During the off-season I plan on speaking with a handful of D.C. United fans to try and capture some of the fantastic stories I've been hearing all year at the tailgates, on the bus, and in the stands.
Brendan C. has been a D.C. United fan since he moved to the area in the mid-2000s and now volunteers for the team on game days. You can find him helping out around RFK, cheering on the team from the dug out, and writing thoughtful, detailed comments on the fansite Black and Red United.
This conversation was recorded on November 7, 2016. This transcription has been edited slightly for smoothness and clarity. You may re-post the link to the interview but please do not re-post any of the content.
Filmi Girl: Do you remember when you first got into soccer? Started playing soccer?
Brendan: So, we’re going to take it all the way back.
Filmi Girl: Yeah!
Brendan: I got started playing when I was 4 or 5. It was just one of those things that parents get kids involved in. You run around and kick a ball and that’s how you spend your afternoon. I had some friends from church that I was on a team with and I just stuck with it through the years.
Filmi Girl: What position did you play?
Brendan: I played mostly defense because that seemed to be the most straightforward: stand there and don’t let them score. Afterwards my brother and sister both played goalie and now we’ll gather at Thanksgiving and stuff and they’ll show their hands off and their fingers are all gnarled. But I’m also the oldest one so I like to criticize that it’s diminished genetic return that’s responsible for it.
I played all through elementary school. In middle school I started playing for my school team and there was one brief shining moment when I was on a select soccer team, a little bit higher competition, and that was fun.
I played in high school a little bit and that was fun because our school was very focused on academics first and the sports side was not all that good. Then in my four years we started to turn it around and put together a pretty solid program. The school ended up being kind of like a regional power for bit and Cameron Porter--I think he’s with Kansas City now [He is. -FG]--actually went to my high school. And while I was there Chris Rolfe was playing at the next school over. He was at Kettering and I went to school in Miami Valley in Ohio. So, yeah, it was just kind of something I’ve been involved in for a long time.
Let’s see, I was 15 in 1996 and I remember whenever they would show MLS on TV I would try and watch it. “If we don’t support it, it could go under!” That type of thing. Weirdly, I wasn’t hugely into the World Cup in 1994. I think I was a little bit too young to really have gone gung ho into soccer fandom at that point.
Filmi Girl: Soccer was always something you did with your friends, not something you watched on TV.
Brendan: Right, because there was nothing to watch. Even worse, we didn’t get cable until I’d moved out of the house. I think the impetus to finally get it was the 2006 World Cup. My parents were like, “We want to be able to see it.”
I think I watched the first MLS Cup and saw D.C. United win it but I honestly don’t have any memory of the game itself which is kind of a bummer.
Then in college I did a study abroad in Cambridge, England and soccer was on all the time there. Well, before that in 1998 my family went to France on vacation and it happened to coincide with the World Cup there. We didn’t go to any matches or anything but it was constantly on TV. I remember being on top of the Arc de Triomphe and all of sudden I heard this building roar and everybody was pouring out onto the streets. It was something like the Netherlands had drawn Belgium 0-0 [June 13, 1998 - FG.] and everybody was ecstatic about it.
Likewise in 2000 we were in Italy and the Euros were happening and again soccer was everywhere. You’d watch it on TV and follow along with the tournament. I still wasn’t an uber fan or anything. It was just a lot of fun.
Filmi Girl: You get caught up in it.
Brendan: There’s definitely an energy. We weren’t looking for the World Cup or the Euros but they would find you.
Then in college I went to (Cambridge) England for study abroad and soccer was everywhere. That was my first exposure to club soccer. I was like, this is kind of cool. All the people that you see on the national teams in the World Cup, they play together but in different combinations in the clubs. Then I got really into how much was going on. Like you’d have the league games and trying to win, relegation and trying to avoid it, and there were all these other tournaments going on like Champions League or FA Cup or whatever. And this was also qualifications for the 2002 World Cup and David Beckham hit his famous free kick against Greece to seal qualification and everyone was going crazy.
I got to watch a lot of the club soccer and Liverpool and Arsenal really stood out for me. As a D.C. United fan it’s kind of embarrassing because I was watching Thierry Henry [Who played at Arsenal then later for the New York Red Bulls - FG] and was like, “God damn, this guy is good!” Little did I know he would end up playing for a team I loathed.
Filmi Girl: Did you have anybody helping you make sense of all this?
Brendan: Not exactly. The weekly highlights shows helped a lot and I’d catch the games when I could. I was in Cambridge so it wasn’t close to any of the major teams but it would have been pretty easy to go down to London to catch a game if I wanted to but that wasn’t even on my mind.
We did like residential stays and the son of the family I was with was really into snooker and I knew nothing about snooker but it turns out it’s a lot like billiards without any of that putting balls into the pockets nonsense--it’s all about defensive positioning--and I was like, this is boring as shit! I wanted to watch a game of the World Series which started at like 2 in the morning or something over there and he gamely stayed up for part of it and he was like, “This is so boring.” And I was like, “You like snooker!” But he wasn’t really like a soccer fan or anything so I didn’t have anyone there.
