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Not Quite La Barra Brava in Terpsland, But Close-ish

(Notice how I'm trying to string D.C. United fans along for as long as possible by continuing to include their names in my post titles?)

So after having spent so much time with Barra Bravas and Screaming Eagles this fall, I figured I needed to spend a night with The Crew, the Maryland soccer team's student fan club. Like the BBs and the Eagles, the Crew have had to gradually find their way with team and stadium officials, who don't always have the same idea about what a soccer crowd should look like as soccer fans do. Artificial noisemakers are out, per ACC rules, which is a major problem. I ran into one of my pals from the Barra last night (who called me Dan Weinberg), and he was mighty disappointed by the lack of drums. There are also no flags or smokebombs, although when I told some of The Crew's leaders about the Barra, they asked whether I had brought any smokebombs. (I hadn't.)

The Crew compensates with a very specific strategy: attempting to find as many different ways as possible to insult the opposing goalkeepers without using profanity or making distasteful racial or ethnic comments. They take this mission very seriously. It would be an impossible mission without the invention of the word "suck," which is employed in more ways than I would have ever thought possible.

Anyhow, I'll get to the specifics later. First here's the backstory. Mike Mastrantuono is a history and philosophy major and soccer freak from Jersey who never got much of a look from college soccer programs. He was briefly recruited by Ursinus. That was it. So when he came to Maryland, he turned himself into a fan. He went to the first game his freshman year with a few friends, and noticed that the end stands at Ludwig Field were directly on top of the goals. "That's beautiful," he thought. He sat there and heckled the UCLA goalie during warmups. The UCLA goalie talked right back. The conversation continued during the game.

People liked it. Soon, the leaders--Mike, Scott Shores, Evan Hauptmann, Dave Berry--had a gang of 30 or 40 hecklers, who would switch goals at halftime to stay near their target and would follow their leaders' chants. Over the years, the gang continued to grow. Maryland players and Coach Sasho Cirovski began praising The Crew in interviews. Opposing goalies began flicking them off and spraying them with water. Opposing fans began copying their cheers. Eventually they became a group of several hundred loosely affiliated members. Other Maryland teams asked them to come to their games, but The Crew politely declined such invitations; "I've told 'em, we're not sports mercenaries," Mike said. "Our passion is for soccer."

Like any good supporters group, they now have traditions that no longer make sense. They do cheers for a Maryland goalie who graduated two years ago; "why do we do that?" I heard someone ask last night. They count down with the clock from 2:15 to 2:10, in honor of a 210-pound goalie the Terps used to face. They've developed a certain rapport with "Joe," a security guard behind one of the goals. They take photos with him. They hug him. They consider him a surrogate grandfather. He greets them by name. He wears a Maryland scarf and does a little dance when the Terps score. He shoos them out of the aisles, and then they gradually drift back, and then he shoos them again. It's all very pleasant.

And they have certain heckling standards, which the much-maligned-in-these-parts Robin Ficker would appreciate. No cursing. No comments about family members. "We're not going to be like, 'I [did something inappropriate] to your mom last night; we'll make fun of their physical appearance," Mike said. "I feel like we're the model of spectator conduct."

So let's take last night, an NCAA playoff game against St. John's. Mike was warned late afternoon that St. John's would be bringing several buses of fans, so he got on the phone and urged his people to show up around 90 minutes early to claim their seats. The St. John's people finally arrived around 6:45, including one guy in a Flash costume who briefly distracted Mike from our interview.

"Wow!" Mike yelled at the guy. "You are a joke! A complete joke!"

Anyhow, the St. John's starting goalie was 6-foot-7 Jason Landers, a skinny chap. "A string bean," as Mike said. That, it would turn out, would be the focus of the night. Among the comments:

"Jason, you are a lanky, lanky man."

"Are you a skeleton?"

"I can see your shoulder blades."

"You are ugly, Jason."

"You have no frame, Jason."

"Jason, I'm really worried about your frail bone structure."

"Are you sure your bones aren't disintegrating right now?"

"You look really frail."

"Milk! Drink it."

"Orange juice with ice!"

"By the way, you are frail and disgusting-looking."

