My journey into loving soccer isn’t traditional. In fact, I grew up hating it. My sister was a star forward for her high school and on her traveling teams. She was an expert sprinter competing in Jr. Olympics and smashing school records. She was the perfect athlete and I was there, in the stands at every single event… by force. My athletic ability has always been non-existent, I was always compared to my sister, and had to get a PE waiver in middle school to avoid the constant "but your sister" chants from the adults in charge of me. Fast forward I’m (SURPRISE) failing PE because I couldn’t serve a tennis ball to save my life, so Coach let me manage the score board for the boys’ JV soccer team to supplement my grade. There I was… more soccer I didn’t sign up to watch.
My husband, 5th grade teacher, has always loved the sport and even started a recess revival by supplying soccer balls and structures for game play to the students. One week had been particularly rough at work, so I surprised him with tickets to the April 4th match against Portland. I bought some cheap, resale seats I found on Ticketmaster, made a special trip to the store to grab a couple of shirts, and we made our way downtown. We sat on the east side, sun blaring straight into our souls, sweat pouring from our faces and in that moment… I felt home. I fell in love with the stadium, the team, the fans, the environment, and the excitement of it all. I came home that night, read everything I could about every player, followed them on Instagram and Twitter, and then… I bought resale tickets for every match for the rest of the season, including an away game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Later in the year, I spent our New York vacation planning Broadway shows around the World Cup, only eating at restaurants that were streaming the games, waking up stupid early to catch morning matches, and paying for WiFi to stream a cup game. We even watched the Montreal game right up to the opening monologue in Hamilton and during intermission. As we returned from vacation and I was prepping my elementary library for the new school year, I found myself hanging gameday posters as high as I could reach. When students returned, little eyes were naturally drawn to the sudden influx of purple in our space. I was suddenly making connections with students who "hate reading." In one instance, a 2nd grader that NEVER checks anything out challenged me on facts about City, Yoshi, and the World Cup Try as he might, he couldn’t best me in my newfound obsession! After a 10-minute fan session about our favorite players he asked me if I had any books about soccer…
It’s no secret our beloved Lions fell to pieces this season, riddled with injuries, changes, and international duties, the hits just seemed to keep coming. It didn’t matter to me. Week in and week out, I couldn’t wait to see Dom go for it when he wants, Amro defend with those hands behind his back, Yoshi dominate seemingly any position he wanted in the moment, and I especially couldn’t wait to see how Scott Sutter would save us all in stoppage time. The story won’t be the same this season and while I felt really upset at a lot of the roster moves, I remembered something one of my mentors always used to say, "If you always do what you’ve always done, you’re going to get what you’ve always gotten." Change was needed, change takes time, and change leaves room for improvement. Apparently loving a sports team is like loving another person. They’re frustrating and exciting, and they’re definitely going to leave their socks all over the house.
Other than waiting for the next season of Game of Thrones each year, I’ve never really experienced this emptiness as I lie in wait. Spending my weekends in purple almost felt like a break from my normal, anxiety-filled life, making friends with strangers with whom I’d otherwise not even make eye contact. Games became a stress relief where I could yell and scream, and not be considered the weird one. I miss the long walk from the SunTrust Tower, the hard-plastic seats, the scent of that purple smoke as OCSC scores, and the "ruckus" of The Wall. The wait for a new season has been a long one, but it’s almost time to relish the excitement and heartache that comes with loving City. So, while they served their purpose, no more resale seats for us. You’ll have to pry our west side seats from my cold, dead hands.