Soccer….Family Style

Columbus, Night Before
September 10, 2013, 3:43 am
Filed under: Supporter Culture, Uncategorized, US Soccer | Tags: , ,

My car got towed tonight. I’ve never been towed before, in twenty plus years, and I must tell you, it pretty much sucks. Particularly when there were no posted signs that I was parked in a tow zone, and the impound fee was $135.00 cash. Are you kidding me, Columbus? So I took photos of the completely faded out sign that once said “Tow Zone” and began to plot my revenge on all parties involved. Fortunately, I took a break to call my husband.

Here’s the cool thing about my husband: not only is he totally cool with me taking off a day early so I can hang out with all these crazy soccer fans here while he stays home to work an extra day and get the kids one more day of school, he’s also pretty great in a crisis. I texted: “My car was towed. $135. I’m pissed.” He wrote back “WTF?” I emailed a photo of the bogus sign, then called him. Now, he could have made me feel bad about not being more careful, (although seriously, the signage was TERRIBLE) or other things I’m sure husbands do every day of the week when their wives get towed.

But he didn’t. He asked “Well, how was the rest of your day?” I said “I dunno, it was good.” He pressed, “Tell me what happened.” So I told him about driving with our friend Ryan from AO Iowa City, and how we went to the pep rally and had got to see so many old friends. I told him that I finally got to meet Frankie Hejduk, one of my all time favorite players, and how cool Frankie was to talk to, in addition to his crazy antics on the stage with Allen Hopkins and Brian McBride. While in Seattle this Summer, we’d hung out with Allen and realized that one of his good friends from high school was one of our good friends from college. Somehow, knowing he was Sarah’s friend made it all the more silly for me, watching him try to get Hejduk to stop telling stories long enough to move the program along. And McBride, every time I looked at him, it was like a time machine back to the 2002 World Cup, watching him blow our minds with what the US might achieve. So cool to hear him speak, and watching him laughing with Frankie, standing up front with my Riot Girls Amy and Trista.

Then I told him about seeing Monty, Kaela, Andy, John, Tai, and so many others of our friends from the Korea and other trips at the first meetup of Sammers SC. Monty is starting Sammers SC as a new supporter club for grown ups. I don’t know where it will go, but they were tweeting about walkers and canes, but we’ll still out sing you at @SammersSC today, and that kinda cracked me up. Plus, I love seeing those guys.

Next, I told Doug, I went to the AO party, which was insanely packed and loud, but also full of all sorts of people I was excited to see. I got to introduce one of the AO LA guys who gave me a ride to AO Rally, to one of my favorite guys in his new state of residence, Minnesota. Neal, a Minnesota 1st Volunteer and traveling supporter, gave Richard some ideas on where he could watch games, and then they began discussing my honorary memberships in Minnesota 1st and AO LA, while a few friends from AO RVA walked by (another one of my honorary chapters).

I went outside and got a hug from Alexi Lalas, said hello to Grant Wahl, and talked to John Harkes. Rob Stone was there, and was very excited that I was from the Des Moines, Iowa chapter. He talked with me about Iowa vs Iowa State game that he’s covering next week. Charles Boehm came up to me, and said he liked my blog (is there anything better than I writer you like saying they like your writing? I don’t think so).

Then, to top it all off, as Rob Stone was walking out, he saw me, said “Des Moines,” hugged me, and said “You’re beautiful.”

Wait….scratch that. Because THEN, to top all that, Fran and Max showed up at my hotel as I was writing this post in the atrium. They brought ribs, which they got through some contrived story of how they helped a guy with a broken down rib truck. Max and I shared the ribs while we talked about AO, politics, and supporter culture. Such an excellent end to what was really a great day.

So, I’ve still got a $135 set back, but when you consider it as collateral for the amazing experiences I had hanging out with soccer fans, players, writers, bloggers, and broadcasters, it seems like a bargain. Thanks, Mr Tanya, for pointing that out to me. (But yeah, I’m still fighting that fee in the morning). For now, thanks for making my day awesome, soccer friends.

Everybody Just Calm Down
August 28, 2013, 9:44 am
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Really people? One poorly written piece written late at night by someone too pissed off to even get comments from anyone remotely important to the story is all it takes to take #AOFamily and turn it into mass hysteria? American Outlaws posted on their chapter leader page four days ago that they were looking for capos from any chapter that would offer them up. Do you think we could wait until they respond to SB Nation’s article before losing our minds? 

