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.
Maryland-born and raised Jason Anderson is a long time presence in the Washington-area soccer scene and has been a D.C. United fan since before D.C. United existed. He is currently managing editor of Black and Red United, SBNation’s D.C. United website, and co-host of the Filibuster Podcast.
This conversation was recorded on November 23-24, 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.
Part 4: Onward and Upward, 2013-the future.
Filmi Girl: I’ve said this before but my only memories of 2013 is that my brother who would usually get a bunch of us to come to games a handful of times a year, we went to the season opener and then that was it.
Jason: (Laugh) It was not a good time. The stadium issue was up in the air on top of the team being just incredibly bad. So, it was a really miserable year. It became kind of obvious early that we were not going to be good enough to win enough games to have any chance and it also became this situation where you knew the maximum number of goals they were going to score in a game was one. So therefore the defense had to be perfect and they weren’t good enough to be perfect and it was known that they weren’t good enough to get shutouts on a regular basis. They're not going to be that team. So, every game was waiting game where you knew that there was going to be a mistake that led to a goal and that meant that there would be no win. And if you are playing well enough to shut the other team out, you can’t score any goals, so you still might not win.
De Rosario hit the wall physically which was a real stunning turn of events because he was notorious for taking care of himself off the field. His diet was pretty much the ideal diet for a soccer player. He was notoriously into yoga and always big on using the ice bath and doing all this other stuff to make sure he was doing his best to extend his career and his body--it was like he fell off a cliff. He just could not play soccer on the level that he used to and it happened was all at once. It wasn’t a gradual progression, it was just all of a sudden your most skillful player is no longer any good.
And yet they went on the Open Cup run. And this is why I tell people to go to Open Cup game. Every time. I went to Richmond [Virginia] for the game against the Kickers fully expecting to lose. [May 28, 2013] Even though it was early in the year it was obvious the team was that bad. It’s like we’re going to lose to the Kickers and that’s that but I’m going to go on the off chance that it’s interesting and it also might be the only Open Cup game I get to see this year.
[Goalkeeper Andrew] Dykstra was on loan and was in goal for the Kickers which was just an added problem. I was very upset about it because it is a competition. As much as you want to benefit your affiliate team, this is a competition. A player on loan should never be allowed to suit up against you. But he was in goal and I was like, that’s great. We’re handing them an advantage that they wouldn’t normally have.
The game was just--DC handled the defensive really easily. The Kickers weren’t creating anything but they also weren’t able to do anything going forward. [Carlos] Ruiz was unable to stay on side. It was really, really just a bad game. And in extra time Korb got sent off for a second yellow and then, if I’m not mistaken, like right before the penalty kicks ruiz also got sent off. I’m pretty sure DC finished that game with nine and went to penalties and I was like, this was where it’s going to end. We’re going to lose on penalties and this will be the this is the final meaningful moment of the season and it’s going to be in June, in Richmond.
And they managed to convert their penalties and advance. And that actually ended up being the most difficult Open Cup game they had somehow. They ended up putting it together from there, which was very strange because the rest of their games that were not Open Cup games were all disasters. But then every single time they’d have the Open Cup game it was like, well, today we’ll be competent. All the other MLS teams were probably pretty overconfident that they were going to win. I should actually--I have a bunch of stuff from that era that I’ve been saving forever. All these lineups and results and everything um--
Filmi Girl: When did you start keeping your own stats?
Jason: I started in I think 2007 because I got sick of going online and finding inaccurate stuff or not finding the information I wanted. So, I just started writing down the lineups and subs and goals and yellow cards. My stuff from 2007 to 2009 is in a computer that my right foot is touching right now. It’s a computer that won’t boot and I’ve never taken to get fixed.
Filmi Girl: Yeah, you should all that stuff off there.
Jason: One of these days I will. But from 2010 on to now I have full records. Let me see who--yeah, Korb got sent off in the 113th minute and then Ruiz got a red card in the 117th minute in that Open Cup game. Joe Willis saved the first two penalties. They beat the Union [June 12, 2013], De Rosario had a hat trick and it was like maybe DeRo isn’t broken. That was the one game where we got to think that before the rest of the season happened. There’s so many shut outs. I’m just scrolling through and seeing zero after zero.
Filmi Girl: What do you think the problem was with Ruiz?
