On Wednesday night I went to the New York Red Bulls game with a friend who was seeing the Red Bull Arena for the first time. He is German, which both is and isn’t a statement that is important to the story. It is, because he follows his hometown team and tries to cram in as many matches when he goes back to his family’s home there as well as games of his Bundesliga division favorite, Borussia Dortmund. He jokes that in Germany, the name of the coach of the German National Team is more well known than the name of the Chancellor. The game there is that important.
It isn’t important because he has been here long enough to set down soccer roots in this country, but hasn’t. Since moving the the United States in 1995, he has gone to three MetroStars games back when they were playing at Giants Stadium, which is less games here in almost twenty years than he went to during his last visit to Germany. He is a soccer fan, but hasn’t gone to a game here in the US for a decade and a half.
On Wednesday, the Red Bulls surprised the 15,000+ fans with a game that was truly lovely, at least from the midfield forward. While the Houston Dynamo threatened for the first ten minutes of the second half, they went scoreless. The game, statistics of possession and shots aside, felt firmly in the control of the Red Bulls, as the final scoreline of 4-0 showed. It was a game well played by the home team.
As he watched, one thing that struck him was the replay, not just of the goals but of refereeing decisions. His feelings were that it took away the mystery of a bad call and the passion that goes with uncertainty. Just because we can do something, a statement that becomes as big as the expanding MLS itself, doesn’t always mean we should. It sometimes gnaws at the roots of passion.
What was as interesting to me was that before the game started, as we watched the Red Bulls warm up on the field, I started naming and describing them, their backgrounds, their playing points good and bad, and the more I did, the more I found myself sounding like a fan of my own hometown team. Pride came out. I wasn’t trying to sell him on the idea of MLS. I wasn’t even trying to make him into a fan of the Red Bulls, as we talked about arenas and teams, about passion and pride.