But Cambridge has a 3rd or 4th level team Cambridge United FC and I would walk past their stadium on the way to class everyday. And on (Black and Red United) I’ll complain about (D.C. United’s planned new stadium at) Buzzard Point but this thing was just--it looked like a scrap yard, basically. You wouldn’t even know it was a soccer stadium if you didn’t already know. I never went to any games but I bet it would have been a lot of fun so it’s kind of a missed opportunity. But that trip did get really me to the point of, oh I can watch soccer and this is what’s happening in it. So I did start to be more of a fan after that.
Then when the World Cup came around in 2002, it was in Japan and Korea and I remember a couple games from that really distinctly. They were airing really late and like I said we didn’t have cable yet at that point. So they were showing a replay of the USA-Portugal game and I went out to like a sports bar to watch it and I’d been trying to avoid seeing anything that had happened but just as it was about to start a ticker popped up at the bottom and it was like USA 3-Portugal 2. And at first I was upset because I was like, oh the score. And then I realized what it was saying because Portugal was supposed to be one of the favorites and I was like, wait a second. We beat Portugal? Oh my god!
The other memory from the 2002 World Cup was that the USA got through (the group stage) and they were playing Mexico but it was going to be airing at like 2:30 in the morning and I was like, I’ve got to see this. So I went over to a friend’s house but he was going to sleep and because the game was at 2:30 in the morning. Then I went to a bar but it closed at 2. And then I noticed there was another bar next to it and there were some people going in so I went over and this guy was like, “I’m the owner but I’m just having some friends over.” And I was like, “Well can I be your friend?” And he was like, “Mmm... sorry.” And he shut the door. But I could see the TV through the window. So I was just kind of like standing in this strip mall (in Ohio) at 2:30 in the morning staring through a window watching USA-Mexico.
No one else was around but a cop pulled up at one point and was like, “What are you doing there, son?” And I was like, “It’s the World Cup and we’re beating Mexico 2-0!” And he was like, oooooooo-kay and just drove off but that is the thing that I point to, to prove my bona fides. I was there when you had to stand in at abandoned street corner in the middle of the night.
Filmi Girl: With the cops hassling you. (Laughs) So, in all this time you were in Ohio, you never picked up on the Columbus Crew?
Brendan: Not really. I’d gone to a couple of Crew games. And the Crew were good too, at that point, but Columbus was just far enough away that I never really got into them. The Crew came and played an exhibition game in Centerville and I went and saw them do that but--
Filmi Girl: But it never felt like your team.
Brendan: Yeah, I wanted them to do well but not in any kind of… yeah, it wasn’t mine. Then, so all this studying English and history, once I graduated from college I realized that it doesn’t really get you much, so I decided that I was going to try to do a masters in museum studies. I came out to Washington to check out George Washington University and stayed with a friend of mine and it happened to be the weekend of MLS Cup 2004 so I got to watch D.C. United beat the Kansas City Wizards. I got to see them win that championship even though I wasn’t a fan yet at that point. Then I ended up coming to GW and living out here and i would pick up (the commuter paper from Washington Post) the Express in the morning and I would be like, oh United did something; that’s good. But it still hadn’t really dawned on me that they played in the same city that I lived in until that same friend was like, “I’ve got some tickets to a game. Do you want to go?” And I was like, oh yeah. I can go to these games.
Filmi Girl: And this was in like 2005?
Brendan: I think it was 2006 that he had these tickets. I’m pretty sure it was the playoff game (single elimination conference finals) against New England and I was like, oh they’ve got Freddy Adu. I know who he is.
It was a big crowd and I was really expecting to win and then Taylor Twellman scored in the 3rd minute and nothing else happened the rest of the game and I was like, oh… interesting. But while I was there I was like, but I’m having a good time though. And I’m looking across the field (to the “loud” side) and I was like, just look at those people going nuts! What’s going on over there? And my friend is like, “Oh that’s like the Barra Brava or something.” And I was like, Oh.
So that was the end of the 2006 season but I was like, I want to check this out a bit more in the 2007 season. So we started going to the Screaming Eagles tailgates and we got tickets down in that section and it blew my mind. To this day call it the greatest sporting experience I've had as a fan. The standing up, the bouncing, the singing, the songs, the energy coming from it. It was incredible.
(The 2007 team) also happened to be one of the best teams that we’d had in awhile. They won the supporters shield that year and they had like an unstoppable attack. Jaime Moreno and Luciano Emilio and Christian Gomez and Ben Olsen. I think they had Fred too [They did. - FG] and it seemed like they were just scoring at will. Bobby Boswell was there and won Defender of the Year and Troy Perkins won Goalkeeper of the Year and Luciano Emilio was MVP.
