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How to Convert a Casual Fan into an Orlando City Lunatic

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A look back at my journey from casual fan to absolute nut-job obsessed with everything Orlando City.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

For years, I was what most would refer to as a casual soccer fan. I watched the World Cup, would follow a handful of teams in England, and tune in to MLS whenever I stumbled across it scrolling channels.

As for must-see TV, it was mainstream sports and combat sports. Basketball, football, baseball, and any form of two people fighting each other was guaranteed to get my eyes glued to the action. As I watched more and more soccer, it started to change.

I enjoyed something about each sport, and still do. The tactics of American football. The skill required of baseball. The fluid team play of basketball. The undeniable psychology of a fight between two well-trained human beings. But as I watched more, it became clear that soccer had all of this wrapped into one beautiful human chess match.

When the Lions began playing at Disney's Wide World of Sports, it was as if the sports gods had delivered me everything I loved about athletic competition, all rolled into one beautiful, purple package, right to my front door. The owners cared about the fans. The fans cared deeply about the club. The players cared about the quality of soccer they put on exhibit night in and night out.

The city as a whole began to take notice. Attendance grew, as the buzz did the same. #WeDigPurple was a big moment for club awareness in the city -- a viral hashtag and city-wide promotion that let everybody know this club was here to stay in its own soccer specific stadium.

And, of course, Kaká signed.

Acquisitions like Tally Hall, Brek Shea, and Amobi Okugo are enough to get your attention, but when you bring in a former Balloon d'Or winner, you make a statement. It's a statement of commitment, and that was an easy statement for me to get behind.

The team formed around him in the coming months as I grew more and more attached to the club. Shortly after we hit 2015, I joined up with The Mane Land, leaving offers to get back into covering boxing and jiu-jitsu on the table for this new passion.

In March, we all did it. We #FilledTheBowl.

The spectacle of the event was something I'll never forget. A sold-out crowd, quite literally spilling into the aisles and going absolutely nuts for the new-look Lions cemented a fanhood into a love affair.

As the games went on, the good times and better memories came one after another: Pedro Ribeiro forcing an own goal against Houston, the Two-Minute Miracle in Montréal, the first goal from free play, Cyle Larin finding the back of the net. Damn, what a season it's been.

From my experience, it isn't hard to convert a casual fan into a die-hard follower.

Bring them to the games. Get them singing the songs. Watch them fall in love with a club and a game that truly come second to none.

"We love ya, we love ya, we love ya,
And where you go we'll follow, we'll follow, we'll follow,
Cause we support Orlando, Orlando, Orlando,
And that's the way we like it, we like, we like it."