David Knopf - City’s newfound love for Sporting KC crowds out an old-school fan

10/28/2013 11:14 AM

10/28/2013 11:14 AM

What a relief to see the Chiefs and Missouri winning all those games and getting pages of wraparound coverage while the city gives Sporting KC no more love than professional lacrosse, roller derby or full-contact macrame.

Had the Royals made it to the postseason and drawn that kind of attention, Sporting and the others might’ve been bumped to the Healthy Senior Living section.

Don’t jump to conclusions. I’m not some blathering fan whining about how his team doesn’t get enough attention. It’s just the opposite here at Dave’s Underdog Heaven, where anonymity and elbowroom are sacred.

I can’t speak for Sporting Nation, but I was getting a little uneasy with all the positive attention the team was getting. Had the Royals totally tanked toward the end of the season and the Chiefs and MU then pulled vintage nosedives, SKC was

this close

to achieving the lofty status of the old Kansas City Comets.

And we all know what happened to them.

I’ve been a soccer fan as long as I can remember. I can’t remember as long as I once did, but you get the idea.

Back in the day, a fan of the game in the U.S. was almost assured of being able to put his feet up on the row in front of him and his elbows on the row behind.

Further, you could spread out, limbs splayed in all directions, get comfortable and yell at the referee, audible enough in a near-empty stadium so fans at the other end could hear.

Given the sport’s unpopularity in the 1980s, a fan never felt cramped and wasn’t expected to stand, chant or wear a team scarf.

In fact, we were all Lone Rangers or, if you prefer Marines for your analogies,

The Few, The Proud, The Soccer Fans

.

Things have changed. A secure beachhead has been won for professional soccer in this country, and reinforcements, supplies and a USO tour are poised offshore.

Were he still alive, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see John Wayne wading toward the beach, submachine gun over his head, with face paint and a scarf, chanting, “I believe that we will win!”

Back in the old days, when a fan could walk down the middle of the concourse blindfolded and not bump into anyone, team paraphernalia was almost non-existent.

I did happen to find a Wizards-era jersey for something like $3.99 on a clearance rack at a store that no longer exists, in a mall that no longer exists.

I may be dating myself, but at least I’m still in business — and I still have the jersey.

These days, regular-looking people with Chiefs caps and Royals jerseys attend Sporting games, and not even ironically. It’s almost like soccer fans and the mainstream have become one happy family.

I don’t begrudge Sporting, its owners or the Long Suffering Soccer Fan their success, but now when I go to a game I’m hemmed in by people getting gone with their bad selves, acting out in gladiator costumes and Native American headdresses, pounding drums and tossing smoke bombs and confetti onto the field.

Gone are the days when a guy could go to a soccer game, have a good rest and enjoy some nice peace and quiet. I’m still a dedicated fan, but my seat of choice is now the recliner.

If John Wayne or Bob Hope’s USO troupe happens to come ashore and I miss it, I’ll have no regrets. I can say I was there when the beachhead was won.

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