A Yale historian once warned his class, "Beware of meeting your heroes." Why? I figure two reasons exist: they will either be knocked off their pedestal on which we've put them, or we may lose our objectivity.
As a season ticket holder who, yes, renewed for another year, I have loved the fan experience that they provided for my children (and myself). The connection and service that Dillon Ross provides as our representative is outstanding. Dick's Sporting Goods Park provides a great environment to watch a soccer match.
During the match on Saturday, my daughter and I were randomly picked to participate in the 'jersey off their back' fan experience on the field after the game. My daughter and I were most excited. We drew Charles Eloundou, but were able to see and hear conversations from the other players that, frankly, were very telling. While I'm a huge Rapids fan, I'm not a headhunter when things go south. I know more variables are at play than I'm aware of, so I try to keep some perspective.
Here's my takeaway from the Fan Appreciation Day:
- The players hate losing worse than we hate them losing. These professionals want to succeed. They know what many fans say. They know that for many fans they are simply cogs in the Burgundy machine--and if that cog quits working, then find a new cog. They all walk a tightrope, knowing that a bad game or string of games affects their place and their livelihood. However badly we hate having our team lose, they hate it worse (for the most part--granted, some may not care at all).
- They appreciate us more for sticking by them even in this ghastly streak. I overheard Marvell Wynne tell a fan, "I know we haven't given you much to cheer for--thanks for sticking by us."
- When you see how badly these professionals hate losing, your heart goes out to them. I lost a lot of my objectivity. Each of the players possessed a class and a graciousness to the fans, engaging them in conversation and showing how much they enjoy being a part of our community.
- We need a balance as fans to support the team and players, while keeping the ownership and FO informed and accountable. The Front Office has their work cut out for them in the offseason--if for no other reason that this: if they want Fan Appreciation Day to be significant, they need to get some good soccer minds in place, otherwise they will have fewer fans to appreciate, fewer season ticket sales, and thus a reduction in the very atmosphere they've created.
I want these players to succeed; but again, so do they! Seeing them personally made it tougher to root against them or root for them to lose their jobs. But with a 12-game winless streak, it will happen. Rather than hoping they would, I found my heart going out to them and even defending them.