In three days time, I will officially be a palindrome at age 44, and I will be on the verge of helping my daughter celebrate her 12th trip hurtling through space on this random ball of space dust. To be honest, I don’t feel a day over 41, and if you ask my daughter, she will probably roll her eyes and snap back at you with that sass that every parent garners from their budding teens. Almost a year ago, I wrote a piece describing what my simple birthday wish was for the upcoming year. I stumbled across it today while digging through the archives of The Mane Land and thought it would be good to revisit it, and see how it compares to the thoughts in my head now.
I think I made new friends this past season, and I hope that my fellow seat mates in my new section feel the same. We laughed, we yelled, we jumped and down, and we argued all season long. It is a very good group of people and I am very much looking forward to seeing, cheering, and debating with them again in the new season. My seat position changed slightly, just to get a little better down the sideline towards the south goal, but the section is the same. Everyone in Section 20 be ready, I might even be a bit more raucous and animated in the coming season. My support for this club has helped me to meet so many wonderful people, in passing having a drink or two before the match, in the stadium, or out and about. I bumped into fans wearing purple in Puerto Rico, Scotland, New Jersey, and Oregon to name just a few places through my travels this year. I will go out of my way to say “Go City” every single time.
Last year, it looked like I might be able to hit a number of away games, but unfortunately, life and work made away days almost impossible. I was able to visit Kilmarnock FC a few more times this past year, as well as enjoy a few more matches here in Orlando with my friends from across the pond. I was able to see a few lower division matches in the UK and even met some players from Rangers FC in the pub one night. The trips to Scotland will continue in 2020, and there will be plenty more matches to catch, maybe even getting lucky and finding a way to get into an Old Firm match. For 2020, I will be making an effort to get to more away games for Orlando City. Miami is the obvious trip, assuming they actually have a coach and enough players to field a team. Atlanta would be next, and then a trip to New Jersey. West coast swings may be a bit more difficult, but who knows? Business should be bringing me to Los Angeles and Portland at least once next year, and maybe the stars will align. Somehow, someway, 2020 will see me make a few away matches.
I do apologize that everyone still has to see my 40-foot mug on the side of the stadium every match; however, I am still unbelievably honored to be one of the #FaceOfCity fans who adorn Exploria Stadium. When that banner comes down, I hope I have the chance to get it, because I will be flying that thing at home, whether anyone else wants me to or not. Through my love of this club, random and fantastic opportunities have presented themselves in the most unlikely of ways. Meeting new people, striking up conversations, and realizing that a common goal exists to leave this place better than when we found it has opened the door for many charitable activities that I have been able to participate in, either by myself or with my friends in the Orlando Facial Hair Club. (Yes, there is a facial hair club in Orlando and it is a 501c3 charitable organization that has way too much fun with multiple members that are season ticket holders.) I was able to attend the MLS All-Star Game, sit front row, and marvel in what could be the last of the MLS vs “insert name of big international club here” matches.
The one opportunity that I want more than anything is the opportunity to buy a ticket to watch Orlando City play its first playoff match. I don’t care who, when, or where, but when OCSC finally reaches the playoffs, I will be there. It is something that I feel driven to do at this point. I am bonded to this club, for better or for worse, and feel obligated to make the trip to support the club when they eventually realize their full potential and finish the regular season above the red line. It’s time to get a new jersey, but as I said before the first whistle of the 2015 season, I will not buy myself a new jersey until this team makes the playoffs.
I have one extra light to extinguish this year — 44 flames on the cake to remind me just how many times I have to see the sun rise and fall as I ride this chunk of space debris on its journey towards who knows where. One candle for friends, one candle for adventures, and then 42 for the playoffs. Let’s be real for a minute, it will be 43 for the playoffs, and one for a bottle of whiskey, to hopefully drink in celebration come October 2020.