Category Archives: Detroit

Fan v Supporter v Ultra

Maidin mhaith, motherfuckers.

NGS’ foremost photographer,  Dion, has spent this morning keeping everyone in the City spirit. When I am in the City spirit I like to think about time spent prepping, time spent hanging out, time spent bathed in sulfur and fire, and time spent after a match (win or lose) sitting on the benches long after the normal people go home. All photo credits go to Dion.

I love it.

Makes summer go by way too fast.

I have and will keep talking about soccer in the terms of an ultra, because that is what I am. To me there are essentially five levels of fandom (and there is certainly some grey and some crossover):

  • Fair-Weather Fan
  • Fan
  • Supporter
  • Ultra
  • Hooligan

Some of these the average American reader will get instantly, others they might have the wrong idea, and for others there is literally no idea. They might think they know what an Ultra is, but no. They just don’t. So lets go over them all so in the future we’ll be speaking the same language.

Fair-Weather Fans exist in every sport and every culture. Americans know this one as well as anyone else. But for consistency let’s talk about these spineless fucks. Fair-Weather Fans are the reason that a stadium is empty on a bad season and full on a good season. Hell, they might not even show up themselves, but suddenly their desk will have a little “Lions” sign when we’re 11-4 and a picture of fishing with the kids when we are 4-11.

We all hate these guys because they belittle the energy of a good season and amplify the hurt when you lost the big game. To see someone so easily flick the switch from “on” to “off” makes you question your own commitment. If that is “normal” why would you put that energy in yourself?

The only time you should deal with Fair-Weather fans is if you think you can upgrade them to…

Fans. See what I did there? That’s called a fade. Anyway.

From where I sit “Fans” are those people who go to one or two games a year. Maybe more, but they aren’t certain and after the game the energy the spend on being a fan is pretty low. They don’t turn completely off, they might save tickets to great games, they might have some well-worn gear, and win or lose they always have that picture of them and their family sitting in the stands.

Not everyone can be a supporter. Not everyone can spend that sort of time, money, sweat, and blood. We understand that. If Ultras are the Imperial Guard, fans are the rank and file solider. We see them as comrades in arms, but we also know that they are more worried about getting home in time for dinner than drinking with the team.

Never turn down the company of a fan. Who knows, maybe that big project will end and you’ll have a new supporter on your hands. These are the people who look up to you and look to you to make their day great.

Supporters are the next level. When I talk “supporter” I mean the average member of the Northern Guard.

SupportersSupportFor supporters the team is more than a team. The pitch is more than a pitch. The badge is more than a badge. It is who they are. It is a commitment. It is a piece of who they are. They might not return with too many souvenirs, but they hardly miss a game. They never go home with a voice. They’ve spent countless hours at the bar beforehand and afterwards. They’ve been to a scrimmage, they’ve been to a social gathering. They order season tickets the second they come out and they always get an extra for whoever they are dragging with them that day.

A supporter’s passion, enthusiasm, spirit, and  their over-brimming joy just to be there converts many, many fans into more supporters. They might not know who makes the flags or how. They might not want to be too close to the smoke when it goes off. But they want to be there. A supporter gets strength and energy from being in the thick of it. A supporter moves a thousand miles away and never forgets, never moves on.

A supporter doesn’t ditch to catch a “more important” game.

Because there isn’t a more important game than the one going on right now. So if that is what a supporter is, what does that leave for Ultras?

Ultras are what supporters congeal around. Ultras don’t miss games willingly. They might get dragged into family matters, or deal with work and school but they’d always rather be at the field. They apologize for missing that 1-3 loss like they were the reason we lost. An Ultra always uses “we” to refer to the team.

Ultras run the blogs, take the pictures, make the flags, bring the smoke, plan the tifos, write the songs, harass the other guys on twitter, follow the team in the cold months between seasons, march in freezing weather on Paddy’s day. They bring drums, they bring trumpets, they are the first to arrive and the last to leave, often only after helping pick up trash.

