KANSAS CITY, KS - JUNE 14: Fans cheer with a giant American flag prior to the start of the Gold Cup game between the USA and Guadeloupe on June 14, 2011 at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas.
Also file under: I've been a terrible blog manager this month, but I'm back for good, now.
On the calendar, today is nothing more than Thursday, June 16, 2011. But personally, this day feels like one of the most boring of my entire life. Thanks to the great folks at Sporting Kansas City and the United States Soccer Federation, I have just finished one of the greatest two week stretches of my entire life. And for that, I want to take a moment or two to thank the organizations and a handful of people in particular for making it happen, or being a part of it.
Caps Number 3 And 4
Where to begin with this one, I'm not so sure. I follow Sporting KC as a "member of the media," because I enjoy doing so, and perhaps would like to, one day, do something similar as a career. I follow the US National Team because I am American and nothing but a fan.
Over these last two weeks, I've seen my favorite group of human beings in all the world play in the great city of Boston, and my hometown Kansas City. Having acquired all four of my national team caps over the last eight months, and doing so in Chicago, Nashville and the previously mentioned two most recent, I can easily say that Tuesday night's game in LIVESTRONG Sporting Park was by far the most special, and most memorable, for a variety of reasons.
While I've only been a hardcore soccer fan for a couple years, there is a certain affinity to my national team that words themselves just can't properly describe. Why else would someone spend money they most certainly do not have to travel around the country to see them play? While that's a no-brainer, I would be extremely neglectful if I didn't mention the one person that has "shown me the ropes," so to speak, and been present for every single national team cap I have to my name. If it weren't for my good friend Dustin Quick, many things in my life probably never happen; this blog probably never comes about, I probably have only one cap right now (Tuesday), and I'm short one incredible group of friends and a ton of crazy, memorable stories. We shared our one year knowing-each-other anniversary together in Boston. Thanks for tweeting me and inviting me to Johnny's last summer, bro.
I've probably experienced no sadder, emptier feeling in my sporting life than June 26, 2010. The day that the United States were eliminated from the 2010 World Cup hurt so much deeper than I ever imagined it would. We were never expectant to win the thing. It was always in the cards that we would be beaten and sent home. But, it absolutely shattered my heart anyway. The greatest thing about the national team, and this is a revelation that as I type this has come to me, is that when I'm cheering for the US, I'm a part of something so much bigger than anything I've ever been.
But, that's when I knew I was in love. That was the moment that I knew I had found my incredible drug that, just like a real drug, comes with a previously unattainable, existential high (Landon Donovan's 91st minute winner vs. Algeria) and the lowest of all lows (Asamoah Gyan's stoppage time winner to knock the US out, just a few days later). It was until that moment of euphoria that I would have ever, and I mean ever, considered going gay for another man. But, if Landon Donovan had asked that week, who would I have been to tell him, "no"?
Through last summer, I met the previously mentioned gang of people that many know as AOKC (American Outlaws - Kansas City chapter), but I know as some of the most important people to me in the entire world. This may be a shameless plug, but if you are not a member of this passionate supporters group, do yourself a favor and sign up right now. An AO night before bar, tailgate, march into the stadium and section during the game is an experience you have to undergo for yourself to fully appreciate. Gooesbumps have just risen on my entire body after thinking about it.
Mike at Down The Byline said is on Wednesday, and he couldn't have been any more spot-on: Kansas City must host another meaningful US game (preferably World Cup qualifier, even US-Mexico) in the very, very near future. "Fortress" doesn't even begin to describe what LIVESTRONG Sporting Park could be for the national team. Crew Stadium in Columbus has had its amazing run as the unofficial national team stadium, as it was the first stadium of its kind built in America, but with LSP's opening, they are far outdated. And besides, it's time to spread the love to another part of the country.
You best believe that cap number 5 is not long in the future.
A Great Club Life, Too
First of all, the city of Kansas City and anyone who appreciates a real soccer cathedral, and myself particularly, would like to thank the entire Sporting KC organization, and OnGoal, LLC, the team's ownership group.
Your foresight in creating LIVESTRONG Sporting Park is injusticed by words alone. Let's not even mention the fact that you saved the Kansas City Wizards from leaving Kansas City just a few, short years ago. There aren't enough words in the world to express our gratitude for that. Instead, let's keep it all about the beautiful building located in Village West, Kansas City, KS.
Kansas City is no longer a joke, or the punchline, of Major League Soccer. Now, fans of other clubs bow down to us. From Arrowhead Stadium to CommunityAmerica Ballpark, for 15 years Kansas City soccer fans were chastised for either playing in a cavernous American football stadium, or a minor baseball matchbox stadium. Then, in steps this ambitious group of businessmen that want to build the greatest structure this side of Mars.
Just a few, short years later, June 9, 2011 is the date, and 15 years of support and waiting are rewarded for so many people. The scenes inside LSP on that night can only be adequately conveyed through video (seen below). The KC Cauldron rocked the house the entire night, and Sporting KC finally has a real home-field advantage.
And, it is because of this glorious stadium that Kansas City now has staked it claim and made its case for those future US National Team games. The venue speaks for itself. It is now up to the people of Kansas City, and my, oh my, what a glorious show we put on for the nation Tuesday night. So proud of you people.
On a much more personal note, this organization, and particularly the public and media relations department, are solely responsible for any success I have had in the "media" world to this point, and any good to come in the future. Just to name a few, Dave Borchardt, Kurt Austin, Josh Whisenhunt and Kyle Rogers have helped me in so many different ways over the last twelve months, that I can not even express my thanks and gratitude. The accessibility I have to this team is mind-boggling, and I have only you gentlemen to thank for that.
And, the coolest thing about this year's soccer in Kansas City is this: it's JUST getting started.