Jason: I mean, he was out of shape. I think he took the deal to be back in the U.S. more than anything else. He still had family in the U.S. and it was more off field good news for him rather than it being important for him to win games for DC. And his history in MLS was to just be a scumbag. When he was with the Galaxy and when he was with Dallas it was just, you know, from a moral perspective just unsavory. And so to have him be the guy signed to save the day, goal-scoring wise, it was the worst mix of he’s clearly not going to be effective and also he’s a bad person. And he was an enemy of DC United for all those years. So it was a terrible mix of things.
Filmi Girl: That season evokes feelings of disgust, is that what I’m hearing?
Jason: Just a little bit of disappointment, I guess. Even though it’s past. Expecting this group of players to be--oh, I spotted a typo--to be competent enough to win games in Major League Soccer in 2013 was--they never had a chance. There’s a game, this was Chivas USA’s [second to] last season and Chivas USA was terrible that year [they finished 19th to DC’s 20th in the league standings - FG]. We played Chivas and we lost to them (laugh). We lost 1-0, of course. And I remember that being like, yes, this is the quintessential 2013 DC United result. To lose 1-0 to this Chivas USA team.
But, yeah, I remember, after all that, after all this terrible sadness in that year, going to Lucky Bar to watch the Open Cup final. [October 1, 2013] They had the game on a projector and it was standing room only. They had packed the place to the gills. I remember there being this one Real Salt Lake fan and--I think Brendan mentioned this--he came in and he had his jersey and his scarf and he sat at the bar and I think the first thing I saw anyone do or say to him was someone bought him a beer without saying anything. Just set a beer in front of him. I mean, if you’re walking into a place like that for a Cup final and you’re the only one, people should have some good spirits about it. Unless you come in and act like an idiot and then people are going to be upset with you. But he came in and he was just there to watch the game and I assume everyone--I didn’t spend the whole time staring at the guy--but I assume everyone was, you know, kind. Kind enough, anyway.
Filmi Girl: I should try to find that RSL fan. [Note: I did find him. And that interview is coming next.]
Jason: Yeah, if he happens to be out there. I remember people talking about it afterwards. But, yeah, watching that game, we had to talk about it for [Black and Red United] and I was like, how can DC possibly win this game on the road against RSL who were good and also, to their credit, that organization has always put the right emphasis on winning trophies. They are they emotionally committed to the League, to the Open Cup, to the Champions League. They really do commit organizationally to it and more so than pretty much anyone else in the League, just about. Even the Galaxy for all their talk really don’t care about the Open Cup whatsoever and they make no bones about not caring whereas RSL is like, no, we want to win this thing badly. We will sacrifice a League match to win a trophy.
And I remember the script that I thought up for how DC could win the game was: the first 20 minutes had to be very boring. Maybe a little contentious but nothing interesting soccer-wise. It should be a very boring opening sequence because if the game became exciting we were not going to win. If the game was boring we had a chance. To score maybe late in the first half and then hang on for dear life. And it played out exactly like that. It wasn’t that I was some kind of genius, it was that this was the only way it could happen. And to their credit they played it like a charm, they really did.
Joao Plata had a good chance early that he missed and DC kept the game boring other than that. It was just an uneventful game and the fans at Real Salt Lake, they’ve always gotten nervous. They’re very brittle when things aren’t going their way. You can feel it even watching on TV, you can feel them get nervous. And they started to get nervous and it started to bleed into the team and it was like, maybe the best way that this could have gone. This is the time that DC needs to take advantage because they’re probably going to recalibrate at halftime and get it together and sure enough, Lewis Neal, of course.
I remember after the game was over someone was definitely singing too enthusiastically and spilled a beer all over me like, it was the kind of beer spill that you would do if you wanted to insult someone, like you just turn it over above their head and it just spills entirely down them. People were just going nuts. I think someone straight up handed me a pitcher of beer like, yeah, drink! Because there was no time to find pint glasses. And I had to walk back. After all that I had to go home. I had to walk back to the Metro to get back to my car and because I was so wrapped up in thinking about the game itself I didn’t end up walking directly to the train, I ended up walking in the wrong direction for like, four blocks. Like, I’m not walking towards anything in particular, I’m just walking aimlessly down the street. On a weeknight where I need to go home. I need to go to sleep.
