Gordie Loewen initially wrote this on the Stars forum of usldiscussions.com, with his permission we’ve reposted it here as a “yeah, what he said” sort of thing. If you haven’t heard it enough, you guys and gals rock and this is one example of why.
Let me first say, I’ve started writing this post a half dozen times this week, and while I know what I want to say, it took me a while to figure out how I wanted to say it. I think my point will best be made in comparisons. Just know going in, this is a sappy thank you note to the team and it’s supporters.
I am an Olympique Marseille supporter. A huge one. I love the club. Allez l’OM! They are the biggest and most popular club in France (sorry fair-weather PSG fans) and the only French club to have ever won the Champions League. They have well over 100 years of history and for the last 20 of those years, I’ve lived and died with every up and down.
I have never been to the Velodrome to see them play. In fact, it’s a weekly battle just to see if I can find a bootleg feed of the match on the internet somewhere. I’ve picked up a good deal of French just trying to follow the team and sometimes ended up watching match streams in Turkish or Arabic, but I go through those (admittedly very small) inconveniences because I love the club.
Except, so far this year, I’ve had a hard time following Marseille. Not because I can’t find the matches or news about them; that gets easier every year, but mostly because I’ve had a bit of a difficult time making myself care. Sure I was excited to see them win their first 6 league matches and disappointed that they’re now winless in their last 4 in all competitions.
Something was increasingly occupying the space in my daily life and brain that I had reserved for caring about soccer. The way I saw it: Oh great, OM won six straight… But will the Stars make the playoffs and at what seed. Oh well, we only got one point out of PSG in the Classico at the Velodrome, but what’s the lineup gonna look like for the second leg in San Antonio. Oh crap, we’re winless in our last 4. Well, this too shall pass, but I can’t get over the arbitrary bull[censored] that is a loss on penalties in the NASL final. And after all that, the photo in the background on my desktop isn’t Andre Pierre Gignac after matching Ibra’s brace in the Classico; it’s Pablo Campos sitting alone against a brick wall.
It got me thinking; why is it that I can follow an admittedly waining, but still impressive European powerhouse for years and so quickly emotionally abandon them for an American D2 team that I’ve been following for only about 5 or 6 seasons? The answer: I love Marseille, but I LOVE the Stars.
For years now, the club has been threatening to cheapen or ruin other soccer experiences for me. Last year’s late season push, playoff run, and league championship first made me aware of it and this year’s run put me over the edge. It’s so hard to feel the same way about any other team. No other sports experience gives back what the Stars do. Where else can I go see players that are clearly there simply for love of the game and the hope that they can some how eek out a career doing this? Where else can I gladly pay my money, and pay the way of friends, knowing that I will see 11 guys on a field giving everything that they have, not for a better endorsement deal, not for the bonuses that come with winning, but because they just want to win and, simply put, because that’s what they’re supposed to do? Where else can I go see a team and reasonably believe that those 11 guys are doing all of that for me, and those around me, just because we bothered to come out?
I owe the players, coaches, front office, and stadium staff more thanks than my ticket prices purchase, many times over. I come out every match knowing that at times I may be disappointed by the result, but the people that put in all of this work will never be disappointing. I don’t hesitate to bring friends, even those that may not be the biggest soccer fans, because I know that there is no way that they can walk away from the match upset that they gave the team their time or money and I know that they won’t find a better entertainment experience in the Twin Cities or a better fan experience anywhere in the world.
But the thing that really sealed it for me was the fans. I’ve been a season ticket holder for 5 years now. I stood up because I loved the Thunder, applauded for the return of Johnny Menyongar to the short-lived NSC Minnesota, and held my breath expectantly as the Minnesota Stars won the first NASL Soccer Bowl (of the modern era), but I’d never really been that involved with the Dark Clouds or any of the other fans. Then, I got lucky. A confluence of about thirty different events meant that I would be able to travel to Tampa for the second leg of the championship series this year. I did so with some apprehension though. I knew I would have to travel by myself and that I wasn’t going to know most (or really any) of the people that were there.
Before I even arrived in Tampa, I realized that I had nothing to worry about. It was obvious how much every one of the traveling fans loved the team, how immersed in a very Minnesotan subculture of soccer fans that they were just from planning the trip. When I got to Tampa, a couple dozen strangers took me in, showed me how to get places, gave me beer, and drove me around after I drank said beer. These were people that cared about this team so much, that I wanted to care more too. They make the match experience richer, not only with the songs, drums, horns, smoke, flares, and hot nuts, but because I know that they’re all around me living for ever whistle, diagonal run, save and goal. It’s been said that Boston Red Sox fans don’t cheer for the Red Sox, they cheer for other fans. And next year, I won’t just be cheering for a team that has given everything for me (and even bought my ticket to the final in Tampa), I’ll also be cheering for every one of those people that made the trip, and the scores that couldn’t make it, but crowded in to the Sweetwater, or just watched from home that night.
Of course, this long rambling story doesn’t have the happiest ending, but hey we’ll get ’em next year. And I know it’s because of the commitment of everyone on the field, everyone in the offices, and everyone in the stands that I can even say that. So thanks to the Stars; the players, coaches, (a player/coach), and staff. And thanks to all of the fans for making this season amazing.