Soccer….Family Style

NYCFC… Really MLS?
May 27, 2013, 4:14 pm
Filed under: Major League Soccer | Tags: , ,

Yes, we all knew it was coming. Of course New York would get a second team….we can’t go around making sense or anything. And I enjoyed it when it was announced. First thing in the morning, my Facebook wall blew up with posts ranging from apathy to instant hatred from my soccer friends around the US. It seemed like there was something for everyone to hate: New York, the Yankees, Man City, take your pick. I began to consider the real possibility that the marketing strategy was to have a team that so many people would despise, to the point where the team is supported by away fans coming to every game.

Then the afternoon rolled around, and my “non-soccer” friends started posting about it. (Disclaimer: I’m originally from New Jersey) People were posting things about “once NYCFC kicks off, does that mean Red Bulls will officially become Jersey?” Which make SOOO much more sense than expecting Jersey fans to root for a NYC team (if you don’t believe me, listen to Jeff “Jersey” Bradley). At least RBNY play in Jersey… But really, I still don’t get it…I don’t see anything in Red Bulls attendance numbers that scream “That area needs another team, STAT!!” But whatever…I wasn’t going to write anything about it….busy with the Open Cup and all that.

Then I heard Alexi Lalas talking during the MLS LA vs Seattle game, talking about how Don Graber had called him (yeah, Twellman, he didn’t call you because he pissed that you can’t say “Des Moines Menace” with a serious tone…work on it). Graber was saying that he didn’t feel Lalas’ concern that people weren’t going to be into NYCFC because of their Manchester City, Yankees, or other partnerships, was warranted…people would follow a team regardless.


Does Graber really know any supporter? I have made very few rational decisions about teams I support, and even fewer about teams I hate, and I’m not alone. During the Champions League final, I was talking with a Menace front office, about how much he hates when the Menace has to wear a kit that reminds him of his most hated rival. Just the matching colors…not the actual kit of his enemy. Rational? No. Understandable, yes…to every supporter there.

I don’t know what’s going to happen with NYCFC, but very little of it makes sense to me, in my 20th year kicking around US Soccer. It’s above my pay grade to make these decisions, but I still say building soccer here in flyover country is smarter money than yet another in New York metro. I wish them luck, because I think they’re going to need it.

Robbie Rogers Comes Out By Blog Post Read By My 10 Year Old
February 16, 2013, 9:13 pm
Filed under: Major League Soccer, Supporter Culture, US Soccer | Tags: , , , ,

robbie respectI got the news of Robbie Rogers’ coming out via my 10 year old daughter reading his blog post aloud as I was driving, with her five year old brother listening. His message is a bittersweet and poignant reminder that our society is far from a welcoming utopia, but to hear his words through my daughter, and hearing my children’s reaction gives me hope.

It’s school intercession this week, and since the kids and I will be spending Spring Break in Denver, we’ve been working pretty hard on our house project (the blog/project that keeps me from posting more here). We were taking a drive out to southwest Iowa to check out a new fireplace mantle, listening to NPR, waiting for Science Friday to talk about the asteroid flyby (I know, I have a five and ten year old who ask to listen to NPR, we’re a geeky family, what can I say?) While we waited, they had an interview of some hateful man ranting about the Boy Scouts and gays, saying things that were nothing short of horrifying. I want my kids to know about the world, but do I really want them exposed to hatred?

They know homophobia exists. When my daughter was the flower girl in my Aunties’ wedding, our former next door neighbor found out that we (gasp!) don’t mind having gay friends and family, and had her daughter stop playing with my daughter. That was basically the last straw in staying in that house, and we soon moved to our current neighborhood, River Bend, which is much more in line with our world view:  economically and racially diverse, and is affectionately referred to as “the best damn gayborhood in Des Moines.” Viva diversity!

NPR turned to Science Friday soon enough, and we continued our mission for the perfect fireplace mantle. We were on our way back to Des Moines when my phone beeped the notification from a writer/soccer friend from AO Iowa City had just written me a Facebook message that just said “ROBBIE ROGERS!!!!!” in vaguebooking style of leaving message open to anything from Rogers in near-fatal accident to amazing trade/score/news. I wrote back “What?” and flipped open Twitter in attempt to answer my own question. It took no time to find this blog post in my feed, but since I was driving, I asked my 10 year old daughter to read it.

