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  • Embracing the hate: On the Crew TFC rivalry



    It's written by Rollins. What do you expect. What a tool

    Is what constitutes intelligent dialogue when Columbus plays Toronto. In case you are wondering the article the quote, as posted on the Crew board on BigSoccer, refers to is this look at the rivalry between the two teams.

    I set out this morning to answer the question of what makes a real, organic rivalry. Columbus and Toronto really have no history or connection that makes them a natural fit for a derby game. Sure, it's the closest MLS team to Toronto (for now), but it's not close. Yet, there is little doubt that there is more hate filled rhetoric thrown about during the lead up to Crew games than at any other time of the year.


    What's fascinating about it is the amount of fans that try and deny that there is a rivalry. We don't care about Columbus/Toronto is often heard in supporter's chatter. We care more about Montreal/Chicago is the other. Yet, the hate lives on.

    And it often is hate. Pure, irrational hate based on nothing more than what football team the other cheers for. TFC can and has gone to many other cities and shared drinks with opposing supporter's before and after games. It had tazers drawn in Columbus. In Chicago I walked straight past the Section 8 tailgate without incident. Sure there was a little back and forth, but no one was worried about their safety. Hell, I even had a fan call me by name and tell me he liked It's Called Football.

    There is literally no way in hell I would go near a Crew tailgate by myself. That's not a comment about the Crew fans as individuals. Rather, it's a reflection of the tension that can hang over this game. I'm sure the same thing would apply to a Crew fan going into Shoeless Joes or Maro. It's not a good idea because it only takes one.

    So, if you are trying to deny that today is a derby game...well, you’re in denial. Due to Easter the Crew aren't bringing big numbers, but if they were there would be a tension at the stadium that is rarely felt.

    It begs a couple questions: 1) Is that a good thing?; and 2) how did it happen.

    The first question is hard to answer without sounding like a lunatic. Clearly, no one wants violence to break out at a soccer game, but is tension really such a bad thing? I don't think it is. When there is an edge in the air it makes it feel as if what you’re watching really matters. On a logical level you understand that it doesn't, but football is not designed to operate on logical levels. It's an emotional pursuit and it needs heroes and villains.

    There is no cathartic benefit if there isn't some hate.

    Football is pure and very human -- it's tribal. It's made up of love and hate, anger and joy. On a personal level, I never feel more alive -- a part of something -- than when I'm a partisan at a football match.

    So, I have no problem with the hate. It's real and it's honest. I say embrace it. We are all responsible enough to understand where the line is that we must never cross, but we are not bad people for disliking a man for wearing the wrong colour strip.

    As to the question of how the hate evolved, it's a little easier to pinpoint. Yes, it was an artificial rivalry in the beginning, but circumstance created the conflict that in turn created the hatred.

    Simply put, TFC fans pissed off Columbus fans that in turn pissed off TFC fans.

    On the linked article there is a group of Crew fans that argue that the two big trips that TFC made to Columbus were irrelevant. That's a delusional idea. Without those trips and the fallout after there is no conflict -- at least no more than there is with any other MLS team.

    Let's be frank. TFC fans were far from angels in Columbus. Although there are a number of things that the Columbus front office did wrong, the Reds fans were loud, obnoxious and decidedly un-Canadian. If the roles were reversed the TFC fan would have pushed back just as hard as the Crew fans did. The resentment for crimes, both real and imagined, committed forms the core of Columbus' dislike of Toronto.

    In turn, TFC dislikes Columbus because of the way it pushed back against the TFC fans. It became personal and it remains that way.

    MLS is a league that does not have 100 years of history to fuel its rivalries. It comes down to the fans. And the fans of Columbus and Toronto have made this a rivalry.

    That's a good thing.

    Enjoy the game.

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