Our City is a weekly column focused on my perspective on Orlando City as a supporter. I would love to incorporate your ideas and stories, if you have something to add or a story idea please connect by commenting here or on Twitter: @kevinmercer225
MLS took advantage of the lull between the multitude of drafts to announce the league's home openers, including an anticipated match-up with fellow expansion club New York City FC. Orlando City SC faithful rejoiced like a long engaged couple who finally have a wedding date. With the announcement of the first game of the season, the Orlando City PR machine rolled out the #FillTheBowl hashtag and made selling out the first MLS game a top priority.
Between circling the date on my calender and finding Brek Shea highlight videos on Youtube, it started to dawn on me, "wait, 60,000 people are coming to the first game?" That's going to be a little bit different than the last four years, when 10,000 was an amazing turnout. The 20,000+ crowd seemed insane -- and filling the bowl would mean three times as many people!
Some personal disclosure: I'm "that guy." You know, the one that has your favorite band's first out-of-print record on some obscure color of marble vinyl. I'm the one that went to your favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurant before everybody else found it. When I play FIFA or Football Manager, I always play some obscure club from England's lower leagues and aim for European glory.
My favorite players are the underdogs who ride the bench, waiting for their big chance. I've even managed to make a career out of researching subcultures and countercultures. It's just how I am.
So yeah, all of a sudden I wasn't ready to share my beloved game day experience with 59,999 other people. For four seasons, my friends and I have had it so easy -- convenient parking, relaxed tailgates, and choice seating, not to mention that kind of secret handshake that comes with supporting a third division club. It takes a special kind of person to support a club at that level. In a former blog I got called out for calling some soccer fans elitists, but it may have been a moment of the pot calling the kettle black, so to speak.
Luckily, along with this elitist gene, I also have a lot of common sense. There is room on this bandwagon, after all. We all want nothing more than a long-lived, successful franchise in Orlando. I want that enough to put aside my character flaws and embrace a whole lot of brand new fans into the fold.
I will forever remember the first four seasons of Orlando City as some of the best times I've ever had watching soccer. This is a new era, and my beloved City are growing, and with added fans, the idea of "Our City" is becoming a more inclusive term.
Look around town and you can see it. There are tons of car magnets, lots of jerseys and shirts, and I'm getting stopped a lot more to talk soccer with people who would have never chatted me up about it before. Orlando is becoming a soccer town. So it's time to cast all my elitism aside and embrace the experience of Orlando City in the MLS with the all my new fellow supporters.
If there is one thing people argue that Orlando lacks, it is a cohesive community. So,60,000 Orlandians screaming for their club and their city -- I like the sound of that! March 8, 2015 is going to be a historic moment in Orlando's history and we all should be there.
Go City! And #FillTheBowl!