My kids are growing up Jewish in Iowa. They know what it’s like to be a minority and get teased for it. We talked about how hard it must be to feel like you have to hide who you are from everyone, even your family. When asked, my daughter said she didn’t think it should make a difference if a player is gay, full of child-like wisdom with “It’s who he is, all that should matter is how he plays.” Absolutely right, kiddo.

So we join in the outpouring of support for Robbie Rogers, which made me so proud yesterday, to read so much love and support for a player who really should only be famous for what he’s added as a player. While I look forward to the day when he wouldn’t have to have suffered so long with this secret, I’m so grateful that my kids got to share in his coming out message, and they now have a new role model for living an authentic life. Hopefully his step away from soccer will be short lived now that he knows the soccer fans and players can stay classy. Well done and best wishes, Robbie Rogers.

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.

No Pity in the Rose City….Yep, We Just Drove 5000 Miles for a Loss

Oh Portland….how I love you! Somehow we made it safely to Portland in under 20 hours from Salt Lake City with two young kids and one driver (Mapquest it….it’s impressive). We stopped along the way to check out the Columbia River and a fish hatchery, but mainly, it was a long day of driving. By the time I got to Portland, I really wasn’t mentally prepared to learn a new city’s parking system, particularly one as, shall we say, bike/walk encouraging, as Portland. But from the moment we arrived, Timbers Army members were nothing but amazing. We got parking help from one fan, who helped us find the line for early entry wristbands. Then other fans pointed us to the Timbers Army merch van, where we glutted ourselves on scarves, stickers, and shirts. As if this lovely lady welcoming us wasn’t enough, things were about to get even better.

My goal for taking my kids to Portland was to show them the height of supporters clubs. I wanted them to see a club that sings the whole way through with tradition and wonderful stuff the whole way through. We’ve taken them to some great games with fantastic supporters, but I’ve never had an experience like the one I had in Portland in 2005 when they were playing on a baseball field and still in the A-League. I had to see for myself how they’d developed, and wanted to share with my kids what I consider to be the best supporters group I’ve ever seen.

Phyllis and the kids, Timbers pre-game

Enter Phyllis, previously a stranger, and our initial seatmate.  Phyllis took to our little group right away. When she heard we’d traveled from Des Moines mainly for this game, she became our Timbers Army concierge. She got us song sheets and started teaching the kids the various Timbers Army traditions, such as changing the last line of the national anthem to “home of the Timbers.” She helped them tear up confetti for the end of the anthem. She taught them about all the things they should do as supporters. It was amazing. My kids have been to dozens of soccer games, but I’ve never seen them so engaged as they were after Timbers 101 with Phyllis.

The game was exciting. Portland had so many chances, 20 shots by the end of the game, and after every one, I had to turn around to and count off the near misses to Phyllis, who had moved a few rows back to be with her injured husband. We got to learn the Timbers two new songs as well as their old favorites, including Tetris. The Timbers Army sings through the entire game, including a call and response with the entire stadium. When Chivas scored the game winner in the 69th minute, the Army put their scarves up and kept right on singing. It was a beautiful show of support for their team, and I loved it almost as much as their show of discontent with their current coach, recently installed rather bluntly by management, after the game.

As I walked out after the game, I turned to my daughter and said “You know what we just did?”

“What?” she replied.

“We just drove 2500 miles to see our team lose.” She smiled at me halfheartedly. Then I said, “You know what that means? …..We’re going to have to come back.” The Timbers Army showed us such great hospitality, we barely noticed the loss. I’d gladly do this drive all over again (or maybe we’ll fly next time…) to come back for more. Thanks Timbers Army. I waited seven years to rejoin your ranks, and it was absolutely worth the wait.

Real Salt Lake….Game 1 of #MLSRoadtrip
July 28, 2012, 3:01 am
Filed under: Family Fun, Major League Soccer, Supporter Culture | Tags:


We rolled into Salt Lake City later than we wanted, only to find out the game was an hour later than I thought (yay time zone change!) We got the info on the tailgate from Twitter via @RSLRoyalArmy and got waved into parking by the attendant impressed that we’d driven from Iowa for the game. We ended up parking next to a group of supporters that were having “LDS Singles Night” which entailed green jello shots (complete with carrot shreds!) and funeral potatoes with braiding each other’s hair replacing the usual kick around.