After a season that was that bad, it didn’t make up for it. It didn’t make up for the whole year being horrible but if there was ever a year to be terrible it was that year because it wasn’t an expansion season so all the number one picks and all the financial stuff that you could get, DC got. We got the Champions League money for winning the Open Cup. We got the bonus for missing the playoffs. It was the best pool of the re-entry draft players. If you were going to have a terrible year, it was like the best time in like 10 years to be terrible in MLS. That was the season to do it. We happened to be bad that year and yet win the Open Cup. I don’t know if anyone is ever going to pull that one off again.
At the end of the year we played those two friendlies against teams in Indonesia that [DC United owner Erick] Thohir had lined up and I remember trying to find a way to watch and it was a huge pain. There was a stream but it wasn’t a good stream and the games were at like three in the morning on weekdays and I just remember it being like, normally I would never miss a game but at that the end of that season, when it was over, it was like, I need time off. I need to not bring it back up. So I just didn’t watch those games. Like I’ve still got--I’m looking at my text file. I’ve got the names of the teams, Persib Bandung and Arema FC, but there’s nothing there because I didn’t watch the games so I’ve got no information on them. It was just a mental health thing. It’s good that we won the Open Cup but it’s also good that this season is over and we never have to think about it again. Yeah, it’s one of the strangest years I’ve ever seen. Strangest but worst.
Filmi Girl: And Olsen starting to get his bearings as coach.
Jason: I think it helped that he didn’t lose the locker room after 2013. I mean he still had to go re-interview for his job essentially, which when your record is that bad as a coach, that’s always going to happen. But the fact that he kept that group--because the Open Cup final came in October and as bad as a season as that was he could have easily had that group give up on him in June or July and by October they wouldn’t have cared. They wouldn’t have gotten that far to begin with. So as far as man-management goes and the psychology of keeping a group together, it was a pretty amazing accomplishment given how bad everything else was going. And maybe that’s the only reason that why he stuck around. The players that were left were like, we’re still trying our best. It’s difficult to keep trying your best after one month of playing that bad much less an entire year.
Filmi Girl: Everyone that I’ve ever talked to, it’s like 2013 is this big black hole. But it gives us a lot to talk about though. It is fascinating.
Jason: Yeah, covering the team that year was weird because there were so many angles to deal with how bad they were and yet also this fact at the end that, hey, this thing can turn around really fast if they get all this stuff right. And the fact that there was a final at the end of it, it still boggles my mind because when you see a team play that badly so regularly they don’t turn it around for the big game. It’s not like something out of a movie. The reality is you’re bad and you’re going to lose because you’re bad.
Filmi Girl: But then the excitement of a rebuild, 2014. Picking up Bobby Boswell. And Sean Franklin.
Jason: Yeah, they got Boswell, Franklin--
Filmi Girl: Oh, yeah, you got all your rosters.
Jason: I should have pulled this up earlier. Chris Rolfe came in during that season; Fabián Espindola had a great year, that really helped. Getting him through the re-entry draft and then building a team around him, which at the time worked very well. It didn’t work this year  which is why he’s gone, but at the time it was great because that team needed an unpredictable x-factor and he ended up being perfect for the job. And I think when he arrived he was also pleased that, there was no bones about it, we’re going to build around you being the creator here. He didn’t have to play second fiddle and in New York he was having to adjust to [Thierry] Henry and in DC it was like no, you’re the guy. Which has kind of become a running theme, finding these players that were having to play somewhere else and adjust to another bigger name player and they come here and they’re the guy.
Yeah a lot of things fell into place that year. Getting [Steve] Birnbaum was really helpful. Especially since we didn’t pick--or no we did pick first and we could have taken [Patrick] Mullins in that draft and we ended up getting both of them in the end.
Filmi Girl: Sometimes things work out. You know what it is? The residual luck of 2013.
Jason: You know, maybe karma is still paying us back for that one. Hopefully that keeps going.
Filmi Girl: Oh, and Tommy McNamara too.
Jason: For a brief, I think it was 10 days. For 10 days we had Tommy McNamara on the roster.
Filmi Girl: Well, it could still happen.
Jason: You never know. Maybe NYCFC does something dumb and decides to--maybe that’s who they replace [Frank] Lampard with is someone who plays where McNamara does and they end up not using him and then DC is like well, if you don’t want to use him, we’ll take him.