(If Jason's family members are reading this, don't take it the wrong way. I think in other settings, Jason and The Crew might actually be close friends. And The Crew does things like cheer for injured opponents when they get up. I'm not convinced DCU fans would do the same.)

And here's a sampling of some of the non-skinny jokes, which were intermixed with shrill banshee-screaming of Jason's first name and lots of traditional "you suck" chants:

"You're pathetic, Jason."

"Jason, why do you suck at life?"

"Ohhhhhhhhhhh, you suck Jason!"

"Oh my God, you do."

"I've said that before and didn't mean it, but this time I really mean it. You really do suck."

"Shut up Jason, nobody likes you."

"Jason, you kick like my little sister."

"Jason, I looked you up on Facebook and you have no friends and your musical interests include New Kids on the Block." [Followed by an a capella rendition of "The Right Stuff," followed by "you don't have it, you idiot, you have the wrong stuff, it's terrible stuff."]

"Jason, your defense hates you, they gave up that goal on purpose."

"You've got the worst goalie in the land," sung to the tune of "I've Got the Whole World in My Hands."

"That was a disgusting display of goalkeeping, Jason, thank you for that."

"If you hate Jason Landers, clap your hands," sung to the tune of "If You're Happy and You Know, it Clap Your Hands."

"Jason, I hate you."

"Me too, I hate you too."

"I concur."

And so on. They sing and jump after goals, and they do call and response cheers across the entire length of the field, and they travel to road games, and they consider The Crew one of the most important parts of their lives. The St. John's fans last night were doing things like chanting "De-fense" in unison; The Crew would sooner be beaten into unconsciousness with shin guards than chant "De-fense" at a soccer game. Some of them go to basketball games too, but it's different there. A small group of leaders can't direct the entire crowd in cheers. And soccer opponents actually hear this stuff. I ran into former St. John's star Jeff Carroll, now part of D.C. United but decked out in a St. John's shirt last night, and asked him about The Crew.

"They're great fans," he said. "It sucks if you're the other team, though."

Truth be told, change is on the horizon. Last night could have been the senior class's last home game; Maryland's 2-0 win extended their careers at least one more game. But Mike is set to graduate this spring; he wants to be a history teacher, ideally in this area, so he can still follow the Terps. He'll still come to men's soccer games, but starting next fall, he'll sit in the grown-up person section. You know, cutting the cord and all that. A few more of the original leaders will also graduate.

"It's definitely going to be a huge void in my life," Berry said. "This is our baby. It's amazing to see how it's grown....As far as we know, there is nothing else in the country like this."

Mike has designated his successor--it's too sensitive to disclose yet--but he admits that he worries about what will happen. Everyone wants a legacy. He wonders about the possibility that five years from now, The Crew might be no more.

"I won't lie, I do," he said. "That fear will always be in the back of my head. I'm definitely scared of that. But as long as Maryland stays a top-notch program and people are still enthused, I think it'll be ok. I think it'll be all right."

By Dan Steinberg  |  November 16, 2006; 5:05 PM ET
Categories:  College Soccer , D.C. United , Terps  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Two Idiots Flailing Away At Each Other
Next: What You Need to Know, Bloggy Style


That's right. We'll be like that girl in high school who keeps paying attention to you because you might like us. You think that'll work? Just because you name drop you think we're going to go all mushy-kneed and swoon every time you mention something that might be tangentially DC United related?

Yeah, okay, probably.

Posted by: D | November 16, 2006 5:15 PM | Report abuse

We do alot of the same stuff at the women's B-ball games, though the crew there is alot smaller, around 50. If you're ever there and have some time to get out of the press seats we sit over by the band. Joe is at our section to.

Aint The Crew, not the Columbus one, great?

Posted by: EricS | November 16, 2006 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Great to see the next generation growing up right!

Wait, that implies I'm getting old....#$#*(&*($%!

Posted by: Kim | November 16, 2006 6:09 PM | Report abuse

no disrepect, but "The Crew"?

yall could come up with a better name than that....Rte 1 Crew, CP Crew...something with some originality.

the cheat

Posted by: the cheat | November 16, 2006 8:47 PM | Report abuse

I need to make it a point to make the trek to Ludwig and hang with the Crew. Nice work Dan.

