Amid Tuesday's rocky rollout, Austin FC actually has a great opportunity
Between the silly crest, which was made worse by a pointess official explaination, and the painful rollout on Tuesday, Austin FC is off to a lame start. What's lost is that they're missing a great and totally organic opportunity.
BY Brian Sciaretta PostedAUSTIN FC was formally announced as the 27th team of Major League Soccer at an event in the Texas Capital on Tuesday. While there was an enthusiastic reaction amongst those in attendance, the reaction among fans of other teams in the league was mixed – to be generous to the newest team.
January 15, 2019
January 15, 2019
There was plenty of good reason for fans making fun of Austin FC’s (or Treecourt FC's) approach – which seemed painfully forced and weird at times. Tom Petty is probably rolling in his grave seeing this.
There is no doubt that Anthony Precourt isn’t a popular figure after serving as the villain in the Save the Crew movement. The problem for Precourt is that the Save the Crew movement extended beyond just the Columbus fanbase but all the way to most long-time fans of the league who appreciated the importance of the Crew organization to the history of MLS.
But Precourt is going to get the team in Austin that he wanted. The reality, however, is that the emotions surrounding Austin FC is very, very different than other expansion teams. Most fans generally want all expansion teams to succeed, be an asset to the league, and a positive vehicle for growing the sport in the United States.
The cold truth, that needs to be acknowledged, is that with Austin FC, a significant group of fans across the league want Austin to struggle and fail. Precourt is just not seen in a favorable light in American soccer and that is probably never going to change.
This begs the question how is Precourt and Austin FC going to handle this?
My humble suggestion is to ditch any kind of forced and phony atmosphere (like cringeworthy chant hymnal distributed on Tuesday). Don’t try to be like other soccer teams throughout the league or try to emulate the European teams that are most common on television.
Believe it or not, the ugly nature of the club’s foundation actually gives Austin a good opportunity and a way to get off to a unique and organic start.
What Austin FC and its fans should do is embrace being the bad guy. In England, Millwall has the “nobody likes us and we don’t care" slogan and Austin should try to follow suit. What is cool for Austin FC, is that they don’t have to create a fake bad guy image or pretend nobody likes them. Fate has given them the natural role of being perfect bad guys and it IS true that nobody likes them.
In an age where we American teams are looking for authenticity, Austin actually has a rare avenue to be authentic. Sadly, they ran away from that on Tuesday with a ridiculously phony rollout.
But that was just a bad first step. There’s plenty of time to seize the moment.
So what is my suggestion for Precourt and Austin FC? Embrace being the bad guy. American soccer could use more genuine villains. Run with the idea of being the Darth Vader or Hans Gruber of American soccer. Relish the fact the organization was founded on an attempted robbery of beloved founding member of the league. Take pride in being the Grinch that tried to Steal the Crew. Mock the struggles of the other two teams in Texas. Brag about how your organization cut in line ahead of all the other expansion candidates. Ditch the lame reasoning behind the tree in the logo (above) and make the tree a gallows tree.
Someone has to be the league's bad guy and Austin has everything going for it to be that team. Teams that were considered villians have an importnat history in American sports: Oakland Raiders of the 1970's, the Broad Street Bullies-era Philadelphia Flyers, the 1986 New York Mets, the late 80's Detroit Pistons, early 1990's UNLV basketball, spygate New England Patriots. People remember those teams forever and, in the end, that's pretty cool and fans have fun supporting villians.
Austin FC’s foundation is unpopular but embracing that concept of being the league's bad guy would probably gain more traction than distancing itself from it or trying to go with anything we saw on Tuesday.