Filmi Girl: That does sound like a very NYCFC move.
J: And a very DC move. Find skillful players who are unwanted for some reason and bring them in.
Filmi Girl: Yeah, so 2014-2015 kind of petered out and we had another--2016, well I guess we won’t know until years later but did it feel like a rebuild year for you?
Jason: Not so much a rebuild as sort of an end point. After [DC United crashed out of the] 2015 playoffs Olsen talked about wondering whether the team had reached its peak playing that style of play. They brought new players in at the beginning of the year but we didn't really get to see a change in approach until the middle of the season. There was that two week break due to the international window [first couple weeks of June, 2016 - FG] and that’s where the formation change came in. And a couple weeks later that Mullins was traded for [July 20, 2016] and Lloyd Sam [July 7, 2016].
So, I think if DC had played the way they played at the end of the year, I mean they wouldn’t have been that good because of the personnel but they might have been more effective. So it’s kind of one of those years where not making the move early cost them a little though obviously they still got to the playoffs and I still think the final game of the season, the loss to Montreal [October 27, 2016] was it was tough to take because I feel like United fell on their face more than anything else. It was just one of those games where everything went wrong and if you play that game on another day that doesn't--Montreal is still good obviously, they’ve been doing well in these playoffs by playing the style of play that they’ve played in RFK--but I think DC, on another night, would have been able to break them down. Everything’s going to go wrong tonight and there's not much you can do, which happens in soccer. It’s just a thing that sometimes you get hit with and it just sucks and there’s not much you can do about it.
But, yeah, it was an interesting thing to see a big foreign player acquisition [Luciano Acosta] actually pan out which hadn’t happened in so long. Bošković was a mixed bag due to the injury and the amount of time it took him to figure it out. Salihi was good at some things but ultimately wasn’t a success. In 2014 and 2015 we didn’t really even have an international player. Our big moves were all within MLS so to see United actually be able to go abroad and find a player who never played in MLS and it turned out to be a good move is a really good sign for the future. They needed they needed to do that because it’d been since Emilo that they’d really landed an international signing. Really like nailed it.
It might be that the next step for Olsen is embracing the fact that his teams may be high scoring and also give up some goals whereas before we were playing the Colorado Rapids approach now which is first goal wins, almost. And as a fan there were points in the  season where it was like 2015 was just continuing and it was like, Acosta’s a good player but is he going to be successful enough where we keep him or is it going to be one of those things where we give up too early or he’s not going to adjust early enough and the team is like, we can’t make this financial commitment. And then what do you do? How do you move on from that?
So, in the middle of the season it was kind of tough it seemed like it seemed like it was going to be a year that was never going to turn around. The east was so bad United kept being alive but it felt like that the only thing going well was that everyone else sucks too. So at least there’s that. That was one of the only bright lights of the year.
Going to the Open Cup game against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers [June 14, 2016], that kind of felt like the bottom. It was like, this team is not going to get it together. Even though they rotated a lot of guys out, the Strikers were on short rest. They’d played in Edmonton on turf a few days before [June 12, 2016, against FC Edmonton] with the same lineup so their players were going to be tired. They didn’t really have a very good team and then it turns out all this reporting of their checks not clearing and the Strikers ownership was not present in the United States, things like that. So they were a troubled team in so many different ways and this team should be one that United had no problem with.
I was at the game at the ‘Plex and watching this bizarre Open Cup game unfold and it was like, I can’t believe I’m watching this happen. Because once they got knocked out of the Open Cup it was like, well, now what? The midseason window was coming but what are they going to do?
The Mullins trade made sense and it was one I was really hoping they’d do. I’d been talking about it for years because Mullins was a star at the University of Maryland so I was hoping he’d end up here one way or another. But the [Lloyd] Sam deal I did not see coming. That was a surprise and it turned out to be necessary. So it was two really bold strokes that maybe normally we wouldn’t have expected given the past few years. It was a surprise but a good surprise. I thought the next step was going to come in the off season and instead it just took them a few extra months.
And maybe we’re going to see a different sort of team going forward. At least for the next few years. It would be nice not to see a reverting to being that team that has to shut teams out to get points. It was fun watching the team score a ton of goals and it had been a long time that DC United was definitely going to be fun to go watch. You might have fun with your friends and fun on that side of things but the soccer itself in 2014 was hit or miss as to whether it’d be fun. In 2015 it mostly was not fun. You grit your teeth and hope that ends in a win and that’s nice but the rest of it isn’t entertaining.
