From the halls of Foxboro Stadium…

The Tano Pasman Factor: Can There Be A Multitude of Cultures in The Future of The Revs? Plus An Interview With Stephen McCarthy

Posted by tonybiscaia on August 30, 2011


Waiting for Irene to pass gives one pause to contemplate how the remainder of the season may play out for the Revolution and, more important, what the future holds.

Milton Caraglio’s two goals gave a glimpse of what might be forthcoming forward-wise on the pitch an equally edifying statistic from the Revolution’s past Saturday night encounter with the Red Bulls were the comparative attendance figures in two MLS derbies played on Saturday night: NE v. NYRB – 18,882 / Portland v. Vancouver – 18,627, plus the cumulative 2011 attendance average for the New York “superclub,” which thus far, after 12 home matches is 18,796.

In other words, the supposedly sad sack New England franchise outdrew the flavor of the year Timbers by 255 souls, and surpassed the average attendance figure for their hated, uber-corporate rivals down I-95 by a full six folks.

Of course there are all sorts of qualifiers at play here; many people came to the game at Gillette because of Thierry Henry (who didn’t play) and Rafa Marquez (who tried to). Portland certainly could have sold many, many more tickets for their match, if Jeld-Wen Field had the capacity. Like Portland, NYRB has their own gorgeous stadium fixed up specifically for proper football. However you slice it, Gillette is a gorilla ball-specific carbuncle, as relevant to contemporary MLS as Arrowhead or The Meadowlands used to be.

In Foxborough a large number of fans were using up their flex-pack seats, which means they likely won’t be back. The same number, 18,627 folks have packed in at Portland 13 times now and will likely do so for the remaining matches. Red Bull has drawn up to 25,000 and will likely do so again this season. Saturday night’s game was the second largest crowd at a Revolution match all season and with four home dates left, there may not be another of similar size.

Although both the Revs and Timbers are on the outside looking in, playoff-wise, Portland is better placed to qualify and if they did it is certain there wouldn’t be the miniscule crowds that show up to support the Revs in the postseason. Who knows who will show up for the playoffs in the Ironbound jewel but it will certainly be larger than one might expect at Gillette based on the numbers when the Revs were competitive. One could go on and on.

It is the potential here that is at once encouraging and troubling. With a stadium located in the far suburbs, without any public transportation and in the latter stages of what is easily New England’s worst season since the bad old days of the late 20th century, almost 20K showed up on an August night in high vacation time for an attractive opponent. If you take away all the past doubleheaders and other padding, 18,882 is a very respectable number for a stand-alone Revolution match and, indeed, holds up league-wide. Perhaps most important, by many accounts, very few of those in attendance were members of youth teams or other kiddies groups, pony-tailed and in braces, let in at group rates to rattle about in the big bowl for a one-off, often disinterested night under the Foxborough moon.

The point is that with a significant uptick in imagination and commitment this sort of attendance could be built upon; long-term by gearing up the apparently dormant relocation hunt for an urban stadium site, near public transport; short term by seriously trying to bring Mohammed (potential fans w/o cars) to the mountain (Gillette) via bus, rail, carpool or whatever can be cobbled together to encourage the plentiful Metro Boston area twenty/thirty-something’s to trek through the suburban sprawl and help to provide the atmosphere currently animating places like Portland, Seattle, Toronto and Vancouver and even Red Bull Arena.

Indeed, with what seemed to be a packed Fort present for the match it was ironic that management chose to leaflet the throng with a familiar message posted atop Section 143, “In an effort to ensure an enjoyable atmosphere for all of our fellow fans, we request that you refrain from using inflammatory language during games, including: swearing (including in coordinated chants and songs) and, sexist, homophobic, racial, obscene or abusive language or gestures.”

While it is laudable to want fans attending games to feel safe, secure and comfortable, all three of these terms require an advanced degree in psychology to usefully interpret, or at least the sagacity of an experienced, big-city cop on the beat. Neither of these qualities appears to apply to either TeamOps operatives or FPD and therein lies the rub. Just like scouting players you need to spend money for experience and as a wise person once said, if you pay someone the minimum wage and offer them the authority to say no, those employed will likely do so, every time.

With the team blowing leads in four of the last five matches and headed for an early end to the season, even the most patient of supporters can be forgiven some colorful language whether in the form of organized chants or individual venting. As one fan pointed out, if the rules are enforced with enthusiasm both coaches and most of the players on the pitch would be out in the parking lot by halftime.

All this kerfuffle over swearing makes me think of a recent home video that has become a worldwide hit on YouTube. A normally quiet, thoughtful, small business owner from Buenos Aires, Santiago “El Tano” Pasman, (ironically also called “el pacifico”) is captured going slowly but not silently ballistic in front of his TV set as his beloved River Plate stutters, staggers and stinks their way through their final match in the Argentine first division, doomed to at least a season of degradation in the second.

