Detroit City FC is an amateur soccer club that has experienced a growing fan base since our birth in 2012. The owners of our club have aspirations of taking our club professional and I have no doubt in my mind that they will do so in the next year or two. Our club is supported by many, but the most boisterous of the bunch is the infamous Northern Guard Supporters (NGS). I am proudly a part of this wonderful group. NGS is an independent supporter group (SG) of Detroit City FC that our foes love to hate. We bring out the best in our opponents. We pump adrenaline into their blood every time we walk on to their grounds or they walk into Keyworth. When we are in the mix, we can be sure that we will get the best performance on the pitch from our boys and the opposition. The same can be said with opposing SG’s who we cross paths with. We bring out the best in them. Right now, I’m pissing some of them off by saying just that. They love to try to shut us up, but it doesn’t take long to find out that’s impossible. We don’t ever shut up. That is true whether we are in the stands or flooding your feed on Twitter. What comes along with this passion for our City, is a little banter. I simply call it shit talking. To me, it’s simply an extension of a game called ‘The Dozens’ that I picked up as a young boy in Detroit. You know, “Ya Momma’s so skinny she could hoola hoop with a Cheerio” kind of stuff. To me, the “banter” of soccer Twitter is nothing more than this. However, some people are built for it more than others. There are some delicate supporters out there that should be covered in bubble wrap.
Recently, I was reminded that some people don’t really understand the dynamics and history that exist in Detroit. Either that, or they understand it and like to exploit it for a “like” or a retweet on social media. I’ll get to the details of that in a minute. First, it’s important to know that when I was growing up, there was a very important rule that I learned when playing ‘The Dozens.’ In retrospect, it is simple in-group/out-group dynamics that govern those rules. I could lay a Momma joke on someone, but there would be some delicate lines to navigate at times. For example, when I was young I had a friend that was pretty poor. I joked around about that because I too was fairly poor. We could joke about that amongst ourselves, within that circle. That friend and I could joke about that because it was a common experience we had. I could deliver a line like, “Your Mama is so poor, she waves around a Popsicle and calls it air conditioning” and nothing would be seen as below the belt. It would be understood as joking. It’s almost like a coping mechanism among those growing up poor to joke about it. However, let’s say the same line was delivered by a relatively privileged kid from the suburbs that never had to worry about poverty. He says it to me or my friend. It would have hit a sore spot. That kid may have even gotten an ass whooping when I was younger. I’m not condoning violence, I’m just saying, it probably would have happened. So what does this all mean? Hear me out…
When the Northern Guard Supporters emerged, many used to (and still do) take pot shots at the city of Detroit. You might be engaged in banter back and forth with opposition about soccer and a typical response might be something along the lines of “…Detroit is a dead city anyway.” The NGS response to this was, “Okay. If our city’s dead, we’ll be the walking dead.” This is a large reason to why the skull images are so plentiful within NGS. This is the roots of the skull masks even though many of us didn’t know that until now. NGS, those from Detroit and the broader region, in solidarity, chose to symbolically stand side-by-side with a city that was being ridiculed for its despair. It consciously chose to be an ally in the fight, not an opportunistic bystander. Additionally, as a club, Detroit City FC emerged out of the Detroit City Futbol League. This was a league that was created by one of our owners with the purpose of connecting Detroit neighborhoods for community organizing efforts. The idea was to create networking opportunities for the purpose of uplifting the city of Detroit. Out of this league, the five owners of our club came together and built an add-on to this movement known as Detroit City FC. This club would be intimately tied to the city of Detroit and serve as a source of positive energy. It has done just that in the 5+ years of our existence. The DNA of our club is quintessentially Detroit. It is undeniable. It never had anything to do with where our stadium was. Relying on such a superficial notion of connection such as that is futile anyway. When we moved from Cass Tech HS in Detroit to Keyworth Stadium in Hamtramck, nothing changed. The DNA didn’t change. The foundation had already been laid. Hamtramck, an enclave of Detroit, is intimately intertwined with the life of the city of Detroit. However, people from the outside-in don’t often understand this. Their ignorance to this and the roots of our club come out when they take shots about us playing in a stadium in Hamtramck.
Recently, I found myself listening to a podcast that was created by a second rate supporter group on the west side of the state. On multiple occasions, this podcast thought it was clever to point out that our club played in Hamtramck, but was called Detroit City FC. I suppose that it somehow was intended to diminish our “street cred.” Maybe having a stadium in a Detroit enclave was supposed to make us “less scary” than having one outside of that enclave. My guess is that it is there imagination of what is and isn’t Detroit getting the best of them. Little do they know, where our stadium is, never had much to do with the Spirit of Detroit. You see, this is something they don’t have a reference for so it’s easy to poke fun at. People make fun of what they don’t understand sometimes. At the end of the day, it is petty, naïve, and ill-informed. This is actually one of those things that outsiders typically do that really hits me in a particular spot. Why? Most of the time, what these people are doing is attempting to exploit regional divides in metro Detroit in order to get some laughs. It’s kind of like that privileged kid I was talking about earlier making jokes about the poor kid. There are boundaries. The fact that a city has roughly 40% of their residents living in poverty is nothing to joke about and nothing to build “street cred” off of. The fact that regional divides across race and class have contributed to that kind of social and economic decline is nothing to joke about either. That’s what is being done when they emphasize we play in Hamtramck.
There is a history in Detroit of people co-opting the sexiness and grittiness of the Detroit name just to make a quick buck or get street cred. We’ve seen recent initiatives in the “New Detroit” movement to do just this. Hell, the “New Detroit” movement even co-opted the “New Detroit” name as it was originally a coalition created in response to the 1967 uprising. New Detroit, Inc. originally came together to address racial disparity and tension post-‘67. We’ve seen businesses that waited on the sidelines as the city of Detroit struggled and as soon as things began to turn around economically, they opportunistically tossed their investments in the fold. We’ve even seen other soccer clubs with little-to-no connection to assisting the revitalization efforts of Detroit set up shop 30 miles away and call themselves “New Detroit”. Those who genuinely care about the well-being of this city tend to see right through those efforts. When you point out that Detroit City FC plays in Hamtramck, you are trying to place us in the category with those above. Our history of the past and that currently is being made, tells a very different story about this club and its connection to Detroit though.
What’s the point of all this? Detroit City is Detroit. We currently play in a stadium in Hamtramck, yes. It doesn’t make a difference. Detroit and Hamtramck are one. Our roots. Our mission. Our vision. Our spirit. It’s all Detroit, through and through. This club and supporter group has planted seeds to bridges that are doing much-needed work in our region. We are connecting the city dweller to the suburbanite to the country boy/girl. We are connecting people across socioeconomic lines. We are building bridges across race. We are connecting people across faiths and sexualities. Detroit is our base. We will defend her to the end. We stand side-by-side with her cousin, Hamtramck as well. They are part of the same bloodline. Their struggle has been one in the same. I recommend that you don’t poke at that. You don’t want to wake up that beast.
As for my fellow supporters of Detroit City FC, it’s important to remember this history and what we stand for. Whether you are from the city of Detroit, an expatriate, a repatriate, from the broader region of Detroit, or simply carry the Spirit of Detroit with you, we are one. We have many differences, but we have one common connection and that is to Up The Fucking City aka #UTFC. That city is not just Detroit City FC, it is the city of Detroit. They are one in the same. We should never forget that and make sure our foes don’t either.
Come and Get It!