Embracing the Outlaw life
I’m not watching the Sabres game tonight.
Well, I will, at some point today or tomorrow. I’m not missing a game against Toronto. If I still lived in Buffalo, I’d be at the game tonight. I’ve been to the ACC fifteen times in the last five years. I love that trip.
Tonight, I will see my first US men’s national soccer game, as the Americans take on Paraguay, in an international friendly. It’s not exactly an exhibition game. International friendlies are similiar to non-conference games in college sports. They help your rankings, but don’t mean much in your league, or in soccer’s case, your confederation.
But the exciting thing for me is the group I’m attending with. I will be with The American Outlaws, a supporters group for US soccer that’s rapidly growing and is by far the most raucous group out there.
A lot of people may have misconceptions of groups like this based on movies like “Green Street Hooligans” and the stories internationally about violence in the crowd. That’s not how the Outlaws roll. Sure, there is drinking, and there is a lot of that. But the main point is uniting the passion and creating an atmosphere that inspires the home side.
These guys travel from all over the country to attend games. The group gets together the night before the game at a local bar, and embraces anyone around wearing team colors. Last night, I met people who had traveled from Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas, Minnesota and California for the game. They came as groups of one, two, four, and more. Outlaws just met up, introduced themselves and partied with their new friends.
On game day, the party starts before noon at a bar near the stadium. A few hours before the game, they march to the stadium and tailgate. Then when it’s time to go inside, it’s time to stand and scream for the team.
Sabres fans, isn’t that an interesting concept?
Paul Pabst wrote a piece for SI.com about his experience on Saturday at the Argentina match in the Meadowlands. It’s an impressive feat for a small group in a large stadium.
It’s an effort that U.S. national team stars such as Landon Donovan appreciate, and from all fan support groups, not just the American Outlaws.
“Our supporter groups in this country are more important to us than other national teams because we often play in stadiums where the opposing team’s fans out number the U.S. fans,” said Donovan. “They always make us feel at home and I believe that is imperative to our success.”
When we as fans complain about the atmosphere at HSBC Arena all the time, that Donovan quote should flip a switch. Check out Fox Soccer Channel for a bit tonight and see what that means.
Oddly enough, it’s on a night when the Sabres play the Leafs. The team whose boisterous fans, who notoriously travel well, invade our arena and annoy the hell out of a lot of us, despite the fact that their own building is often as electric as Amish country. It’s mere days before Buffalo plays in Carolina, where their fans absolutely despise the Sabres because our fans take over their arena.
But that’s just fans showing up. The amazing thing about the Outlaws is the organization. About 4,000 paid and registered members, broken out into 46 chapters (with more coming) and an impeccable flare for having fun. They get group ticket discounts for almost every game, organize flights and hotels for fans coming in.
I think it might be an interesting discussion to see if we as Sabres fans can create something like this. No, I’m not talking to the people who would go to an empty arena and sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to someone who’s not there. Those people make Sabres fans look incredibly lame, and aren’t exactly the target demographic of this idea. We’d want a group that passionate fans of other teams become jealous of. The opposite of lame. It’d be fans all over the country making more of an investment, of time, emotion and money, to be a part of being a Sabres fan.
We know there’s problems with the atmosphere at home. The weak game presentation doesn’t help, but it’s really up to the fans to get off their ass and do it themselves. The Sabres organization has their “Road Crew”, which is the spirit of the idea with none of the execution. That’s not on them, though. You can’t really have the team organize something like this anyways. It should be fans getting together on their own and inspiring their own passion.
So, tonight, I’m getting together with some fans, some fellow Americans, and showing my passion to inspire our nation’s soccer team. Maybe the Sabres could use some of that inspiration.