All season long we’ve given and taken the abuse online with the Louligans. The “inbred” jokes, and remarks about teeth and shoes came fast and furious at the outset…and then they ran out of material. Still, it’s been a fun little rivalry, and both sides made the best of what most agree was a somewhat league-manufactured hatred.
One of the things I’ve enjoyed doing this season was an online comic strip called Not the Funny Pages which focused on Louisville City and the USL. Using a Bone graphics generator, they mainly feature banter back and forth between two main characters, Cooper and Louligan Rat. Each character is meant to support their respective SG (I was a Cooper then), and very quickly both developed personalities and a life of their own.
What’s especially funny for me is that Louligan Rat isn’t meant to be a foil, some joke piñata that I use to try and score laughs at the Louligans’ expense. If that’s all he was, he’d be a pretty flat character. But the Louligans seem to hate him in particular.
So as the final game of the regular season approached, with Saint Louis ending out of the playoffs, we knew we’d have to do a tifo. And what better way to cap the season than a sporting salute to those who have provided so much amusement over the course of the season, especially because they would be moving to the West. The Ultras would have the tifo with a fraternal affection.
Once I knew the sentiment, the rest fell into place easily. Louligan Rat exiting stage left carrying a bandle over his shoulder, a crude wooden sign pointing the way West, and Cooper waving a good-luck farewell. I did a quick mockup in MS Paint to get an idea for space and layout, finding a presentation that made the best use of available space.
I had to get a little clever with Rat’s arm, since the default pose for him is screaming with his arms over his head, but the canvas of the tifo would give us a lot of ability to craft it how we wanted.
We went with two cloth sheets, each 7.5’ x9’ long. The second sheet would carry the text of the message: GIVE ‘EM HELL, ST. LOUIS in the distinctive Ultras font, along with our logo.
Crafting them was fairly straightforward. After securing a sheet to a wall with some masking tape, we projected the image from a projector onto the sheet using a Sharpie marker to draw the outlines. From there, it was over to my wife, Jimi, to do the final painting process.
The great thing about tifos is that they are macro in scale. A small blemish or blot here or there really don’t detract from the work when you’re looking at it a football pitch away. That gave Jimi some margin for the inevitable error, like when your two-year-old grabs a brush and makes a mark on the canvas. One thing we did adapt to good purpose was a large baby playpen we have, which let Jimi work inside of it while keeping disturbances out.
Jimi worked her magic with the paintbrush, and the whole thing took her approximately ten to twelve hours to complete. From there, after rolling it up and letting it dry, it was up to me.
For deployment, we decided that we’d rather unfurl it at the 90th minute, since it was a farewell display. That meant we didn’t have to worry about it up until the end of the game, and it took no time at all to rally a few Louisville City fans- and even a few St Louis supporters- to help unfurl it. One of them was even a fan of the original Bone comic strip, so the gesture was all the sweeter.
Once the tifo was unfurled and displayed, we broke it down. The original idea was to have Sharpies for folks to sign it like a remembrance card, but those posted missing. Nevertheless, we were delighted to turn it over as a goodwill gift from the Louisville City FC fans to our hosts, the Louligans.
After they won the night, the St Louis support mobbed the field. Walking by later, I was delighted to see the tifo displayed on the pitch, with folks stopping to look and snap pictures of it. Others reached out to Jimi later on Twitter to send their appreciation.
Watching the Louligans march to the match earlier that evening, it dawned on me that I loved American football even more than I hated our putative arch-rivals, even after the end of a season full of slagging. The passion we all show at the grassroots level of the game is remarkable, and for the Derby City Ultras it was an honor to act as ambassadors from one set of very passionate fans to another.
Though we still shoulda won.