Pre-Gaming in Salt Lake City
June 17, 2013, 1:55 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized


We got in to Salt Lake City Saturday, and after a day in Park City, Utah living the ski resort in Summer life, we came down to Salt Lake to meet up with AO Salt Lake and AOs from around the US. The back-to-back of Seattle to Salt Lake makes this game especially interesting to me. Everyone expects supporter greatness from Seattle, and I get the sense US Soccer fans have very little idea what to expect here in Salt Lake City. Having traveled here for RSL vs Whitecaps last summer, I knew RSL has some great supporter culture brewing. We had a blast tailgating and watching from the supporters section.


Chapter President families for AO Des Moines and AO Salt Lake

If your idea of Salt Lake City culture extends from a dry, Mormon based culture, you’re in for a surprise. The Mormons we’ve met are just as much fun supporting with a soda as the rest of their AO SLC family holding beers. At the night before night before party ended up at The Green Pig, a local brew pub that offered not only local beers, but “Adult Trivia Night,” which sounded potentially awkward at first, but ended up being a hilarious way to get to know your fellow AOs….who knows pop culture, who know brand names of sex toys, who knows calorie count of a teaspoon of semen. It was an entertaining night to say the least.

I’ve seen photos of some of the tifo planned, I’ve met a few of the more infamous AO SLC members, including “Bean,” a well known fan of BYU and RSL, and @MessedUpRyan, both made me confident that we’re in for a good time here for the next 36 hours. You might have expected greatness from Seattle, but what I’ve learned to expect to be pleasantly surprised by Salt Lake City. Bring it, SLC.

April 17, 2013, 9:20 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags:

I spent yesterday trying to come up with something worth saying about Boston. My parents and sister live there, as well as many of my soccer travel buddies, but coming up with something related to soccer that could possibly be more eloquent than the Chicago Tribune’s post is a pretty tall order. So I wrote about my personal reaction to that horrible day, and posted it to the blog I write about my house. I hope you’ll read it, (posted here) and that it brings you peace.

Trash Talk in Des Moines (Iowa, Not Idaho) Re: Menace Soccer, NASL, USL-1
March 2, 2013, 2:03 pm
Filed under: Supporter Culture, Uncategorized, US Soccer | Tags: , , , , ,

2012-07-14_19-49-02_712Last Wednesday, Andrew McGreen posted a link titled “Donovan Talks, U-20s, and Brek Shea” and 57:07 on the American Outlaws: Des Moines facebook group. I have much time for soccer podcasts, but I do like the Best Soccer Show, and I had three minutes, so….

The clip from 57:07 starts out with someone who’s written in to ask why hasn’t Des Moines been considered for NASL or USL-1 expansion? My heart just about burst. Eleven years ago, I worked for the Stadium Foundation as the Event Coordinator. We were working to build what, at the time, would have been the 4th soccer-specific stadium in the US, which would have allowed Menace Soccer to move from the PDL to what was then the A-League, and is now USL-Pro. It was a great plan, that would have given Des Moines the soccer street cred it deserved. At the time, we were (and still are) out-drawing teams in higher leagues, we had the highest participation per-capita in US youth soccer, and we have a sports fan base that supports semi-pro level sporting events well. It killed me when the Urbandale City Council voted down the proposal to build the stadium in their land-locked suburb. I thought it was incredibly short-sighted, and a decade later, I could write an entire post about why it was the wrong decision for Urbandale and central Iowa soccer. Suffice it to say that I have always believed that Des Moines is a “diamond in the rough, with a beyond competent front office”, and belongs in a higher league than PDL.

While I recovered from my mind-explosion that someone read my mind and then wrote to Best Soccer Show about it, I was hurtled back down to Earth by Jared and Jason’s response. Here’s a clue: when someone says “No offense to Des Moines” it’s probably really offensive to Des Moines. I had to roll my eyes at “the thing about Des Moines is that it’s Des Moines.” Oh guys….really? Maybe 20 years ago, when I moved here from the New York metro, Des Moines would have skulked off, apologizing for how uncool it is. Not anymore. Now we’re consistently ranked not just best place to raise your kids, but best place to start a business, be a young professional, and the list goes on. Plus, we have Raygun, the greatest store in the Universe, that is making a fortune mocking the fact that you don’t know the difference between Idaho and Iowa (here’s a hint, we’re no where near Cascadia).