I remember Jaime Moreno setting the record for goals scored (in MLS). It was on a penalty kick against the Red Bulls too so that made it nice.
Filmi Girl: So even at that point you knew that the Red Bulls were the enemy?
Brendan: Yeah, I picked that up pretty early on. I think they had just become the Red Bulls when I started. [The name changed happened in 2006. - FG] I never really saw them as the MetroStars but I remember at my apartment watching the game--it was early on in the year [April 29, 2006. -FG]--where (Alecko) Eskandarian scored and then he took that swig of Red Bull and spit it out and I was like,THAT IS AWESOME! It was still very early in my United fandom but that went a long way towards making the team a beloved part of me. So, yeah, it was just really good times.
Filmi Girl: So you were already at that point where you’d watch the away games?
Brendan: Yeah, I didn’t do any traveling yet but yeah I would watch or at least definitely check out the score.
I was just remembering, in the (second leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals of the 2007) playoffs, they were playing Chicago and I guess this was the tail end of a string of bad run-ins with Chicago in the playoffs andChris Rolfe had scored in the away leg to give the Fire a 1-0 lead. (United) let in 2 quick goals in DC and it was really bad but they started clawing their way back into it and scored twice and we were going nuts like, it was going to happen. The comeback was going to happen! And then Christian Gomez scored what looked like the equalizer we were just going nuts and talking about how this was like the Liverpool comeback against AC Milan in the (2004-2005 EUFA) Champions League and then it was like, nope, handball on Gomez. Goal doesn’t count. And I was like, Noooooooooo! It was so crushing. That was one of the most elated feelings I’d ever had and then it was just gone. I was like, no, you had to have blown that call! There’s no way! But, alas.
One of my best memories is from 2008 when they were hosting the Open Cup final and the (USL) Charleston Battery had made it all the way to the final and I always like when we get to play teams outside of MLS. But, yeah, so United had made it and was playing Charleston and I went to the game and there was maybe 8,000 people, maybe not even that many. And they did this awesome Fortress RFK tifo where they put up castle parapets and set off smoke bombs behind them and it looked really awesome and then we ended up winning the game. We won the Open Cup and all the players were celebrating on the field and (D.C. United General Partner) Will Chang was out there and they were passing the trophy around and I was touching it and I was like, this is amazing!
(Photo credit: Chris Leon for D.C. United)
And everyone went to Barracks Row afterwards to celebrate at a bar and a lot of (the Charleston) fans were there. And United has the Coffee Pot Cup with Charleston so they were passing around this big urn, like a coffee urn they had filled with Guinness or something, and everyone was taking turns drinking from the tap. And I just remember thinking, this tastes like glory. This is the best.
I was there when they would clinch the Supporters Shields and things but this, the one time I was there in person when they won a trophy. That experience just so happy. And afterwards the camaraderie and the fellowship and passing around this coffee urn full of beer and everything. There weren’t a ton of people there but I was there and it was everything good about being a United fan. So it’s one of my fonder memories.
Filmi Girl: Do you remember Ben Olsen coming back as a coach?
Brendan: Speaking of tifos and everything, even before that is what I’m thinking of right now. (In 2008) Olsen was sidelined the entire year with ankle problems. And then it was David Beckham’s game [This was June 28, 2008. It was Beckham’s only trip to D.C. that year with the LA Galaxy and he generated a lot of buzz. - FG] and he came out and it was whatever, Beckham. And that’s when the Heart of a Lion tifo came out and Ben Olsen--he’d been out all year--and the Barra hold up “Ben Olsen: Heart of a Lion.” That was like the only game he played. He got in for the last 20 minutes and he didn’t do much but, you know, it was like it just synced up so well. We had a tifo for him and he played in that game. It was like the only minutes he got all year. Whatever, Beckham. Look what that guy just did. He’s the heart of our team and we got this tifo and we were doing the “we sing better than your wife” chant.
(Photo taken from here)
Filmi Girl: Oh god I forgot about that chant! (Laughs)
Brendan: Those were heady days.
Filmi Girl: Yeah they were.
Brendan: For a United fan. There were some really good ones for Olsen when he became a coach. There was like an Olsen’s Army tifo where he was like Rambo [August 14, 2010. -FG] but when he got put in the Hall of Tradition [September 15, 2012. - FG], I think it was the (District) Ultras who did the stages of Ben Olsen’s career that was a really good tifo. They had him winning Rookie of the Year and Humanitarian of the year and playing in the World Cup and Winning MLS Cup and as a coach. That was really nice one.
(Photo credit: Paul Frederiksen)
(Photo credit: D.C. United)
Filmi Girl: Going back to when he was made head coach, do you remember they did a takeover and had Ben Olsen’s Chili Bowl?
Brendan: Yeah. I was there. And I was like Dax McCarty! And Charlie Davies!
Filmi Girl: Yes! Charlie Davies!
