Bearfight FC, best name in lower league soccer?
I don't know about all that. There are a lot of good names out there. Right off the top of my head, Bugeaters FC is a great name, Get Better FC is a favorite of mine. There was a team in Colorado named after the local marijuana dispensary. I wish I could remember the name. Honestly, we never thought about how cool or marketable our name was. All that said, it is a pretty bad ass name.
How did you come up with the name?
So, I one point, I thought about having a different answer every time I fielded this questions, but I couldn't keep up with all the crazy stories that we discussed. One of them involved a fictional story about these two real guys, Jaimie and Simo, these two huge cats from Scranton, fighting a bear. One involved a this crazy story about an underground Soviet regime obsessed with training polar bear to rise up against the bourgeoisie and seize the means of production. The real story, in 2011, myself and two other idiots, Justin and Wayne were very involved in the Sons of Ben and the Philly MLS supporter scene. We broke off and did our own thing. It started with a bunch of us, pre Union matches, consuming this drink called 'a bearfight' which is a car bomb followed by a jager bomb. That grew into this thing called the Bearfight Brigade. For Wayne, Justin, and I, it reminded us of the 90s punk/hardcore scene we all grew up in. Sitting around at Stoney's pub in Wilmington one night, being the people we are, and speaking out against the idiot manager (Nowak), and the even bigger idiot heading up the FO, someone tweeted to us, 'if you think you could do a better job, you should start your own club'. So, challenge accepted! That was early 2013. By August 2013, with absolutely no idea what we were doing, Bearfight FC was born at Stoney's British Pub in Wilmington, DE by Justin Lee, Eric Shertz, Wine-o Wayne, and myself. I still don't know if we know what we were doing, but we were born out of a DIY punk rock mentality and an absolute belief that we are going to do this our fucking way. I always say that we are 'Joe Strummer punk' not 'Sid Vicious punk'. "People can change anything they want to, and that means everything in the world." -Joe Strummer
As I remember, there was some connection with the Union? MLS not too popular with grassroots soccer, you into it?
Yeah, we grew out of MLS supporter culture. The club doesn't have a stance on MLS. We have our own shit to worry about. My personal take, I don't like the way MLS runs. I don't like the single entity thing. I don't like the lack of a soccer pyramid in the US. US Soccer gets a lot of stuff wrong. That said, I have some friends that have played MLS. They are just people, just like you and I, trying to do a job they love, trying to hone their skills, trying to build a life for themselves and their families. I am glad there is something in place in the US for them to do that. And, let's not kid ourselves, Bearfight, as well as numerous other non league, grass roots clubs exist because we have opinion that grew out of how MLS is run and how US Soccer is run. We aren't here without MLS, or we are here with a different message. I remember Justin and I chatting at Stoney's. He said something that stuck with me. "Music, art, money, and sport; these thing have been ruined by big money. There is a disconnect between supporters and the sport." Basically, you go to an MLS match, you go to a large venue concert, sure, you cheer the club, sure you love the music, but the connection is indirect. But, you go to a non league match, you go to a punk show in a basement, you are directly connected to to the experience. You can stand there and chat with the team representative, the player are going to come over a personally thank you afterward. You are buying merch from the team President. At a show, the musician aren't on a stage, they are right there. They stand next to you. It's real. It's people who do what they do for the pure love of what they do. It's about connecting with people, being part of something, building a family.
Got distracted by the name, who are you and what is your role with the club?
My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father. Prepare to die.
Real shit though, my name is Jeremy Sharpe. I have the title of President. But, anyone who has been involved with DIY, grass roots clubs know that our real title is 'President, Vice President, Merch Person, sometimes coach, sometime social media person, sometimes the person in charge of making sure the beer is cold'. My title is member of Bearfight FC. That is all of our titles. We are a family, a collective. Titles are self serving. But, having titles make it easier to fill out paperwork.
Ownership of Bearfight sounds interesting, can you explain that?
It's fluid. The goal is to be member owned. As we continue to build, and hopefully, someday, figure out what we are doing, this club will become a club owned by whomever wants to be a part of it. It will be a yearly membership dues. You can walk away at any time. It's not 'ownership' per say, it's a collective. Everyone owns it and no ones owns it. We are all about everyone that wants to be involved, be involved. And if you aren't ready to take the leap to membership, come on out and watch, hang, cheer. Come see what we are all about. Come chat with us. If you wanna contribute, great. If it's not for you, that's cool, also.
What league are you in currently and what's the level of play there?
