Editor’s Note: Although Just Can’t Get Enough City is not strictly a Northern Guard Supporter media outlet, many contributors are affiliated with the Guard. Red is one of those people. In this piece, as always, Red is speaking on his own behalf and does not speak on behalf of the entire SG. This is just Red’s perspective. [roll Law & Order theme music]
Stepping into a new community is scary for many, but it can be a beautiful struggle to finding your place. Our deepest insecurities can surface as we step into the darkness of a new group of people. This is especially true when it is a group of people like the Northern Guard Supporters (NGS.) From the outside-in, for some people, NGS can be very very intimidating. For example, I can only imagine what goes through the minds of those delicate little boys and girls in the Sons of Ransom when Lansing United comes to Detroit. My heart goes out to them. For other people though, like me, it was more of a cautionary tale getting acquainted with NGS. The boisterous, often vulgar, and in-your-face culture that dominates NGS was not new for me. That was not intimidating to me. I grew up in a family that had a very similar culture in ways to NGS. There are many introverts, but the extroverts stand out and the introverts come out of their skin when passionate about something. Many of NGS, like my family, are not afraid to speak their mind. However, I actually spent a whole season on the periphery of the hardcore supporters of the Detroit City’s faithful known as the Northern Guard Supporters.
I took my time because honestly, sometimes these supporter groups can often morph into nasty collective behavior. They are often infested with racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, etc. Not only that, during big events, large groups who gather for sporting events can come in for games, pretty much shit on the city, and leave, much like what we can see on the Tiger’s opening day. I didn’t want to be a part of that. I am a native Detroiter. I love my hometown and I want to see her taken care of.
During my first full season supporting the club, I remember marching to Cass Tech with the group before the match. I was not connected at all with anyone. I would show up early to Harry’s by myself, have a few pints, and just observe people. I was very low key. However, one early memory I had was during the march, as we approached Cass Tech for a Friday evening match, I observed a couple of young adults on the steps of the front entrance of Cass Tech drinking beer. Immediately, I was turned off because as they were drinking their beer, teenaged kids were leaving their afterschool programs and immediately encountering this. I was upset because I knew that these adults wouldn’t be doing this at a suburban high school in such a carefree way. For me, it played into the usual storyline of people coming from the outside-in and shitting on my beautiful city and her beautiful people. I remember going home that evening and messaging the NGS about my concerns. I don’t recall being too accusatory, but taking a tone that urged for something to be done. This scene, to me, was not consistent with what the SG claimed to be about. I didn’t let this turn me away though. I stuck in there because, at the end of the day, these people very well may not have been affiliated with NGS. I didn’t want to pin it on them, but I thought they’d have the influence to do something. It very well could have just been some casual fans that needed some correction. The next home match, I was pleased to see that there was a very casual adjustment that was made to help avoid this from happening. I didn’t see it happen again. It seemed that the concern was taken in and something was done. I could appreciate that.
I observed more and more of the supporter community for Detroit City FC throughout that last season at Cass Tech. The more I watched, the more I became comfortable with what this group stood for. There were things like explicit support for refugees, anti-racist sentiments, and non-judgement regarding a lot of things. I decided in that off season that I would jump all in as we moved Detroit City FC to Keyworth Stadium. I decided that I was going to declare myself part of the Northern Guard Supporters that season. I was going in. They had my loyalty and I was going to stick with it, unlike a Milwaukee soccer supporter. Getting out and volunteering some time to assist with the rehab of the stadium helped me to get acquainted with some people who will likely be life-long friends. Then when I decided to show up at that first pre-season friendly in Berkley, people like Mama Cass and Razor helped me get acquainted with some very simple gestures.
Four small things that made a huge difference were:
- Mama Cass didn’t let me sit by myself at the bar during pre-match.
- Razor took control of my newly created twitter and connected me to essentials
- Mama Cass gave me a flag to carry for the march and throughout the match. (Creating a flag waving mad man)
- People talked to me.