An Ultra never stops supporting. Long after the songs have quieted, long after the field goes back to high school gridiron, they are still telling people about the great game or the last game and you’d swear it was yesterday. There is a sparkle in their eye that only exists when talking about their team. Even if the team fades away. An Ultra picked their side, they won’t change it lightly.

Hooligan has two definitions, and this often leads to confusion when talking across the pond. The American definition of “hooligan” is generally the same as an Ultra or Supporter who’s had a few too many. For an American, a Hooligan is that fan who curses and yells and gets thrown out. In Europe hooliganism is something much worse. A hooligan there is someone who comes to the game looking for a fight or to start a riot. So that is how “Hooligans for Heroes” in America is a completely positive thing (check them out, it is a charity that supports wounded veterans through soccer events).

Ultras and Supporters in the United States might often use the term “hooligan” to refer to themselves, but if you are European or just more used to the European phrase, understand that 99% of Ultras and Supporters in the US are committed to eradicating hooliganism. Violent or unruly people are often removed from the stands. Racist, homophobic, or otherwise discriminatory language is nearly universally banned.

As an added bonus let me also talk about Squatters. A “squatter” can be any of the above but there is one problem: they aren’t loyal to a team, they are loyal to a league or a future. A Squatter will come and cheer, they might even bring a drum or hang some shitty banners made on bed sheets. But don’t be fooled. They aren’t there to support the team that is playing. They are there to support getting a “better” team (usually an MLS team in soccer) to replace the one on the field.

Usually the first sign is that their group colors clash with those of the team they are rooting for. The second is they often distance themselves on their public media from the team. They talk a lot about “growing the game” and their news might concern anything but the team. They are really fond of teams like Seattle, Orlando, and Atlanta despite the fact that two of those teams have never played a game in MLS and one has never played a game ever.

Often they don’t see “what the big deal” is. They talk about quality of play and how cool it’ll be when they are all on TV. If you call them out for squatting they might quickly release their gear in team colors but they never change their logo.

A lot of fan conflict in American soccer is between Ultras and Squatters because despite a long history of soccer and soccer leagues in the country, to 99% of Americans it started in 1993 with the MLS. And that’s how you get a tier-four team with more history than an entire league put together.



Dion and I have been chatting about squatters because that’s what we do. He’s made some good points so here are some updated thoughts.

First, some squatters are good at blending in. So they might wear the team colors and you’ll only tell they are squatting from actually talking to them. In Detroit the squatters here wore the colors of an old team (Blue and Orange) which clashed very obviously with Rouge and Gold.

Squatting, like any opinion is also not permanent. Someone might go “I only root for MLS. Oh, wow. This is awesome” and never look back. Don’t think that a squatter is a lost cause. They are just misguided.

Fair-Weather fans are often likely to be a “low-level” or “passive” squatter, though maybe unconsciously. In America there is usually only tier-one sports. They don’t understand that anyone would root for anything but a tier-one team. I don’t give them much grief for this, its annoying – sure – but they assume that this is what everyone wants. It is your job as a supporter or an ultra to tell them why this is wrong, and to do so constructively.

But you should know that already. Supporters and Ultras should want more people to become crazy like them. This isn’t supposed to be an elite club of people who “get it.” The team needs fans and fair-weather people to survive. Season tickets are often heavily discounted. If you support a team you want to keep supporting that, and that means tolerating anyone willing to cash in. Except active squatters. Fuck active squatters.

Mid-Day Thoughts

Maidin mhaith!

Word count is climbing, I’ve been writing since 7:30, so plenty of time. Plus I still have the rest of the day ahead of me. But now is as good as a time as any to stop and write down some thoughts that I’ve been ignoring lately.

First, writing is much, much easier when you have already written it before. I find myself much more willing to rewrite than I had first expected. When I first deleted my entire first book (in a separate, new file mind you) I suspected that I’d be about 30% “new” stuff and 70% “old” stuff. I find myself much closer to 50/50 if not actually favoring to write completely new material.

And I haven’t even hit any of the “bad” chapters yet. When that happens I might run the counter all the way to 100% new! Who knows, but I feel good about the Mark III (as I’ve been found of calling it).