Posted by: DB | November 17, 2006 7:20 AM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, this article highlights all that is wrong with fans....why would you glorify these actions? Why would anyone want to be at a game or near these "fans"? When did it become alright for so many want-to-be athletes to tear down the opposition as thier way to be in the game?

It is a pathetic excuse for support. Try being a positive fan, cheer for the good stuff, cheer for your team, don't tear down the opponents. You remember, it is called sportsmanship.

Glad I saw this article, now I know where not to take my kids to see college soccer.

Posted by: Get a Life | November 17, 2006 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Yes, we're here, Dan. No, you don't need to pander to us, we'll still keep reading.

It warms my heart to see that the same traditions of fan passion that have made pro soccer in Washington such a spectacle are taking hold at the college level as well. This sounds to me like a future generation of La Norte members in the making. (Dan, your next United-related assignment is to give some love to La Norte, United's third, oft-overlooked supporters' group.)

Posted by: Kris | November 17, 2006 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Get a Life, are you serious? Perhaps you should stick to a sport where everyone wins just by playing. The players love the atmosphere created by this, even when it's the opposing fans. It creates a sense of gravitas, makes it tougher when you lose but way sweeter when you win. We're not talking fan violence or even hooliganism here, perhaps you should get a life.

Posted by: Will | November 17, 2006 10:30 AM | Report abuse

So did you ask Jeff Carroll if his bro is going to be signed by Alemannia Aachen? (as that's the hot rumour du jour)


Posted by: SEKim | November 17, 2006 10:33 AM | Report abuse

that's right "Get A Life", send your kids to Barra instead. We're poster children for positive thinking booster fan club for young Americans :D

Ra Ra Ra Goooooooo T E A M!

Posted by: Srdan La Barra | November 17, 2006 10:35 AM | Report abuse

You guys would fit right in with the Barra Brava, Screaming Eagles and La Norte.

Hopefully you'll start showing up at RFK and Poplar Point once that stadium is built.

Oh, and to the "get a life" guy. Uh, get a life. It's soccer. Taunting the opposing goalkeeper is a tradition everywhere in the world. If you want sportsmanship, take your kids to go watch little league baseball or something.

Posted by: Jeremy Eritrea | November 17, 2006 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Get a Life - I'm really worried about your frail bone structure.

Posted by: jhorstma | November 17, 2006 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Little league baseball, where sportsmanship is shown by fathers engaging in drunken punch ups or subbing out the crippled kid to win the championship. Jeremy, I think 'Get a Life' needs to take the kids to an Ice-curling match.

Posted by: DCAustinite | November 17, 2006 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Wait, did someone just mention curling?

Posted by: Dan Steinberg | November 17, 2006 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Get a life, are you serious? You lily-livered, cuckolded, limp wrist?

Do you mean to tell me that you don't think part of the game is getting inside an opponents head? What sport do you play? Running?

Posted by: Get A Clue (Bryan76) | November 17, 2006 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Hey, don't bash curling. The US olympic women's curling team had some extremely, talented...young ladies. It was a favorite option for the televisions around my office during the olympics.

Posted by: DrunkCajun | November 17, 2006 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Curling is cool. 12 ounce curls are a blast.

Posted by: Jeremy Eritrea | November 17, 2006 12:26 PM | Report abuse

I love all the comments from the wanna-be-crowd, great stuff really.

Get a Clue Bryan76 - these guys are not your opponents, you're NOT in the game. You are sitting on your butt in the stands wishing you had the heart, talent and/or intenstinal fortitude to actually play a sport.

The guys on the field/ice/court can worry about getting in people's heads. And you can be nice a safe eating your way to a heart attack, sitting in the stands while the athletes actually do the heavy lifting.

Everyone in the world does it, so you blindly follow suit? Yeah, that makes alot of sense.

Wonderful stuff guys....not sledging your opponents doesn't mean you don't compete, you don't want to win. Obviously concepts of respect for an opponent and honoring the game are a lost concept on this crowd.

