The June 30 women’s soccer match between Team USA and Team Canada was shaping up like a picture-perfect promotion for Real Salt Lake and Rio Tinto Stadium
Beautiful day (albeit hot). Exciting game. Good crowd. And NBC cameras were there to beam the whole thing coast to coast.
MLS: Toronto FC edges Vancouver
Terry Dunfield scored in stoppage time to give host Toronto FC a 3-2 win over Vancouver on Wednesday night after a goalkeeping gaffe by Toronto seemed to give the Whitecaps a gift tie. At the end of 90 minutes, Milos Kocic tried to punch away a high cross with one hand and missed it, leaving Darren Mattocks a clear header for a goal. But Dunfield, a former Whitecaps player, rose and headed in the winning goal off a corner with just seconds left.
The Associated Press
But be careful what you wish for. Because a contingent of fans in that crowd embarrassed themselves, the team and soccer fans across the state. On national television.
It did not go unnoticed that when the Canadian goalkeeper was taking goal kicks, there was a contingent in the crowd yelling, "You suck, a------." It was clearly audible on the NBC telecast.
If you attend RSL games, you’ve heard that particular chant before. At pretty much every game. If you watch RSL games on TV, you’ve heard it before. During home games. And some away games.
But it was unfortunate — and classless — to hear it during an international friendly that was a tuneup for the Olympics.
It did not go unnoticed. Ives Galercep (of soccerbyives.com) tweeted, "Do we really need the ‘You Suck -------’ chant at a USWNT game? Really? Pretty misplaced in a stadium full of kids. #CleanItUp."
And when someone defended the use of the chant, Galarcep replied, "If you don’t grasp why yelling vulgarity in a stadium packed w/kids is wrong, we really don’t have anything else to discuss."
To be clear, Galarcep wasn’t in Sandy. He was watching the match on television. And getting a less-than-great impression of Utah soccer fans.
This is not just a local issue. It has caused controversy with other MLS teams, including Philadelphia and New England — where security guards went into the crowd to try to stop it and police arrested some fans for disorderly conduct.
Real Salt Lake has taken a less confrontational approach to stamping out the chant, chiding fans online and on Twitter and discouraging it in conversations with the various supporters groups.
"We’ve constantly tried to intimate to our supporters that we’re better and more original and creative than the ‘You suck, a-------’ chant," said Trey Fitz-Gerald, RSL vice president of broadcasting and communications. "We have a pretty constant dialogue with them."
While the chant was loud, clear and frequent during the RSL-Seattle game on July 4 — in the stadium and on KUCW-Channel 30 — it did seem to be greatly toned down for the RSL-Portland game on July 7, which was also on Channel 30. At least when it came to the third word of the three-word chant. So perhaps progress is being made.
Why does any of this matter? For one thing, it’s a violation of Major League Soccer’s fan code of conduct, which prohibits "foul, sexist, racial, obscene or abusive language or gestures."
And while some insist that it’s all in good fun, the chant is childish and stupid in addition to being offensive. You shout at the keeper of any team — let alone the woman playing for the Canadian national team — calling him/her an a------? That’s impossible to defend.
And it makes Real Salt Lake look bad through no fault of their own.
On Sept. 22, the NBC Sports Network will be in town to telecast the RSL-Portland match. It will be another chance for Real fans to show a national audience if they have any class — or not.
Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter:@ScottDPierce.
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