But I hope they will let me have drinks with them afterward;
Because I am now a supporter of them.
How does your team – and their supporter’s groups – show their appreciation and support for their GLBT fans? Does Chivas USA and the Black Army top the list as the league’s most GLBT-friendly team/SG? Share your observations and opinions below.
[TEENY-TINY EDIT: When thinking of Kennedy’s, for some reason I originally wrote up “Michael Kennedy,” the sometimes-loathed referee, instead of “Dan Kennedy,” the much-loved #soccerally. This has been fixed. And the association in my head will be fixed as well. -toc ]