This was my face at my very first Colorado Rapids game, almost three years ago. I was scared because I was told there would be singing and waving of scarves. Today, I'm posting on a blog about them, after having sat through a couple of hours of below-freezing weather to watch them play their home opener. How, exactly, did I get here, and how does any of us get here? (and if you don't care about how I got here, there's a tl;dr at the bottom, read that)
I grew up in Texas, land of the almighty Football. Unlike some of you, I will never call soccer "football," because I'm pretty sure Sam Houston himself would come from Heaven to throw a ninja throwing/Lone Star through my heart. I'm actually named after a football field, so naturally, I grew up a football fan. My dad also had season tickets to the Astros back when they were still in the Astrodome (rest in peace), so I also grew up in love with baseball. But since the MLS wasn't founded until 1996 it was never something my family paid attention to, and because of that I barely even knew it existed (yeah yeah, the Dynamo won two MLS Cups, nobody else in Houston noticed).
When I moved to Colorado to go to college, I met this guy that I really liked who was into soccer, so I flipped Altitude on one night to watch a game. It was a team that ran around in green and that was nice, I supposed. The more I watched, the more interested I became, and then I was totally weirded out when I watched a group of crazy people use a chainsaw to cut up a log after one of the Rapids players kicked the ball into his own goal. I remember a strong feeling of, "these people are legit insane."
I went to my first Rapids game in 2011 (see that picture) with that same guy, then my boyfriend (now my husband; another pro of moving here) because one of his friends gave me a ticket when he couldn't make the game. It was against Chivas, and I spent a lot of time cowering in my seat wondering why people were chanting, singing, waving around their outerwear, and beating on drums. It seemed like a bunch of crazy people packed into a small space, and that sounded dangerous.
I can't tell you why I went back. Was it my boyfriend's enthusiasm? Partially, yes. Was it that I could wear my sorority shirts to games and kind of blend in until I got my own jersey a few years later? Oh yeah. But it was so much more.
It was the excitement of a game that stopped for no one, not even injuries or commercials. It was watching the team pile on each other after a goal and the joy in their faces. It was watching every single player on the field, both sides, all positions, do whatever it took to stop the other team from scoring, even if it meant putting themselves in physical danger. It was watching the goalkeeper simultaneously defy gravity and stretch like Mrs. Incredible to fill the entirety of the goal and defend for his team (my first favorite player was, and will always be, Matt Pickens). It was that there was a whole group of people devoted to making sure the players knew the fans were behind them, no matter how crazy they seemed (spoiler alert: I helped paint my first tifo last week; it's a lot harder than I thought it would be).
Looking back, soccer intimidated me. Baseball is mostly quiet, cheering the good and booing the bad (I'm looking at you, Chad Qualls). Football fans are loud, but they're very easily distracted by time-outs, play calls, and the eternal need for another beer. Soccer is another thing altogether. The game is smooth, the fans unrelenting, and the spirit infectious. The more we give soccer, the more it gives us.
(for reference, this is my face at last night's win--I think I've come a long way. I even sang songs, guys.)
I've been asked how I got into soccer by lots of people, including some guys at the tifo paint on Friday and by Drew Moor at the airport a few weeks ago. I love telling my story (usually an abbreviated version), and I really love hearing others' stories. I find soccer fascinating because kids are just now growing up with it, so most people my age or older really had to come into the sport another way.
So, what is your story? I want to hear it. Write it in the comments, send it to me on Twitter, maybe Morse code in smoke signals would work but no guarantees.
tl;dr -- I thought soccer fans were crazy, now I'm a crazy soccer fan, how did you get into soccer?
also, bonus content: if you guys didn't see C38's sick nasty tifo last night, I have a video, because, well, because they asked and I volunteered to record it because we weren't in the Terrace. So go see it.