And I'm not talking about atmosphere, drums,noisemakers,etc. I'm talking insulting a college kids who aren't even paid to be out there. Pretty sad, pretty pathetic bunch of college graduates who are gonna have a big void in thier life because they can't yell insults. Geez, guys, drop the Xbox and go actually do something.

Posted by: Got-a-life, I'm not living vicariously through others | November 17, 2006 12:28 PM | Report abuse

"Get a Clue Bryan76 - these guys are not your opponents, you're NOT in the game.

Wonderful stuff guys....not sledging your opponents doesn't mean you don't compete, you don't want to win."

Wait, I thought they weren't our opponents? Which one is it?

Perhaps you need to know what you're talking about, you could talk to the players, like Bryan76 has, and you'll find that universally (college and pro) they like the atmosphere. In the interview, Jeff Carroll (an opposing player) said he likes it.

On other topics, I wasn't slagging curling, I just meant, there's no chanting or taunting or noise, for that matter during the game.

Posted by: DCAustinite | November 17, 2006 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Having been a goalie for a very long time before I became an X-box weilding college graduate who are gonna have a big void in thier life because they can't yell insults who is sitting on your butt in the stands wishing I had the heart, talent and/or intenstinal fortitude to actually play a sport, I can tell you taunting is part of the game. I certainly didn't take offense, and it felt good, really good to make a specatacular save in front of them.

Of course, I only know what the video games tell me.

Posted by: DCAustinite | November 17, 2006 12:41 PM | Report abuse

This is getting to be better than a Freddy Adu kitten killing thread.

I think I'm going to go make some popcorn.


Posted by: Jeremy Eritrea | November 17, 2006 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Well, we probably shouldn't use up all the memory for Dan's Bog just on comments.

But if Get-a-life wants to come to bigsoccer, I promise his/her a site filled with nothing but reasoned, cogent arguments that never, ever use hyperbole or devolve to name calling. :-)

Dan, what a wonderful world you have discovered.

Posted by: DCAustinite | November 17, 2006 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Get a Clue (Bryan 76),

Ouch! Did you have to cheap shot running? Honestly running doesn't have any fans (I mean field hockey gets more coverage than cross-country. Dan - Georgetown's cross-country team runs at nationals on Monday. Story idea!) let alone fans that heckle, but I think 9 out of 10 current or former college athletes would rather play in front of a hostile, mean crowd then no crowd at all. College sports is about competing - not making friends.

Posted by: Jon | November 17, 2006 12:52 PM | Report abuse

c'mon DCAustinite, haven't you seen Olympic Curling? Or Dan's wonderful Kiwi Curling coverage from the Winter Olympics?

Speaking of which, Dan you need to follow up some of those loose ends, like actually curling locally (let me know if you need someone to ride shotgun), and the surly hottie speedskater (who apparently took an express train from Torino to Oblivion can get everywhere on European trains).

Posted by: Kim | November 17, 2006 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, I was thinking of road running where you'd only have one shot to talk smack. I couldn't keep up with the great athletes to get off more than one.

Got a life - there is this thing in sports called home field advantage - the difference between fans and fanatics is the difference between your living room and a great atmosphere where your home team plays inspired by your display for them and where the opponent wants to make a great play to make you shut your face (see Landon Donovan or B. Bonds).

Take your kids to a baseball or golf game - the atmosphere at those events is zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Posted by: Bryan76 | November 17, 2006 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Great heckling story from college - my little school, Elon College in NC was playing a rival school UNC-A. One of their players was having a horrible night in front of our crowd of 1500. One of my fraternity brothers was designated to dress in khakis and a blazer for the night and ride the other team. After a particulary bad play by a UNC-A player, my brother yells out to the kid by his first name, "BILLY! Get your ass over to this bench right now" With his head down from the previous screw up, the kid nearly walked right into our section before looking up.

Posted by: Bryan76 | November 17, 2006 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Curling rocks! (heh heh)

My wife and I would make a point to get up on weekend mornings and watch it during the Olympics.

It's not really a "sport" I guess (at least in terms of being a grueling athletic endeavor), but it sure is an enthralling competition.

