The Elders of Barra are a select group of D.C. United superfans who lead the leadership-averse Barra Brava, one of the team's supporters groups, which particularly favors stinkbombs, alcohol, flag-waving, the color black, skull-and-crossbones imagery, bass drums, charred meat and bellowing at the moon. Currently, as best as I can figure, there are five Elders, including two Bolivians, a Croat, and two self-identified Gringos. Two of the Elders met at a game back around 2000, when they got in a fistfight. With each other.
Also, the Elders hold their organizational get-together at the beginning of the year.
"It's half-meeting, half-blind drunken rampage," one of the Elders told me.
Although I will say that, for all their jokes about alcohol (and there are many), at last night's playoff game the Elders I encountered were more sober than Joe Gibbs upon realizing he might have forgotten to greet a fan 1,500 miles away within the past calendar year. Several of the Elders apologized for not being more entertaining for blog purposes, but they were concentrating on selling tickets and distributing flags and leading cheers and preventing mayhem. As the game was about to end, one Elder (and blog reader) named Chico suddenly appeared next to me, toward the back of the Barra cheering section, looking all business.
I asked what was going on.
"I'm leading the charge of making sure no one gets beaten up," he explained.
See, they really are responsible leaders.
Anyhow, the Elders presided over a tailgate yesterday that involved about 80 pounds of meat (according to a Superfan and drummer known as The Grillmaster), enough alcohol to pickle a mastodon and a raffle that, as mentioned, raised thousands of dollars for breast-cancer research. One of the prizes was an old MetroStars jersey that someone claimed at a rummage sale; it was promptly burned and thrown in a muddy puddle.
"A few years ago, we burned one up in that tree," one of the Elders told me, pointing toward the back of Lot 8. "It was up there for years."
Also, one of the official grills had what looked like three dead cows on top of it. The Grillmaster said it was Lomito. ("Someone asked me what cut it was," explained the Assistant Grillmaster. "I said, 'the left one.'")
All was happiness in Barraland at game's end; even the stinkbombs smelled sweet, of saffron and honey.
(Actually, that's not entirely true. Fans of under-appreciated teams often acquire reputations of being such enthusiastic, upbeat, beautiful loyalists, but I would argue that most dedicated sports fans are basically the same, regardless of the sport or level; they're happy when their team plays well, and furiously indignant when their team plays poorly. After Team Energy Drink tied the aggregate score last night, the DCU fans in my section were not in a particularly upbeat mood. Many suggestions were offered to the team, many of which would not be appropriate in this forum. After the game, I encountered one Barra member screaming to himself, "Peter Nowak, where are you, I'm gonna whip your [bleep], I'm gonna [bleep] you up."
This does not, of course, make DCU fans unique; I'm just saying, hardcore fans are hardcore fans, whatever the sport, and I don't want to hear any of this pablum about how St. Louis Cardinals fans are so kind and gentle-like as they spread their warm and open Midwestern wings over their ballplayers' heads, because I've seen the message boards, and I don't believe it. Plus, Cardinal Nation? Barf.)
(Aside: Lest anyone get the idea that the Barra are some sort of unruly no-good rabblerousers, I was assured tht their members are lawyers and doctors and business owners and shop stewards and PhDs. I was even ushered over to meet black-clad skull-heavy trivia champion Roger Moyer, who won on Jeopardy (twice) and also cashed $32k from an appearance on "Millionaire." No sports questions in either appearance, and he doesn't fancy himself an expert on sports trivia at all, not even soccer trivia. Sports and Shakespeare are his "blind spots."
And if you want to know what it's like to lose on a televised quiz show, Moyer has a deep and abiding hatred for Laurence Olivier, the correct answer to the Millionaire question he missed, and also for King Baudouin of Belgium, the correct answer (or question, or whatever) on Moyer's final Final Jeopardy. The Millionaire question, for $250,000, asked which actor won an Oscar for best actor in a movie he also directed. Moyer guessed Warren Beatty, for "Reds." But in that year (1981), Henry Fonda was the Best Actor.
"For 'On Golden Stinkin' Pond,'" Moyer said. "As a sop. That was a [bleepy] movie. He'd done much better work. The real answer was Olivier for 'Hamlet' in 1948. [Very bad word]."
Moyer would like to appear on a game show again, but he's still looking for the right opportunity. "I keep looking for a game where I don't have to eat worms," he said.)
Discussion question: was Warren Beatty robbed?