Fandom is an amazing microcosm of the human experience, in that a person must balance equal parts emotion and intellect to make it through a season sane. In that respect, it is much like driving. A person that drives 100% based on emotion will have a nervous breakdown or commit a felony on their daily drive to work. Someone will merge prematurely and they'll blow an emotional gasket, unleash a torrent of swear words, and potentially commit a criminal act of road rage. Some unstable bastard loses his s%&* on me at least once a week. Usually, they drive a lifted Ford F-150 with an ‘Affliction' or ‘Metal Mulisha' sticker in the back window. I assume folks like this troll message boards as their full time employment.
On the other hand, a person 100% driven by logic is probably a really irritating driver, and would struggle to be a soccer fan. I know. My father in law is a mathematician. His dominant driving theory (in Israel no less! A nation of the most aggressively bad drivers on the planet) is ‘if someone swings in front of me, I will slow down.' This generally means he drives between 10 and 20 miles under the speed limit. As a Mets fan, Marshall is a study in the methodology of the long suffering but intellectually composed fan. When his Mets made it to the World Series and were dispatched handily in five games, his emotions never rose above a tenor of slight bemusement. Losing for 30 years will do that. You calibrate your expectations and keep calm. Sure, a Daniel Murphy home run will get you to your feet and quicken your pulse. But you don't let it get to your head: the Mets might be winning now, but they are almost certain to let you down. So don't get overly invested.
Marshall is not a '100% logic' sports fan - his balance is probably 70-30. But his logic probably keeps him sane. This cold logic is a survival mechanism of the long suffering fan. Most Denver Bronco fans overwhelmingly do not possess this logic, because they haven't experienced the kind of losing that cures and develops it like a fine wine. Rapids fans, however, have. Especially these last two years.
What, then, do we make of the latest roster additions by the Colorado Rapids, in an off-season that has been so, well, emotional? The Rapids broke our hearts by letting go of Vicente Sanchez and Drew Moor and Clint Irwin: the three most popular players on the team. They toyed with us in flirtations with Carlos Vela and Alan Pulido and Alejandro Bedoya and Tim Howard. Their one key acquisition in the offseason is currently out, recovering from stab wounds he got from a bizarre altercation with a woman whose name is actually Stormy*. The team arrived last Monday at Dicks Sporting Goods Park with only 19 players on the roster.
Then, after the long darkness, a ray of light. The Rapids signed a designated player, Shkëlzen Gashi, with an impressive track record. A top attacking player for a quality UEFA Champions League side, FC Basel in the Swiss Axpo Super League, with 22 goals in league play last year. At 27 years old, he's still in his prime (looking at you, LA Galaxy). He will likely play the center attacking mid role that Dillon Powers and Marcelo Sarvas and Gabriel Torres had all struggled to establish themselves in, so he addresses a position of need (unlike Tim Howard). It's a smart signing, and one that gives hope to Rapids fans.
Things are coming together. The Rapids have also been strongly linked with a left back, Mekeil Williams, from Trinidad. Additionally, Richard Fleming on the Rapids Podcast last week implied that Marlon Hairston will be the team's starting left back. In theory, this team looks like it has a roster that (I say this with trepidation) can compete in MLS in 2016. But of course, to quote ‘Shawshank Redemption', hope is a dangerous thing.
There are yet a lot of questions. Who will play deep midfield next to Sam Cronin? Who will play right attacking midfield? Who will be the preferred center back pairing? Will Marco Pappa be suspended, or still injured, to begin the season? Will we see any of our younger players finally blossom this year? Will Dillon Powers settle at a position and be the guy we all want him to be? Will Zac MacMath pick up where Clint Irwin left off? Can this team full of new players gel quickly enough to be real? Will Pablo Mastroeni make the quantum leap forward as coach this year that the team needs?
This massive pile of ‘I dunnos' could lead a rational person to be pessimistic. I'll be honest: I was pretty set on the Rapids finishing dead last in MLS until yesterday. I'm trying to balance my excitement and optimism with my father-in-law's dour approach to reality. But I think things are looking decidedly up in Commerce City.
We have some speedy wingers (Serna, Hairston, Williams). We have experienced defensively minded players (Micheal Azira, Cronin, Bobby Burling, Sean St. Ledger). We have strikers with something to prove (Kevin Doyle, Dominique Badji, Luis Solignac). We have a European creative attacker with a legit Champions League resume (Gashi). We have a new coach with experience and a relationship with his fellow coaches (John Spencer). There's a lot of good about this team.
Regardless of the uncertainty, and the frustrations of missing on a lot of top players, and the negativity of last season, and the piles of snow burying us all in our houses, I'm finally - after being nervous and pessimistic and slightly morose for the better part of five months now - I'm finally getting excited for the season. There will be Spring, and soccer, and new players, and pints of Odell's, and tailgates. It is logical, therefore, to be a little emotional. Happy, even. This morning, it's not so bad to be a Rapids fan.
* Note: I have written about Marco Pappa's offseason trouble at least four times already, and yet it's unbelievably weird to write each and every time.