Posted by: SteveWWJ | November 17, 2006 1:07 PM | Report abuse

DCU fans do so cheer for "injured" opponents to get up. It goes like this:

Get up!
Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!
Get off your ass!

Posted by: Emily | November 17, 2006 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Nice effort for Twerps, I'd say.

And Get A Life needs to get a life. He's apparently never been to an actual soccer game. I suffered worse in goal for my U14 team (waaaaay back in the day).

Posted by: Foggy Bottom Guy | November 17, 2006 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Fine, I admit it. I am a curling groupie. I tour with the Saskatchewan curling league and heckle the opposing teams.

Posted by: DCAustinite | November 17, 2006 1:25 PM | Report abuse

To be fair...the "Get up Stand Up" was based on the Marley tune and started when Scarlet (is a girl's name) or their goalie kept going down and staying down during a Champions Cup Match in March 05.

It was cool runnings that day, mon.

Posted by: Bryan76 | November 17, 2006 1:30 PM | Report abuse

I'm assuming that Get a Life doesn't take his kids to any college BB games. Wouldn't want the little dears to be exposed to any rowdy, partisan crowd support, after all.

Posted by: bigredfutbol | November 17, 2006 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Just an FYI - I'm the one who thought of the "get up, stand up" chant at the Champions Cup game.

I'm also taking credit for the "it's not an-unnamed-STD, it's the Burn" at the same location for a US Open Cup game against Dallas.

Posted by: Jeremy Eritrea | November 17, 2006 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Since I don't know where else to write this, can I point out that I just received a package containing a bunch of 16 oz cans of an energy drink called "Bawls" and about 3 million little blue high bouncy balls? The card inside was signed "Never Sleep." I have a strange job. Anyhow, I figured Bryan76 and DCAustinite and Jeremy know. Yo Kim, I'm definitely gonna take some curling lessons this winter, if you wanna tag along.

Posted by: Dan Steinberg | November 17, 2006 4:22 PM | Report abuse

You know about Curl DC, right? and then there's these nuts:
(I believe they were mentioned in the Post)


Posted by: SEKim | November 17, 2006 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Dan, I think you walked right past me during the game. I did not recognize you at first, however, because you were not wearing your Bog hat. In my mind, you wear the hat at all times. It took me a minute to understand that you might not wear it everywhere.

The atmosphere at the MD-St. John's game was actually disappointing for a Terps game(I've been going to MD games for 8 years now, so I think I have a grip on what to expect). The showing at today's MD-Notre Dame match was actually much better, as the Crew was more filled out and there were more students in general at the game. Sadly, the Irish got a goal after King hit the post with what would have been the best goal in college soccer this year.

As for your DCU/MD comparison: I went to MD, and when I go to games, I want MD to win but will acknowledge good plays from the opponent. When MD scored against St. John's, I jumped up and applauded. At DC games, I am a blind rage against the opponent and anyone associated with that portion of our country. When Gomez scored against NY, I have a blank moment in my memory that ends with me about 20 yards from my seat, hugging a man I didn't know. I'm told I broke into a sprint.

Posted by: Chest Rockwell | November 19, 2006 4:20 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: SCOTT THE GREAT | November 19, 2006 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Only Maryland students would be dumb enough to name a soccer fan club after one of the most inept Major League Soccer teams in history.

Posted by: Mike Stevens | November 21, 2006 11:08 AM | Report abuse

To Kris: you know, I was thinking that, but I didn't want to blow our own horn, haha. Thanks for doing it for me. :)

Posted by: Darth Norteno | November 22, 2006 1:43 PM | Report abuse

The person who thinks he's actually "got a life" obviously has never been to a Maryland men's basketball game.

And Mike Stevens is right. Don't call yourselves The Crew. Or The Red Bulls.

What about "United for Maryland?"

Posted by: MWAHAHA!!! | November 28, 2006 11:24 AM | Report abuse

When the Terps are ready to chear for a real team they can come out to St. Louis to watch VA.

Because MD really does suck at life and DCU will soon be a VA team!

Posted by: Where are the Terps? | November 28, 2006 1:57 PM | Report abuse

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