Columbus Crew: Soccer supporter culture explained

From the March 14, 2013 edition

Soccer can be intimidating to some American sports fans. The sheer scale of its global popularity leaves many Americans wondering what they’re missing when they, sometimes rightfully so, find a game boring. Not to mention the sometimes confusing rules (offsides?! Stoppage time?!), the rich history and traditions, or the terminology that stems from other cultures. But have no fear, dear Alive reader. We’ve put together a brief guide to Columbus Crew-related supporter culture.

What is a supporter? — Let’s start simply. A supporter is a fan, but taken to a higher degree. It implies active participation over passive in the team’s success. A fan might simply cheer on his team, while a supporter spends time, energy and money propping them up with loud, organized exhortations, painted banners or trips to away games.

Nordecke — Pronounced Nor-deck-uh, this is a German word that means North Corner. It’s been adopted by Crew supporters as the name for their loud and raucous section of the stadium and also as a shoutout to the city’s German heritage.

Massive — What started as an ironic, self-deprecatory, tongue-in-cheek description of the Crew on an internet message board has been co-opted by the team, the city, media and more as an us-against-the-world rallying cry from a small market fan base. The word’s meaning has evolved to even broader terms since. The Crew’s Steve Sirk definitively described that evolution on the team’s website in 2012.

Tifo — An Italian word that basically connotes any organized and choreographed display of support by fans for their team. Usually, this involves painted banners of some sort, but sometimes, as in a game in Portland earlier this year, it can encompass other actions, like hundreds twirling open umbrellas in a coordinated fashion.

Two-stick — A painted display made of fabric stretched across, most commonly, two PVC pipes.

LH — Probably the most common tifo in Crew Stadium. The letters are usually found within a circle and reference the Crew’s original owner, Lamar Hunt. The circled LH is also found on the team’s jerseys. A similar tifo containing the number 15 is also common; it references former Crew player Kirk Urso, who passed away from a heart issue last year.

What’s with the bandanas? — Bandanas often cover the face of supporters as a way of showing their devotion to the team. In other words, the anonymity assures the focus stays on the team and its players, rather than the fans and their tifos and passionate cheering.