Friday, September 28, 2012

We Three - Video

by Dick Mac

Seven years ago, I went to  Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) with Helen, Elizabeth, and Rodney to see Patti Smith.  She was doing a series of concerts to celebrate the thirtieth annivesary of the release of her debut album "Horses."

Yeah!  Now it's been thirty-seven years since it was released.  Seems impossible.

It was a great concert.  They played the entire album from the first note of "Gloria" to the closing note of "Elegie" in order, just like the record.  After the end of "Free Money" she announced:  "now we flip the record over."  And they broke into "Kimberly" for side two.

The band was great.  In fact, she had Flea on bass.  Yeah, that Flea.  But he was wearing clothes, so it was hard to recognize him.

After the ovations for her performance of the entire album, we all settled-in for a sort of "Greatest Hits" set.

It seemed as though the band had a list of songs they were going to perform, but not a particular order in which they would do them.  After each song, Patti would consult briefly with one or more bandmates, then announce the title of the next song.

There were some awkward, though no unpleasant silences between songs, and during one break I experienced that phenomena we all notice on occasion:  I was in an auditorium with hundreds, perhaps thousands of people, and there was a moment of perfect silence.  No whispering, no shuffling of feet, nothing.

I shoulted:  "We Three!"

Patti walked right up to the microphone and in a very stern voice said "No" and walked away.

The place erupted in laughter, she went back to chatting with the band, returned to the microphone and said:  "OK!"  And the band played the opening strains of "We Three" and I was very happy.

I'll bet you didn't know that's how it works!

If you have one of those magical silences in a crowd, anything you shout will come true.

Try it!

Until then, please enjoy this live recording of Patti Smith singing "We Three."

Oh!  And tonight I am going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see Patti perform in conjunction with the Met's Andy Warhol exhibit.

I am so lucky!  I love living in New York!

7 novembre 2011, Marseille, le Silo. Patti Smith, We Three (1978)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Videos: Supporting Your Club

by Dick Mac

Continued from Loving The Move, Hating The Change

On Fridays, I generally post a music video. This Friday I give you a collection of videos showing the supporters groups of Red Bull New York.

The supporters groups would not survive without the support of the team, and it can be argued that the team could not survive without the supporters groups.

These videos are grabbed from  Some of them are professional, some of them are home movies.

They all show the intensity, imagination and creativity of The South Ward at Red Bull Arena.

Tifo, originally the Italian word for the phenomenon of supporting a sport team, is mostly used as a name for any choreography displayed by fans in the stands of an arena or stadium in connection with a sport event, mostly a football match.
See, tifo at wikipedia

Every match has at least one new tifo, paid for and created by the members of the South Ward, all three supporters groups.

An overview of the supporters groups in the South Ward, set to music. See the pretty girls and the rowdy boys, and the rowdy girls and the pretty boys. The action in the stands is like that for 90 minutes. The singing, dancing and chanting never stops; well, except for those moments right after an opponent scores. The silence barely lasts a moment.

Notice near the end of the video where players are seen looking at the crowd and clapping. At the end of almost every match, the players walk to the South Ward and applaud the fans.

In this video, the players thank and talk about the fans who came out to a Tuesday night early round US Open Cup match:

New York, New York tifo:

The South Ward from above, Red Bull Arena:

2011 Croatia Night at Red Bull Arena. A banner representing the Croatia national team jersey is opened on the second level.:

South Ward Tifo - RBNY v LA-Hollywood is gored by red bulls:

Opening Day, 2011, documented in video. All three supporters clubs are shown in their respective clubs before the match:

A six minute video documenting the march over the bridge to the stadium and Viking Army in the South Ward:

Not a video about the supporters. A video about a guy who won a contest to play one-on-one against Thierry Henry. He holds his own!:

The team's page promoting the supporters clubs
Go to YouTube and search tifo. There's some pretty entertaining stuff!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Loving The Move, Hating The Change

by Dick Mac

Continued from How Could I Not Fall In Love With This Team?

I once read a quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln, but recently discovered it is actually from a 20th Century Christian philosopher.  It is a quote about patriotism, but I think it applies to any form of allegiance:  governmental, national, religious, corporate, etc. The Rev. William Sloane Coffin said:
There are three kinds of patriots, two bad, one good. The bad ones are the uncritical lovers and the loveless critics. Good patriots carry on a lover's quarrel with their country, a reflection of God's lover's quarrel with all the world.
I think that is a very healthy and accurate analysis of the relationships among citizens, businesses, governments, and philosophies.  I am a fan who carries on a lover's quarrel with his team.

How long did the conversation go on?

How many years?

It certainly started before I became a season-ticket holder:

MetroStars are building a soccer-specific stadium in Harrison, New Jersey. A ground-breaking.

Red Bulls are building a stadium in Harrison, New Jersey.  It will be part of an urban revitalization program that will transform the Harrison riverfront district, which had been an industrial site for some decades, and an abandoned industrial site in more recent decades.  Another ground-breaking.

It was an impressive undertaking, a good thing to be part of:  a revitalization project to improve a blighted area.  There would be housing, and shopping, and restaurants, and pubs, and a cinema, and a mall and Red Bull Arena as the centerpiece.  Improved infrastructure would include better roads and expanded public transportation.

Fans actually began conversations about buying or renting one of the newly constructed apartments, in an effort to be closer to the team.  The drawings were beautiful.  I couldn't wait!

And finally, construction began.

The team website included a link to web cams that monitored the progress of the construction.  It was very exciting.  Fans would travel to the construction site with their cameras to shoot whatever they could see, and then post the pictures on the message boards for all to see.

We all ooooooh'd and aaaaaaah'd.

After years of suffering in the cavernous hell-hole that was Giants Stadium, a facility run by people who hated soccer and wanted nothing to do with us, and settling for whatever bones they would throw our way, our team was to have a home!  Our own home!

Then in the Spring of 2010, Red Bull Arena opened.