Brendan: He was my favorite player at the time and I had been at the Costa Rica game (in 2009) after he was in the car accident and holding up the number 9’s and Jonathan Bornstein of all people getting the equalizer in the 95th minute. That was incredible. I’ve posted a video a couple times on Black and Red United called like the miracle in RFK or something and it’s a really neat montage. He came back and he played for United against the Columbus Crew in the season opener and he scored 2 goals and it was amazing.
(Photo credit: isps)
But, Ben Olsen’s Chili Bowl. I’ve got a photo of him. I had just started dating the lady who became my wife and I took her and her friend and the friend I went to all the United games with. The four of us went down as much as anything to get a free chili dog and we got a picture of them there. And I had brought scarves for all of them because the girls didn’t care about soccer at all but I was like, here you go, you can have a scarf. And one of them was a “Jaime Moreno: King of RFK” scarf and afterwards I couldn’t find that scarf at all. I was like, what happened to it? And later on there was a photo of Mrs. (Virginia) Ali, the wife of Ben Ali, who ran Ben’s Chili Bowl and she was wearing that scarf so I think she got it. It was weird to get a definitive answer like, oh, that’s what happened to the scarf. They got it at ben’s chili bowl. But I ended up just buying another one because I really did like that scarf.
(Photo credit: D.C. United)
That was a lot of fun and I think it’s because of that, with Dax McCarty. Like he was already automatically named captain of the team and doing stuff like Ben Olsen’s Chili Bowl and then he got traded to New York and he just went so in for the Red Bulls. You see other people like Charlie Davies and Chris Pontius and they score against DC and they don’t celebrate because they're like, “We had good times here.” But McCarty is just all in. And so I had started following him on Twitter when we got him and then just sort of kept hate following him for a long time but eventually I was just-- He would say things like, “Red Bulls fans deserve success.” And I was like, they do not. They do fucking not. And finally I was just like, yes, as human beings they probably do deserve some happiness but I’m not in a place where I can accept that now so I’ll unfollow him and not get worked up about this so much.
Filmi Girl: Do you remember going to Red Bull Arena for the first time?
Brendan: Yeah, actually the 2014 playoffs was my first time up there so unfortunately I wasn’t part of the snow game [November 7-8, 2012 -KB] and my salute to everyone that did. It was really cool to drive up and I remember--
Filmi Girl: Did you did you drive or take the bus?
Brendan: No, I came on the bus. I really like those bus trips and I’d gone to other places before like to Philly and the superdraft and things like that and so I’d done some traveling on the buses before. But I remember like as you go through Jersey just how the hell do they talk about DC being a swamp when this is a literal actual swamp. You go in and everything looks like it’s from the 1950s, like it stopped kind of growing then and it’s just been falling apart for the last 60 years. They’ve got like the burnt out warehouse across the street.
I felt really cool being part of that big group with our flags and our chanting and being defiant like, we’re here and what are you going to do about it! Apparently what they are going to do about it is just say “sucks” whenever we say D.C. United and you’re like, (sighs) alright guys.
Filmi Girl: But, really, that’s all they got. Did you see the video of (Steve) Birnbaum and (Sacha) Kljestan doing like the real life FIFA skills challenge and all Kljestan had was “DC sucks.” That was the extent of his banter. It was pretty pathetic.
Brendan: On the second leg (in 2014), they held up like a “D.C. Divided” sign and I was like, we’re not though. And if that was in service of something better than just “divided” is the opposite of “united” then okay, but it’s not. That’s all they have.
(Photo credit: @ChrisGeorgeKC)
And so, yeah, the game itself was disheartening because we lost. But it was a fun experience and I went back up in 2015 as well and it was the same kind of experience up until the end. In 2014 the game in (New Jersey) was the first leg and in 2015 it was the second leg. They won and they moved on and eliminated us and it sucked. And I was on the bus when someone threw a rock at it and I was like, what the fuck?! You guys won! Why are you throwing rocks at us? And it bothers me because I’ll see like the folks at MLSsoccer.com will praise the Red Bulls supporters and I’m like, they’re not very good and they’re bad people. Their office is in New York and some of them grew up there and were Metros fans and their bias leaks through a bit.
So, I mean, I don’t have a lot of respect or love for them. Like I was saying earlier, Red Bulls fans deserve happiness? No they don’t. Maybe I’m just a vengeful person because I was upset that the Cubs won the World Series and, no, they deserve to keep losing. And a similar thing with the Red Bulls. They will never win a MLS Cup because fuck those guys.
Filmi Girl: Maybe after 108 years.
Brendan: We’ll see.
Filmi Girl: (laughs) So can we talk about 2013.
Brendan: If we must.
Filmi Girl: I know nobody wants to relive it. I was still a casual fan then so my memory is just going to the home opener, winning, and then just not paying attention other than my brother suspiciously not inviting us out to any games that year. Usually he’d get a whole group together and we’d go a handful of times of year but that year… no.
