Sunday, July 23, 2017

[D.C. Untied 2.14] D.C. United vs Houston Dynamo, July 22, 2017

Five minutes in and Houston wins a corner.

“This is going to be the first goal,” I said to my front row buddy. It’s been that kind of season.

And we then stood in the lightly spitting rain and watched Andrew Wenger head the ball past a stationary Travis Worra--who would end the night with a total of 11 goals allowed over 3 games--with the resignation that comes from knowing that we’ve already blown any hope of making the playoffs and it’s only July.

I took of my rain-spotted glasses and tucked them away in my purse as Paul banged the drum to get our attention.

“D.C. United!”

There was nothing I needed to see out on that field. 

But I kept singing.

But despite everything it felt good to be back at RFK, sweat and rain-soaked, feet and legs caked in dirt and mud from the Lot 8 tailgate. 

The sky had been an eerie shade of grey since I’d arrived hours earlier and the floodlights sizzled in the oppressive humidity. Glasses off, all I could see was a blur of green grass and orange seats on the quiet side opposite, saner fans hiding out under the awnings to avoid the remnants of the storm that had blown through earlier. (A blustery late-summer downpour that soaked everyone without foresight to bring an emergency poncho or an “emergency poncho” made of two lavender scented trash bags fashioned into a romper.)

Ten minutes later most of the Ultras had made it into the section and we were down three.

Bobby Boswell moved up top, the rare appearance of Striker Boswell at home before half an hour had gone by.

We sang with grim determination as Srdan hung the poop emoji banner on a couple of poles and raised it aloft.

On Wednesday after United blew a 0-3 lead in Seattle by somehow managing to make history as the first team in MLS to take that 0-3 lead and lose 4-3, my brother sent me a link to a Big Soccer forum thread from 2013 riffing on the positive spin the PR team tries to do after shitty performances. Something like, in late July, saying, “United have scored in three straight matches for the first time this season.”

My favorite of the fake headlines was this: “Winning isn’t everything in hard fought loss at RFK.”

United came out after halftime and fought hard for their loss but it wasn’t until Big Bobby Boswell nailed home a header on a Lloyd Sam cross that we felt it in the stands. Bobby didn’t win the game--we scored no more goals and, in fact, were reduced to throwing on Steve “Love too spend my enormous pay raise while letting in goals on the field” Birnbaum  as an offensive substitution--but the last twenty or so minutes of the game were a party in our corner of the stands. People ripped off their shirts and sang like they meant it. And even more shirtless bros joined us from other sections.

Nobody expected we were going to win, even after the Boswell goal, but having something to cheer for felt good. Being with friends, sweaty and yelling “Fuck you specifically, Tyler Deric” until my voice went hoarse felt good. Being outside in the rain and drinking and laughing about Striker Birnbaum and the failure of the season felt good. Winning isn’t everything in hard fought loss at RFK.

But for winning not to be everything, there has to be something else for us to enjoy and care about. If you take away the opportunity to foster a sense of camaraderie and community with our fellow fans at tailgates and in the stands; if you look at displays of loyalty and fandom as potential marketing material and/or excuses to punish rather than as a sign that your supporters are engaged and invested in the team; if you make it really, really hard to care about the team and the players with off-the-cuff remarks implying that there won’t be any serious push to field a competitive side until 2019 then… what?

Are we all just fools for standing around in the rain cheering a bunch of Wooden Spoon contenders and Bobby Boswell?


But I still had fun. And I’ll keep showing up until it’s not.

Raise high the poop emoji banner and salute.

We are D.C. United.

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