On the other hand, there is the issue you guys in the [District] Ultras had. [Note: Filmi Girl is a member of the District Ultras supporter group and in 2016 there was a season-long conflict with the front office regarding the banning of a member over smoke in the parking lot and for half the season we sat out the first half of every home game in protest.] And that’s the kind of thing that is going to effect what it’s like going to games because it’s an indicator maybe this sort of thing is going to happen again. Or maybe the team takes a lesson from this and maybe next time we handle a dispute a little differently and maybe look for a resolution without necessarily starting off with the punishment and then talking.
So that’s an interesting future development, how the team is going to relate to fans. Because moving stadiums is going to change the way things are. Which I’ve been telling people for years. When you move away from RFK and the lawlessness that comes with it, things are going to change. There is going to be a different vibe around the team. Not having tailgates available--I mean, I know there’s the plaza in front of the stadium they want to turn into a quasi-tailgate but it’s not going to be the same thing. My friend who just moved to Brazil for years he would come to games and he would bring bricks and a grill grate and set them up on the ground and that’s where we would grill. It was because he would bring the little kettle grills and people would steal them so he was like, fine I’ll reduce it down to the basics of a grill and people won’t steal it because it will just be a hot piece of metal that’s all dirty from cooking food and no one will steal it. And sure enough every time we’d come out and there would be bricks and a grill grate sitting next to his car and it was like alright, great, see you guys next week. Things like that aren’t going to fly at Buzzard Point. You’re not going to see people being allowed to do something like that. There will be rules. We’re going to go from kind of an unregulated situation to a regulated situation and people are going to run into a lot of issues and hopefully the team can anticipate that stuff without necessarily being too aggressive in reacting because they’ve got to realize people have had twenty-plus years of conducting themselves a certain way at RFK and to just suddenly do a 180 and [have going to a United game] become just like going to an NFL game or what have you, it’s not going to happen overnight. And people are going to need to time to adjust to new reality.
Filmi Girl: I would say self-regulated rather than unregulated.
Jason: Yeah, that’s a better way to put it. There’s no one is coming out and telling fans to act this way. People out there sort of have figured it out over the years.
Filmi Girl: Self-policing, almost. Rules that aren’t official but may as well be. People will let you know if you’re doing the wrong thing in the wrong place and you have to accept certain things like standing up or beer being thrown on you.
Jason: Right. And I noticed this year that the lights in the parking lot were essentially a non-entity. So after a game ended you’d just come out and it would just be pitch black in the parking lot. And I know other sports fans would be like, why is it so dark out here? But for me it’s like, RFK. What are you going to do? Which there’s a certain charm to that and it’s going to go away.
And it’s nice to have new things and a fancy new stadium and more importantly the new stadium prevents the possibility of the team leaving town which, for me, maybe is the much bigger thing than all of this but it doesn’t mean that everything’s perfect. It does come with the problem of adjusting. I don’t know too much about architectural theory but RFK being old and the parking lot around it being busted up and decrepit lends itself to a certain way of behaving. Your environment affects your behavior and going to a brand new gleaming stadium that has been built by billionaires, this changes things. The expectations on you as fans will change and the expectations for the venue are different. So I just hope people on all sides are aware that things are going to change and there’s going to be give-and-take--I hope it’s a give-and-take and not just this is how it is and that’s it that’s the end of it.
Filmi Girl: My hope is that the front office has wherewithal to put together what they’d like from the fans. Because they do trade on that atmosphere when there’s nothing else going on. I appeared in a million crowd shots this year because they film the crowds and if that’s what they’re selling than they need to figure out how to bring it over without what they don’t want.
Jason: And in my experience, with DC fans, it has to be organic. Calling a supporters group and saying, do a tifo related to this is maybe not the best way to make it happen. Some of the stuff that the Ultras have done--the tifo after the lead singer from Gwar died [March 29, 2014]--that’s completely organic and sort of off the wall but it’s utterly unique. That’s an important thing that you don’t want to lose but it’s also very fragile. You’ve got people that would be spending their own money and time and they’re going to invest it in emotionally. Whereas if it’s somebody else saying, “Can you make a banner that says this?” You’re not going to care as much because it’s not your’s it’s just somebody else’s idea that you’re just executing.
