The growing institution that is "Men in Blazers" announced a "Blazer Con" convention this week, to be held in Brooklyn and featuring passes for the prices of $225, $425, and $125 (the latter for students and members of the military), over a two-day period. The reaction to paying what seems to be a pretty steep price for listening to mostly British people talking to mostly American soccer fans has been pretty swift, with some critiques being on point and others being predictably silly.
One of the alternate trains of thought to come from the "Blazer Con" announcement has been to schedule alternative soccer conventions for American fans. Of course, most of these plans are likely just flights of fancy, conceiving of a set-up where everything is perfect and cost and operations don't get in the way, and that's cool. But it also made me think of a response to this apparent new craze to show and grow one's fandom via attendance at particular events.
Your fandom is not wrapped up in dollars and cents, no matter what someone tries to tell you.
I got into a discussion with the actual largest soccer convention in the U.S., the NSCAA, during a mini-rant I had on Twitter this morning. The United States is large (duh), and for some folks (I'm just going to come out and put myself in this camp), flying to Brooklyn, getting a hotel room for a few nights to attend something like "Blazer Con" would tack on an extra...$700-$1,500 to a $225/$425 ticket for the actual event. That's a lot of money.
Even if you have the money, the actual logistics of traveling across the country for something or other is hard. That's why discussions to christen a "national stadium" for U.S. Soccer like Wembley is for England is absolutely ridiculous. The only people who would be happy with the stadium in Kansas City, or Chicago, or Los Angeles are people who live near those areas, and maybe folks who just have infinite money and time to go anywhere. For the rest of us schmucks, we'd more or less be shut out, permanently.
In general, I find the idea that if you can't attend a given game, or go to a given event, you are not "truly hardcore" (by inference, of course, since the implication is that only the most hardcore show up to some of these things) to be insulting. As much as I would love to find an awesome game or event where everyone on soccer twitter and fans from "soccer internet" end up in the same location and hang out and meet face to face, I kind of think that's what the internet is for. There's a lot wrong with social media, but the great thing about the medium is that people from all over the place, all different perspectives and life experiences and literal locations, can come together to talk about stuff. I don't have to sit right next to you in the stands to make a crack about a certain defender's shortcomings or a coach's tactics. I don't have to fly across the country and pay hundreds of dollars for that right. If that's the way the world truly worked, I would be living a very, very different life right now.
I don't want to turn this into an "against modern football" screed, because that trope is pretty problematic, especially in an American context, where "modern football" really only stretches back to the 1990s. But the simple point remains: a fan is not someone who has to shell out for season tickets, or travels to USMNT or USWNT games. Those people are fans too, of course, but the point of fandom is to follow something you're passionate about, not to plunk down $130 for a replica jersey, or show up at the American Outlaws event to see and be seen. You are no less of a fan if you stay home and watch all your team's games on television. You are no less a fan if you have to work when your team is playing, and you curse your boss to the heavens when that happens. If someone's a jerk to you because you can't make some event, if you haven't gotten the newest scarf or hat because you can't afford it, then eff them. Seriously.
There are Seattle Sounders fans in Muncie, Indiana, D.C. United fans in Alabama, and Montreal Impact fans in Nevada. There are also supporters who live minutes from their team's stadium but for one reason or another can't come to the games in person. I've always said there is no one right way to be a fan, and I stand by it. I'd love an ideal American soccer convention in person, but in the meantime, I'm content to attend a free convention of sorts online on a daily basis.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!