I don’t buy the argument that we’re “so far off the map from a pro-sports perspective.” We’re not asking for an MLS team (yet) and we actively support our Iowa Cubs and Iowa Barnstormers, as well as turn out in droves for college athletics of all kinds. We have Drake Soccer and Iowa State women nearby, and you’ve already praised our turn out for Des Moines Menace. Your suggestion to form a supporters group just shows how little you know about Iowa. We founded the 38th chapter of  American Outlaws in 2010, and we travel strong to US soccer games. You know that big flag in the supporters section? That’s the Midwest Mama, and AO DSM owns it and brings it everywhere. Back at home, the Red Army has supported the Menace for years, not just with tailgates, but we roast marshmallows after games, just because we’re Iowa Nice.

You’d rather be in LA even if Des Moines would out draw a team there? Short sighted and dumb. Come to a market where you’ll be supported and appreciated. Where fans won’t have to drive 45+ minutes fighting traffic to get to a game (unless they’re coming from Ames or something). With more start ups and mergers (you know about Meredith Publications, don’t you?) Des Moines is the next ultra-cool place to be. Try to sign us up before the bidding war starts. (You heard we just hired our new GM away from an NASL team, right?)

And a message to Kyle Krause, Des Moines Menace owner, I keep telling you it’s time to restart the Stadium Foundation project….I’m waiting for your call.) Des Moines’ time has come, and it’s only a matter of time until the rest of the soccer world figures it out.

MLS Opening Day 2013!
March 2, 2013, 12:16 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

I don’t live in an MLS market, but judging by my social media streams, there’s excitement coming to a boil across the USA. Major League Soccer kicks off the 2013 season today, and as my friend John Santos posted, the boys are back in town again.

Between Facebook and Twitter, I think I’ve got friends who are season ticket holders for ever MLS team in the US. I’ve watched my friends post pre-season meet-the-players photo ops, watched the gossip of pre-season trades and games, sweet season ticket holder swag (well played, Red Bulls!) listened to the raves of new kit releases ( my favorite? of course it’s Colorado’s shout out to their supporters, printing the names of every season ticket holder on their kit). There was this video of our friends at RVA DCU, who’ve inspired a few of us here in Des Moines that maybe a DSM:SKC supporter club wouldn’t be the most insane thing in the world.

Whichever team you support, thank you for sharing your MLS moments with me. I’m looking forward to another crazy year of stories from my supporter friends around the US, and hopefully more than a few #MLSRoadTrip games. Wishing you all a great season of games, beer, and supporter love and passion!

Isn’t That Cute? @USSoccer Tweets a tease! #USAvCRC #USMNT
January 15, 2013, 10:43 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

Oh US Soccer, trying to be all coy and charming with their tweet “We’ll be announcing the location for the first #USMNT home World Cup Qualifier today. #USAvCRC on March 22. Where do you want it played?” Are you effing kidding me?

I know US Soccer likes to drag these announcements out until airfare is insane and fans are tied up in knots, but now they’re really pissing me off. My gateway drug to soccer was as a USSF referee, and I at one point was a State level referee, considering making an attempt at becoming a National referee, so while it’s been a while since I was a “career” referee, I do remember my endless hours of training from the very organization jerking us around today. You know what we’re trained as referees?

1. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. If you say, “We’ll be announcing this week.” to Grant Wahl, then make the announcement when you said you would.

2. Be predictable. Referees had so many sayings like “a good referee is never surprised” and in turn, doesn’t surprise their players and coaches. Nobody likes being led on, on the field or trying to make plans to get to it.

3. Be humble and show your genuine personality. We fans have been waiting to here this announcement for WEEKS, if not months. Posting a cheeky “I know something you don’t know” tweet at this point is just douchie. Apologize for the on again, off again announcement, and just tell us where we are going already.

C’mon US Soccer. I’m only asking you to stand by what you taught me. Is it KC, SLC, or Denver? Or some totally other idea. Just get on with it already.

My Relationship With MLS: “It’s Complicated”
August 15, 2012, 5:17 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I got a message via Facebook the other day from my friend, Richard Hayes, a Richmond, VA, DC United supporter whom I met last year while he was representing American Outlaws RVA chapter. He’d been reading my blog about my MLS Roadtrip and after apologizing and respect for my love of soccer, he wrote:

“What confuses me is your chameleon like attitude with visiting other teams and supporters on your recent MLS Roadtrip. Is it the supporters atmosphere that attracted you to this trip? I have tons of respect for all the supporters that spend time, money and passion supporting their team but I can only do the same for my team. Last month I visited family and friend in Seattle and enjoyed a Sea vs. Col game but I couldn’t jump into the Seattle chants cheers could it would have felt like cheating on a lover. Don’t get me wrong I had a good time and enjoyed the beers and companionship but I think I enjoyed the glares for wearing my DCU gear just as much. Do you not have an MLS team that is truly close to your heart?”

