My wife was eight months pregnant and I had been laid off as of January 1. I applied for unemployment, but it was only enough to make our meager savings go a little bit further. My wife, Elizabeth, had been placed on bed rest, and would not return to work until April. I would end up being unemployed until mid-October. In spite of this, I shall always remember 2011 as one of the better years of my life so far.
On February 21, my son Alexander was born via emergency C-section. Both my wife and son came out of the ordeal safe and healthy, but the surgery bought us a slightly extended hospital stay. I slept in the hospital room on what the nurses called a “captain’s bed” - I called it a crappy sofa.
It was in that hospital room that I had my first interactions with the Cauldron. The Cauldron had posted some links to audio recordings of some new chants for the recently re-branded Sporting Kansas City. I was still a little leery of the name change, but hearing the new chants made me long for the season’s start. I tweeted something to that effect, and I actually received a reply! It may not seem like a big deal to most of you, but it made me feel pretty good. I lived four hours away, in a different state, and still the Cauldron welcomed me.
Some time after my family got out of the hospital, I can’t recall exactly when, I began talking to the Cauldron about trying to get a chapter going in the Tulsa area. As a stay-at-home dad with a baby that loved sleeping more than almost anything else, I jumped at the opportunity to be working on anything at all. I made a lot of phone calls to Kansas City over the next few weeks. I was cautioned that it would take time to accomplish anything, but I jumped in head first. The Sporting Tulsans were born. My eagerness and high expectations would prove problematic in the end.
Almost immediately I was emailing bars and pubs, trying to convince them to show Major League Soccer matches. Some didn’t reply at all, others just sent back an elaborate “No.” One pub in downtown Tulsa, which shall remain nameless, replied with interest. This led to a lot of emails and a couple of phone calls, but no real answers. After almost a month of “Maybe” and “We’re interested, but need more time,” I was finally given an outright answer. “No.”
Eventually I found out that Buffalo Wild Wings of all places had the MLS television package already, and arranged for the Sporting Tulsans (all three of us) to have our first watch party. My friend Peter couldn’t make it, but the other member, Mike, brought two friends to compensate. One showed up in a Seattle Sounders jersey and the other seemed genuinely disinterested. The three of them spent most of the time talking about the Premier League, and when they found out I didn’t really support an English club I was pushed to the background along with my “inferior league.” Sporting went on to lose that night, but even with a win I would have left with a bitter taste in my mouth from the experience.
I didn’t have much time to dwell on that meeting, as Sporting’s home opener was fast approaching. Being unemployed, I didn’t really have the extra money to go on such a trip. However, I found my answer in a seldom-played Fender Jaguar bass guitar which I sold for $500. After a little prodding, Peter agreed to accompany me, as did Mike and another one of his friends. On the morning of June 9, 2011 we piled into Mike’s friend’s car and made our way to Kansas City.
We arrived in Kansas City with time to spare, and after trips to both Dick’s Sporting Goods and Oklahoma Joe’s, we arrived at the Cauldron tailgate outside LIVESTRONG Sporting Park. Mike had been feeling quite sick that afternoon and earned the dubious honor of becoming one of the first, if not the first, to vomit in the LSP parking lot. He later became dehydrated, required medical attention, and ended up watching the game from the stadium’s medical facility.
I don’t need to tell you about the game that night. All I will say is that it remains the best soccer experience I have ever had. Being in the Members’ Stand that night, singing with the Cauldron was just an incredible feeling. Sporting may have drawn with Chicago, but we all left winners, in my opinion, just for having been there to see it in the finest soccer stadium the United States has to offer.
Speaking of the United States, Mike went on to start the Tulsa chapter of the American Outlaws. Feeling burned out by the failure that was the Sporting Tulsan’s first few months, I stayed mostly uninvolved. My only contribution outside of my membership was their logo.
The future of the Sporting Tulsans remains largely up in the air to this day. I don’t know if the interest here will ever grow to the point that it becomes a respectable part of the Cauldron. I’m not sure that I care. This year I’m going to do things my way, and primarily on my own. No matter how Tulsa sees our version of the beautiful game, I love Sporting Kansas City. I will always love Sporting Kansas City. I will support them from here to the best of my ability. If I can persuade just one Tulsan to give MLS or Sporting a chance this season, I would consider 2012 a success.
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Thanks to William for offering this writing piece to the blog. Follow him on Twitter @SportingTulsan.