Unfortunately the changes might force my already paid-for cover to essentially become unusable. I’ll mull that around a bit.


Meanwhile, in sports, Newcastle continues to sail down the rails like an out-of-control rollercoaster headed toward disaster. All three of our keepers have been injured in the last week, the big derby is tomorrow, a keeper finally got off the bench and it is our triple fall-back. Completely blew our chance at the cup by losing to a team we had already sank this year.

Manager Pardew continues to prove that only he can be awarded “Manager of the Month” while in a four-game losing streak (for the previous month after five wins seemed to completely turn our chances around). For fuck’s sake I hate him. His inconsistent leaning toward losing. But apparently five wins and is enough to completely overlook months of constant failure and dismay, despite a return to his normal form.

I don’t know what he’s doing at training but all the fucking injuries that are coming out of that pitch makes me think he is walking around beating everyone with a cane.


On the Detroit side of things, perennial pain in our ass and complete failure of an owner Dan Duggan is once again promising a USL Pro team in 2016 and he’s even building a stadium in Detroit. By which I’m assuming Pontiac because he can actually afford that. I really wish he’d just fall of a financial cliff and disappear forever.

The good guys however are rapidly expanding. Season ticket sales are rumored to be coming up to a sales cap in order to ensure that tickets can still be sold at the gate. It might actually hurt our financials because season tickets are so much cheaper for us and them.

However, to help compensate, DCFC gear is going retail. A local sports chain here has started carrying gear and tickets, which is absolutely awesome. Brigid and I have talked a few times about how you know that the team is really getting acceptance and having your stuff in retail was a huge part of that.

I will admit being worried that our grass-roots movement might take a battering from corporate asshats like Duggan, but I think if we can persevere we’ll make it through the storm in the end. But sitting in the past looking forward is much scarier than sitting in the future looking back.

Word count will be posted at the end of the day. Spoiler alert, I’ll likely break into five digits.


Because apparently I am a soccer blag

So this went live on Crain’s of Detroit recently so I thought it was about time that I selfishly post my desires for Detroit City FC in the coming season and the coming years. Especially with word that the NCAA’s move to a year-round system could potentially kill the NPSL and that might spell the end for Detroit City.

If that happens expect this blog to go quiet for a while as I pick up the shattered pieces of my life.

But first some of the good from the Crain’s article:

  • Games will be live-streamed – Huzzah, this is awesome and means it can be easier to share the love with friends and family.
  • We’re back to the plastic cards for season tickets – there are actually negatives to this, like it is harder to hand out extras and unused tickets which are great for getting noobs to show, but damn if they don’t look sweet.
  • We sold more tickets in the first 24 hours than we did in the first month last year – that means growth and that is awesome.
  • The servers didn’t burn like last year – this is purely a professionalism thing, but great work!
  • DCFC has begun an ad campaign between English soccer games on Saturdays – perfect.
  • Keyworth stadium is under serious consideration for 2016 – I’m not a fan of Keyworth, I think it is too small. But anything to move upwards.
  • They are looking to diversify investments – this is a big deal with the uphill battle ahead.
  • Andy Appleby, Detroit local and owner of the English side Derby County FC gave us a good word – this will be controversial to some reading, but this is good; it means there is good will there and it can only help or at least keep our FO confident of their progress.

One more thing before the wishlist: NCAA year going round? Well, I can imagine two likely scenarios:

1 – It doesn’t happen. This is completely possible still. It might fall through. The NCAA might be too picky and stuck up to make for a good bedmate with anyone. The USSF might eventually grow sick of trying to deal with it and prefer the tiered system already under their feet. There are also a lot of owners in the NPSL and PDL who have stakes in its continued existence. They might fight back. Might. But probably not.

2 – The NCAA system is chosen and is implemented in the 2016-2017 school year. This gives the NPSL the 2015 and 2016 seasons as a swan song. I’m sorry, but if the NCAA goes year-round the NPSL will collapse. Since most teams are based entirely on unpaid college students, losing them all will doom the system to being nothing more than an adult rec league with stiff travel requirements. This means teams with higher aims better work fast otherwise 2016 will be the second date on their grave stone.

