Soccer….Family Style


I Remember in Gratitude

I woke up around 9:30 this morning with the sound of supporters chants echoing in my head and thought about where I was twelve years ago that moment compared to where I am today. I was filled with gratitude for the lessons I learned that day. There’s no way I would be waking up in Columbus with my two beautiful kids, basking in the afterglow of an epic night of soccer, had I not woken up on 9/11/01.

Pulling into work on 9/11, where I was supposed to spend the day selling and designing office furniture systems (that’s cubicles, to you civilians). Instead, I spent a few hours in shock in our conference room in Des Moines, watching the news, praying my family and friends back home in New York, New Jersey, and DC were OK. Slowly, details rolled in…my father wasn’t on an ill fated early flight from Logan. Friends emailed. My cousin got out of the Pentagon safely.

I gave up working around 10 AM, with the thought that not one single person cared about the miles of panel systems destroyed that day. My work was meaningless. There was no point to it ever, certainly not that day. I drove through downtown Des Moines, cowering under our tall buildings that I can’t call skyscrapers, but that fact didn’t stop them from piercing the bright blue sky so it bled out sunshine on Iowans who seemed oblivious to our world crashing down around us. I wanted to scream at them, shake them from their zombie state of Midwestern security. Instead, I went home and sobbed until my husband came home to sit with me at the Blood Bank. We waited there for hours, mainly because it was a refugee camp for Easterners in Des Moines diaspora. I couldn’t be alone, but had to be somewhere I could still take the phone call from my mom, phoning me at 7 PM Eastern to tell me she was still at the school in Montclair, NJ, where she was a teacher. She’d been with the elementary school kids waiting for their parents who couldn’t call, and may never get there, who were walking home from the City because that was the only way to get out that day. The last child had been picked up at 7 PM, and my mother could finally release all the emotion she couldn’t show to her students. Her grief poured out in a raging flood that tore through any composure I had, but my fellow refugees just nodded in understanding, put a hand on my shoulder, shared their stories from home with me.

My new world started to crystallize there, seeing that there was a community for me in Des Moines, and that that community would get you through the worst moments of your life. We finally went home and sat in front of horrifying news of the day, I felt a clarity settle over me. My life needed to change, radically and swiftly. This would be my personal judgement day, and what I brought to the world was found wanting by my own accounting. That just wouldn’t be acceptable for one more day.

I turned to my husband and said “I think we should have kids.” He swiveled his head away from the carnage on the screen, and with amazing restraint at the shock of my seven year established position of kid-free happiness making an abrupt about face, he said “Okay….” not at all revealing that he, in all likelyhood, had a mental institution ready on speed dial.

I explained that while we didn’t know details, it was pretty obvious that there were some pretty awful people in the world. We wouldn’t be able to impact getting rid of those people, but certainly, we were capable of raising a few kids who may not cure cancer, but would tip the good guy/bad guy ratio in our favor. He agreed, suggested we see if I still felt that way in a couple weeks, and low and behold, 13 months later, our beloved Wonder Woman (the supporter formerly known as Betsy Ross) was born.

During those 13 months, I resigned my position and started doing community work, first with the Des Moines Marathon, then with the Stadium Foundation, then with my own company. And I decided my life would be focused on things I cared about: family, work that was meaningful, and soccer. I met someone this weekend who, when I introduced myself, said in shock, “You’re Tanya Keith? I’ve heard of you.” This is a phase I hear more often, although it is still strange to me, particularly when delivered with a tone that adds layers of ambiguity in exactly what reputation precedes me. He clarified, “I heard you’re a force of nature.” How’s that for my next business card? “Tanya Keith, Force of Nature.”

This soccer trip with my family, with all of you, who told me so many great stories, seeing that beautiful game, that ended in another dos a cero moment for us to share, it all happened for me because of the person I became twelve years ago. Maybe it takes an unspeakable tragedy to get clarity about your life, but I hope not. I try every 9/11 to evaluate (convenient that it comes in the season of atonement for my JewCrew buddies and I) if my life is authentic and meaningful. I try every year to not get lost in the sadness of what we lost, but in gratitude for the lessons I learned and the place I was delivered to by those lessons.

Last night, the energy and love for US Soccer that poured out of Columbus was even more healing for me than the game they hosted last year. I love being in any supporter section, but last night in Columbus was something special. In the mist of goal celebrations’ beer, smoke, and sheer unadulterated joy, the Nordecke elevated me to something I can only describe in Charles Boehm’s new word: it was #DosaCeroazo.

I am filled with gratitude, US Soccer loving nation. I hope you are all out there, being a force of nature in something you love, with people you love.

