Hey Mane Landers! Let's get this right out of the way: Yes, I look familiar. Why is that? Well it's probably for one of three reasons:
- I've been around the Orlando soccer scene for around 10 years.
- I've sold you or drank a craft beer with you.
- I may be Michael Bradley in disguise.
To be fair, the last one is unlikely, but I'm bald and have a beard. When you walk around a U.S. Men's National Team game getting cheered at from the American Outlaws why not steer into it?
Ever since Twitter was around my bio has been one of my favorite quotes of all time:
“Some people believe football [soccer] is a matter of life and death... I can assure you it is much, much more important than that” - Bill Shankly.
And this couldn't be more true. Short of ball boy, and believe me I've tried, I've been all over the sport as a player, a coach (for Orlando City Youth), a referee (don't make me go back, just kidding), a fan, and now a businessman, where I work with some of the most amazing companies such as PUMA, Arsenal, MLS/SUM, Disney, and many more.
A very confused life of fandom comes from all that. Who do I root for? Well, at my core, I'm a Cleveland, OH, man at heart. So god knows I'm as loyal of a fan as they come. If you don't know about Cleveland sports, just know that it takes a special type of person to be that loyal. If you do, you know my pain. Ugh, I digress.
I grew up, as most of us did, with limited options for viewing, so I latched on to Manchester United and one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time in Peter Schmeichel (can you guess my position?). But having such strong loyalty in the sports business can be tough. I grew up a Crew fan (and still am) with greats like Brian McBride, Brad Friedel, and Frankie Hejduk. But I've been with City since the very first moment it stepped off the plane from Austin in one way or another. There's a photo that often floats around of the first ever Ruckus tailgate. You'll see me smack dab in the middle in a black Adidas Disney Soccer jacket and cap. Combine all of that with that I get to work with some amazing people in so many organizations and it really gets tough to "hate" other fan bases. One of my best friends literally disowns me every time he sees me in Arsenal gear. Sorry Conor.
I love every second of it. I love that I get to work in a sport I could never get sick of. I love that I'm traveling half of my year seeing the sport globally. I love impacting the youth and changing the game in a way that takes it far beyond what I ever got to experience. The passion I have for this sport can only be paralleled, never outmatched and that's what I'm hoping to bring to you Mane Landers. I'm incredibly thankful for the opportunity given to me by The Mane Land and I won't take it for granted. I hope with my passion and experience for the game, from the grassroots to the professional, that I can inform, challenge, and inspire the best damn fan base in MLS, bar none.
I look forward to getting to interact with many of you at Orlando City games (Society XXI member), social media, or randomly even out at a craft beer bar downtown or in the Mills 50 district. So cheers to you, Orlando!