I tweeted that line out today after the news of Cameron Maybin’s 25 game suspension came out today, and then I thought about it some more and just felt the urge to write about the year so far. The year 2014 has been an absolute disastrous year to be a Padres fan, and it is not even August yet. So that being said, lets take a look back at what has already been a year filled with Padre sadness:
I try and keep the faith and believe in belief, but this year has really taken its toll on me. Right now the Padres are 12.5 games back of the division lead and barring a miracle run it looks like another year without postseason baseball in San Diego. On and off the field its hard to be a fan of this team, but all I can do is wear my brown and blue Padres gear and support my team throughout it all.
#sportsbraining: The only way to describe this season in a photo.
As soccer continues to grow in this country, it’s great to see how many people embraced this years World Cup. As most kids I played soccer growing up, but I never really got into the sport as a fan in my younger days. I have always been way too into sports, and I have my dad to thank for that. When I was growing up I didn’t listen to music in the car, I listened to sports talk radio. Being a sports fan has always been part of me, but it was until later later that I became a soccer fan. Soccer has never been an easy sell in this country, so it was never a popular thing to be a soccer fan.
As this edition of the World Cup has come to an end, I can’t help but look back at my own journey as a fan. I went from a guy who’s soccer knowledge was what I saw in FIFA on Xbox; to a loud and proud member of the American Outlaws and a true soccer fan.
It started in 2009 for me, as my good friend and co-worker Richard talked me into going to an LA Galaxy game at what was then the Home Depot Center. I knew a little about the Galaxy, but that knowledge came from drunken FIFA tournaments with Richard and Sportscenter’s coverage of David Beckham. Beckham at the time was the biggest name in the MLS, and him coming over from Europe gave the league it’s first true international star. They also had another guy who’s name I had heard, Landon Donovan. Landon was a beast on FIFA, so I had seen him mentioned with Beckham on ESPN from time to time.
I can’t tell you who the Galaxy played at the first game I saw, but I can tell you they won and Donovan scored. We bought some general admission seats and we jumped in with the Angel City Birgade, one of the LA Galaxy supporters groups. Sitting with the ACB was the highlight of the game, as everyone was standing, singing, and bringing a passion I had not seen at a sporting event live before. We only went to one game in 2009, but I had gotten the soccer itch. I watched the games on TV the rest of the season and watched the Galaxy make it all the way to the MLS Cup final, only to fall to Real Salt Lake in a shoot out.
After the MLS season ended, I had football/basketball/hockey to keep my obsession with sports appeased through the fall. But then in January I found out about Donovan going on loan to Everton in the English Premiere League, and with the television coverage of the European leagues growing I was able to start watching the EPL. Watching that winter and spring changed how I viewed soccer as a whole. I was introduced to Everton’s goalie, a guy named Tim Howard. I loved his passion and it didn’t hurt he was damn good at what he did. I watched an up and coming star play for Fulham, Clint Dempsey. I learned about the passionate fan bases in England, and was in awe of the how loud the fans were. Not only was I hooked on the game now, but I was now learning more and more about the US men’s national team. I made a point that year to learn the Americans playing in Europe, and thanks to the internet I followed everyone I could.
As the 2010 season came about in the MLS I watched my LA Galaxy once again battle into the playoffs, only to lose to FC Dallas in the Western Conference Finals. I was at that game, and it was heartbreaking. We went to every playoff game that year, and wow was that a special experience. But something else had happened that summer…..
This little thing called the World Cup happened. I had bought my own USA jersey, and watched all the games with passion. For the England game, me and my buddy Richard went to a bar to watch the game with friends for my birthday. I don’t think I had ever been happier about a draw in my life, but it just meant I was hooked on the global game. I was visiting San Diego for the Algeria match, and I remember watching that game in the early hours of the morning and screaming at the top of my lungs when Donovan scored late. I scared the crap out of my grandma next door, as I just watched in my pjs on the couch. I remember the disappointment of Ghana, and thinking about having to wait 4 years to get another chance. Besides the opening match I just watched the games alone, but that had a lot to do with the early start times in South Africa.
So when I look back on it all, 2011 will be known as the year United States soccer took over for me. That year was the first time I really watched and followed the team in all their matches. I watched every match of the Gold Cup, the US made the finals but after going up 2-0 early on Mexico things got out of hand and Mexico won 4-2. The US lost, and Bob Bradley was shown the door. Enter Jurgen Klinsmann, and thus began what has been a very impressive run for US soccer. I got my first experience in person that September, as I saw the US lose a 1-0 game to Costa Rica at the Home Depot Center. This was my first time seeing the American Outlaws in person, and at this point they were getting some national exposure so I was well aware of the group at the time. We sat directly across from them so I got to witness the chanting and the passion from a great view. I remember watching and thinking to myself, “I need to be apart of that, and next time I will be.”