Brendan: I had some some coworkers who went to that home opener too
Filmi Girl: It was fun.
Brendan: Yeah, they had a great time and they joined the Screaming Eagles right afterwards and were like, “This is great!” And then the rest of the season happened. But I don’t know because 2013 kind of dwarfed out the fact that 2010 happened. 2010 was just a terrible season. Oh, this once proud franchise has this worst season ever and then they go out in 2013 and just obliterate that. And it was just so much badness. And who was there... Lionard Pajoy, James Riley at like left back, and um… (pulls up the lineup.)
Filmi Girl: Ruiz. (laughs)
Brendan: Oh god, Carlos Ruiz, yeah. Jared Jeffrey and Taylor Kemp came that year. And Colin Martin. They all joined. And Connor Doyle. And I forgot about Luis Silva, too. Like there was this midseason transfusion of people but, oh, Alain Rochat. I’ve got my Alain Rochat jersey from the equipment sale. And Dennis Iapichino, Sainey Nyassi, Rafael, our young DP. I wanted him to be good so much because he had the awesome nickname of “Gladiador” andwhen he scored a goal he gave the gladiator thumbs down move and I was like, this guy is going to be so great to have around! But now but he’s just one of those ones--Marcos Sanchez, oh God, so many terrible people on this team.
But, anyways, we had already gone through 2010 and the team slogan for 2010 was, “It takes more.” And then they put out that stinker? And I was always really proud that the fans didn’t boo United. Whenever they let in a goal, (the fans) just did a “D.C. United” chant and tried again but people booed that season. “It takes more.”
And then 2013 was just bad from top to bottom and there was the weirdness of the Open Cup run too.
Filmi Girl: Yeah, I was going to ask because I know a couple of people who went out West for that. Did you?
Brendan: I wish I had. I vowed afterwards that if United is ever in a trophy game, no matter where it is, I’ll be there the next time. But I was watching at Lucky Bar and there were a bunch of other United fans there and a Real Salt Lake fan wandered in. He had moved to DC from Utah and we were doing some good natured banter, just talking about the game. I was like, good on you for being here. And then Lewis fucking Neal and Bill Hamid standing on his head for the rest of the game. It was such an improbable season. I remember saying on Black and Red United at one point that--we’d gotten new ownership, we had gotten the stadium approved, and then we won a trophy-- if we get rid of pajoy it will be one of the top 5 seasons in United history and then we cut him at the end of the year. So I was like, holy shit, actually this was an amazing season.
And it happened at the perfect moment too because you got all the money for winning a trophy and getting into champions league and you got all the money for sucking so hard and got first choice in all the allocation things. It really swung United back and now they’ve made the playoffs 3 years in a row and are doing pretty well. I don’t think there were even any expansion teams in 2014 so you got first pick of the draft and they were able to trade that and get (Steve) Birnbaum.
Filmi Girl: And we got Captain Bobby Boswell back.
Brendan: Yeah, that re-entry draft went really swimmingly with Boswell and (Sean) Franklin and Fabian Espindola too. I didn’t do it this year but in 2015 I was doing useless counting stats.
Filmi Girl: Oh, I love your counting stats! They’re the best!
Brendan: So I want Boswell back next year because if he plays x amount of games then he’s poised to crack the top 3 of all time games played for United, which would be pretty cool.
Filmi Girl: I think he’s earned it.
Brendan: Definitely. I think he’s going to get a good chance next year. I think they’re going to bring him back.
Filmi Girl: Yeah, I don’t see why they wouldn’t. Especially knowing how loyal Olsen is.
Brendan: You know, Olsen as a coach, he got the job in 2010 midway through and then in 2011 they were like, “He will not be the coach.” But then, “No one else wants the job slash we’re not going to play anyone a reasonable wage for it so Olsen’s the coach!” But then he had to get rid of Santino Quaranta and Clyde Simms and players like that who were his friends and who he played with forever so he’s definitely got loyalty but he’s shown that he can cut his friends. So, yeah, we’ll see. My instinct says that Boswell will be back and will play in the majority of the games next year but we will find out.
Filmi Girl: Okay, so at what point did you start catching on to the behind-the-scenes stuff? Was there a line you crossed between going to games and knowing who the owner is and following the stadium deal and stuff like that?
Brendan: I owe a lot of that to Steve Goff, who for my money is the best soccer reporter or at least the best MLS-specific soccer reporter. As United fans we’re lucky to have him covering the team. So, yeah, I’d read all of his stuff and it’s full of great information and insights and the insider scoops and everything. I got to learn a lot of it that way and I think it helped that I had a lot of jobs where I could easily blow off work and read Steve Goff instead.
Filmi Girl: I think we’ve all been there, casually reading the Washington Post at your desk.
