Kenny Hanson Sons of Ben memorial tifo

Yesterday morning, I started to go through our occasional “tifo roundup” of the best fan art displayed in the stands over the weekend, but had to pause. Everyone should go check out Toronto FC supporters’ Godfather-themed creation dedicated to their winning head coach, Greg Vanney. But two more significant entries stand out for their poignancy, and in how they represent some of the best parts of the MLS fan community. 

Sadly, they came under grief-ridden circumstances. In Philadelphia, as the Union hosted Montreal, the Sons of Ben unfurled this tifo from across their scenic supporters’ end:

Bedecked with lyrics by one of his favorite bands, the Grateful Dead, the painting commemorated the untimely passing of former Sons of Ben President Kenny Hanson. His contribution to the culture around the team, and the many friends he made while supporting it, is well-documented by my colleague Dave Zeitlin here

What a terrible coincidence, then, that back at Red Bull Arena, New York Red Bulls supporters offered their own similar tribute, this time to Glenn Stamp. The longtime South Ward stalwart’s faithful support made for lore among longtime fans since the MetroStars days.

This is going to sound very kumbaya, but perhaps we badly need some of that right now. When we enter the stands as individuals, we stand shoulder to shoulder with a vast menagerie of figures from across the human zoo. We drop our differences and find unity in supporting our team. We find community and support during the match, and the festivities before and after. 

But the heartfelt outpouring of support from across the league in commemorating both Hanson and Stamp – and during many other community efforts – shows it goes much beyond that. The fan community around North American soccer functions like a chosen family of kindred spirits in times when we need that most. In offering a salute to Stamp, Hanson, and so many others in the past and future, we’re reaffirming that unity and common ground.