With his permission, I’m reposting so I can answer publicly. I’ve thought about my answer for a few days, and the shortest answer I’ve come up with is my relationship status with Major League Soccer would be “It’s Complicated.”

I’ve lived in Des Moines, Iowa since the beginning of MLS, but I’d just moved here in December, 1992 and had no intention to staying when the league was launched in 1996. Kansas City Wiz had nothing to offer my Jersey girl self-image, and there wasn’t another team within a reasonable drive. I made a point to go see the New York Metrostars while I was refereeing a tournament in DC, thinking it made sense for a Jersey girl to root for them, but even year 1, DCU had some great supporters (and I’m not just saying that because I know all of RVA DCU will read this). I had such a great time with them, I immediately switched allegiance and became a DCU fan.

That lasted until the Chicago Fire launched in 1998, when my husband played the Jersey and local angle: Chicago was about a 5 hour drive, and they were initially coached by Bob Bradley, who is from my hometown, Montclair, NJ. We went to a few games, and again, I was won over by the supporters club, who would get the whole stadium involved with their chants from the various color seats of Soldier Field (now East and West sides of Toyota Park, and let’s not forget the upper deck!)

I stayed with the Fire until April 2007, when they did something absolutely unforgivable. They signed my most hated player, Blanco from the Mexican team. I can’t really express how much I hate Blanco, but in my estimation, he is the dirtiest tackling, diving, whining jerk of the team I hate most as a USMNT fan. I sat next to a German during the 1998 World Cup who was watching England play Romania because he couldn’t stand to watch the German national team because they were all the players he hated from Bayern Munich’s opponents. I couldn’t understand what he was talking about until the day I learned that Blanco was in a Fire jersey. I broke up with the Fire and vowed to never fall in love in the MLS again. The US national team was my lover, and I was done opening myself up to the risk of betraying them ever again by cheering for a club that might one day hire a mortal enemy of my beloved.

Then I started writing this blog, and people started to ask me which clubs I supported, and you all don’t like the answer “none.” Plus, my kids started getting older, and I wanted to take them to MLS games. I’d already had an amazing experience with Portland Timbers while they were in the A-League, and of course I should interview the two closest teams to me, Chicago Fire (despite their past transgression) and Sporting KC (who mercifully ditched their less marketable names).

I re-evaluated what I was looking for in an MLS team. My passion has to be directed at the supporters, not the team. I try to not even look at rosters, so that I don’t get angry at some USMNT arch-enemy joining the ranks, and I can be pleasantly surprised if a USMNT hero joins the team, because I’ll recognize him. I wanted to find a team that made me want to go see games because of their fans. I wanted to look forward to the next tifo, the next original song, and the coolest traditions.

My recent road trip confirmed my suspicion: Portland Timbers are the team for me. Going to their game as part of my 2012 MLS Roadtrip made my supporter heart want to burst. I wanted to soak it up from start to finish. Timbers Army members were so friendly, they have so many great traditions, great songs, an unbelievable resilience in the face of going down a goal, great tifo, and let’s just say it….Tetris freaking rules. I’m gone for them, and that’s all there is to it.

There’s just one problem: they’re ridiculously far away from where I live.

I need a second team, one that I can hope to bring my kids to with some frequency and little expense. I’d been going to Fire games and really didn’t think Kansas City could hold a candle to their atmosphere. I’d been to a few Wiz/Wizards games at Arrowhead and Community America Ballpark, and frankly, the atmosphere sucked. But after a few Twitter conversations with members of their SG, the Cauldron, I felt I had to give them another try.  To watch a mercy game, before committing myself back to the Fire.

So when the MLS Roadtrip pulled into the Open Cup final of SKC vs Seattle Sounders, I thought I was being very fair, humoring Sporting at their little championship game. Don’t worry Sporting fans, I’m going to give you your on blog post for the show you put on, once I come back to my senses, but it’s enough to say for now that I underestimated you, and I apologize. If you haven’t seen Sporting KC lately, you haven’t seen them at all. Sporting, I stand corrected.

Where am I then? I love a team a VERY long drive or expensive flight away, and as for Chicago and KC, well, it’s complicated. All I can say for sure is if you’ve got an SG with great fans pouring their hearts out for their soccer team, chances are I’d be willing to stand and scream with you for a game somewhere on your schedule.

