“Soccer is the perfect sport for the Internet era. American fans can follow games and instantaneously track information from global leagues both big and small, feeling as close to their favorite teams as if they lived within a thrown beer of their stadium.”
When I get into something new, I tend to dive right into the deep end and go all in, and it’s been no different with soccer. If anything, it’s been even more intense than usual because soccer truly is “the perfect sport for the Internet era.”
Coming off the exhilaration of my first World Cup experience and falling down the rabbit hole of FIFA 14 (a whole other story), I really wanted to attend a live game and was a little surprised and embarrassed to realize that the New York Red Bulls play in Harrison, NJ, pretty much within a thrown beer of where I live. I knew Major League Soccer existed but hadn’t ever given it any consideration, and I’d heard of the Red Bulls but had immediately dismissed them because of their connection to the energy drink’s rather obnoxious “Xtreme!!!” branding.
After watching a few MLS games on TV and subscribing to MLS Live (because Internet era and ALL IN!), I decided to check out the Red Bulls in person and my first game, teenage son in tow, was on September 20th, an insane match against the Seattle Sounders that the Red Bulls won 4-1. I’d already taken a liking to the Sounders’ Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin during the World Cup, but the Red Bulls were starting to grow on me, especially Dax McCarty, Llloyd Sam, and of course, Thierry Henry, who I knew was a big deal but hadn’t realized how big just yet.
Red Bull Arena is an amazing shrine for the beautiful game, and because Seattle was in town it was sold out and the energy was unlike anything I’d experienced before at a live sporting event. Or any event, really. From the nonstop action on the field (no commercial breaks!) to the nonstop singing, chanting, and percussion coming from the South Ward, the game itself was magical. I even bought scarves and shirts for both of us, for the full experience.
Even the pre-game experience was impressive, from the fun side events on the Bull-evard to the notably pleasant and friendly stadium staff, including the beer vendor who recognized me at our second match three weeks later. That one was vs. Toronto, the Red Bulls won 3-1, and the next week I bought two season tickets for 2015.
Because ALL IN.
As a Mets and Jets fan, I hadn’t enjoyed a good playoff run in years, and I’d never attended a playoff game in any sport, so watching two intense Red Bulls’ playoff games in person (SKC and NER) was a perfect end to my first season as a brand new fan of the team and the league, and left a void that needed to be filled.
Fortunately, there was the Premier League, almost as accessible as MLS thanks to NBC and the Internet, not to mention gateways to the entire world of soccer via Twitter, and a soccer-centric sports network I’d never heard of, beIN SPORTS. And therein lies the story of how I became a fan of the Tottenham Hotspurs, a team that plays 3,500 miles away, and how the Africa Cup of Nations became must-see TV.