Driving to Harrison for opening day was exciting!  We barely noticed the hellish Manhattan traffic to get through the Holland Tunnel.  Traffic so bad we abandoned hope and went to the Lincoln Tunnel.  I drove off I-280 at the brand-new exit sign proclaiming "Soccer Stadium"!  Parking was confusing, directions from law enforcement unclear and seemingly contradictory.  We dutifully followed the guidance.  We were directed to parking spots a full mile from the stadium.  The stadium has no parking.  We took it in stride and joined the throng getting to their seats.  The local police were less than hospitable.

When we finally arrived at the front of the stadium, it looked like this (though not aerial).

The beautiful stadium that some of us had seen during construction and when choosing our season ticket seats, was fronted by 20-odd acres of barren wasteland.  Nothing was built there after all, and nothing stands there today.  Not very pretty on the outside.  Three years later, it still looks like that.

In the ensuing weeks, I figured out the lay of the land, the design of the city, and the methods for getting to desirable parking.

I question the decision to build a 25,000 seat stadium with no parking; but it appears nothing will be done about it.

The new stadium also had no facilities for season-ticket holders before or after the match.  The new pub was restricted to the first hundred or so fans on the season-ticket holder list.  If they got to your number on the list, you had the right to purchase pub membership for a hundred or so dollars per seat.  Our number was too far down the list to get pub access.  This changed our game day experience.  We could no longer arrive early, ahead of the crowds, because the stadium is in an industrial wasteland, and there is no place to go.  So, we arrived shortly before kick-off and moved with the throngs to our seats, hoping to catch the kickoff.  Same thing after the match, we left with the throngs and sat in traffic.  The commute was rushed and hectic and unpleasant.

Eventually, a friend with pub membership decided there was no value in it for him, and he sold us his two passes.  We now arrived early and stayed late.  Sure, I spent another hundred dollars more than I had been, but it was a really pleasant way to visit the stadium.

In the second season, the pub was opened to all season-ticket holders.  This was a huge improvement and really worked for us.

Our clinical, psychological, and emotional detachment from the stadium as anything besides a sports venue began during that second year.  It is a different game day experience than it had been at Giants Stadium; and isn't any better.  Certainly different, but not better.

During the second season, with stagnant and/or sagging attendance numbers, a new operations team was hired, and things changed.  Things changed a lot.  The new approach was to make the team a premium experience, and market to those who wanted luxury seats at premium pries.  Seat prices (and consequently season ticket prices) were raised because, it was explained, higher ticket prices would make the team more attractive to people with money to spend.

In and of itself, this is a perfectly sensible part of any business plan.  It cannot, however, become the business plan, because it fails to take into account approximately 90% of your inventory, your seats.  Yes, enhance the premium experience, but not at the expense of the non-premium experience.  You still need butts in all the other seats and you need schmucks to purchase those tickets!

The new pricing scheme forced some long-time fans out of the seats they'd earned over years of faithful patronage.  We were told that those nice seats we paid for year after year had been a gift from the club, and that things were changing:  the real value of the good seats would be reflected in the new prices.

A gift?  I gave my credit card number and I received tickets, the seats were not a gift.  The hats, the sweatshirts, the wallets, the notebooks, the jackets were gifts.  I really like them.  Even the notebook!  But, my acquisition of the tickets was a business transaction - not a gift.

That the team has decided to increase the cost of the seats does not mean my previous purchases were anything but a business transaction - they were never a gift.

With the price increases, many old-timers moved to corner sections, or the top half of the lower bowl, where seat prices were still within their budgets.

The goodwill the team had built the previous fifteen-plus years was erased by this new operations team in a matter of weeks.  It was a different organization now, offering a different relationship to its consumers.  The product remained the same:  An under-achieving and overpaid, but totally lovable team that has never won a championship.  Perhaps not the best time for a price hike!

Now in our third season at Red Bull Arena, it appears that attendance has decreased again.  As many ticket-holders moved their seats to the cheaper sections, many also reduced the number of seats they hold.  Rumor is that the new pricing scheme and overall philosophy reduced season ticket holders by as much as 30%.  This may or may not be true, but attendance numbers appear to be lower.

We have a beautiful stadium that is difficult to get to and get out of, with no parking, few amenities available  in the area, and a management team that seems coolly detached from the logistical problems the fan faces.  The failure of the Harrison redevelopment project, and the loss of promised improvements to infrastructure, has hurt the team.  The area has not been redeveloped, except that a gazillion dollar stadium has been plopped down in an industrial wasteland.  In reality, what can be done about it?  Perhaps nothing.

Row, Viking, Row!

During the first season we became aware of Viking Army, a new supporters club whose web presence and marketing was much more impressive, more sophisticated than supporters clubs I have known in the past.  They made their home at Catas, a Portuguese restaurant about a quarter-mile from the stadium.  Supporters gather for food and drink before the match, and march together to the stadium before kickoff.  The Army includes some older fans, and the more erudite young fans.  I feel comfortable with this crowd.

We became Vikings and started visiting Catas for lunch/dinner before the match.

Viking Army is more than just a fan club for drunken louts watching soccer (well, we are that, too).  The Viking Army organizes away trips, social events, charitable fundraisers, general fun, and sponsors a youth soccer team.

The Viking Army is a proud club, and its success reflects that pride.  We wear viking helmets and viking scarves.  We are proud to be Vikings.

And we are proud to be supporters of Red Bull New York.

We may drive four hours round-trip to watch a 90-minute match, and spend thirty dollars on tolls and parking; but we are there, and we will continue to be there.

Time Wounds All Heels

Earlier this (the third) season, as management's new changes festered, I began noticing changes.  Security changed.  The people at the gate seemed to know little about running gate security.  Some are nice, some are not.  They do not work for the team, they are a private security company.

Guys acting as security inside the stadium seem to know little about how the place is run.  I saw a season ticket-holder being questioned about his seat (yesterday).  He was asked to show his ticket.  He handed over his membership card, and the security guy said:  No, I need to see your actual ticket.

Season ticket holders don't have tickets, we have membership cards with imprinted seat numbers.

This guy is supposed to be securing the inside of the facility and he doesn't even know how ticketing works!  This is indicative of management's cool detachment from their product.  I believe that most in the front office sincerely do not know it is like this, they really care about the fan experience.  The team has a new approach to the product, and it means that things like this are going to slip under the radar more and more often.

