“Should I get Colorado Rapids season tickets?”
If you had told me just three years ago that I would entertain that question for more than five seconds—“uh, no!” would be my response. And yet, here I was, taking more than five seconds (actually, a couple weeks) to seriously consider the investment.
I’m a relative newbie to the professional soccer world. In fact, the only reason I followed soccer at all was because of my nephew, Gray Griffin. He trained, and was groomed, for the USMNT in the late 1990s, alongside the likes of Landon Donovan, DeMarcus Beasley, and Eddie Johnson, before he was killed in a car crash during his freshman year at Furman University in 2002 (where they still hold an annual memorial tournament in his name).
After taking a break from the sport because of too many tough memories, I watched the 2006 World Cup, transfixed because my home-away-from home team, Trinidad and Tobago, qualified for the first time. They made a good showing against Sweden, England, and Paraguay, but failed to get out of the group stages. Yet, that was as far as I went—I watched my nephew and I watched the World Cup. Neither MLS or the EPL had any appeal to me. In fact, neither league was on my radar at all.
That was about to change, though.
I moved to Colorado in 2011, and decided to start following the Rapids. Nothing too heavy, I just kept up with them in the standings. It wasn’t until 2013 when I made a conscious decision to become a student of the sport, specifically MLS. I listened to each Rapids game on the radio, watched every highlight reel of every MLS game, listened to MLS podcasts, and watched analyses on MLSSoccer.com, among other places (I love Simon Borg’s infectious passion for the game). In addition, I would repeatedly text my good friend, Bo McMillan, and he would patiently guide me through some of the nuances of the game.
Soon, I started understanding soccer. The rules, the strategies—it started to click. I realized why they called it “the beautiful game” and “the world’s game.” Once I understood the offside rule, I felt I had arrived.
What took me so long to get on board? To be honest, the answer was easy. As a huge baseball, basketball, and American football fan, soccer seemed too low-scoring. As an American, I like points. American football and basketball provide for that need, and baseball does to a lesser extent as well. Plus, baseball is engrained into the American culture, and has been for almost 150 years. The stereotype in my high school stood strong: only those who couldn’t make the “big three” sports went out for soccer…or golf. The choice was easy.
And if that wasn’t enough, during my high school days in the 1980s, soccer seemed too European, too…Latin American. We invented basketball, baseball (though it’s derived from cricket), and American football. Soccer was un-American, and certainly in some corners of the country that mindset still exists. I receive some pretty creative responses when I wear my Arsenal kit, especially given that “Fly Emirates” covers the front in big, bold letters.