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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.



We Love You, We Love You, We Love You, Columbus
August 29, 2013, 4:03 pm
Filed under: Supporter Culture, US Soccer | Tags: , ,

How about that yesterday? My blog went from a fun project I barely keep up while I work on finishing my book about my 20 years following US Soccer, to one of the most talked about thing in the soccer world. It would have been a fun day to have the One Goal and Kick TV guys shooting their documentary style, and I ran back and forth between helping my kids painting all afternoon (it would be early-out school, the day my blog blows up) and keeping up with twitter and comments on my blog. My keyboard, phone and ipad are all covered in paint, but kids made art, and we all survived.

Now how do I follow yesterday?

I mean, it was fun, getting ping backs from Prost Amerika referencing my “quaintly named” blog. I got really funny texts from friends like “Do you know Bill Archer? because he’s calling you a b*tch on Big Soccer” Yeah, I’m not linking to you, Bill. If you were a real journalist, you wouldn’t call women with opinions names, and if you felt that was the only way you could communicate yourself, you’d do it to me here, to my face. I have no time for trolls like you, except to call you out on your cheap misogyny. Go sit with Simon Borg and think about what you’ve done. Now then…I enjoyed Dan Loney’s blog as on point and funny, plus, the twist of calling a Jewish woman’s blog gospel. So many of you have entertained me, but I think the best part for me was the ongoing conversation with Devin Cathcart, aka @ClevelandGooner.

The discussion of whether or not we should have capo leadership is one I really didn’t cover on my blog yesterday, but it was an interesting discussion yesterday, on that made me realize that I swear I wrote a blog about my past experiences in Columbus, but I apparently never published it. I’ll summarize: I was in Columbus last year, as I was in 2009 and 2005 (I missed 2001 due to career stuff…a mistake I vowed never to make again, so I wasn’t there, but I shifted my priorities because of it). Last year was the best of all three of those games, and one of those games that will forever stand out among my 40+ caps. It will go down in history as the first time I ever saw an entire stadium of people stand for the full 90 minutes. They often cheered, sometimes in something close to unison. It brought tears to my eyes, that America had finally arrived. I finally saw a game, where the entire stadium was on some level, supporting the team I love.

Let that sink in, Columbus. I love you guys. In the book I’m writing, you’re a major character. When I was a referee traveling to Warrior Classic in the 90s, I used to love coming to Crew games. Because you have always had a great environment. And Frankie Hejduk. Have I mentioned how much I’ve always loved Frankie, and his mom, who let me cut the ladies room line when I was 5 months pregnant in Korea? Read my book (I’ll finish it soon, promise) and you’ll see, my feelings for Columbus are nothing but love.

I get it. Many of you don’t like capos. Or maybe you do like having “song leaders” just not on a stand, blocking your view. And you really don’t like people coming in from out of state and telling you what to do. I totally get that. Local flavor is the best part about traveling around the world following soccer. Hosting is something I’ll probably never get the chance to experience, although I do live in the fantasy world where the Menace will get their own stadium, and one day, we too will host a game. Y’know…a friendly, I’m not thinking something crazy like a qualifier or anything. I digress…

For everyone of you, who passionately want to bring it on your home field for USMNT, there are people like me, who will never get to host, but still want to be a part of the action. It’s part of why we bought the Midwest Mama flag and schlep it around the country. I may never get to host, but I can bring the flag, and I can capo. I like capos, but when I capo at Menace games, I do it from the back row, because, there’s like 30 of us. Maybe. Those of us who travel want to experience your local flavor, but we also want to bring our experience to the match and share it. I don’t think any of us want to share it in a bossy, take-this-thing-over way (well, maybe Seattle…I roll my eyes…it’s not that they don’t have good ideas, it’s that they feel they must bludgeon you into submission with their ideas. Not really my style).

I’ve never stood on a podium (although there was a running joke about building one for the Menace last year, just to be silly). I’m not coming to take over what you do, and I don’t support anyone else who wants to either. I’m coming to express my mad love for what you do, help support what you do, because what you do is glorious. I regret that anyone ever made you think otherwise. It has always been my hope that the negative blogs that were out there were untrue, because you deserve tons of respect for what you do. I look forward to seeing you all again, and coming together in the biggest supporter’s section ever, and dwarfing what we all did together last year. I hope you’ll accept my offer to help make the section the best it can be, because traveling to places like Columbus and learning from other hosts are what make the Menace supporters the talk of the PDL.



Everybody Just Calm Down
August 28, 2013, 9:44 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

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? 




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