These are the things that people did for me. It was very simple. I was pulled in, I was connected, and I was engaged. I would encourage my fellow supporters to find small ways like this to welcome newcomers. Here’s the thing though, even if a few people did some simple things that opened up some doors of comfort to me in this community, it would not have made a difference if I didn’t put in the effort myself. I had to be the one to step out. I had to step into the darkness and confront this raggedy-ass boogie man they call the Northern Guard. You have to puff your chest out, grab the boogie man by his ankles, pull him from under your bed, and throw his punk ass out of the window. Here are some less vulgar suggestions for finding your way and becoming a part of the Northern Guard from the perspective of a relatively new guy. Like I said, I was taken care of and now it’s my turn to take care of you (*smirk… that’s what she said). Okay…okay, for real though, here are four quick and simple things I suggest:
- Be yourself. You can’t say that you are not accepted in a community if you never decide to actually bring YOU to the community. Bring you and all your perfect imperfections. It’s understandable that some are still finding themselves like the Milwaukee Barons. If you’re lost and finding yourself like them, bring that person to the table. Look, I’m a pretty down to earth guy, I’m friendly, I’m pretty smart, and my mom says I’m handsome. I’m passionate about a few things and can get riled up, but for the most part, I joke around a lot and like to have fun. However, I can be pretty fucking weird too. For example, I was nicknamed Foil this past off-season and took a wild psychedelic journey with that character for a bit. I ended up sending him up to space because he was scaring a few people away. That’s a story for another time over a beer, but the point is that even in my weirdest moments I brought myself to the table. Don’t be afraid to embrace what you believe are your “shortcomings” as well. At the end of the day, at least you’re not an FC Indiana supporter. I’m just joking. There’s no such thing as that.
- Remember that there are many chapters to the book of developing community. Don’t get stuck on a few “sentences.” Those “sentences” might be that experience you had with that one guy who was an asshole that one time. Who knows, maybe he was just having a bad day. Maybe he’s just an asshole and you have to know your limits with that person. It’s okay. Or maybe you said or did something that you are feeling insecure about. Give people and yourself a break. Be in this for the long haul and remember our common cause. We are building a club through building community. They are intertwined. Nobody remembers the speed bump in Columbus, OH by the time they’ve reached Detroit. Fuck Ohio, by the way. Unless you have to, don’t drive through that state.
- Find your niche and pitch in. The best way to embed yourself into a new community is to embed yourself into that new community. Of course, there are exceptions like defected Kalamazoo FC supporters. They don’t have a concept of community because their club has never had one. You can embed yourself here with NGS though. Just find something you want to do to help out. It doesn’t have to be a huge contribution. When you jump in, people might be suspicious of you. People might try to figure you out for a bit. People might ridiculously overcompensate to try to help you fit in and in turn, make it more awkward. Just ride the wave and let them work through what they are working through. Just keep bringing you to the table. Consistently bring YOU. Find a wave to ride that is of interest to you and ride it. Find a small group of people you connect with and stick with them. It will all unfold through the life cycle of a year with the Guard. You will begin to see how your little ol’ contribution adds to the whole in a glorious way.
- Take your time, relax. Unlike star players from the Michigan Stars, the Northern Guard Supporters aren’t going anywhere. Acclimate at your own pace and don’t worry if you’re not “Captain Save ‘Em All” within the first month. This was a hard one for me because I move fast when I make a decision to connect to a community. That’s just how I roll though. I remember shaking hands with The Duke and one minute later, he received a follower notification from me on the Twitters at that first pre-season match last year. He turned to me at the merchandise table and said, “You move pretty fast, huh?” Despite the fact that Razor was the one who took control of my Twitter account, it was true. I can move fast, I can be a little overwhelming. I just get excited and some time, you have to ignore me a little. Especially if you are the type to get easily overwhelmed.
Well, as Forrest Gump said “That is all I have to say about that.” If you are new to the crew or want to be. Consider me one of your options to connect with on match day. It will likely be touch and go initially with me right before a match, but I’ll help get you connected. If you want to talk to someone less drunk before a match, then there are plenty of options. On a serious note, I will be glad to help you get connected and do for you what was done for me. The Northern Guard Supporters are seriously a good group of folk. We can be some of the most caring, selfless, and community-oriented people that you’ll ever meet. We don’t just represent support for Detroit City FC and what it is becoming. We support the city of Detroit. We support the city of Hamtramck. We uplift, protect, and defend our club and the community we play in and for. This isn’t just about soccer. It’s building community. Give us a taste. You will see what we are about. You just have to stick around and not block us like AFC Cleveland on Twitter.
At the end of the day, no one likes us and we don’t care, but we think you’re alright. Come and Get It!