This is a simplified transcript of our twitter chat with author Joshua Kloke on March 20th, 2019, edited for blog readability. To interact with the twitter version instead, click here: https://goo.gl/NxFm7z
WOTS: As a journalist you cover sports and music for a variety of top publications – were these always topics of interest for you?
Joshua Kloke: Yes, almost to the point of obsession as a child and as a teenager. My father tells a great story about how he nearly started a fire in the kitchen one morning because the two of us were too preoccupied with watching highlights from a playoff game from the night before.
WOTS: Hah! The best things are often all-consuming. The book is a sweeping look at what makes TFC a team, from team management, and fitness regimen logic, to fan response and important game-day play by plays. How did you approach balancing all this information?
JK: I’ve been a fan of clubs and national teams and I understand that insatiable desire for information about something you support. It’s the age we live in. When you approach it with a fan’s mindset, you try to cram as much information in as possible. So maybe not so much balance?
WOTS: We noticed that fan culture came up a lot in the book, leading us to ask: In its early days, the TFC wasn’t a winning team – is it fair to say that sport was almost second-fiddle to what was really driving the club initially, i.e. its fan base?
JK: In the early days, the club itself was surprised by the level of engagement from fans and the overt passion these fans showed. MLS and North American soccer isn’t close to what it is today. So while those fans were the dominant storyline in the face of losing.They also forced management to look at what they were doing. They knew that fan engagement would be temporary unless they had better results. How the club managed to achieve success but then not listening to the demands of those passionate fans was interesting to watch.
WOTS: Interesting, and it seems that Toronto teams with losing streaks have some of the most impassioned fans – the Leafs, Blue Jays and TFC all have this in common. Can you speculate on what builds this fan loyalty if not wins?
JK: I felt it was important to include a personal story to start the book for this reason: When #TFCLive began, they were viewed as outsiders in a crowded sports market.Soccer was not the mainstream sport it is today and soccer fans from all walks of life relished in being outsiders and having a club to call their own. People grew up being Juventus fans, or Man United fans, because their parents were.Now there was an entirely new generation of people who didn’t feel an affinity to traditional clubs, such as those soccer teams or even the Leafs and the Jays. They didn’t want to support their parent’s club. They wanted a club to call their own.
WOTS: And #TFClive provided the perfect niche! Makes sense. Q5: Your list of personal interviews for this book is extensive – what’s the most surprising thing you learned about the TFC or soccer in Canada in general?
JK: That soccer in Canada is no different from soccer anywhere else. The game grows with the right ingredients: Accessibility for people of all walks of life, passionate coaches interested more in player development than personal success and clubs that can tell stories for fans.
WOTS: Great ingredients for a great game. Speaking of stories… You’re also the author of a book looking at the Tragically Hip’s impact on your life – as a fan, what makes you connect so strongly to a group?
JK: Lyrically, Gord’s work resonated strongly with me. I grew up in a German family where the sense of identity was ingrained. We all go through struggles for identity as teenagers – Gord’s sense of place and self helped me understand the world around me.
WOTS: In your acknowledgements for Come On You Reds, you thank the staff of a billiards lounge for letting you write in their space. Where’s your favourite spot to write?
JK: Shox is a landmark in the Junction, where I call home, for bringing alcohol to a neighbourhood that was otherwise dry until very recently. I spent as much time writing there as anywhere else. I’ll take any quiet pub though with cold taps and endless sports on TV.
WOTS: Was just reading an article connecting pubs and reading/writing – primary source evidence here, folks. Our final question: What’s up next for you? Can we expect more on Canadian fandom?
JK: I waited too long between my first books & I’d rather not wait as long for the next. However, my six month old son might keep me out of the pubs a bit. But yes, there’s never been a better time to be interested in Canadian soccer. I hope that’ll be the topic of my next book.
WOTS: We can’t wait to read it, when your son allows you to write! Thanks for being here today, Joshua – great to chat about fandom, identity, and the importance of finding your niche.