COMMENTARY | Who could have ever imagined that a three-word phrase would cause one sports organization so much grief?
Unless you're still on your Fourth of July holiday or you don't at all follow Major League Soccer, you're probably aware that the infamous, immature, and not in any way whatsoever offensive "YSA" chant has made headlines throughout the sports world over the past week. The most recent fan base to be threatened by a team front office (and the league) over those vile words was that of the New York Red Bulls. Rather than taking the time to summarize the story, I instead suggest that all read about the matter here, here, here, here, here, here, here, or listen to a discussion on the subject here.
This whole ordeal has left me, somebody who covers MLS and also follows this particular club, saddened and ashamed for two reasons. First, a group of fans yelling out the word "a------" whenever the opposing goalkeeper boots the ball down toward the other end of the field has resulted in the Red Bulls getting the most local and national press I've seen them get since just about the day before forever. More importantly when it comes to this piece is that the cry to banish YSA and other chants deemed offensive from all Red Bull Arena contests has been passed down by those running the club. This left me asking the obvious question:
Shouldn't the RBNY front office first be concerned about other matters?
There's the fact that this franchise has never won any trophy of merit. Ever. The Red Bulls were unceremoniously booted out of the 2013 US Open Cup by New England Revolution last month, and New York are also well behind teams such as Real Salt Lake and Montreal Impact in the Supporters' Shield race. That, in theory, leaves the Red Bulls with only the MLS Cup to win.
That shouldn't be a problem considering that New York once again have the league's highest payroll and also the league's highest paid player. You wouldn't know those two facts just by looking at the standings, however, as New York are third place in the MLS East and only four points safe of what is the conference's "drop zone." The Red Bulls could free up some cap space in order to strengthen the squad by cutting a guy who hasn't played a single minute in 2013, a man who also happens to be on a salary of $200k. He has a famous brother, though, so I guess we'd better forget such a silly notion.
It's not all bad news for the 2013 Red Bulls. The club's home attendance has, at the halfway point of the campaign, just about evened out to equal last year's numbers. Granted, that's after a massive t-shirt giveaway, the type of promotion that won't be happening at every New York home game between now and the end of October, and the team is still well shy of averaging 20,000 fans per home game. It's a start, at least, and you do have to learn to crawl before you can learn to run.
I wholeheartedly agree with every MLS fan who claims that YSA is childish, played out, lame and unoriginal. It's also completely harmless. Truth be told, it is, as embarrassing and even a little bit pathetic as it is to say, about as bad as US Soccer "hooliganism" gets.
Think about it. MLS fans don't throw bananas or make monkey chants at arenas. Goalkeepers aren't forced off because they're afraid of flares or other projectiles. Songs and chants that are looked at as possibly being even slightly homophobic in nature have largely vanished from MLS venues spread throughout North America. Things aren't perfect here, but I'd say we're doing alright if YSA is actually a concern.
It's not my place to stand up for or against the use of YSA at MLS games. I don't have a horse either way in that race. My only point, to steal from one of my favorite TV shows, is this: We've got some real, honest-to-God battles to fight in US Soccer and in world football.
None of us have time for the cosmetic ones.
For more: RSL told to eliminate YSA
Zac has been covering the USMNT, Holland, Tottenham Hotspur, New York Red Bulls, Major League Soccer and other soccer leagues for Yahoo! Sports since 2010.
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