The tailgate ranged from that group, to Royal Army members, some Salt City Outlaws, to Salt City United, a group of tattooed group of supporters that seemed less than excited to talk with a not tattooed mom of two innocent looking blond children (little did they know…but more on that in another post). We found tickets, joined the Royal Army (because the answer to do you want a scarf for $25, or a scarf, patch, and RA membership for $25 is heck yes I’ll join the Army).

We went into the stadium, and the supporters section was divided up with the stage for Neil Diamond’s concert the next day. We started out sitting to the left of the stage with a group of season ticket holders that seemed nice…..too nice for us. As game time approached, we heard drums and trumpets from the other side of the stage, which was the only invitation my son needed to march on over and join La Barra, the Latino supporters.

The kids loved the atmosphere at Real Salt Lake. Between the two levels in the supporters section, there’s a terrace where kids from all over could run around and play. Both my kids found children to chase around or make confetti with, in between dancing to the constant music from Barra and spinning through the smoke bombs.

While the kids were excited to participate in the festivities, I was excited to have two USMNT players on the pitch, Jay DeMerit for Whitecaps and Kyle Beckerman for Real, or as the kids know them, “that guy from the movie (Rise and Shine)” and “the Jewish player.” I do appreciate having players for the kids to look up to, and since they live in a smaller city soccer-wise and they’re Jewish, we couldn’t have picked a better match to kick off the MLS Roadtrip, role model wise. Cap off the night with a 2-1 win for the home squad and I would call this an entirely successful trip.

The only downside is in order to make Portland in time for the next day game, we had to drive on right after the match. If there’s one thing we’ve learned at this point in the road trip, it’s that we could spend way more time than we have meeting up with all the great soccer fans along the road. Next up: Portland (or bust).


We’re Coming to See YOU, Real SL, Timbers, and Sporting!

This guy wants to meet your supporters! This year, the kids and I decided to do an MLS Road Trip instead of roadtripping to Grandma and Grandpa’s (I know, I was surprised they were into it too!) So here we go! We leave this week for Real Salt Lake’s Friday game, then will have one insane night into day of driving to Portland Timber’s Saturday game. We’ll make our way back via California, where we might hit the LA Galaxy World Football Challenge game, if I can see fit to part with $110 a ticket (not looking good right now…but we’ll wave while we’re in town!) Then it’s across the desert to see Sporting KC in the Open Cup final!

Two kids, one mom, 3 (or 4) MLS games, 5000 miles. Stay tuned, soccer fans…and remember…it’s not nice to wager on our survival, but you can your support to @TanyaKeith  Dwolla ID #812-460-2944 yeah, I’m talking to you, LA front office!

Chicago Fire Supporters: Out of Many, One
June 24, 2012, 4:56 pm
Filed under: Family Fun, Major League Soccer, Supporter Culture

Truth is, I thought Chicago Fire had one supporter’s group: Section 8. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Section 8 is an association of supporter groups, that are all awesome and unique in their own right. I had a great chat with one of the founders of Whiskey Brothers about the history of their group and the Fire supporters in general. Some groups formed out of ethnic groups, Hispanic or Polish, and some were born out of a group of guys drinking and starting a supporters group as a bit of a joke and had it take off unexpectedly, a story the certainly rings familiar as the somewhat accidental founder of American Outlaws Des Moines.

If you go to a Fire game, take some time to tailgate and meet the various groups. They have their own personality and are full of great people. We hit it off with Husaria, the Polish supporters group. My husband is mostly Polish, and I’m part Polish too, but more importantly, when you buy their merch, you get to drink shots of some crazy Polish drink that is serious business, even thinned. Plus, their shirt with the supporter holding a lit flare over his head and the Chicago stars looks really good on my husband. Great booze, great merch…yeah…I’m home with Husaria. 










As if that wasn’t enough, they had a great anti-racism tifo complete with flares. I think I’m in love. 

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