Photo: Barb Colligon
For my piece today I have decided to take a brief snapshot of my first year as a season ticketholder and an every week member of the Sons of Ben.
Let me first start off by saying that when March rolled around and it was time for the matches to begin I could not have been more excited. I felt like a kid on Christmas morning walking into the River End. The sights, the sounds, the atmosphere—it all amounted to what was sure to be a thrilling season from first match through what I viewed as the grand finale, the season ending match with the Red Bulls.
From the opening kickoff and first “Just can’t get enough,” I was hooked. I had been to Union matches before but not like this, not as a member of something bigger than myself, not as a supporter. As I looked around PPL Park I could see the anticipation in the eyes of everyone around me. Even though that match didn’t end as planned, I walked back to the parking lot knowing I was in for quite a ride.
The season progressed from there and it came time for cup matches and international friendlies. Not knowing what to expect from US Open cup matches as I had never been to one before, I was saddened to see the stands so empty when kickoff against Rochester came around. Anticipating a dead crowd with little emotion, for a moment my hopes were dashed.
I could not have been more wrong.
While it was true the River End was nowhere near capacity, the couple of hundred SoBs that did show impressed me more than any crowd I’d ever witnessed. I had more fun at that match screaming my lungs out for the boys in the pouring rain in the “Chester End,” than at any other match this season.
I was especially excited for the Aston Villa match because they are my favorite Premier League club and so the game with the Union presented a sort of dream matchup for me. I walked into PPL that day knowing no matter what the result I would get to see my favorite players on both sides go at it. Although the match itself wasn’t the most exciting, the pre-match interactions I had with fellow Villa supporters and cheering our boys on from the River End was more than enough to make memories I won’t soon forget.
With some exciting finishes in the heat of the Summer, you could feel everything building up to the 2012 All-Star game, which would showcase our city, stadium, and supporters to the football world. From the moment I stepped out of my car into the parking lot and saw the circus that was the All-Star game festivities, I was hooked. The night proceeded to surpass my wildest expectations with not only the pregame, postgame, and halftime celebrations, but the game as well. The legendary finish with Eddie Johnson scoring the game winner against the Champions League winners Chelsea was only icing on the cake for what had already been a fantastic night.
Then the tough times set in with the Union struggling to grab points in August and September. The crowds started to wane and it seemed as though the fire had gone out with the majority of fans that religiously showed up to early season matches. Though I was disappointed to see it I realize that watching a losing club isn’t for everyone. These “tough times” have continued into October and it seems as though all hope in this team—not only for this year, but next year as well—is for many people lost. I agree that changes have to be made, but I choose to remember the fun that was had and the hope that was present at the beginning of the season.
With two home matches remaining I encourage everyone to come out and enjoy the atmosphere while cheering on the boys against, especially for the last match of the season against our most hated rival. Let us be an example for those whose support is wavering. We need to present a unified front in these tough times so we can all enjoy the ride back to the top.