It was raining. Not the rain for ten minutes kind of rain – but the kind of rain that has you drenched like a mop bucket – the merciless, pouring, pounding kind of rain. It wasn’t cold, so instead, you felt like you were pushed into a muggy puddle, dirty, sweat and salt included. But I wasn’t uncomfortable.
I stood in the bleachers next to friends, but I use the term loosely. These were people that I didn’t know but at that moment in time we were comrades, brothers and sisters, allies. We had our arms wrapped around each other, our throats were sore but relentless.
Smoke wafted up – it was a thick red cloud of smoke. Beer was thrown into the air – so at this point, the rain mixed with spirits and frankly, who knows what else. I was already drenched, what was a few drops of alcohol?
And then – there was the noise. Yelling, stomping, singing, and cheering – a heart-pounding cacophony that swamped you and made you lose yourself, but ultimately brought you into something bigger, more passionate and exciting. By the end of the night, I knew songs I’d never heard before – but they’d never leave my memory again. This was years ago, over ten years, but I still find myself humming to the memory.
And this was my first exposure to American soccer. I lived in Washington, DC for one of my first jobs working on Capitol Hill, and I made my way to a game to cheer for DC United, the MLS team in the area. I had played soccer most of my childhood, but I had lost my connection to the sport. I never dreamed of the passion, the excitement, that would be captured while cheering by the sidelines. And from that moment on, I was a convert.
I followed DC United even after moving away from DC, going to games in Portland against the Timbers, Seattle against the Sounders, and San Jose against the Earthquakes. I converted my husband similarly, chasing the feeling that I had that moment in the stadium – and I’ve never been disappointed.
Fast-forward many years and I couldn’t contain my excitement at the thought of recreating this feeling, but in my local community of Reno. Enter: 1868 FC.
There’s something special about Reno that I have a hard time conveying to people who don’t live here and experience the city through a Casino, smoke-filled lens. They don’t understand that crispness that you experience, walking out to your car on a September morning. They don’t understand the warm summer heat mixed with cotton candy skies as you chase the sunset for a few more hours outside. And they don’t quite understand this overwhelming sense of community and strength that flows only below the surface of the people you meet. And that’s why I think a soccer team in Reno will truly be something special.
But the thing about being a soccer fan is that you’ll never understand the feeling until you experience it firsthand. You won’t feel the commitment, the passion, the energy until you are engulfed in blue smoke, until you surround yourself with fans screaming at the top of their lungs, stomping on the bleachers. Because soccer is a sport you have to feel – and that doesn’t translate well across a tv screen.
If you haven’t yet, give the experience a chance. Grab a spot in section 102 or 103 to experience the thrill of camaraderie. Or, if you want to ease yourself into it, to appreciate the athleticism and skill, find yourself a spot on the grass in the family section to chase your kids and catch up with friends. But whatever you do – don’t dismiss it. Don’t write it off as a boring sport, a slow-paced crawl – because honestly, you have no idea what you’re missing.