“Tano” is a term in Argentina used to describe someone of Italian descent, and the seven-minute version available in both Spanish and English subtitles features language and references that could curdle the sweetest of milk in a millisecond. One phrase that is repeated constantly instructs various players, coaches, club presidents and other dignitaries to return to their familial roots deemed by Pasman to be of dubious reputation. I leave it to individual readers to watch on their own but you have been warned, specifically that there are terms employed that are far more offensive in the States than in Argentina.

As an aside, I’m certain both of New England’s Argentine players, Caraglio and Coria have seen the video and have chuckled knowingly; it has well over seven million hits.

Pasman’s son recorded his dad’s sufferings as part of a family effort to convince him to calm down for the sake of his health. When a friend saw the results he offered to edit them and the short, seven-minute version on the Internet is a classic example of the link between the words fan and fanatic. Regardless of whether the humor gets lost in translation the way in which the carefully turned out, balding, even kindly middle-aged man turns into a non-stop epithet machine as a result of the poverty of his team struck me as a perfect representation of the frustration any serious supporter feels when their season is going badly. It is just that most of us endure such moments either in private on the couch, or in the relative anonymity of throngs of the “fellowship of the miserable,” such as are found in Kops, Curva Suds, Chicken Runs and Forts throughout the football world. This is the principal reason for the huge gatherings behind the goal, it isn’t just that they are the cheap seats; it is a support group, in the best sense of the term.

In perhaps the most familiar part of the video for Revs fans Pasman, forced by his wife to take a tranquilizer washed down with wine, begs his team to, “…make just three passes, just three, that’s all I ask for, not ******* Barcelona with 28!!!!!”

In his view, articulated with the full force of every curse word he can possibly articulate, each player is of the most dubious ancestry, the coach is a thief and violates small animals and the upper management of the team is unspeakable in their turpitude.

He shouts at all the various River players, comparing them to castrati, demanding that they run, some of them preferably “all the way to Europe, never to come back,” at times he cries out climactically, like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally, “Yesssssssssssssssssssssssssss!!!” when they make a good move, only to be cut cruelly short by an even louder, “Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!” as River inevitably loses the ball.

Later, when the impending result becomes inevitable he wails mournfully, waving his arms aloft and sinking into his ottoman like a corpse being lowered into a tomb, “Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!! We are in the B (the second division), we are in the B, we are in the B!!!!! Nooooooooooooooooooooo!!!

And so on. If you haven’t seen it, Google “Tano Pasman watches River Plate.” It can be viewed with English subtitles and is now so popular that there is a compilation, “Tano Pasman and Hitler; the championship of the screamers,” fusing two viral videos, one a fictional account of the last days in the Fuhrerbunker (remember “Hitler discusses Martha Coakley and Scott Brown?”), the other short documentary that proves Bill Shankly’s dictum that football isn’t like life, it is much more important.

In the midst of his torment Pasman is socialized enough to turn to his wife at one moment to ask, “May I break it?” referring to what appears to be an ash tray that he ritually stomps on, in the style of a traditional Jewish wedding.

Speaking for myself, I have never had such grace and have smashed putters and rabbit ears, hurled Gallo wine jugs and beat upon the plastic seats at Foxborough like a mourner gone berserk. It all goes with the game and those in charge need to be sensitive, indeed, to respect such passionate excesses, every bit as much as they are concerned for the delicate ears of little Chucky and Muffy and their affluent parents who pay the bills.

While the Revolution do not have the Damoclean threat of relegation hanging over their collective heads, it does seem time to begin to think and play for the future. With a small core of players to build on, what more can be expected of the season but to try various combinations and make every effort to retain those who seem to have an upside.

And now, with the combination of MLS scheduling and Irene interference, we are at a kind of ersatz close season where the future can usefully be weighed. Hopefully, those in charge will use this opportunity usefully.

Rookie midfielder Stephen McCarthy is a thoroughbred in terms of the development system in the States. Born in Hawaii, he played youth soccer with the Dallas Texans and subsequently with the DFW Tornados and Carolina Dynamo. He played college soccer for Santa Clara and North Carolina, two of the very, very best programs in the States.

With his height, 6’, 4” and his distinctive semi-mullet, he is highly visible in the middle of the park for the Revolution. I caught up with him after a recent training session.


JIM: This is your first season as a pro and if this were college the season would be long past, how has that affected you, what do you do to maintain or build on what you have experienced?

STEPHEN: Yeah, it’s crazy. The college season is about to start and it will be ending about the same time as ours (in MLS). It is definitely long and as a rookie it is tough to stay mentally in it, so I think most importantly I try to stay mentally in shape by focusing on each week (and) the weekend and trying to gauge my weeks towards the games instead of stopping thinking about it. But then physically, it is also taking a toll because everyone has got some knocks by now but you just have to (take) ice baths and towards (the end of) the week (get) massages, things like massages and stuff that we didn’t have in college and so it is nice to have something that you can really get your legs back and that really helps.