(Photo from District Ultras)
The Sons of Ben did a It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia tifo [June 25, 2016]. They do the title cards at the start of the show where it says like, “12 p.m. on a Tuesday” and their game was like 7 p.m. on a Saturday so it said, “7 p.m. on a Saturday” in the correct font and it was a really good idea because it’s Philadelphia and it makes perfect sense. It wasn’t related to a sponsor or it wasn’t the team saying, hey, we have an idea. Those are always going to be the best ones. And I can only imagine how it would go over if the Timbers Army got a call from the Timbers front office and they said, hey, we have an idea for you. They’d probably be like, no, thanks. We’re going to recognize this other thing, be it a completely random thing that just happens to be important to the supporters off the field or a player they wanted to recognize for whatever reason. But yeah keeping an environment in place where that stuff is organic is really difficult to maintain because it’s really easy to break.
Filmi Girl: Especially if you don’t understand what’s actually in front of you to begin with. And how it works.
Jason: Because it’s not just a soccer field only, the staff off the field expands and the people that are there now get more time to figure out what they’ve been hired into. DC United came pretty close to not existing anymore or moving to Baltimore, which I always maintain meant not existing anymore. The team moves to Baltimore, I could still go but it wouldn’t be the same thing at all. They had to jettison so many people that it takes time to rebuild and it’s not like rebuilding the roster in a couple years, you have to rebuild trust and personal relationships.
I heard this story at the end of the year that someone working the gates didn’t know who Jaime Moreno was and I think the story goes that [Screaming Eagles road trip organizer] Jimi came over and was like, “This is Jaime Moreno! You let him into the stadium!” And that’s the kind of thing that happens over time.
Filmi Girl: It’s institutional knowledge. “Who is Jaime Moreno,” that’s institutional knowledge.
Jason: And maybe people in the office know who Jaime Moreno is but going out and making sure the people at the media gate know, like these are the important people at this club, you need to know who they are, so if they show up we just let them in. These are the important people in the supporters groups, if you see them, it’s not just some random person that you brush off. So it’s been a rough couple of years but maybe hopefully they start to--I don’t know. How did the thing with the Ultras eventually get resolved?
Filmi Girl: It didn’t. The guy who was banned, Parsons, moved to Denmark.
Jason: Yeah, I would see [senior District Ultras member] Srdan wandering into the stadium like 5-10 minutes before kickoff. Like as I was walking in, he would be coming in, and I would take that as sign that well, either the protest is either still going on or there’s no tifo because he would have to be there managing that and he’s out here so clearly he’s not in a rush.
After the stadium bill was passed [December 2014] at the little event the team put on and I talked to [a supporter group member] about possibly showing up to help put together some tifo and then he talked about how he really wanted there to be smoke bombs in the stadium. The reason he talked about smoke bombs was that I guess it was the year before someone had lit off a flare at the SoccerPlex. Kevin Payne literally ran across the field as soon as halftime was blown on the field. He came down from the whereever he was on the other side of the ‘Plex and he ran across. I was standing along the rail--when I go to any games at the ‘Plex I stand at the rail right at midfield and this was all right in front of me--he ran across the field to plead with them not to do it anymore. I don’t know if he was asking them to turn over who did it but he was definitely very animated and the park police were swirling around, I guess because they don’t usually have anything to do it was a big deal for them to take someone in.
Filmi Girl: Yeah, rent-a-cops love that stuff.
Jason: And because I saw this whole thing going on, at one point they were talking about anyone in a certain jacket in size large they were going to pull them in and question them. And it was a whole thing and so I mentioned this to him because he’d started talking about flares briefly and I was like, “There was a flare at the Open Cup game.” And he was like, “Yeah, they were trying to haul me in. They wanted to arrest me.” I assume he missed the entire second half because of the amount of time they spent investigating this terrible crime of one flare.
Filmi Girl: I very much enjoy my time the Ultras and I hope we’re not banned out of existence. But it is going to be interesting seeing how they fold all three of those groups into that one section [at the new stadium].
Jason: Making them all share the same space.
Filmi Girl: Oh, god.
Jason: Yeah, I wonder if the team is going to be like, “We’ll just put them together because they all have a similar mindset. They all want to be supporters, right?”