United Soccer League of Pennsylvania. This league is amazing and deserves a lot more attention than it gets. This league is the home of Philadelphia Ukrainians, formerly the Philadelphia Ukrainian Nationals. They have USOC Championship Trophies in their trophy case. This was the club of Walter Bahr. We play against United German Hungarians. This is were Werner Fricker played. West Chester United, runners up at last years Amateur Cup, are in our league. Vereinigung Erzgebirge is in this league. They have a damn piece of the Berlin Wall on display as you walk to their pitch. Lighthouse Soccer Club. There was a time that any player in Philly that was worth anything played at Lighthouse at some point. The level of play is awesome. It's a great league. We sneaked in when no one was paying attention and now they are stuck with us.
There isn't a league like this in Delaware. At least not yet. But, we keep doing our part to grow the soccer culture in Delaware.
Who's a player from your club we should know about?
Honestly, I love this club. Every player that plays for us. Every player that has played. Every coach, every member. I could say something great about each person. But, that is not what Bearfight FC is about. I hope my players move on the better opportunities. And I truly believe that many, many of them can and will do that. It's the culture that makes me most proud. It's looking at the club and realizing how many different countries, cultures, religions, ideologies, identities, preferences, are represented. And how everyone gets on so well. How we strive toward a common goal. I am not going to say that when you put on the kit, you are just Bearfight and all those other things disappear. That isn't us. When you put on that strip, you are still all of those things. We want to take all of those things, respect what each brings to the table, understand how each can help us on our path to success, and embrace them. The game unites us. The game doesn't know or care what you were before you stepped on the pitch. The game only cares about your love for the game. Bearfight, to me, to us, represents what our country should be. Lots of people from lots of different experiences realizing that each of us brings something to the table that will help us succeed. It's not 'a player' that I want you to know about, it's 'the players', it's the Bearfight family. We may be the Island of Misfit Toys, but we are here for each other. We accept and embrace what each person brings to the table. I have an idealism about how I think human beings should treat each other. I look at this club and am proud that we are working to live that idealism. In this America, where the rights of women, minorities, immigrants, et cetera, are under attack; we are constantly working to be the exact opposite. Building a culture that respects and embraces those things that makes us different, and works to find those things that make us all the same, is the most punk thing in the world. It's literally what Joe Strummer trained us to do.
What's the soccer culture like in Delaware?
There is a great soccer culture in Wilmington, Delaware that is embracing us more and more every day. It is hungry for a club to support. I have met many immigrants, or children of immigrants, who live in the greater Wilmington area that love the game and are dying for their own club to support. We are working to be active parts of those communities. We don't just want them to support us. We strive for a relationship that we support each other.
How's your club's merch game? Because with a name and logo like that, you should make some coin!
We all need to make coin to pay the bills. But making coin isn't our main objective. Our merch success goes in waves. There will be times that the post office sees me so much that we are on a first name basis, and other times that there is no movement. Not for nothing, that is non league life. We are making plans for the fall and I know that the next lines of new merch are going to be a huge success. There isn't much I can talk about yet, but, I will tell you about the most unique merch we have coming in the fall to late fall. This is the first time we have talked about this publicly. Bearfight FC and Circa 68 Records, a bad ass, up and coming punk label in Wilmington, are forming a partnership. Our first big drop is going to be a compilation CD that is due out in fall. It's going to feature local musician; bands and artists we love. Band and artists that have supported us. We want to give these people a chance to be heard beyond the local area and give folks a taste of the Bearfight FC punk soccer culture.
Currently, we have a limited amount of merch available at bearfightfc.limitedrun.com (gratuitous plug). We have an incredible graphic designer, Jesse Lorenz. He is the best in the business if you ask me. He created the Bearfight logo. His scarf design and tee shirt design are top notch. And I know that my guy is sitting on many more designs. He's a damn wizard.
Anything else we should know about Bearfight FC?
This is a labor of love. This is a passion. It's not just about soccer. It's about an opportunity for a group of people that may not otherwise have ever met, to build something positive and make a positive impact on our community. This is as much about community as it is rebellion. It's about building a culture that is inclusive, being a family. In today world, where it seems that our leaders, be they political, spiritual, whatever, are trying to find ways to divide us, we want to create, in our little corner of the world, a means to unite all of us. This is Wilmington. This is the city that, for a time in his life, Bob Marley called home. This is Delaware, the first state. And we are doing the most punk thing we know, using soccer and music to build a culture of unity.
Also, no bears, actual or fictitious, including our beloved Punchy The Bear, were harmed in the making of our logo, any and all merch, any Bearfight FC events, or during the making of this rather loquacious q & a.
You and Black Bear FC should definitely have that friendly you mentioned on twitter. Any real thought to fundraising for that
Both Black Bear FC and BFFC have talked a bit. It would take about $10k to pull that off. Not sure if that is something that will happen in the immediate future. That is not to say that BBFF and BFFC don't have any plans to work together.