It’s Saturday, July 28 at 10 AM and I’m on my way to M&T Bank stadium, driving down I-95 with my windows down, I already know we’re going to be in for one excruciatingly hot day. I arrive at the stadium a little before 10:30 and there are already several rivers of red flowing through the streets of downtown Baltimore converging on the stadium. Early in the day I see one or two Spurs fans and I start to worry that this is going to turn out to be a rather one-sided affair as far as the fans go. I enter the stadium to meet up with fellow blogger Earl Reed and we start to go exploring. For those of you who have never been to M&T Bank stadium, it is quite a nice place. I remember driving to church in Baltimore as a child and watching it being built from the ground up. The purple seats make for a unique sight and on a day like Saturday, it might remind someone of a stadium more fit for Harchester United. It actually goes nicely as a soccer stadium with the atmosphere it can create. The most packed atmosphere being when Chelsea and AC Milan played there several years ago with an attendance figure around 70,000 (the most full I have ever seen the stadium for something other than a Ravens game). But with as big as the stadium is, it still amazes me to see the amount of people that can fit inside.
Earl and I travel down to the field to have a look at how the new soccer pitch will be covering the traditional American Football pitch. It really is an experience if you’ve ever been down on the field, inside of a stadium when there is literally no one inside of it. It gives you a sense of how truly massive it can be. Ever since I have been going to The Bank, I’ve never seen less than 30,000 people in the stadium, so it really is an amazing experience to see how everyone fits inside of the space and how quickly the atmosphere can change once the fans start to enter the stadium.
As the temperature began to rise so did the amount of fans, by this time being allowed to enter the stadium, and the atmosphere began to change. It’s one thing for fans to be rowdy and vocal, but it’s a completely different ball game when you start to involve soccer fans. The organization even down to how and where the fans enter the stadium is something to behold. Then there is the singing — oh my, do I love the singing. As we were contemplating retreating to the air conditioned comfort of the press box, the Spurs fans announced their arrival with a rousing rendition of “When The Spurs Go Marching In” and I immediately got goosebumps. For me that sort of atmosphere is one of the major advantages that soccer has over the NFL, NBA and MLB. It’s one thing to have a large stadium packed full of people making incoherent noise, but it’s a completely different environment when you can get several thousand fans all singing and chanting the same song. The atmosphere of a soccer match is one of the biggest reasons for my love of the game. The aforementioned goosebumps returned at half time when Liverpool fans started singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. Maybe I’m a sucker for those sorts of things but there is no bigger chill-inducing factor than hearing soccer fans singing.
The match itself wasn’t that bad. Both teams playing a bit conservatively due to the fact it felt like 120 degrees down on the pitch, but the overall experience of the game was great. In the press conferences after the game, both coaches bemoaned the heat but were both equally happy with what had transpired on the pitch. But my personal highlights of the day came after the match. The first was that I was able to get dap (a fist bump for those who may not know) from Brendan Rodgers. And the second being able to talk with Brad Friedel (who also made mention of how the heat was just unbearable). Overall, it was an outstanding day at M&T Bank stadium for this guy and probably for the nearly 43,000 fans that showed up as well. It really pains me that events like these only come around once a year or so, but when they do come around it certainly is a spectacle that everyone seems to enjoy.