So how does a guy living in Richmond, Virginia end up owning a Wizards and a Sporting Kansas City jersey?
The answer is actually pretty easy. Although I grew up in upstate New York, outside of Syracuse, I went to school at the University of Missouri. I graduated in 1997. Major League Soccer started in 1996, and I gravitated towards what was then the Wiz.
I am not going to pretend that I have been a huge fan from the beginning; I watched off-and-on when I could on TV. Mostly this meant an occasional ESPN game. I sort of lost track of soccer for a few years, not picking it back up until I went to France on my honeymoon (I’m a huge Paris Saint Germain fan as well). I actually started watching as many PSG games as I could, before finally re-discovering the Wizards. I tracked them online for a few years again, before finally going all-in, getting Match Day Live for the 2010 season (the final one at CAB).
Since that time, my family knows that when Sporting is on, I need the computer. I am to admit, it isn’t easy being a fan from over 1,000 miles away and one time zone. During the Portland Timbers game at Jeld-Wen last year, I was praying for a blow-out. By the time the game was over, it was 1:14 a.m. here.
I have absolutely grown to love the team and the fans. The people I deal with on Facebook and Twitter have been absolutely awesome. Andy Edwards of Talkin’ Touches has had me on his podcast twice (plug for the podcast here). James Starritt is always willing to argue points with me on Twitter. Benjamin Winters and I discuss Sporting all the time, unless a Mizzou or KU game is on, in which case, we are throwing jabs at each other.
I have to give a special thanks to the Cauldron and South Stand folks, who have been especially welcoming. They let a random guy (me) show up at RFK, eat their food, and party with them in the stands at last season’s regular season finale. While the Sporting jersey probably signified I was okay, they didn’t have to do that. It was incredibly tough going back to watching the playoffs on TV after that experience.
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In a similar situation as Matt, William Schultz has a few obstacles in supporting SKC - one of them being that he lives near Tulsa, Oklahoma...
Major League Soccer may have held its inaugural season in 1996, but I wasn’t aware of the league’s existence until at least a decade afterward. Even then, it was more of an acknowledgement of existence than a genuine interest. The only reason I can come up with for my ignorance is that I had long since stopped playing soccer, and had fallen out of the proverbial (and sometimes exclusive) loop.
Over the years my knowledge of the league gradually grew. I became familiar with club names and locations, but had no real idea of how good any of them were. The only hints I had about a club’s quality were the match results and highlights I could find online. If anyone asked, I would tell them my favorite club was the Kansas City Wizards (but nobody ever asked). My other interests kept me distracted enough to prevent any further research.
Little by little, Major League Soccer and the Wizards slowly won me over. I began to look for streams online so I could watch matches, as I didn’t have cable of any sort. In the beginning the streams would be hard to find, or have quality issues so severe it was hard to tell if I was actually watching a soccer game at all. In time I learned the better sites for live streaming, and could watch roughly 70% of the matches.
I finally got to watch the Wizards on TV for the first time on July 25, 2010. That’s right, my first televised Wizards match was the friendly against Manchester United. I had learned by accident the week before that my parents had Fox Soccer Channel, and I immediately made arrangements to watch the game. I didn’t have high hopes going in, but I was elated when Arnaud scored that first goal. Kamara’s game-winner was really what helped him become my first favorite KC player. It may have been just a meaningless friendly to some, but I think I’ll remember that match for some time to come.
That September, my father and I were making arrangements for our annual trip to Kansas City to see the Chiefs play. This was one instance where we put our strained relationship aside and had fun together, and I had been hesitant in the past to bring up soccer for fear of an awkward silence. But 2010 was different. Soccer was on my mind almost all the time now, and the Wizards were going to be playing at home the same weekend were making the trip. I mentioned it casually, almost with an air of nonchalance. To my surprise, he seemed interested and found some tickets. I was finally going to see my club play live.
The date was September 25, 2010, and FC Dallas the opposition. The weather was a bit chilly and a light drizzle only made it feel colder. There were plenty of empty seats at CommunityAmerica Ballpark, but I attributed the lackluster attendance to the weather. My seat was on what would normally be the first base line, with a pitcher’s mound between me and the pitch. I could look to my right and see the handful of Dallas supporters in their section behind “home plate”, and I quickly developed distaste for them. A loud, vibrant mass of humanity I knew only as the Cauldron was easily the liveliest section in an otherwise quiet stadium.
It became apparent rather quickly this game would not go well for Kansas City, at least from where I was sitting (I couldn’t even see the numbers on jerseys very well). But I can remember seeing some very nasty behaviors from the FC Dallas players. In particular, I can remember David Ferreira being a real jerk. With his team up by two goals, Ferreira still refused to let KC take a free kick in anything resembling a timely fashion. Ferreira was eventually yellow-carded for his efforts, but he never really stopped. I walked in to CAB with only a team that I loved, but I left with one I loved and one I hated.
Even though my first live MLS match didn’t go my club’s way, I left Kansas City content. I now had a scarf (in my mind a must-have) and a long-sleeved training shirt, both of which still hold places of honor in my home. The result had been bad this time around, but there would be other matches. I was hooked and already trying to plan for next season. I was determined to be a part of the Cauldron; I needed to be. I knew they were my people, and I had to stand and sing amongst them. However, I never could have planned for the huge undertaking I would attempt for them early in the 2011 season…but that, I’m afraid, is a story for another time.
To be continued...
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