In the fall of 2011 I realized a dream of mine and moved back to San Diego, I went back and forth to Orange County for a few months but by late December I was happy to call San Diego my full time home again. Thanks to social media I had also discovered a pub to watch the US games, O’Briens Pub in Kearny Mesa. This was perfect for me, mostly because it was about a 5 minute drive from my house. The first time I went there was for the friendly against Italy in February of 2012. I was working overnight at the time so the late morning start was perfect for me. I got there and was surprised to see so many people at the bar for the game. It was a special game, as the United States pulled off a 1-0 thanks to a Clint Dempsey goal in the second half. It was a great experience at the bar, as all the fans were nice and we all enjoyed a victory drink after the match. Worked caused me to not get back to O’Briens for games, but I watched at home throughout the year as the US made their way through World Cup qualifying. The other highlight of the year was a 1-0 win in Mexico City, the first time the Americans had done so in the famed Estadio Azteca. The team ended the 2012 year with a record of 9 wins, 2 losses, and 3 draws. I was bummed we had failed to qualify for the Olympics, but I was proud of what the team had done and looked forward to 2013 and what I hoped would be a World Cup bid.
So as 2013 came along the US had a lot to look forward to, and did they not disappoint. The summer was epic, as it started off with a centennial celebration and a impressive 4-3 win over world power Germany. Sure it was not their A team, but it was an impressive performance and it started to get the countries attention. The Americans continued to dominate in World Cup qualifying, and even won the Gold Cup. But one of the best moments for me was over 4th of July I got to have the full US soccer experience.
As a warm up to the Gold Cup tournament, the team was playing Guatemala in a friendly in my backyard at Qualcomm Stadium. I had to be there, and working in the service industry I had to beg and plead to get the days off. But I did, and I spent the 4th of July at the stadium watching practice and that night at O’Briens for the American Outlaws pre-match party. I had signed up with the San Diego chapter of the Outlaws a few weeks earlier, so this was going to be my first experience as an Outlaw. I went to practice and had a great time just watching the team run drills, and was amazed by the turnout of others. That night at O’Briens was just amazing, as we drank, we chanted, and just talked with friends about soccer.
The next morning, hungover as can be, I woke up with excitement as it was game day. We headed down to the stadium with a group of friends at 3pm to enjoy the tailgate experience with fellow members of the American Outlaws. The tailgate was unlike any other I had experienced! Of course there was drinking, but it was all about coming together to support America. There was chanting, jumping around, and just an all around great time. As game time approached we took in the traditional march to the stadium. We held our scarfs up high and sang all the way to the gates. The game was perfect, the US won 6-0 and it was just one big party in our section. It is still one of my favorite memories at a sporting event ever, and until I get to goto a World Cup or a game of that magnitude it will remain my favorite in person soccer memory.
Since then I have watched almost every game with my fellow American Outlaws, and even got some of my friends to pay attention to soccer. I watched my third US game in person this year, a win at what is now the Stub Hub Center in Carson. I have learned to appreciate the game on a whole new level, and am proud to be an American Outlaw and an LA Galaxy fan. This year the World Cup was a truly special experience for me, and I’d be hard pressed to find a more intense viewing experience than when the US beat Ghana thanks to the late header from Brooks. I have made some great new friendships, and I know we will continue to watch the world’s game together in the upcoming years.
I still am hurting over the World Cup loss, but being at Petco Park for the loss to Belgium really showed me how far this country has come. It was amazing seeing almost 5,000 people on a weekday afternoon show up to support the team. I have so many memories that will last a lifetime from this tournament, from singing the national anthem so off key and not even caring to our ‘Tostado Burrito’ chant.
So if you enjoyed watching the United States World Cup run this year do yourself a favor: continue to watch and enjoy the game. Try and find an MLS club, maybe chose one based on location or your favorite player from the World Cup plays for one. Also, you don’t have to wait for the next World Cup to follow the Americans. There are always international friendlies, and tournaments every year. There a Gold Cup next year, the Olympics and Copa America is in 2016, and the Confederations Cup is in 2017. Find your local American Outlaw chapter and become involved, you wont regret it.
It’s amazing to me that I care so much about growing the game in the country now, and I just hope by 2018 other people will feel the same way that I feel now about this sport. The journey has been so special, and I am so thankful to my friend Richard for dragging me out to one Galaxy game that changed soccer in my eyes forever. Soccer is only going to continue to grow in this country, and I know I will look back at the past 4 and half year and realize I got to watch the start of something special beginning.
-Watch Party at the Petco Park.
July 1st, 2014