Brendan: Yeah, a lot of that. I remember there was one point where Branko Bošković’s deal was expiring in the middle of the season and I was walking downtown like near where the Barnes & Noble was at Metro Center and (former D.C. United president) Kevin Payne was crossing the street and I was like, “Sign Branko!” as I walked by. I don’t know if he heard me or not.
I had gone to some meet the team events and tried to get involved and so yeah I was definitely into it.
Filmi Girl: More than just being a fan, you felt an ownership of what happens.
Brendan: Like I’ve been a fan of a lot of other sports teams but this was the only D.C. team that I liked. I liked all the Ohio teams besides that and I was a writer at the SB Nation blog for the Cincinnati Reds at this time but United was starting to creep up and overtake all these other teams. That was where my true passion was. I think it was because it was local I could see them and the team was very accessible. You can meet the players and you see the owner walking along the street. Like Ben Olsen rode by me on 14th St. on a bicycle once and I was like, oh, you’re Ben Olsen. I know you. And so you’d see him around town just randomly. And, yeah, there was a lot of access.
Around, we’ll say 2011-2012 maybe, that was sort of like the golden age of fan experience for MLS because the league had proven that it was solid enough that it wasn’t going to fold. They’d added a bunch of other expansion teams by that point, the quality of the play on the field had actually gotten pretty good, and it was still pretty reasonable. There was access, you could have smoke bombs in the stands and everything, and no one cared. They would kind of encourage it. It was big enough that it was good and small enough that people didn’t really care too much.
Filmi Girl: Nobody was really looking over your shoulder, basically. You didn’t feel like you had the corporate office standing over you.
Brendan: Yeah, stuff hadn’t gotten codified to that point. Corporate’s a good word. It was still kind of messy, kind of like--it reminded me of footage you see of the NFL in the 1950s or 1970s or something. There’s a lot less glitz to it but everyone’s still having a lot of fun. No one’s really getting priced out of MLS yet but you can kind of see down the road where that might be an issue. But, well, we’ll find out.
Filmi Girl: Do you remember all the stuff with the threats of moving to baltimore?
Brendan: Yeah, there’s a video on youtube that I watch fairly regularly from 2007. It’s this long highlights video and the fans were doing creative things in it that you don’t see a lot now, like there was a big balloon release and people brought in a casket that said New York Red Bulls on it and stuff. Anyways at the end of that it’s like: “Mayor of Washington keep your promise build a stadium.” But that was like 3 mayors ago. So, yeah, this has been going on as long as I’ve been a fan.
It was going to be Poplar Point for a long time and then maybe going to be in Maryland and now it’s in Buzzard Point, which is probably good, but there’s a lot of limitations to the site and it depends on how the team reacts to those limitations. Because it can lead to creativity or it can lead to something diminished. I guess I fall on the more cynical end of things and I really don’t want to because I love the team and I want to be optimistic about them but I guess I did fall into the trap seeing those initial renderings. They looked awesome but it was never very realistic. But it’s also that I think “United is the greatest football team” and I want a stadium that reflects that. We should be setting the bar for what is best and instead we have a very limited site. You do the best with what you can but I’d like to keep looking for that signature element that makes it a D.C. stadium.
Filmi Girl: Or something that has the fans in mind instead of just customers.
Filmi Girl: Generic customers.
Brendan: For instance. They’ve made a few things like we’ll have food trucks. “That’s DC-ish, right?” And so maybe they’ll do it, maybe not. I’ve never had a lot of personal dealing with the front office and I’ve never been a season ticket holder so I don’t have a ticket rep or anything but definitely this year was one where it’s a stark divide. It used to be everyone’s on the same team and now it’s like, “We’re the team and you’re the fans. Your job is to buy season ticket packages and follow the rules and our job is to take your money.” So, yeah. You have the owners and, yes, they’re building a stadium. They haven’t built it yet but they’re in the process. But they’ve done this by trimming all the front office staff and the scouting departments. Any institutional knowledge has been gutted. I was following--and I still do follow--(former D.C. United President Kevin Payne’s daughter) Rebecca Payne on twitter and she had a lot to say about that.
Filmi Girl: She was working for the team, I think, at one point.
Brendan: Yeah, she was. She ended up quitting and she had intimated that part of it was the logo change. That was a big blow to getting rid of any kind of tradition.
The logo doesn’t look bad really now but it looks more like a logo than a crest. It also did lose the symbolism in the old one. The “United” was meant to be D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, uniting the DMV. And the 3 stripes that were on the jerseys. They haven’t been there in a while but when they chose to do the sublimated stripes on the jerseys this year I was like, well why didn’t you do just sublimated three stripes to keep that. You can still do a sponsor logo over it. Or the star on the crest for being the team that won the first championship. That means something. And the feathers in the eagle on the old crest formed those 3 stripes and they changed the angle on the wings on the new one so it doesn’t quite make those stripes anymore. So, I don’t know. It’s little subtle ways that the team was ours and now they’re moving it to be somebody’s else’s.