I’m more or less assuming in my head that #2 is the one that will win, so consider that as you go through my wishlist.


  • Two words: Hooped Kits.
  • Okay serious, concerning kits: start developing a style. That means home kits should be easily recognizable and only differ a little bit from year to year. Experiment with the seconds but try to keep it under control. Have fun with the thirds. Here are all of Newcastle’s home kits from 1893 to now. I can already hear the snoring, but that is what you want.
  • Still on kits (I’m a huge kit nerd, one day I’ll post my Newcastle collection): okay, okay! We are young, we should experiment. Hoops. Moving on.
  • An aside (after a bit of a twitter exchange,): Celtic has been using their white and green hoops since 1889 with the only major change in being to switch from vertical stripes to horizontal hoops in ~1903. Newcastle has been in magpie colors since 1894, switching from blue to black shorts in 1920. Consistency, bitches.


  • The stadium. I looked into the price of aluminum bleachers and my reaction is: “Holy fuck-balls.” The cost for renovating Keyworth Stadium would be $1,000,000 and it is likely not coming from our FO’s pocket. I have ideas on who might be coughing it up (I’ll resist rumor mongering) but regardless of who it is I’d really rather spend the money on something we’d own that is still in Detroit proper. Hamtramck Public Schools will still own Keyworth and that makes the deal iffy to me. However; the railroad tracks and Keyworth’s general ragged look is amazing.
  • If I had to choose anywhere, I’d love a stadium in Cork Town. There is a large Gaelic streak through many of the North Guard and the area has a great number of bars that would help feed and lubricate fans before a match. Plus we’ve already marched through Cork Town so no more cherry-popping homeowners. Eh… maybe that is a bad thing. Bwuhahaha.
  • I’d want 10k minimum with space to expand to 20k or 25k easily. Serving alcohol is a must.


  • The NPSL is part of our blood. DCFC wouldn’t be half as crazy if it wasn’t for the fact that we come out every week for a tier four team that is cheaper to run over three seasons than Messi’s left testicle. When the Galaxy’s supporters are once again caught only singing when in the lead, they are half-heartily supporting a team with a huge budget, once hosted Footy-Spice, and at the time was sporting “Legend” Donovan. Yet when the Revs tied it all up you were dead silent. Do better. Fucking casuals.
  • I really want to aim for the NASL while keeping the NPSL team alive as a feeder. It let us remain connected to our roots and let the hard-corey of the hard core NGS faithful to have “easy” days. Right now that usually means the often downplayed friendlies against local clubs. When it is just 100 of us we can try new chants, have a bit more fun, and of course attempt to eat nachos.
  • The NASL, I think (and I could be wrong) offers a lot of what the MLS does without the fucking MLS. I fucking hate the MLS. I hope that our FO stays FO and continues to allow the NGS to do what we do best – fuck shit up. And when we are done fucking shit up, building a stronger community through charity games and Hooligans for Heroes.
  • We need a time table for this and it is going to be one hell of a climb out of this fucking hell-hole. I am not a fan of the USL Pro, partially because it is affiliated with the MLS which could potentially make the switch NASL difficult. But also don’t see a reason to go to USL Pro – it seems like an overly expensive NPSL. None of the benefits of the big leagues or the small. Just the negatives.


  • I actually have a very few “wishes” from the front office. So far in three years they’ve proven to be pretty hands off with the supporters and encouraging of our shenanigans. Now, some people might say “Of course Nick, that is what pays the bills” and to those people I say “I know, seriously.” A lot of owners and even whole leagues in the USA get this so, so wrong. So very, very wrong. It is crazy. But we, the fans of DCFC, have some great owners and a great FO. So “thank you” to all of you. Even Donovan who learned to love/fear me at try-outs. I love you, man.
  • However! However. I would like that they communicate more in the sense of not doing this one week heads up for friendlies and charity events. It doesn’t give us a ton of time. I know they are probably waiting on hearing back, but even a cryptic “save the date” sort of post would work wonders.
  • This goes for the DCFL too.
  • I wanted to play in the fall league, but couldn’t get a team together in the week we had.
  • I’d also like a fan/FO gathering, so that we have a public fora to ask these sorts of things. But I can understand that the FO cannot answer everything, no matter how much I beg.
  • You didn’t do Noël Night, fine. Some of us were looking forward to it but whatever. Fuck up Paddy’s Day and I swear from Cork Town to Cork City I’ll be rather upset.
  • Speaking of Paddy’s, Green kits. Just saying.
  • And an official tartan. I can make that if you want to commission it.