JIM: One thing that people often mention when they come out of college and turn pro is that suddenly your days are empty, you aren’t going to class, your lives are now your own and, in some ways, that makes it harder to concentrate.

STEPHEN: Yes, that can definitely be true…

JIM: Not that you are out boogying all the time…

STEPHEN: Yeah, you know you do have a lot of free time and you have to use it the right way. You can’t be out on your feet doing things each day, you have to rest and eat right and take care of yourself and it can be tough without anyone telling you what to do.

JIM: Michael Parkhurst once told me that his first year he was chewed out for taking long walks in the parking lot of the hotel.

STEPHEN: Yeah, it will do that; I guess it will get you (laughing)…

JIM: Without referring to height too much, I would imagine that squashing in a plane, they aren’t flying you in first class, right?

STEPHEN: No, sometimes I get the window, or emergency exit row, which is nice…

JIM: Sometimes…

STEPHEN: Sometimes (but) planes don’t really bother me I could fall asleep while travelling really almost anywhere, so I like to just kick back and pass out.

JIM: So, in terms of the difference between playing here and playing in college obviously there is speed of play and all those kinds of things, what have been some of the surprises for you versus some of the things that seem to be effortless in transition?

STEPHEN: I think it is all the mental changes that you don’t really think about much until you are at this level that you really have to worry about your position a lot while maybe in college you can let that slide a little, be out of position a couple of times but you really can’t here so it is constantly thinking am I in the right position, do I need to get closer to whoever and am I in the right spots. Otherwise it isn’t that much different of a game, you’ve played it and you know that you have the touch and everything but it really is trying to get yourself positionally, and in the right spots and in the right shape.

JIM: And thinking about reading the game as well as your teammates. When you were in college, at UNC, you played with some players for four years, now with some players, you’ve only been playing for a few months and, as with Milton (Caraglio) and other new players, only for a couple of games. So how do you build on that in learning how to read one another?

STEPHEN: It is tough, especially in this league where players are in and out every week, so you really have to take the training sessions as if they are games and really try to learn as much as you can (each and) every day. (For example) Milton did something today where he back footed it to me and I had no idea that it was coming but then I remembered, don’t forget that in a game, if it comes to him he’ll probably do something like that, you just have to really think and be focused throughout the week, like I said.

JIM: I notice, coming to training fairly regularly, that you guys play a lot of games in training, that is to say sometimes an hour or more out of the 90-plus minutes that you are usually out there. Is part of the reason for that so that everybody has to trot out every move to everyone under all sorts of circumstances?

STEPHEN: Yes, I definitely think so, especially on this team it is mostly games, small-sided or it’s a little larger games (depending), you gotta do it, I guess, to learn how to read each other.

JIM: Well, I mean you think about gridiron football where they stop every ten seconds and plan it, you are playing a game as complicated, there are as many people and options on the field and you’re not stopping, so I would presume that the only way that you learn one another’s moves and tendencies, the only way, is just by playing.

STEPHEN: Yes, definitely, I think (that) Stevie too is a coach that likes to let players play, and he doesn’t really want to give a hard, set plan, he really wants players to figure it out on their own. He likes players that can do that and I think you really learn that in practice; that you have to figure it out for yourself.

JIM: Coming up as a younger player and now, as a professional, are there players that you model yourself after? Are there players that you think about whose qualities and style are ones that you would emulate?

STEPHEN: Yes, of course.

JIM: And, of course, there are heroes and then there are people that you copy.

STEPHEN: Yeah, I mean there are heroes that I have that I watch You Tube videos of and then there’s Shalrie and Benny that I look at in practice and say I want to try and be more like both of them.

JIM: And who would be the ones you watch on YouTube?

STEPHEN: Stephen Gerrard, (Patrick) Vieira…

JIM: The usual midfield suspects? But, and here we go back to height, are there any particular players in terms of height, that you look at and try to emulate, I mean, Peter Crouch would make no sense, he’s a forward, you are a midfielder.

STEPHEN: I still love to watch Peter Crouch, I mean anyone who is taller, and skinnier, gives me hope that I can be as good as them, Zlatan (Ibrhimovic), Peter Crouch, Patrick Vieira, I love watching videos just to see how their bodies move, to try to learn how to do what they do.

JIM: Do you do any lifting, are you thinking of adding weight?

STEPHEN: I’ve always tried to in the past, for years, but I’ve kind of accepted that I can’t put too much weight on so I have to just learn how to play as I am.

JIM: Because it would slow you down, or that you literally can’t put weight on?

STEPHEN: I literally cannot put weight on…

JIM: Man you should sell whatever you’ve got, you could make millions…

STEPHEN: I wish man, I wish.


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