A month or so ago, a friend ordered two tickets for the match, printed them, and drove with his wife to Red Bull Arena.  They were shocked, as all first-timers are, at the poorly managed traffic pattern and the lack of clarity around parking options.  They also didn't know they should arrive an hour earlier than anticipated, just to sort out the confusion.  The wife is handicapped.  Their car has a handicap tag.  The handicap lot was full, which is to be expected at that time, and they were directed to a parking lot they were told was "around the corner" (but were not told it was around the corner and three-quarters of a mile away).

The walk was arduous for them.  Upon arrival at Gate B, they were told that their tickets were no good.  They would not be admitted.

If we had a proactive security staff and a pro-customer philosophy, along with our half-filled stadium, someone would look at this well-dressed couple in their fifties and say:  right this way, please, let's get this sorted out, I'm sure we can fix this.

But, we do not have proactive security, we have reactive security - you are assumed to be wrong before any conversation takes place.  We also do not have a pro-customer philosophy, we have a big-city, big-team, big-sports-franchise philosophy.  But, are really a small-team in a small-city with a small franchise in a small league.  And we have a half-empty stadium.

The couple turned around and made the arduous trek back to their car.

With two-hundred dollar tickets and access to the VIP entrance, there is enough staff to greet you, thank you, stumble over you, wipe your ass, and blow you, all before you even get to the elevator.  And this is as it should be!  Those who pay a premium price should have a premium experience.

Those who do not pay a premium price still need to be treated with a certain amount of decency - especially if you have a half-empty stadium and are trying to get more customers.

These types of incidents have led me to become very angry at times, perhaps angrier than I have any right to be.

I crossed a line with my anger earlier this season, and my relationship changed from being in a lover's quarrel with my team to being in an emotional knock-down, drag-out battle - the type of fight that will end a marriage or any relationship.  I was pissed-off and I let my words show it.

I crossed a line.

I want to have a lover's quarrel with my team, disagreements about which we laugh at the end of the discussion.  But now I was playing dirty.

I had a follow-up interaction with one of the front office folks whom I like and respect.  He shared his disappointment in my tone and my anger, and that's when I knew I had stopped being "in love" and was on the verge of being "in hate."

I had to gather my wits and decide what was important to me:  being part of my team, or being right.

I know that being right is grossly over-rated, and I know that acceptance is the key to happiness.

I want to be part of my team.  How can I not?  I love this team.

The challenge is keeping my expectations in check, remembering that the team is a business not a clubhouse, and remembering that I have as much an obligation to them as they to me.

So, while I have my lover's quarrel with my team, I need to make sure I avoid the name-calling, cheap shots, and emotionalism that change any lover's quarrel into an actual fight for which there may be no reconciliation.

When the lights go out, I still want my team to love me as much as I love them.

Things Are Really Better Than I Make Them Out To Be

You should meet the Viking Army.

If you have never seen it, you should also watch the march into the stadium, or even join the march, if you like.

If you haven't seen Red Bull New York play a match at Red Bull Arena, you really must.

I have an amazing team.

I have an amazing stadium.

Just be certain you leave plenty of time for the commute there and back.

I never once owned a team jersey for any sport, in the forty-odd years before I fell in love with soccer.  I now have a stack of them:  John Wolyniec, Rafa Marquez, Thierry Henry, shirts for Hull City (England), Montagua (Hondorus), and the US National team.  I'm sure there are others I am forgetting.  My daughter also has a stack of autographed jerseys:  Corey Hertzog, Andrew Boyens, John Rooney, Tim Ream, and two different shirts signed by the entire team.  These are special things, they represent special moments and special relationships in our life with the team.

And Red Bull New York is a special team.  The players are special people.  Look at that line-up:  Thierry Henry, Rafa Marquez, Tim Cahill, Wilmen Conde, all international stars.  Dax McCarty and Kenny Cooper, two of the hardest-working men in rock and roll.  Connor Lade, the latest American addition to the squad who has the guys screaming and the girls swooning.  Our collection of journeymen who are the backbone of our team:  Jan Gunner Solli, Steven Keel, Joel Lindpere, Markus Holgersson, Heath Pearce.  And our newest addition, the Frenchman, Sebastian LeToux.  We have an exciting team.

The supporters are amazing, too.  Yesterday I chatted with fans ranging in age from 2-years-old to 70-plus-years-old.  There are young Americans and older immigrants.  Smart guys and wise guys.  Pretty girls and pretty boys.  Athletes and poets.  Dads and uncles and aunts and moms.  There is the Garden State Supporters club, our group most like European ultras.  There is Empire Supporters Club, the original group to gather together and start an official club when the league was conceived.  I've already mentioned Viking Army - the best supporters group in the world.

If you've never been to a soccer match, you might not know that the supporters groups start chanting and singing at kick-off and do not stop until the final whistle.  There are songs that will make anybody smile, chants that make any parent cringe, and rocking and rolling that is not seen anywhere else other than a soccer team's supporters groups.  They do not sit in their seats.  They stand in their section and they are an impressive force.

And there is friendliness, a camaraderie among the fans, that has always surprised me, and makes every match a great experience.

I will embrace my lover's quarrel with Red Bull New York, and will save my wrath and fury for Philthadelphia, DC Scum, and the rest of our opponents!

See you at the next match!

Videos: Supporting Your Club

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

How Could I Not Fall In Love With This Team?

at Giants Stadium
by Dick Mac

Continued from Becoming RBNY

We dutifully made our way to the dreadful Giants Stadium for every home match.

We continued to make friends in our section, and spent time in the pub after every match so my daughter could meet more players and I could take more pictures, and she could collect more autographs.  She was so devoted to the players that she knew all their names, many of them remembered her from week to week, and eventually it seemed that they all knew her by name.

with Jozy Altidore
I began to enjoy chatting with the players a bit as things would quiet down.  They were all charming, and enthusiastic, and grateful for our support.  They were candid about their careers, the team, even their families and personal lives.  We met wives and girlfriends and even some parents of the players.  It was really nice.  We were part of something bigger than a sports team.  This was a community of people who were so culturally isolated from the outside world that a unique, if odd, intimacy developed among fans, players, office and support staff, and the pub workers.

with John Wolyniec
The team had succeeded in creating a product that none of us would ever stop consuming.