It wasn’t widely known but that was the official explanation for it. I’m not making it up or anything. But the way they were saying they focus grouped it and they hired that Liverpool design firm to create a font or something. It’s like, okay, you went all out but you didn’t go to the community for it. You didn’t do it for your fans.
And that was one of the things that I love about the Columbus rebrand. I liked their old 3 men at work crest. There was a hokiness to it but it was the team’s hokiness. When they redesigned it, the story that i heard--this may be wrong--but the story that i heard was it was just someone in their office sort of like sat down and drew it. So, it was theirs. They made it and it ended up looking really cool. It wasn’t a thing that, “Oh we’ve hired this firm and here’s all the brand messaging around that.”
You know, there’s like these oral histories of the early days of soccer and someone made the offhand joke like, “D.C. United.” And like, “Oh that actually works, we’ll name it that.” So, it’s not one of the Nike-derived Tampa Bay Mutiny or something, like, “You guys will be Cyberbats!” Like, mmmmm...okay? So it just would have meant more if--first of all, I thought the crest was fine and didn’t need to be changed but I don’t hate the new version--but it was like if you're going to make that change why not wait for the stadium? Or why not make it a more substantial change? Or why not at least have done it in-house. I know (Distric Ultra) Srdan (Bastaic)’s not feeling passionate these days but you have some great artists in your community. You had them come in and paint your weight room and stuff and, you know, maybe get some input on it from them. But it’s just not where the focus is for the front office anymore. They don’t draw a ton of fans as it is and somehow rather than foster the relationship with the ones that are there they’re going to find new fans to fill the new stadium or something. We will see how that goes.
Filmi Girl: And how often does it happen these days where you really get to feel like you’re a part of something.
Brendan: I had been laid off in 2010 but I was like, I still want to go to United games but I have no money. And I saw that they were looking for volunteers so I was like, oh, I’ll do that. So, then I was going to the games that way.
They give you a task to do on game day and it’s usually done by kickoff and then you can go watch the game and stuff. It’s been a lot of fun in that regard because you’re there in the stadium and you get field level access and you’re right by the players. You can’t go into the locker room but you’re down there on that level so you have much different kind of experience that way. But then I’m not out at the tailgates anymore. I still keep memberships in the Screaming Eagles and the (District) Ultras but I don’t necessarily know the members all that well. I’ll come after my job is done and go to those sections and cheer and everything but there’s not really any hanging out.
For the first half of the year when (the Ultras) were sitting out the first half of the games I would just be watching from the dugout area for most of the game and it’s a neat experience. Everybody’s right there and they come through at halftime and at the end of the game and you’re like, oh, wow, Travis Worra has like the skinniest legs I've ever seen.
Filmi Girl: The one time this year I took my dad to game I had won an auction for a player meet-and-greet and they brought us to field level like five minutes before the end of the game. It was the Orlando game and we watched Julian Büscher score that goal from like 10 feet away but what I thought was cool about being down there at that level was just the crowd all the way around you. I mean it’s incredible.
Brendan: I remember the New York City game [October 16, 2016. -FG] at the end of the year where it was 31,000 people.
Filmi Girl: Yes! And you can look up and see all the people in the upper deck so if you were watching at the dugout level--
Brendan: Well, for that game I had gotten tickets and they put me up in the upper deck which was fun.
Filmi Girl: I haven’t been up there in probably 15 years.
Brendan: Oh man. They still had Washington Nationals branded condiment dispensers and things. I walked up to the very top of the seating just to look out and it’s cool. It’s pretty vertiginous, I guess, is a good adjective. Anyways, then I went to my seat and it’s always kind of interesting. Like how loud the crowd can sound like when you’re in it. You don’t necessarily get the full force of what’s happening. But when you’re in the dugout or like up there it was really fun because the noise was reverberating off the far side of the stadium and coming back so it sounded like the noise was on the quiet side. It was neat experience and I hadn’t really seen a game from that vantage point ever before so I was glad I did. It reminded me a little of the Beckham game. Did you go to like the USA-Germany [June 2, 2013. -FG] game by any chance?
Filmi Girl: No, no.
Brendan: That one, like the stadium was full, like packed. You had the American Outlaws doing their thing and there were a lot of German fans who draped a bunch of banners and it was such a cool atmosphere and they brought bleachers in and filled behind the goals as well. And I was like, oh man if United could ever do this on a regular basis it would be the greatest home field advantage in MLS bar none, like whatever was happening in Seattle would look like small potatoes. Sadly, the team hasn’t been able to bring in that level of interest.
Filmi Girl: Yeah, it is interesting. People like soccer but something my brother has always said is that it’s like they just don’t advertise. So a lot of times people don’t even know there’s a game let alone that there's a soccer team here.
Brendan: Definitely that. And a lot of it is a kind of snobbery against MLS too. There’s a ton of Euro and National team fans and everything that live in DC. You look at the television numbers and you see these other games and it’s huge. Everyone loves soccer.