Filmi Girl: What I’m afraid of is that not only do they not know, they don’t care.
Jason: I feel like maybe after this conflict with the Ultras went so poorly PR-wise that they’ll be like, let’s sit down and talk to each of these groups and figure out what they want and go from there. They’re still going to end up at the same end of the stadium but maybe there’s some organizational thing they can do where everyone feels like they have their own space and they’re not just being lumped together like, you’re all the same, right? Because if they bring that attitude to it it’s going to go very badly. I know the Eagles will probably go along with whatever. They’ll be like, well we’ll make the best of it. But the Ultras, there’s a certain level of dogmatic belief in doing things a certain way. You guys don’t really want to be ordered around.
Filmi Girl: No. But the Barra don’t either. When I was in Orlando [October 23, 2016] with a big group of Barra, we had a huge run-in with their rent-a-cops because some one complained that we were swearing. At a soccer game.
Jason: I think maybe the difference is that maybe if you approach the Ultras in a way they know they’re being heard, they’re going to listen to you. But that’s kind of where things are now from the outside looking in.
[Jason tells a handful of stories about his old gang of buddies that he palled around Maryland with, getting into hijinx and building little nest areas under their desks at work.]
That was in the 2006-2007 era, so other than one of the guys that just had no interest in soccer, we were going to games on a pretty regular basis. Now that crew is dwindling down to nothing through various life developments. One of the guys was never that into professional soccer, he was sort of into it but not enough to keep coming to games. He lives in Baltimore and has a kid. So, it’s just not worth it for him. [A different guy], his dad retired and him and his sister, they bought him a full season ticket and then they bought another one that the two of them split so he comes to half of the games that he can, which is pretty cool. He’s been bringing his daughter and they aren’t trying to push a single sport on her but she comes to the stadium and she’s like, “This is great!” Not so much the soccer side, she pays attention enough to be like, soccer is fun, but not enough to be that into it. Just the whole being in giant building full of people that are emotionally involved in something.
Filmi Girl: It is amazing. I’ve never felt anything like it in the U.S. I hope my little niece wants to come. To games eventually. She’s 5 months old now.
Jason: One of the guys I go to games with regularly tried to bring his son at like 8 months and he was like, I think he had enough of a nap where he’ll get through the game. And about 30 minutes in [the baby] got fussy and he was like, this isn’t going to work, I gotta leave. It’s different with each kid. What was it, last season, against NYCFC, the game where DC clinched the playoff spot in a downpour. [October 2, 2015] It just so happened that my friend Phil, it was close enough to his birthday that [he and his wife] like they brought their older daughter who I think at the time was 3 or 4. They bought her and his parents came along and they were all there and he sent me a text and was like, “Hey, I’m at the game. I brought everybody!” So, I went and watched with them and his daughter, she’s pretty tall for a kid that age, but she was standing up on one of the seats and I was telling her, “You have watch out. The seat might fall apart.” And she was like, “WHAT?” And I was like, “Yeah, the stadium is very old and these seats actually can fall apart.” And she was like looking around for one that was broken. That became a big deal and just the fact that it was a downpour and it was cold and everyone was still having an awesome time she was just like jaw on the ground the whole time. And so now when she wants to know what I’m up to when she talks to [her dad] she’ll say, “Is Uncle Jason at a soccer game now?” And [her dad] is like, “No, it’s like a Wednesday afternoon there aren’t always soccer games. He goes other places.” And she’s like, “Oh, alright.” She’s figuring the world out.
Filmi Girl: That is where you belong.
Jason: I hope to be identified as living at RFK.
Filmi Girl: (Laughs) A couple of pet raccoons?
Jason: [Black and Red United contributing editor] Adam’s daughter refers to RFK as Talon’s house. So whenever she sees the stadium she’s like, “Are we going to Talon’s house?” And he’s like, “Well, we’re going to Talon’s house on the weekend. We’re not going there today.” And she’s like, “Okay, we’ll see Talon on the weekend.” It’s kind of fascinating to watch kids learn, like, okay I can schedule this in my mind. I’ll get to see Talon in the house where he lives. Or I guess in my friend’s daughter’s mind, where I live. I live at RFK. She only really sees me at their house and at RFK so it stands to reason. She knows I have to live somewhere.
Filmi Girl: So why not there?
Jason: It’s a good place.