Things looked up as former Colombian striker Juan Pablo Angel, who had played at River Plate and Aston Villa, took the league by storm, and drove the team to a new level.  The artificial turf was rough on his knees, but he was a leader and he marched through all adversity.

in the tunnel for the 2008 MLS Cup
In 2008, the team went to Los Angeles for the MLS Cup final against Columbus.  I flew out there for the match, but did not take my daughter.  I had secured rather nice seats on the field - literally on the field, six feet from the action.  Unbeknownst to me, the facilities and services for those of us in these seats were through the tunnel where the players would enter the pitch.  My date and I made our way to the bar and on the way back to our seats, the Red Bull players were lining up for the march out.  They were right there with us, stretching and chatting.  I made small talk with some of them, and three separate conversations were identical.  The player would smile and wave or shake my hand and ask:  "Where's your daughter?"  I'd explain that she was too young for me to manage on such a long trip.  "Oh," they would say, turn and walk away.  They had no interest in talking to me, they wanted to see her!

We lost the MLS Cup final, and I have always suspected that we would have won if she had been in that tunnel to wish them well.

The following season was filthy with talk of the new stadium.  Rumors and facts and facts and rumors and pictures and projections and rumors and more rumors.  It was exciting.

Then it happened!  In 2010, Red Bull Arena opened.

with Seth Stammler
The team used the opportunity to do some charitable work, including a silent auction of team-specific items to benefit The Sporting Chance Foundation, a charity started by player Seth Stammler.  We supported his charity as best we could.  We aren't wealthy, but we attended fundraisers and purchased items and entered raffles and we participated in the silent auction.  An earlier charitable event had been a tour of the nearly-completed stadium, escorted by a player, to see all the behind-the-scenes stuff and luxury boxes that regular folks never see.  Seth was there when we arrived, and Danleigh Borman was our tour guide.  We had a wonderful time.

The new stadium was beautiful.  It was comfortable.  The players were excited about it.

And good stuff kept happening!  Halfway through the 2010 season, Thierry Henry arrived at Red Bull Arena and signed a contract.

with Juan Pablo Angel
My all-time favorite athlete was going to be on my team!

Then he bought a home in SoHo.  He took the subway to work.  He bragged about being a New Yorker.  he was in the media and showing-up all over town.

And more kept happening!  Henry convinced former teammate Rafa Marquez to join him from Barcelona and we had two amazing international stars joining Juan Pablo Angel on the Red Bulls!  These two additions to the team raised the quality of everyone's play.

I had totally forgotten about the silent auction, and I received a call from a woman in the front office reminding me that I had won a private meet and greet with the team after a match.  Since the season was drawing to a close, she needed to book a date as soon as possible.  I explained that it was actually an event for my daughter, but wasn't sure it would be OK if two of us were there.  She didn't know me, but when I told her who my daughter was, she knew her!  Everyone knew her!  There would be no problem for the two of us to attend.
Red Bull Arena construction

We picked a Saturday in September.

We planned our visit.  My daughter is required to donate ten percent of her holdings to charity, and she chose Sporting Chance Foundation would be the recipient of her largess.

After the match we went to the pub, and were met by a woman who gave us passes and a brand new children's size jersey.  We were escorted to the press room and we waited with two women.  I handed over my camera to one of them and we waited.  We posed for pictures at the podium and in front of the team logo.

Eventually, the door opened and a group of three or four players arrived.  They all knew her and there were heartfelt greetings all around.  We posed for a picture, and I instantly realized that I did not need to be in any of the pictures, that this was her event.  She gave Seth her check and I thought we would all weep.  We chatted and they all signed her new Red Bulls jersey.

As time went by, the door would open and another player would arrive.  They were all thrilled to see it was a little girl waiting for them, and not a fat old guy like me.  Well, I was waiting for them, too, but they were there to see her.  Some sat and chatted for awhile, especially the guys with kids.  They told her she was beautiful, and they were happy to see it was her waiting for them.  As always, they were charming.

with Rafa (The most
handsome man in the world?)
Rafa Marquez arrived with his foot wrapped in an ice bag.  His English is a little better than my Spanish, but the universal language of fan adoration needs no words.  He did not want to sit, explaining that it felt better to stand.  He was downright flirtatious with her and we all blushed.

Juan Pablo Angel arrived and said he remembered her beautiful eyes from an event earlier in the season.  He picked her up and gave her a hug.  He is always pleasant and chatty.  Each time I have been in a social event with him, he has been a regular guy talking about regular things.

This went on for some time, and there was only one player left:  Titi.

with Thierry Henry
We learned that he would be delayed, so we went out to the field where a reserve match was happening and we took pictures.  We eventually made our way back to the press room, and it happened.  Thierry Henry walked through the door and was standing right there in front of me.  He instantly greeted her and exclaimed how nice it was to meet her.  I stood there in my #14 Henry jersey, unable to make a sentence.  I stammered and stumbled through some greetings as the two of them chatted.  He took pictures with both of us.  I was so flustered I forgot to have him sign my jersey.

The night is etched in our collective memories and we each remember different details.  It's an event we will talk about the rest of our lives.

The season ended and we renewed our seats immediately.

The 2011 season included more wins and more heartbreak, the departure of Juan Pablo Angel, more meet and greets, and the MLS All-Star match.  We saw Titi, David Beckham, and the rest of the MLS-best play a match against Manchester United.  It was impressive.  It was amazing.

The team hired a new president of operations -- a former executive from the NBA.  The promise of improvements was in the air.

Change was in the air.

Loving The Move, Hating The Change

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Becoming RBNY

by Dick Mac

Continued from Supporting My Team

During my break from being a season ticket holder, theowners of the MetroStars, sold their franchise to Red Bull GmbH, makers of the hard drink. They renamed the team Red Bull New York, and slapped a version of the corporate logo on the front of the jersey.

I was not pleased. It seemed so corporate, un-sports-like to have the team named after a canned beverage. The Atlanta Cokes? The Parsippany Pepsis? The Saratoga Sprites? The Heaven 7-Ups? Where would it end.

