The Five Billion Person Party

Notes of a wandering American soccer fan

Going over to the Dark Cyde

Posted by steigs on June 23, 2008

I haven’t commented on my DC United much of late, although the team has found some form.  Too busy with the oft-pulsating Euro 2008 — sigh, the Dutch got my hopes yet again — and, sadly, with work.

But leave it to Dan Steinberg over at the Post to remind me why I love my trips to RFK:

The Barra Brava and Screaming Eagles monopolize Washington’s “Look! Soccer crazies!” media attention, and rightfully so. But if you’re always staring at their bouncing side of the park you might miss some of the team’s other vibrant supporters groups. Like, say the Dark Cyde.

That three-year-old group’s membership is a bit vague–its founder said there are about five members–but that founder more than makes up for the small numbers. He is Darth Hooligan, and he is awesome. Witness the District logo tattooed on his left arm, the red-and-black DC Shoes on his feet, the stuffed United mascot hanging from his midsection, the No. 69 “Darth Hooligan” jersey around his torso, the $10 Target light saber twitching in his hands, and the self-applied Darth Maul-inspired red-and-black paint on his face. Yesterday his hair was out, adorned by two feathers; “usually, I wear my little devil hat,” he said, as his friends gleefully displayed his red and black skull cap.

Darth Hooligan, eh?  Now that’s a mash-up of devoted fandom, indeed.  Perhaps one reason for soccer’s rising appeal in the US is the way we are still discovering/inventing our fandom.  NBA or NFL games have become very programmed, filled with piped-in music and prods.  The supporters’ groups at a United game drive the cheers, not the PA system.  The growing awareness of the international game means fans here have a better idea of what their options are.  We can pick and choose among traditions, not simply adapting styles from other American sports or — thankfully — from stereotypical British hooligans.  We’re still figuring it all out, which makes it feel more lived in.

Back to “Darth Hooligan”.  He offers an interesting take on why Darth:

“One day I was watching ‘Star Wars Episode I,’ and it just hit me, out of the blue,” he explained. “You know how Darth Maul is red and black? I’m starting my own supporters club called the Dark Cyde. Come as any villain in any movie, as long as you wear red and black.”

The choices are theoretically endless, as long as you can imagine, say, Norman Bates sporting red and black face paint. Anyhow, why villains? Darth said that United is the New England Patriots of the MLS, at once dominant and reviled league-wide, the unbeatable standard hanging over every rival club. Villainous, in other words.

Ooooh.  Embrace the bad guy, eh?  Personally, I would have thought that would have made us the Oakland Raiders of MLS but perhaps their image has fallen because of their recent losing seasons.  It’s hard to be the villain when you’re bad — at least bad in terms of winning and losing. 

There’s a certain appeal to the villain.  As a serious comic book collector in my youth, I can attest that invariably the villain is a better character than the hero.  And they almost always have more fun…at least until they get caught.  It’s an interesting exercise to contemplate adopting a villain for your soccer fan alter-ego.  Darth Maul doesn’t do it for me, which is probably partly a function of age.  The original Darth was my generation’s villain but that costume would get pretty toasty at a summer game at RFK.  Same for Doctor Doom.  Perhaps the Joker would be more my style.  (I suppose you can make him in red and black.)  Or perhaps Magneto.  He’s got a red helmet after all….

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