Hello, and welcome to American Tifo, a weekly newsletter for, and about, North American soccer supporters. Thank you for being here. If you haven’t already, subscribe! If you’re a member of a supporters group, please consider sharing this with the rest of your SG and encouraging them to subscribe as well. Lastly, if you have any cool/interesting stories you’d like to share, reach out! I’d love to talk to you.
This is the second in a recurring series profiling SG leaders around North America.
For Indy Eleven supporter Peter Evans, all supporter culture should start like a teenage punk band. Loud, passionate, full of talent and enthusiasm, but constantly on a razor-thin edge, at risk of going off-beat and the whole thing descending into chaos at any moment.
Evans has held an incredible amount of roles within a supporter group. He’s the co-founder of Indy Eleven SG Slaughterhouse-19. For the larger Brickyard Battalion, of which Slaughterhouse-19 is an affiliate, he’s been the operations director, the vice president, the president, a capo, the tifo director, and its Independent Supporters Council Representative.
Through all of those roles, he’s helped guide the Indy supporters scene from a young upstart to an organized, well-run entity, while at the same time bringing a punk rock ethos and style to their support.
The most telling thing about Indianapolis cultural identity is that when opposing supporters try to insult the city, they struggle to come up with something that cuts deep enough.
“Indy has always been a place where it’s hard to define us in any way,” Evans said. “Watching other supporters groups try to talk about us, and they try to talk about the city of Indianapolis, and there’s nothing to latch on to. They’re like, ‘Well, racing is stupid.’ Half of the supporters group looks at them and goes, ‘Ok, we don’t care about the race either.' If that’s your only insult, you don’t know anything about us. So at times, I think it allows us to fly under the radar, which is great.”
Though Evans is most passionate about Indy, his entrance point into supporter culture was through Chicago. Growing up northwestern Indiana, he saw Chicago Fire fans on TV ripping flares and smoke bombs at Soldier Field.
“I thought, ‘Okay, cool. This is really interesting. I don’t know how they’re not setting each other on fire. But I like it.’”
He first started attending Fire matches his junior and senior years of college, making the three and a half hour drive with a buddy from his college campus. All it took was one match in the supporters section and he was hooked.
“It was like a drug. I needed more,” he said.
As Evans attended Fire matches, getting more and more into supporter culture, he found himself wishing this type of magic could happen closer to home.
“I wished Indianapolis had a team, that we could do something like this,” Evans said. “I have such a soft spot for Chicago, but Chicago’s not Indianapolis, it’s not my home. It’s not the place I’m passionate about. It was just like, ‘Man, if Indy gets a team, I’m gonna go nuts for them.’”
Coincidentally, as Evans’ passion was growing at Fire games, a burgeoning supporter movement was being built in Indy. In 2013, thanks largely to a grassroots supporter movement in the city, led by the Brickyard Battalion, it was announced that a professional team would be coming to the city.
With that news, Evans embarked on a self-directed mission. He still attended Fire matches, supported the team and got excited that all of this would soon be coming to his hometown.
But he also started to pay more attention to the little stuff.
“It almost became like I was doing advanced scouting,” Evans said. “I was watching the mechanisms in the section, how the drum line and the capos speak to each other. How the flags are distributed, how the tifos are done. I started asking questions.”
In the subsequent few years, Evans, a self-professed American soccer nerd, would do some away days with Fire supporters, going to Columbus and Kansas City to not only soak in the atmosphere, but understand how supporter operations were run in these cities.
“I was looking at, how does this work here? How are they getting away with doing X,Y,Z?” he said.
Evans tried to pay attention to as many little details as he could, figuring out what could be implemented in Indy. Because as he soon found out, SGs don’t just pop up. They have to be built, not just with passion, but with logistics.
“There is a machine that has to be well-oiled in a supporters section,” he said. “People kind of think it just happens but it really doesn’t. After a while it becomes old hat, and everyone gets used to it, and then you don’t think about the fact that there’s this like, group-based machine that somebody has built at some point and now you don’t think about it.”
Though it’s often considered a thankless job, Evans believes that keeping the machine running smoothly is essential, and best done in a way that you don’t notice it.
“People take for granted how much effort goes into a game day,” he said. “It’s a job that’s similar to a referee where if a referee is doing a good job, you don’t notice them. But if a referee is doing a terrible job, you definitely are aware they exist. If the person in charge of game day is not getting the flags to the section, or isn’t communicating with the front office, it’s going to turn into a poor environment. You don’t do that role if you just want to put it on a resume. You’re doing it because you love your club, your city and your team.”
Through Slaughterhouse-19, Evans blended this tightly-run operational approach with a punk rock culture he grew up loving.
“Slaughterhouse-19 is a bunch of the punk, hardcore and metal scenes from Indy, all of the people that like soccer in those circles, coming together,” Evans said. “We had three guys that started it, and one of the guys is part of the old guard of Indy’s hardcore scene. He’s like, ‘Hold on, let me get a hold of some friends’, and overnight we went from three people to 45. But we were very organized, we were ready to go, and before I knew it, we were kind of dictating what the culture was. For me, I was a guy that grew up loving sports and punk rock, so I was like, ‘Hey, well St. Pauli does a pretty good job in this.’ We pulled a lot from German teams. But we also pulled from Latin America and England, and we tried to add in some local things about our state, things that you would find at high school basketball games.”
Mixing the best parts of punk rock and supporter culture, including the passion, the communal spirit, the authenticity, and especially the ‘Do It Yourself’ mentality, has helped Evans get the most out of both, especially in a place like Indianapolis, which is just now growing into itself as a city.
“I’d say one of the big things that you find between both is a DIY spirit,” he said. “If you don't do it, no one's going to do it. That's why I got involved doing the stuff with Eleven anyway. I knew what we were capable of, but I wasn't sure if anyone was going to put in the work and I want to see it happen. So I just did it.”
“With Indy, you have a city that’s growing, that’s becoming something. Its character is still pliable. So, if you want to see something happen in this city, it’s not hard to make it happen, and create something that wasn’t there before. I love this place, I think it’s the greatest city on the face of the earth, and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”