I indulged my disappointment and let it fester into anger, until I read and heard other people complaining about "corporate sell-out." 

Would the new ownership be less intrusive if they had named the team the RedStars or BullStars or RedBullStars? Probably not. Those are all terrible names, anyhow.

Come to find out, Red Bull, GmbH, owns another soccer team and a professional hockey team, also named Red Bulls. I relaxed and called to order a single season ticket for myself.

I returned to Giants Stadium by public transportation. Now I was commuting from Brooklyn, so the trip took an additional hour each way. I got over it, though, and the matches ended early enough that I would be back in the city and on the subway before the overnight schedule began. I got used to the commute and the shuttle buses between the stadium and the city were frequent and reliable.

As a season-ticket holder, I was entitled to visit the pub before and after the matches. I had visited the pub after a match in 2003, and it was filled with excited children and their stressed-out parents. Some players would come to the pub after the match to shake hands, sign autographs and take pictures with the kids. This was of no interest to me.

The following season, my daughter asked the inevitable question:  "Daddy, where do you go on Saturdays without me and mommy?"

My daughter had been introduced to soccer on television when she was five weeks old.  After a short stay in the hospital after her birth, she came home and the following Saturday, I sat in the rocking chair, in front of the television, watching an Arsenal match and rocking my new child.

Thierry Henry scored a goal, of course, and as the camera followed him, I paused the image, walked my tiny child to the television, showed her the screen and said:  "Boo, this is Thierry Henry, daddy's all-time favorite athlete.  He plays for Arsenal, and some day I will take you to see him play."  My wife snapped a picture of the event.

On Fathers Day, 2004, I returned home from church and my daughter was in her little chair wearing a dress with the Arsenal badge, a gift from some English friends, that my wife had been saving as a surprise.  My little girl was now a Little Gooner and I beamed with pride.

Now, three short years later, she was asking where I went without her and mommy and I explained that I went to the soccer match.

"Can I come?" She asked.

This totally blind-sided me!  I had no idea that she might be interested in attending soccer matches with me.

"Well, you're kind of small, Boo, so when you get a little bigger I promise I will take you."

"When I'm four?"

"Yes.  OK.  When you're four."

She watched English matches and Red Bulls away matches with me.  She cheered and yelled and she really got into the spirit of the game.

The following season, I purchased two season tickets and we drove in the car to Giants Stadium.  She never wanted to miss a single match and did not take kindly to the notion of away matches.

At her first match, I was taking a picture of her on the entrance ramp when another fan offered to take a picture of the two of us.  It is a terrible, out-of-focus image depicting one of the happiest moments of my life: taking my daughter to her first soccer match.  I will find the picture and post it this week.  The previous season I had bought a children's jersey and gotten it signed by the team.  She wore that with pride and was noticed by everyone for being so small and having so many autographs.

When I was a single adult man in the stands, I did not attract any attention from my fellow season-ticket holders.  We would smile and nod each match, but I felt no connection with them beyond the team.  Well, arrive at the stadium with a 4-year-old girl in a team jersey, sunglasses and her own backpack of goodies, and you garner unimaginable attention.

Suddenly we knew all the people who sat in our section, they all knew her by name, and everyone wanted to talk with her.  She started flirting with the boys and chatting with the girls.  Some women in the section began taking her to the ladies' room to use the facilities, so I didn't have to take her into the men's room.  We were part of a new family.

As the first match was ending, and I was trying to figure out the safest way to get a tiny little girl through the crowd and to the car, I remembered the Pub filled with kids.  We went to the pub, found a table.  Ordered some pub food and drinks, and eventually players began arriving.

She was thrilled.  She beamed with excitement, and dragged me from cluster to cluster of excited children, so she could meet them and get an autograph.  Some players recognized their autograph already on the jersey and offered to take a picture instead.  This began our remarkable collection of her with Red Bulls players.

This became our thing.  Getting in the car, driving to the Meadowlands, watching the match and visiting the pub.  We never missed a match.

How Could I Not Fall In Love With This Team?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Supporting My Team

by Dick Mac

I have written many times about finding and falling in love with soccer, while living in London.

I have gone on at length about my adoration of Thierry Henry.

I actually don't recall the details or progression from having never heard of Thierry Henry to becoming an incoherent, babbling fool in his presence.

During the half-time break of my first soccer match at Highbury, I was asked what I thought of Ohnree.  I admitted I had no idea who that was.  I was told to pay attention to number 14.  When we returned to our seats, I realized that Ohnree was Henry, and he was the player I had been watching most closely all along.  Henry and Patrick Viera were absolutely amazing  in that day's 5-0 victory over Manchester City.

Soccer began to interfere with my passion for baseball.  At this point, in 2012, baseball barely exists in my life.

Like all good things, my time time in London came to pass and I returned to New York City.  Living in Herald Square, I spent quite a bit of time and money trying to get access to Arsenal matches.  Some days I spent ten or twenty bucks for a pay-per-view, other days I would be sitting at a bar, nursing spring water and coffee, watching with a group of strangers.  I did not really like sitting in a bar at 7:00 in the morning and that got tired quick.

In the coming years, coverage of English soccer increased exponentially.  Today, there are weekends when I can see all ten Premier League matches, while my friends in London are lucky to get a handful.

Televised soccer matches were not enough for me and I began talking about trips to London to see soccer matches.  Someone in my office asked if I'd ever been to an MLS match.

I had never heard of Major League Soccer, but a little research revealed that there was a New York team, the MetroStars, playing home matches at Giants Stadium.

I became a season-ticket holder and this enhanced my love affair with soccer to such a degree that I see at least one match (televised or live) every weekend.

The trip to and from the stadium was easy.  I had sold my car before moving to London, and did not replace it when we returned.  Living at the corner of 34th and Broadway made car ownership a bit silly.  A short walk from my apartment to Port Authority bus terminal had me on the shuttle bus that went directly to the stadium, and brought us back after the match.  It was remarkably easy.

Right away, I noticed the fans sitting behind the goal in Section 101.  They were raucous and loud and seemed to never take a break from their chanting and singing.  I learned that they were the Empire Supporters Club.  I never joined, because it appeared that I was much older that them and I was a bit intimidated by the rowdiness.

Related to that rowdiness was a seemingly unpleasant relationship between the supporters club and the security force.

At Giants Stadium, the security team called the 'yellow shirts' patrolled the concourses and aisles like gang members.  I once watched one yellow shirt show-off his new brass knuckles to a co-worker.  I am certain I wasn't supposed to have seen it, but it reinforced the yellow-shirt image of a bunch of thugs being handed more power than they could handle.

I sat close enough to Section 101, the section behind the goal that was home to the supporters club, to see that the relationship between the fans and security was an unpleasant one.  Every match saw at least one young guy dragged out of his seat and up the stairs to the concourse.  I never saw what happened to him nest, and don't really want to know.  having grown-up in the inner-city in the 1960s, I know what law enforcement people do to citizens they've dragged out of sight, and it rarely has anything to do with law enforcement.

Over the ensuing years, I began noticing that more brown-skinned guys were dragged away than white-skinned guys.  It was easy to notice this because there were almost no brown-skinned fans among the eight- or ten thousand fans in the cavernous bowl, and when one was being dragged away they stood out from their peers.

I began to see the yellow shirts not as a team of security staff keeping the stadium safe, but as a team of sociopaths earning a day's pay for beating-up young guys.

I was once in a line at the stadium and a yellow shirt was right next to me, presumably securing the line of parents and children awaiting whatever service was being provided at that instant.  We made eye contact.  I smiled and nodded, then said:  "Looks like this crowd isn't giving you much trouble."  He concurred and explained, while slamming his right fist into his left palm, how disappointed he was that there were no soccer fans he could beat-up that day.

I knew, at that point, that I would never intentionally have any contact with a yellow shirt, and would do my absolute best to keep my friends and family away from them.

A couple of years into my new relationship with soccer, the MLS and the MetroStars, I became a father.  I decided to take a break from being a season-ticket holder and did not attend any matches in 2005.

 Continue to Becoming RBNY

Friday, September 14, 2012

Glad You Came - The Wanted

by Dick Mac

When my 8-year-old introduces me to new music, I listen with a grain of salt.  There's some real crap out there for kids, just like there was real crap out there when I was a pre-teen, and you were a pre-teen.

What's different now is "boy bands"!  We didn't have boy bands.  There were bands and singing groups with cute lead singers, but they were not boy bands.  There were even manufactured bands, but they weren't boy bands.

The Monkees had Davy Jones and The Partridge Family had David Cassidy.  There were others, but it's early and I just don't remember.

By the time New Edition and New Kids On The Block hit the scene, I was in my twenties and far too bored, hip, cool and detached to appreciate anything about the genre.

Now I have an 8-year-old.

I know about Justin Bieber (he's so last year).

When I watched  One Direction on television I was surprised that 4 of the 5 of them could sing pretty well, and that all five of them were damn good dancers.  So, although they are a fabricated, brain child of a Svengali, there's something there.

There are the Disney-manufactured bands that are my least favorite.  Big Time Rush was the hot band for my daughter.  I didn't really like them, but they had one song that is in rotation in the unconscious jukebox inhabiting the entertainment lobe of my brain.  I'll be damned if I can remember the name of the song, but it has a line  to "party like a rock star" and that always creeps me out.  The way rock stars of my youth partied is not the way I think of boy bands partying.  If that's how boy bands party, then I have a completely incorrect vision of them.

Now comes The Wanted.  They are a boy band with a bit of an edge.  We like them.

We are Platinum members of their fan club; we traveled hundreds of miles to miss one of their shows; they are in heavy rotation in the Mac household,  and when I told one of my colleagues about them, she downloaded the album and is now a fan.

It's pop music.  Plain-old pop music.  Pop music sung by good-looking young men.

They mostly follow that boy band song formula:  start like a ballad with plaintive lyrics and a seeming drop into the depths of depression, only to explode into a techno/dance track with everybody happy and bopping.

They are a British band with one member from Ireland, and they have released music for two years before hitting the USA.  My daughter likes Nathan and has a Nathan case on her iPod.  I like Siva, but I don't own any pictures of him.  I think mommy likes Max.  They're all adorable.

If you haven't heard them yet, please let me be the one to warn you:  they're coming for your brain and your money and your children and all of your spare time.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Insensitive or Insane?

by Dick Mac

A conservative in Virginia has announced that God creates disabled children as punishment to those women who have had an abortion.

OK.  At this point, it is clear that conservatives are no longer mentally capable of running a government.

This gaffe is not an isolated incident!  Week after week we hear another conservative (generally Republican) elected official offer some insane notion about the rights of women and their health and/or homosexuals.

This isn't some odd faction of the Republican party!  These are mainstream Republican operatives, holding public office and trying to pass laws based on odd religious beliefs.

This man actually believes that because there is a story in the Bible that the first-born animal was sacrificed as an offering to some god (certainly not my God), then disabled children are proof that God punishes women who have had an abortion, because her first-born child cannot be offered to some god as a sacrifice.

I don't think that he is suggesting the slaughter on an altar of a full-term non-aborted fetus after child birth.  At least I hope not!  I understand the metaphor of giving a child to god meaning that the first-born becomes a religious professional.  Until about thirty years ago, one son in a large Catholic family generally became a priest.  That is no longer the case, of course, because . . . well . . . it's just not a promising proposition anymore.

This elected official said:
The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps has increased dramatically. Why? Because when you abort the first born of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children.

In the Old Testament, the first born of every being, animal and man, was dedicated to the Lord. There’s a special punishment Christians would suggest.
Children with disabilities are God’s punishment to women who previously had abortions.

He really said that! His name is Bob Marshall, and you should tell everyone you know that this madman is in a position of power, and needs to be exposed.

This man is insane!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Defending Same-Sex Marriage

by Dick Mac

I wonder if I will be forced to get gay-married if all the states allow it.

I mean, will they eventually require it?

Will I have to be married to my wife and married to a husband?

If you listen to "conservatives" you will hear that gay-marriage is the end of the world as we know it. Our modern day Sodoms and Gomorrahs, stretching from sea to shining sea, will be over-run with homosexuals forcing heterosexuals to change their sexual orientation and be 'gay'!

Regular people (non-conservatives) know that the gay marriage agenda looks like this:

There is no wild conspiracy to wipe-out religion or interfere with straight peoples' right to divorce.  Straight people will still be allowed to have 72 hour marriages that ensure the sanctity of the institution.  No regular people (gay or straight) want to remove a straight person's right to be married for 72 hours.

Regular people also tend to suspect that when a "conservative" politician or man of the cloth (of any stripe) gets all up-in-arms about the rights of homosexuals, he has generally got a boyfriend or two stashed out-of-town, or goes to the library a lot to pee, or hangs around gymnasiums, just a little more than others.  The list of anti-gay politicians caught (figuratively) with a cock in his mouth is far too long to include here.

The debate about gay marriage has been quite a stage for "conservatives"; but, the debate has also revealed some extraordinary people.  Two of whom are pretty hot!

Brendon Ayanbadejo
Brendon Ayanbadejo, a father of two and a linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens football team, has advocated for same-sex marriage.

According to his wikipedia page:

"He has advocated for the passage of the FIT Kids Act, federal legislation that would require school districts to report on students' physical activity and to give youngsters health and nutritional information. In 2009, Ayanbadejo advocated legalizing same-sex marriage. Ayanbadejo has taken action in support of marriage equality, filming a public service announcement for Marylanders for Marriage Equality in 2011, and donating Ravens tickets to a fundraiser for the same organization."

This, of course, makes "conservatives" crazy.  The last thing "conservatives" need is for really tough, masculine, butch, straight guys to support gay marriage.  "Conservatives" cultivate hatred by encouraging straight men to hate gay men.  Historically, they have been quite successful.

Times change.

Chris Kluwe
Chris Kluwe, a father of one girl, and a punter for the Minnesota Vikings football team, has also publicly advocated for same-sex marriage.

According to his wikipedia page:

"On September 7, 2012 Kluwe released a letter via sports website Deadspin he had sent to Maryland state assembly delegate Emmett Burns, defending the opinions of Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo and sharply criticizing Burns on his attempt to stifle Ayanbadejo's free speech. Ayanbadejo has been a vocal supporter of gay marriage and Burns had sent a letter requesting that the Ravens ownership "inhibit such expressions" by their employee."

Although they are both college-educated, hard-working, fit, attractive, open-minded men, there is no indication that they have joined forces to advocate together or that they are dating.  These are just two extraordinary men, who are kinda hot, too!

I think these two men, these athletes, these really hot straight guys, represent the majority of American citizens.

Of course, there are bigots who have to hate homosexuals.  And make no mistake, they are bigots.  Their discomfort with homosexuality (generally rooted in millenia-old religious writings) is their own personal problem - and bigotry is a personal problem, it might actually be a mental health issue.

And let's be clear:  everyone who opposes the rights of adult, American taxpayers to marry the person they love, is a bigot.  Yes, every single person who opposes gay marriage is a bigot.  There is no half-way here.  You either support the civil rights of your fellow citizens, or you don't.  Those who don't are bigots.

What brought these two kinda hot, heterosexual athletes together was an impressively bigoted and ill-advised letter written by Reverend Emmett C. Burns, Jr., delegate to the Maryland House -- a minister and an elected official.  In his letter, the good Reverend admonished the owner of the Baltimore Ravens, Steve Biscotti, to stifle the opinions of his players, specifically Ayanbadejo.

Yup!  An elected official, who is also a man of the cloth, wrote a letter in which - in black and white - he demanded that a business owner abridge the constitutional rights of his employees.


A few days after the Reverend's attack on the Baltimore Ravens, Chris Kluwe was moved to write an open letter addressing the situation.  I know that "conservatives" will dismiss this letter because of the profanity. You see, profanity is OK when a "conservative" uses it, but is a disgrace when a regular person (a non-conservative) uses it.

Originally published at deadspin, the letter from Kluwe to the Reverend is reprinted here (without permission) for your enjoyment:
Dear Emmett C. Burns Jr.,

I find it inconceivable that you are an elected official of Maryland's state government. Your vitriolic hatred and bigotry make me ashamed and disgusted to think that you are in any way responsible for shaping policy at any level. The views you espouse neglect to consider several fundamental key points, which I will outline in great detail (you may want to hire an intern to help you with the longer words):

1. As I suspect you have not read the Constitution, I would like to remind you that the very first, the VERY FIRST Amendment in this founding document deals with the freedom of speech, particularly the abridgment of said freedom. By using your position as an elected official (when referring to your constituents so as to implicitly threaten the Ravens organization) to state that the Ravens should "inhibit such expressions from your employees," more specifically Brendon Ayanbadejo, not only are you clearly violating the First Amendment, you also come across as a narcissistic fromunda stain. What on earth would possess you to be so mind-boggingly stupid? It baffles me that a man such as yourself, a man who relies on that same First Amendment to pursue your own religious studies without fear of persecution from the state, could somehow justify stifling another person's right to speech. To call that hypocritical would be to do a disservice to the word. Mindfucking obscenely hypocritical starts to approach it a little bit.

2. "Many of your fans are opposed to such a view and feel it has no place in a sport that is strictly for pride, entertainment, and excitement." Holy fucking shitballs. Did you seriously just say that, as someone who's "deeply involved in government task forces on the legacy of slavery in Maryland"? Have you not heard of Kenny Washington? Jackie Robinson? As recently as 1962 the NFL still had segregation, which was only done away with by brave athletes and coaches daring to speak their mind and do the right thing, and you're going to say that political views have "no place in a sport"? I can't even begin to fathom the cognitive dissonance that must be coursing through your rapidly addled mind right now; the mental gymnastics your brain has to tortuously contort itself through to make such a preposterous statement are surely worthy of an Olympic gold medal (the Russian judge gives you a 10 for "beautiful oppressionism").

3. This is more a personal quibble of mine, but why do you hate freedom? Why do you hate the fact that other people want a chance to live their lives and be happy, even though they may believe in something different than you, or act different than you? How does gay marriage, in any way shape or form, affect your life? If gay marriage becomes legal, are you worried that all of a sudden you'll start thinking about penis? "Oh shit. Gay marriage just passed. Gotta get me some of that hot dong action!" Will all of your friends suddenly turn gay and refuse to come to your Sunday Ticket grill-outs? (Unlikely, since gay people enjoy watching football too.)

I can assure you that gay people getting married will have zero effect on your life. They won't come into your house and steal your children. They won't magically turn you into a lustful cockmonster. They won't even overthrow the government in an orgy of hedonistic debauchery because all of a sudden they have the same legal rights as the other 90 percent of our population—rights like Social Security benefits, child care tax credits, Family and Medical Leave to take care of loved ones, and COBRA healthcare for spouses and children. You know what having these rights will make gays? Full-fledged American citizens just like everyone else, with the freedom to pursue happiness and all that entails. Do the civil-rights struggles of the past 200 years mean absolutely nothing to you?

In closing, I would like to say that I hope this letter, in some small way, causes you to reflect upon the magnitude of the colossal foot in mouth clusterfuck you so brazenly unleashed on a man whose only crime was speaking out for something he believed in. Best of luck in the next election; I'm fairly certain you might need it.

Chris Kluwe

P.S. I've also been vocal as hell about the issue of gay marriage so you can take your "I know of no other NFL player who has done what Mr. Ayanbadejo is doing" and shove it in your close-minded, totally lacking in empathy piehole and choke on it. Asshole.
I know!  Remarkable!

Having come under such attack from many quarters, the Reverend has retreated (as "conservatives" do) behind his Constitutional rights.  We can only hope he will be defeated in his next election.

I have to say:  Thank you, Reverend Emmett C. Burns, Jr., for opening your mouth, inserting your foot, and bringing these two smart, hard-working, kinda hot straight guys into the spotlight.

I would gay marry these men, if I wasn't already straight married!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Is This An Issue Of Commerce or Christianity?

by Dick Mac

This man is party to a legally binding contract that he and the other party are trying to execute without interference:

Brendon Ayanbadejo

This man is interfering with the smooth and peaceful execution of that contract:

Emmett C. Burns, Jr.
If an activist uses his activism to interfere with the machinations of commerce, I believe it is a sin that conservatives would condemn. When two millionaires have agreements, and are happily and successfully conducting legitimate business, Mitt Romney, Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Bachmann, Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter and their allies should be on the airwaves condemning any "socialist" who is interfering with good, old-fashioned, American, God-given commerce.

There is a minister in Maryland interfering with the execution of a contract between Brendon Ayanbadejo and Steve Bisciotti. This minister believes that Bisciotti should interfere with Ayanbadejo's constitutional rights.

If one party to a contract tries to abridge the constitutional rights of the other party in the contract, it would not be good for the contractual obligations of the parties, their ability to generate profit, and their right to live in pursuit of happiness.

This seems like a bandwagon and script that the Republican presidential hopeful had created himself! What could be better? A black guy in Maryland interfering in the legitimate business agreement between two millionaires.

Ann Coulter should buy a brand new black cocktail dress for some morning television appearances to point out that a Democrat Socialist is at it again! Trying to destroy America.

Sarah Palin should be explaining that the lamestream media and Justice Department is failing to come to the defense of good American businessmen!

Rush Limbaugh should be apoplectic, while Glenn Beck weeps.

Let's frame it this way: Barney Frank writes to Roger Ailes and demands that Ailes stop Geraldo Rivera from reporting on the Democratic Convention.  I think the airwaves would be filthy with opinions from the conservatives.

If I remember correctly, American conservatism is currently basing its movement on the notion that nothing trumps commerce. No worker rights, no civil rights, no government regulation, no taxation structure, nothing, ever.

To interfere with commerce is an egregious sin.

So, I am not certain why conservatives have failed to defend the rights of Bisciotti and Ayanbedejo to conduct legal business, and execute their contract in peace, without interference from somebody in power.

In this case, it is A-OK with the conservatives to interfere with the peaceful execution of a contract. Why? Because the minister interfering with commerce is demanding that the parties to the contract stop expressing opinions about social issues; specifically, same-sex marriage.  So, again, we see that conservatives only care about commerce and constitutional issues when it's convenient for them; they do not actually believe that commerce and constitutionality should be protected for everybody.  They believe that their commerce and their constitutional rights should be defended and protected; but not anyone with whom they disagree.

In the vacuum created by the deafening silence of right-wing media, pundits, politicians, and elected officials, another businessman in the same industry as Bisciotti and Ayanbadejo has decided to defend them, and admonish the minister for impinging on the constitutional rights of the parties.

Still the right-wing, with all their demands that nobody interfere with commerce, remain silent.

Then the minister claims that although he tried to interfere with the constitutional rights of the businessmen, he has first amendment rights, too.

Yes, Reverend, you do have first amendment protection, the right to express your hate and intolerance.  Not one single person has ever tried to abridge that right, or silence you.

On the other hand, you wrote a letter suggesting that an employer abridge the first amendment rights of his employees. I am certain this would be a violation of their contract.

So, when that minister says he has first amendment rights, too, it is a red herring. He is just making-up stuff to deflect the negative publicity that a bigoted pig deserves.

In reality, he is exactly the type of person that I want to see execute his first amendment right to free speech, because it highlights the idiocy of his hatred.

Because he drapes his hate and bigotry in the vestments of a church doesn't make him any less hateful or bigoted.

Just because he pays his mortgage by reading Bible verses doesn't mean he is immune from criticism, especially when he tries to abridge the constitutional rights of an American citizen.

So, yes, Reverend Burns, we all agree that you have the constitutional right to spew your bigoted filth; but I am not certain you have a constitutional right to interfere with commerce, to insert yourself into the negotiations of millionaires, or to abridge the constitutional rights of another.

And where is Ann Coulter and where is Paul Ryan and where is Karl Rove when a minister interferes with commerce?

What is more important to them: commerce or christianity?

I guess it isn't commerce.

So, the next time a conservative wants to run-off at the mouth about commerce and constitutional rights, just laugh in his face, tell him he's a hypocrite, and walk away.

Conservatives don't care about commerce or the Constitution, they care only about themselves.