Simply embarrassing

GARETH WHEELER

, Last Updated: 4:34 AM ET

At a time Toronto FC fans should be celebrating the team's promising start to the season, they get a black eye for behaviour off the field.

A small group of so-called Toronto FC "fans" among the 2,000 travelling supporters embarrassed the city and the soccer club Saturday, getting into altercations with Columbus Crew fans and police.

Let's be clear: The majority of supporters were well-behaved, passionate and in Columbus for the right reasons.

Others were there for the ruckus.

It's a case of one bad apple spoiling the whole bunch.

No matter how unfair, TFC supporters again have been cast in a bad light.

Youtube video's of a TFC supporter being subdued by a stun gun, police struggling to control a volatile crowd, a police helicopter and reinforcements being called to the scene, and damage to the stadium looks bad on the team and our city.

The police and security aren't free of blame, but when it comes down to it, TFC supporters need to be accountable for their actions.

And so do the supporters' clubs.

The problem is, it's nearly impossible for supporters' clubs to control their members. The people running these groups are average Joes, with regular jobs. They don't have time or clout to deal with serious issues.

But the answer surely isn't publicly saying the problems have been embellished.

The Red Patch Boys told Sun Media: "As per usual, the power of the Internet has caused what were really pretty minor incidents to be over-inflated in their importance."

People got Tasered! That's serious.

Where's the accountability?

The Red Patch Boys have a charter threatening expulsion for those engaging in violent and/or destructive activity. But when asked how many supporters have been banished, Sun Media was told this information is for only the group and its members.

Is the purpose of the charter to merely issue blind threats?

Supporters' clubs also should consider making trips accessible to only season-ticket holders and club members.

One Red Patch Boy, choosing to remain anonymous, said he barely recognized any of the supporters at the game.

That raises the question, who are these clowns causing trouble?

They're not hooligans -- such a title is misleading. They're idiots, all hopped up on liquid courage, choosing to damage, destroy and devalue the product. When it comes to knowledge of Major League Soccer, they're clueless.

Why else would they choose to throw smoke bombs while on the side of their own net, smoking out goalkeeper Greg Sutton?

Learn something about the game and about the league -- then call yourself a fan.

Image is fragile and doesn't take much to be broken. I'm not suggesting fans should act holier than thou -- but common sense must prevail.

Fans fight at other sporting events. The popular comparison around these parts is a Buffalo Bills game. That comparison's unfair. Fights at Bills games happen between individuals and/or small groups.

When TFC is travelling en masse by the hundreds, an all-for-one mentality takes over.

This includes when problems go down. It's us vs. them. Red vs. Yellow. Or even worse, Red vs. police.

It may be only one dude out of control, but the rest of the supporters are dragged in.

That's why members of the Red Patch Boys decided to stay in the stadium long after the game had ended, rather than dealing with problems outside.

That's why certain supporters have shared their embarrassment of what went down on message boards.

But it's the narrow-minded messages that speak louder than those condemning the actions.

Postings like "I'm proud that our boys stood up for themselves. Those Columbus losers were asking for it" cloud passion and emotion with actions of stupidity.

A message to them: Grow up! Don't play tough-guy while representing TFC.

Toronto supporters' clubs have helped the MLS fan-base become as passionate as it is. As the league's best fans, they should be setting an example of how to properly support your team.

TFC supporters need to police themselves for the sake of their own reputation.

The problem is, it doesn't seem like they will or can.

GARETH.WHEELER@SUNTV.CANOE.CA


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