Oklahoma is NOT OK, but Alert Sporting KC, We are in Kansas!
August 8, 2012, 12:35 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Confession: I don’t book hotels in advance on my road trips. I feel like it’s bad luck. If you book a hotel, you might not make it to that city (the one stop I was going to book ahead was the one we broke down, so there you go). I’ve only gotten caught by my lack of planning twice, once in France during the World Cup (when we needed a hotel last minute due to travel plans changing) and once last night.

Due to road construction in Kansas, we were driving all the way across Oklahoma, instead of our original plan to just nick the pan handle. It was my first time in Oklahoma, and I was excited to pick up a new state and check it out. But at every gas stop, people would stare at my Iowa plates and New Jersey stickers with looks that were neither amused or friendly, growing my sense of unease at every stop. In addition, there were no big chain hotels as we went, but by 2 AM, I was ready to take any shady no-name motel I could find. Trouble is, some big oil rig had booked every hotel and motel for hours.

The highlight of my night was stopping in Alva at 2:30 AM to call my husband to enlist his help and internet connection in finding a hotel (I’m pretty sure communist countries have better WIFI than Oklahoma). As I was backing out of a gas station parking lot, there was a guy staring at my car’s front bumper, I thought at my plate, but when he flagged me down, I thought maybe I had a light out. But no, this 20-something oil splattered guy said “Hey, is there anything going on in this town? I’m shipping out to Iraq tomorrow and I’m just looking for some fun.”

WOW. Really? My 40 year old mom of two, t-shirt and yoga pants “look” is really doing it for you? My response may have been stating the obvious, but what else can you say: “I’m just passing through, but seeing as my husband is on the phone (shakes lit smart phone) and my two kids are asleep in the back, I’m probably not your girl.” And then I left that town, because even there was a hotel room in that town (there wasn’t) I did not want to stay there. Two hours of driving and several “No Vacancy” signs later, we crossed into Kansas and found a room.

So Oklahoma, it’s been real, and it’s been fun (I stopped in Hooker, OK and took a photo of their welcome sign….that was fun) but it definitely was not real fun. Next time, I’d stick to the pan handle and face construction traffic. The good news is, we are in Kansas, got 7 hours sleep, and have only 3.5 hours drive to Livestrong Park. An easy (sheesh…I hope!) trip to our first Sporting KC game, the Open Cup Final vs Seattle Sounders, our last stop on MLS Road Trip 2012.

Can’t wait to meet you, KC Cauldron supporters!

Jiffy Lube is Arch Enemy of #MLSRoadtrip
August 6, 2012, 2:35 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I took my car to the Jiffy Lube on Lincoln Avenue in Cypress, CA because after 3400 miles in the last 10 days, I wanted to make sure everything was in good working order before venturing across the desert. I told the guy that I was taking the car back to Iowa, and I wanted everything to be checking, then I told him again when he asked me what kind of oil I wanted to use. You’d think they would have taken a little extra care to make sure it was done right, but that’s not what happened.

I got about 2 hours outside the LA area when my oil light started to flicker. Luckily, I was about 1 mile from Barstow, CA, because after that exit, I would have been stranded in the desert for a long, long time. I checked my oil level and it was dry. I don’t know much about cars, but I know that’s REALLY bad. I poured a quart of oil in and went across the street to the truck stop where they could get it up on blocks. The guy there said it was leaking really bad, but only having truck tools, he couldn’t tell exactly what was wrong. I poured another quart of oil in and drove to the Hampton Inn Barstow and waited for Monday morning to arrive.

I had my car towed to Barstow Midas, who called a few hours later with good news! It wasn’t the oil filter casing, but the O ring that you’re supposed to change when you change the oil, but he said that many quick lube places don’t and mine was damaged, which was causing the oil leak. Lesson learned….don’t get your oil changed at Jiffy Lube, use the better trained techs at Midas or the dealership!

Hopefully, me pulling off the highway right away will keep this from being a catastrophic engine failure, but rest assured Jiffy Lube, my bill for your crappy oil change, quarts of wasted oil, repeat oil change, hotel, dinner, and compensation for the 3 hour massage I will need to de-stress from this experience will be in the mail. Oh yeah, and you should make a donation to an environmental charity for the oil you just caused me to spill on the ground.

Our leisurely drive to KC just got a little more stressful, but I’m still hoping we can make the game. Wish us luck!

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