Anyway, I need to wrap up and work on my Gaelic. I’ll end with a fun little anecdote about Mr. Powell. I think it was the first game against Cinnci, a pal and I were wandering around behind the bleachers looking for trouble. Donovan asks how we got back there (because the gates had been locked behind us) and we just laughed and said “Used the gate.”

So to finally answer your question: we walked in before they closed the gate. Hope it doesn’t ruin the illusion.

Becoming an Icon

I mentioned some sports (I also mentioned being a writer but that can wait) and I want to talk some sports. Specifically I want to talk about becoming an icon of a city.

Now there is already a great blog specifically on Detroit City from a supporter’s view, it is called Boys in Rouge and I highly recommend it to those interested in the growth and soul behind our great team. I also recommend it if you want opinion and well-researched facts. This is a place for opinion.

I want you to read this tweet and then I’ll give you some background.

The Apostolopoulos family is a Toronto-based group that owns a lot of property in Metro Detroit, top of the list is the Silverdome (a complete wreck of a building in Pontiac) and also the State Savings Bank, a historic building in downtown. They are also the number one advocate for bringing MLS (Major League Soccer) to Detroit. Paints it in a different light, eh? DCFC knows its supporters have its back. It sees many of them calling out the Apostolopouloses on their bullshit attempts to both “invest” in Detroit while simultaneously trying to tear it down. There is no fear there. Detroit City looked a potential investor in the face and burned that bridge so readily, so quickly, and so fearlessly I can’t really help but be very proud. Detroit isn’t some dime-an-hour hooker to be partitioned and sold, no matter what Lansing or people like the Apostolopouloses want to believe. It is our city.

I can already hear some of you getting ready to rebuke me. Tell me about business plans and how all investors are alike and how teams should shut up and just play sports.

Fuck you.

That is the wrong attitude. That is the attitude that lets racist bullshit like the Redskins and Cleveland Indians exist into 2014. A team isn’t supposed to be just a business venture. It is supposed to be a little piece of a city’s soul, stitched together like a quilt made from those who wake up early, don their colors, drag their friends and family, and stand in the smoke and fire of the game.

Detroit City has done so much right. So much. They put vets back on their feet. They support our schools. They were proud to support LGBT teens in our city and wear kits donned with rainbows against a foe known for using homophobic language. And when people would tear down our city and our history they stood up in a small way with a picture of Jerry Seinfeld.

Because it isn’t about appeasing every investor – bending down a licking the hand that might feed. It is about that little slice of the city that is your soul. That’s why when Detroit City goes out onto a field they are marked by the Spirit of Detroit. Because if not them, then who? Certainly not the Wings, Lions, Tigers, or Pistons. They need fucks like the Apostolopouloses to sit in their court-side seats while the real fans can hardly afford the nose-bleeds.

And we are okay with that. We as Americans are okay with the idea that fans should shut up, sit down, golf clap when the jumbotron says so, and if you so much as think about doing anything more than the wave then the polite gentlemen with the badges and guns will show you to the door.

Why is that good? Why is what we have bad. Pro-tip. It isn’t. People will keep telling themselves that it is bad. Bad for a team to embody more than a business professionalism. Bad for supporters to chant and sing. Bad for people to stand. Bad for drums and coarse language. Bad to set off smoke after goals. Bad to tetris and bad to leave with no voice.

Bad to be an icon.

Well it isn’t. And the fucking line has been drawn. Detroit City Football Club isn’t becoming an icon, it is an icon.


Detroit City still has its claws out, apparently: