Monday, November 8, 2010

Hardly Getting Over It

Like most other Red Bulls fans, I left the stadium on Thursday night feeling strangely numb.  After a fantastic comeback season that set the team up perfectly for a run to MLS Cup, it was all over in the space of 90 minutes, with dreams of glory in Toronto stolen by a plucky San Jose Earthquakes team and our own mistakes.  As the players shook hands and trudged off the pitch, I couldn't even bring myself to applaud guys like Juan Pablo Angel and Mike Petke, who had given their all to the club, only to be rewarded with a very bitter ending.  I said my season-ending goodbyes to friends at the top of the stairs at Gate A, made some vague plans to get together over the off-season (look for a Viper's Nest "Holiday Special"), then started the long drive home, still feeling crushed and mulling over all the big moments in the match in my mind.

I decided on Friday that I would take a weekend off from soccer - and sports in general - and just try to enjoy time with family and friends.  On Friday I went into the city for dinner with friends and a concert by Bob Mould at City Winery.  Even that didn't help much.  Bob started playing "Hardly Getting Over It," one of the better - and sadder - songs from his Hüsker Dü days, and I just nodded my head.  Indeed.  On Saturday I spent the day out with family, keeping track of the MLS playoff results on my phone.  That only made me feel worse.  Dammit - that could (should) have been us playing Colorado!  I threw myself headlong into raking leaves on Sunday, hoping that if I couldn't recover quickly from the playoff exit at least I could try to forget about or feel some sense of accomplishment.  No dice.  My yard has been cleared of mounds of leaves but I still feel like crap.  Guess I'll need another week or two.

I tweeted it on Thursday and Friday following the game, but I would just like to re-iterate again how thankful we are to all of the people who have approached us this year at the stadium and told us they like what we are doing.  We promise you that we will continue over the winter and plan to be back next year, bigger and better than ever from the Cathedral of Football.

I won't pretend to speak for Viper, Homebrew or You Suck Corrales, but I personally feel that this is the year that the club's fan base has really come together, and it has been great to see so many people from GSS, ESC, Hans Backe Viking Army and elsewhere getting involved in our videos.  The supporters really seem to have found their voice like never before.  If we got nothing more out of this season than the start of the "I Believe That We Will Win" chant, it would still be a rousing success. 

We also have a new home and neighborhood that we can be proud of and have made our own.  From the pre-game rituals at MMM Bello's or El Pastor in the Ironbound or Harrison to post-game drum circles in front of the stadium, there has been so much great, positive stuff going on this season that I will remember for a long long time. Finally we have something other than a parking lot to call home.  Not to mention the road trips - from Seattle to DC to Philly to San Jose we have tried to cover as many away games as possible this season and have had a blast doing it.

But while there have been plenty of great moments over the course of this past season - from the opening day win over Chicago to JPA's free kick against Houston to the away win in DC to the big victory over the Galaxy out in LA - it's really a feeling of pride that I will most take away from this year.  Pride in our stadium, pride in our fan culture, pride in our future and pride in friendships.  Despite the disappointment on Thursday, a 30 point improvement year over year is nothing to sneeze at.  Red Bulls fans no longer have a reason to hang their heads in shame about their team's futility and general incompetence or need to feel embarrassed to make their allegiance known.  And that is a massive step in the right direction.
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