Soccer, the international sensation that Americans just won’t embrace, ever. That was my tone for the better part of my life. I would argue for hours on why an equally slow moving, boring game in baseball was better. Screaming at friends, who no longer talk to me, that would defend soccer to the death, well not literally to the death but at least to the point where we both would start crying and hug…then eat ice cream while watching St. Elmos Fire.
Baseball is my first sports love, like the crush you had in 6th grade who rejected you in front of the entire auditorium while you sang her “Barbie Girl” by Aqua, it will always be in my heart and it will always be my favorite.
With all the baseball love it was apropos that my first time seeing a live soccer match, outside of pee wee soccer (which is quite boring), would be in Yankee Stadium. Although conflicted I decided to go, it was free after all, and, as much as it hurts to admit it, I quite enjoyed myself.
Let me set the scene I built in my mind.
First, I thought there would be 25-30,000 people max, with the majority of the upper deck sections being vacant. The game would go on as scheduled, despite the scripted ending, and it would be a good show for everyone, this was, after all, an exhibition game between two teams that have some major fire power. We would sit down in our comped seats, get wined and dined by the sales rep and eventually saunter out of there with 20 minutes left in the game, jump on the 4 and actually get a seat.
Now, what actually happened.
We arrive 20 minutes before the game, plenty of time for a, seemingly, over hyped soccer game on US soil, to a mass of people entering the stadium. I would think this is what the exodus out of Egypt looked like if they had a subway platform to look down on people from. The front of Yankee stadium was turned into a flea market of sorts with people selling anything from food to what appeared to be a like chicken, waiting for confirmation. After battling our way through the hordes of attendees we venture into the Hard Rock Cafe and immediately exit once we realized where we actually were, sadly we expected more Planet Hollywood and less anything other than that. We find our seats in section 126 and, much to my delight, they are basically big recliners. Oh, I also forgot to mention that even before kick off the entire stadium was jam packed, even more so than any Yankee playoff game I have ever been to, none*. Despite my negativity and pessimism the game was extremely entertaining and instead of it being a ballet it was a hard fought battle between two rivals that clearly hate each other. Ronaldo scored two goals, which is fun from what I told, and even a few fans of AC Milan told me we were lucky to see him actually play, they laughed afterward so I guess there was an inside joke I missed.
So I learned to not be such a Debbie downer and to take chances on things. European soccer may not be coming here that often but it was fun to see these two teams beat the crap out of each other so the big names can get endorsements overseas. It was fun, loud, exciting and delicious, all the right ingredients to make a good night great and to make me, GULP, a soccer fan. Yay Red Bulls!**
*Not true, that example was used for comedic effect, which clearly didn’t work
**After writing that I checked the attendance stats for the Red Bulls, looks like I won’t be a fan after all, I hate being alone at sporting events