Friday night, as incessantly promoted here, D.C. United fans came en masse to a Caps game. They stood and screamed and sang. Virtually non-stop. I left horribly depressed.
Why? Fans didn't seem to appreciate the Barra. Because they were, you know, cheering. At a sporting event. Go figure.
"They're screaming and yelling to the point where you can't even hear the announcers," one person complained to Caps staff. (Because nothing says entertainment like listening to the announcers!)
"I ain't coming back, I'd rather watch it at home," someone else said. (Caps games: we're as quiet as your living room!)
"I think we all think they're pretty obnoxious," Melissa Van Vickle told me. "It's ok to a certain point, but they don't stop." (Caps fans: we know how to stop cheering!)
"They're annoying the [bleep] out of me, write that down," someone else shouted out. "I like to hear [bleepin'] organ music." (And next period, we'll break out the harpsichord!)
"I think it's obnoxious," said another season ticket holder who wouldn't give her name told me. "If I got here in the first period I would have asked to be moved to another section." (If I cared enough to show up for the first period.)
"I wish they'd shut up because I'm trying to watch the game," Stephanie Gilbertz said. (Oh, and she also said it was disrespectful to sing lyrics to John Lennon tunes on the anniversary of his death. Seriously. Because the Barra were singing something about "a Disney Hockey Team" to the tune of "Yellow Submarine.")
"It also makes everybody feel like they can stand up," season ticket holder Kellie Collier said. "When the puck's in play, get your butt out of the way." (Ok, fine.)
"I really don't mind the cheering, but we can't hear when they make announcements," James Gillam said. (Ok, ok, ok.)
"That's soccer, we don't approve of that," Canadian Troy Hazzard said of the "Ole" chant. (Sigh.)
"It's a hockey game, it's not a soccer game," Roman Durden told me. "If you're going to cheer, that's fine, you're cheering for Washington, but it's a hockey game, not a soccer game. Go to Nationals and cheer for baseball, go to Redskins cheer for football, go to the Caps, cheer for the Capitals and hockey. If you're a soccer fan go cheer for soccer." (I'm outta here.)
Seriously, I don't want to make it seem like I'm picking on Caps fans. Maybe the concept just doesn't translate. Or maybe they just need to be warned in advance. I talked to a lot of people, and there were definitely random fans who loved the Barra, who thought that was exactly what the Caps need, who actually left their seats to go sit with these strange people wearing red and black.
"I've been waiting to see something like that in North America for about 20 years," said Perttu Paarma, a Finn.
"Free tickets for these guys," suggested his friend, Timo Kauranen.
"I've been to a million Hartford Whalers games, and this is the craziest group I've ever seen," Scott Rivett said. "They're going to make me want to go to D.C. United games."
"I'll never forget any of it," wrote Bog reader Ian, who joined the Barra before the game and stayed the whole time. "I think it's really a start of a great tradition!"
And if you read the DCU and Caps message boards, there were more words of praise. But I'm definitely not embellishing the angry quotes. A lot of the surrounding fans were angry. They didn't like all the noise. They didn't like all the standing. They didn't like what they perceived as excessive alcohol consumption. They didn't think the Barra understood the game.
"The fact is, honestly, we have to learn what's going on in the game, when to cheer and when not to cheer," said DCU supporter Paul Sotoudeh, a longtime Caps fan. "But it could happen. In Europe it happens, so it could happen here."
Thoughts? Could this work?
I believe there were some funny and clever cheers, which I've forgotten, so maybe some Barra can come here and post highlights. And there were many concerned-looking security persons. And the Barra made the Jumbotron several times. And they're still planning on returning in early January. And most puzzlingly, their noise disappeared somewhere into the VC rafters. The Barra were at the very top of a corner section, 406. If you moved a few sections away, you could hear a low hum. A few more sections, and you could hear virtually nothing. I've been in touch with some random people from around the arena; some could hear the cheers, and some couldn't. Apparently from directly across the ice you could hear them pretty well. The players I asked said they couldn't really hear anything.
There's a lot of ambient noise in that place, which I get, but still, you can hear Sam the Horn Guy from pretty much anywhere. Another Bog friend named Grooven bangs on a cowbell from the 400-level, and you can hear that just fine. Goat yells his head off and you can hear him; "how much do you get paid?" some Canadians asked Goat after the game, assuming he was a Caps employee because of his amazing capacity to enliven the crowd.
Anyhow, I had fun, and the Barra seemed to have fun, and at least their vocal cords got an offseason workout, I guess.
"That was the weirdest soccer game I have ever been to," Nathan Tipton said afterward, which probably sums up the night as well as anything I could say.