Soccer….Family Style


CSI: SKC, How Sporting KC Got My USMNT Banners Back
November 3, 2012, 8:18 pm
Filed under: International Soccer, Major League Soccer, Supporter Culture | Tags: , , ,

I was watching my son’s final soccer game Wednesday, when my phone rang with a number I didn’t recognize from Kansas City. Usually, I let numbers I don’t recognize go to voicemail, but on a whim, I answered, and a man asked if I was Tanya Keith. I said yes, and he started speaking in a very serious, deep voice: “Tanya, this is Chris Wyche, Vice President at Sporting KC. I want you to know that we take things very seriously here at Livestrong Park, and when someone does something that isn’t right at our stadium, we track them down.” That’s a paraphrase, because honestly, his voice was so firm and dark, I was frantically wracking my brain for what I possibly could have done wrong, or maybe one of our American Outlaws Des Moines members had gotten in trouble….I couldn’t imagine, since we’re far from the rowdiest group of trouble makers.

He continued, “ We’ve been able to locate your banners.” OH PHEW! We’d traveled to Boston to visit family right before the World Cup qualifier in Kansas City, and on our travels, had met my friend, Prairie Clayton, the artist behind the AO Des Moines banner and many other great hand-painted banners supporting US Soccer. She’d asked us to carry two of her banners to hang at the game while we were hanging the AO Des Moines banner. When she asked, I almost said no. Having been to Livestrong Park before, I knew that the banners would be hung far above the supporters section, and it always makes me nervous, having her works of art hanging so far from my watchful eye and protection. I mentioned the placement of banners to her, but she wanted to send them, so we took them along with us, and hung them along with our own American Outlaws Des Moines banner.

The game was fantastic, and excellent win to finish out the round of World Cup qualifying, and the banners were still hanging, every time I glanced up, even after the final whistle. I helped Doug fold our 20×30′ stadium flag, the Midwest Mama, and took the kids into the Member’s Bar while Doug went to fetch the banners. All was right with the world….

Then I got the text: “I have our banner, but Prairie’s are gone.” My worst nightmare had come true, worse than my own banners getting stolen, someone had taken banners that had been entrusted to me. Horrified, I found stadium management and told them about the theft. Their response was amazing, taking the problem very seriously with no fit throwing on my part whatsoever. They took me to the place where SKC tifo is stored, but the banners weren’t there. They took down my name and number, assured me that they would be able to track them down, and would be in touch.

The next day, I posted photos of the missing banners with pleas for help getting them back. My post got lots of retweets and reposts, and one of the AO Kansas City guys told me the stadium was taking it very seriously, and he would keep me posted on the investigation. Then a local station in KC picked up the story, and broadcast about the theft. Prairie and I were both touched. Even if the banners were never returned, it was nice to have a front office and community give so much respect to supporter’s work. Then I read a post on the American Outlaws leadership board: through stadium security, they had identified the people who took the banners, and they were working on contacting the thieves to get them returned. CSI Sporting KC is serious business apparently, because it was only a few days later that I got the above mentioned phone call that both banners were being returned.

In this day, with so much animosity between MLS front offices and supporters, it’s refreshing to see a stadium run with such a strong commitment and support of the people who create the atmosphere and energy that MLS likes to use to market their product. From the initial meeting with stadiums ops, to the diligent work to return banners to their rightful owners, Sporting KC showed that they are a cut above in creating the kind of culture that I want to see in American soccer. They have my profound appreciation, and increasingly, my support as a fan. Looking forward to learning more about the organization to the south, but for now, a huge thank you for supporting supporters to everyone that helped get banners back to the artist who made them. FYI…Prairie’s banners are for sale, and she does commissions. You can contact her via Twitter @hoover_dam, or message me and I’ll be happy to get you in touch. If you don’t have a team to watch in the MLS Playoffs, I suggest you check out Sporting KC against Houston next Sunday and Wednesday.

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