A Popular Culture Perspective on TFC

Why Toronto FC does not live up to my realistic expectations of the modern sports story
by Sonja Missio   |   Monday, January 28, 2013

Red Dawn Rising - column on Toronto FC (TFC) & the Toronto Ontario soccer scene

I think I finally realized what my problem with Toronto FC is.

I mean, besides the disagreements I have with the team on coaching appointments, playing style, players bought and sold, beer prices, kit style and their lack of curry fries.

My problem with the team is that I don’t understand them. I cannot relate to them.

But not in the way you may think.

In my spare time, when I am not working my 9 to 5, writing various articles or running my campaign for FIFA presidency, I am writing a Masters of Popular Culture thesis on Toronto FC (somewhere, my thesis supervisor’s eyebrows just shot up in surprise).

Though I am currently on an extended, self-proclaimed leave, I am at Brock University (St. Catharines, Ontario) trying to complete my Masters of Popular Culture. Brock University is a fantastic school and their popular culture program is great. Through it, I have been given the opportunity to converse with some of the greatest pop cultural – and soccer – minds. The program and its people have helped me understand soccer on a level I could have never before.

Anyway, I started the program – many moons ago now – because of my general interest in popular culture and how it relates to our everyday lives. Basically, I wanted to learn what popular culture could do for me.

Recently I found out the answer: It can ruin me.

Hear me out, I promise this has to do with Toronto FC.

I have an understanding for popular culture that most people may take for granted. Not in an “I-know-more-than-you-and-am-smarter” kind of way, but in an “I-have-certain-expectations-and-a-set-of-standard-beliefs” sort of style.

You see, I have grown up with television, literature, movies and music and I am unable to process my own thoughts beyond the scope of what the above media has taught me to believe is universally true. Now, I am not like Abed from the hit NBC show “Community” (mainly because I’m totally Annie), but I do have unreal expectations that I am not sure are due to arrogance or ignorance.

In other words: I don’t know how to relate to anything beyond what popular culture has taught me to be good and true.

I mean, I’ve compared coaching to movie genres, channeled my feelings through popular music and have even titled article headlines after literature masterpieces. Everything I understand about soccer is in proxy to something else I love.

And Toronto FC is ruining that.

Nothing about TFC makes sense to me. I have no point of reference to figure out this team; there is no popular culture compass I can turn to. Yes, the team is bad, but not “group-of-misfits-from-the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks-who-eventually-overcome-by-working-together-and-finding-out-that-they-just-have-to-believe-in-themselves-and-the-power-of-their-friendship” bad.

They’re not a group of misfits; the team has great and talented players. They have financial support, supporter support and every other element needed to make them an incredible club. They are not that loveable group of goons that no one expects much of until they surprise us all.

But that’s just one scenario. Toronto FC is also not looking for redemption. It’s not like the team’s former star player is coming out of retirement for one last win. Or that they hired a disgraced coach who needs to prove his greatness once again. Or they made a winner-take-all bet with Montreal Impact for ownership of BMO Field.

And it’s certainly not like the club’s new unbelievably good striker is a girl-in-drag/alien/monkey-in-a-kit/long-lost-twin-of-another-player that needs to be kept secret.

If any of the above were true, I would not be having this problem. All of the above, I get.

This is my downfall when it comes to Toronto FC: I do not know how to un-learn what media has taught me.

There’s no sports-related television show or movie where the decent-but-losing team hires a player as a coach. There’s no Gordon Korman-esque book where the club president gives up the opportunity to buy top players to hold on to the cash instead. And I have never heard a song by a popular Canadian band about having a billion dollars (as Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment does, according to an article last year in The Canadian Business Journal) and still having numerous losing teams.

Without the least bit of exaggeration: I just cannot comprehend this team.

However, I am not losing hope. You see, if there’s one thing I have learned from popular culture, it is that something happens when you least expect it. Or, most expect it, depending on the situation. So I am going to do the only thing I know how to do: sit back and wait for the script to play out.

And hope that we sign an alien. 


Univ. of Guelph, Univ. of W. Ontario, Brock University
Club Domestic:
Toronto FC
Club Foreign:
Supported Udinese since birth, TFC was her own stupid decision; writing on her masochistic relationship with soccer started after. Doomed as a Canadian - Friulano - Swiss - Filipina. Searching for Juventini actually from Turin and running for FIFA Prez.