Tuesday, July 11, 2017

[D.C. Untied 2.13] D.C. United vs Atlanta United FC, June 21, 2017

“Winning feels good, huh? Don’t get used to it. Come on!”

With fifteen minutes to go against Atlanta United FC, Tim wasn’t going to let us get complacent.

D.C. United were up 2-1 but there was still time to blow it. D.C. had spent the past few months racking up defeat after defeat, hitting the crossbar, shooting past open goals, giving up soft goals on corner kicks, and basically playing like the only hardware worth gunning for is the ISC’s Wooden Spoon Trophy.

But on that Wednesday, for one night only, we were winning.

A last minute wonder save from Big Bill Hamid on an incredible free kick from Josef Martinez secured it.

A precious 3 points.

Too bad we can’t play Atlanta United FC every week.

One of the summer interns in my office had come out to the game, her very first D.C. United game. The next day at work she cornered me to talk excitedly about how much fun she’d had. I’d given her strict instructions to 1) eat pupusas and 2) sit on the loud side. She and her friends had ended up somewhere behind the Barra Brava and had been very taken with the flags and songs and enthusiasm on display.

“When is the next home game?!” She’d asked eagerly. “Let me know so we can get tickets!”

I haven’t had the heart to tell her how the season is going.

More than once since I started down this rabbit hole of D.C. United fandom I’ve wondered how I would have handled the shitty 2013 and 2010 (and the more distant 2000, 2001, 2002) seasons. 2013 in particular still casts a massive shadow over the fandom psyche and every pathetic milestone is compared against it:

“At least we’ve already won more games than in 2013.”

“At least we’ve already got more points than in 2013.”

“At least ‘Own Goal’ isn’t our leading scorer.”

It’s easy to support a winning team but supporting a team on a losing streak takes a special kind of masochistic determination. To keep the pilot light of hope alive without letting the disappointment consume you. To keep your disgust with mediocre performances from certain players from spilling over to the idea of the team as a whole. To fight past ennui with gallows humor and banter because there’s always next year.

It also doesn’t help when the team ownership doesn’t seem to care about anything other than separating fans from their money. What are we paying for? A losing team doesn’t exactly encourage merchandise and tickets sales. Is there a reason for us to even show up if Lot 8 tailgating and the camaraderie on the loud side of RFK is taken away?

D.C. United were knocked out of the Open Cup by a shorthanded New England Revolution and are currently sitting at the bottom of the MLS table, prime contenders for the Wooden Spoon. If we don’t have a miracle turnaround in the next couple of games we’ll be out of playoff contention well before the season ends… and then what? Do we leave RFK with a whimper? D.C. United fans treated to a seemingly endless stream of gifs from the official MLS accounts of other teams dunking on us? Breathless social media updates about the shiny new stadium going up where we will pay twice as much and be hassled by rent-a-cop security twice as hard in order to see D.C. United lose? Limp-wristed drumming and half-hearted waving of flags until we get scored on then silence from the stands.

Or do we go out strong? Mute and unfollow every official social media account. Yell loud enough to wake up our slumbering players. Fuck the results and party in the stands until RFK crumbles around us.

I don’t know about you but I pick the latter.

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