Filmi Girl: Well, there’s a cachet to go to a pub at 8am to watch the Premier League but not as much to go to RFK to see United take on the Columbus Crew.
Brendan: A lot of that. And I’ve also heard from a lot of people who say that the ticket prices are too high. My perspective is a little bit skewed because when I do buy tickets I buy them through the supporters groups and it’s like $25-28 or something and you’re right by the field so I’m like, that’s not that expensive but if you buy it from the team it is pricier. It’s like $40 or something and they don’t have anything like in baseball where you can get $10-15 tickets as a really casual fan. So I can kind of understand that perspective but like i’ve gone to Caps games and had to spend $60 on a nosebleed seat so it’s still not that expensive.
Filmi Girl: Definitely the best deal for sporting events in D.C. Even with the $40 ticket, you’re still getting a pretty good seat.
Brendan: Well there won’t be a bad seat at Buzzard Point. (laughs)
Filmi Girl: So, I moved back in 2006 and even in those 10 years the city has changed a lot. It really has. I mean, do you remember H Street or even Barracks Row? I remember going to watch a game or something at one of the bars across from the marine barracks and--
Brendan: It might have been the one where I had the coffee pot of glory.
Filmi Girl: I remember feeling like it was a little sketchy going down that way and now there’s a gourmet donut shop next door.
Brendan: Or like even I would always park my car on 17th street and walk to the stadium but right across from Eastern High School was just like these totally rundown abandoned like crack houses and now they’ve built luxury condos.
Filmi Girl: Yeah! Or even just going down H street itself, I mean even 5 or 6 years ago it was still like 1968 was yesterday.
Brendan: They used to have a bar there called the Red and the Black which would have been a perfect place to be a United bar and I think it was even New Orleans themed so (Patrick) Mullins would have loved it.
Filmi Girl: He goes to Bayou Bakery. Him and Lloyd Sam are always up at Bayou Bakery.
Brendan: I’ve seen some changes in my time.
Filmi Girl: Yeah it is interesting. I don’t know. I guess we’ll see what happens. Thanks for talking to me.
Brendan: No problem. I always enjoy talking about the team and I’m on Black and Red United all the time.
Filmi Girl: Yup, I always enjoy your comments. We’ll keep in touch on the Internet since there won’t be any games for awhile.
Brendan: Sadly. And the superdraft is in LA so I can’t go. I always really enjoy going to the draft for whatever reason.
Filmi Girl: It looked really fun. I kind of wish i had gone up to Baltimore this year.
Brendan: I got so pissed off because in the past the team have arranged a meet and greet session with the draftees and they didn’t do it this year. And I was like, last time you were in Baltimore we got Perry Kitchen and Chris Korb and you brought like Andy Najar and Santino Quaranta and Chris Pontius out to say what’s up and it was a great time. And this one they did nothing.
Filmi Girl: It is too bad though because Julian Büscher is like the nicest kid.
Brendan: And I would have liked to meet Paul Clowes. But alas.
Filmi Girl: Yeah, well we’ll just have to-- I don’t know. If there's anything worth saving to it save it despite the front office. If this thing is worth anything, to take some ownership.
Brendan: I can hold out hope. Because like I said, they’ve pared back so much of the front office and their staff is pretty well just focused on getting the stadium built and once they do that maybe they can hire some more people who are more into fan relations or marketing and getting the word out and trying to be bigger presence.
Filmi Girl: And I do think it’s nice that it’s going to be in the city. Because I did get kind of friendly with some of the Fire fans when I went out in April and the stories that you hear about the Fire front office. It could be so much worse.
Brendan: I also do really hope that the team does an appropriate recognition of RFK because I really love that place. Like it is a shithole but--
Filmi Girl: It’s our shithole.
Brendan: It’s our shithole. Yeah. And it’s just such a unique place. The bouncing stands, like you’re never going to get that anywhere else. And that just provides such an amazing energy to it like you’re going to the game and all of sudden you’re just standing being thrown up in the air because the stands are shaking underneath you. I was watching the West Ham fans last year who were moving into a new stadium this season. It was almost as much about their old stadium last year as whatever success their team was having. I’m trying to figure out a way i can get a seat out of this.
Filmi Girl: I think there are some Barra Brava and Ultras who have plenty of extras seats. (laughs)
Brendan: Back in my younger days of going to United games I broke--I’ve broken probably at least 5 seats by standing on them and jumping. But I tend not to do that as much anymore and I don’t go into the halftime moshpits anymore.
Filmi Girl: Those are so much fun.
Brendan: It is a great time but I’m too old for this shit.
Filmi Girl: You’re not too old. I think you’re exactly my age. Well, hopefully we can still have a moshpit at Buzzard Point.
Brendan: Yeah, because it’s a DC thing. Moshing and all of that.
Filmi Girl: It’s what we do.