On Saturday, New England Revolution supporters lifted their latest tifo, which honored 10th-year player Chris Tierney. It was a creative design that was greatly appreciated by the defender.
Once a rarity in New England, tifos have become more frequent in recent years. To learn more about the process, we spoke to Secretary of the Midnight Riders Matt Zytka, who helped create Saturday’s artwork.
The Bent Musket (TBM): To start, give us a little background about yourself. Who are you? How did you get involved with this project?
Matt Zytka (MZ): I’m the Secretary of the Midnight Riders, and you can usually spot me on the capo stand during the first half of home matches. I’m a graphic designer by profession, so I end up doing quite a bit of design-y stuff for the Riders. Usually our Web Czar, Ben Saufley, designs our tifo displays (which is great for us since he’s a lot better at illustration than I am), but I really loved the idea for this one, so I just went ahead and starting working on it so the rest of the group could get started with it.
TBM: Where did you get your inspiration from for this tifo?
MZ: Julie Kumor (current At-Large board member and our former Treasurer) came up with the idea of doing something for our longest-tenured player and native son, Chris Tierney, as well as using lyrics from the intro to “New England” by Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers. Having a “one-club man” is so rare these days, and the timing made sense with him just recently earning his 200th start (in addition to him being named the Midnight Riders Man of the Year for 2016). Plus, Jonathan Richman f*cking rules, and we use the chorus of that song as a chant in the Fort.
My initial mockup had just a cutout of the record itself being hoisted up. After receiving some feedback from the group, I redesigned it to feature an entire album cover, which is of course based on Richman’s classic 1976 album that the song appears on, but with Tierney in place of Richman. I didn’t realize until halfway through the project that this game fell on Record Store Day, so that was a nice coincidence.
TBM: What's the hardest part about creating a tifo?
MZ: Tracing the design onto the fabric is tough. We don’t have a giant warehouse where we can project the whole image at once, so we have to do it piece by piece and hope everything lines up properly.
TBM: What has been your favorite Revolution tifo?
MZ: It has to be the Jaws tifo from the 2014 playoffs. The way that thing came together was so exciting, and it went up on such a memorable night for us.
TBM: What has been your favorite non-Revolution tifo?
MZ: I mean, it’s hard to pick anything other than that Dortmund tifo from a few years ago. The one with the binoculars. The field-level video of the players walking out while it rises behind them is just so perfect. If we’re just talking about ones from around MLS, I thought the circus-themed one by the TFC supporters last year was really impressive and beautifully designed.
TBM: How important have these tifos been to the fan culture?
MZ: Stepping up our tifo game definitely comes with some positive side effects. People get to feel a nice sense of pride when something that they helped create comes to life in such a big and dramatic way. I think it also helps to inspire others to get a little more involved in the group so that they can be a part of the process for future displays.
TBM: Where do tifos go after the game?
MZ: They just get thrown out, unfortunately. We’re thinking of ways to make it a more sustainable process and reuse that material. We saw that some of the Indy Eleven supporters have started to turn fabric from old tifo displays into tote bags, so maybe we can start doing something along those lines.
TBM: Do you have more designs in mind?
MZ: Yes. We’re planning on doing something to coincide with our annual Pride Night on June 3rd. There’s also a great design for an opponent-specific tifo that Ben Saufley designed a while ago that’s been waiting for it’s big moment. Not sure whether that will happen this year or next — we just need the timing to work out right.