Thursday, October 20, 2016

[D.C. Untied 24] D.C. United vs New York City FC, October 16, 2016

October 2, 2015, just about a year ago, was a rainy Friday night at RFK. I know nothing of what’s happening in the season beyond the fact that I have a good time hanging out with my brother and cheering for the guys in black. I don’t know about Davy’s concussion and how the season has been in freefall since he’s been out, with United hemorrhaging points. I don’t know that this game will break a six game losing streak. I don’t know anything about “Bennyball” or Pontius’s hamstrings or, indeed, anything about soccer beyond the need to put the ball in the goal to win.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

[D.C. Untied 23.5] [Interlude] USMNT vs New Zealand, October 11, 2016

In 1799 Henry Lee, father of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, wrote these words in a eulogy for George Washington: “To the memory of the Man, first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

In 1932 the great scholar and poet W.E.B. Du Bois staged a pointed historical pageant titled, “George Washington and Black Folk”, in deep contrast with the near universal hagiographical treatment of the nation’s first president, Du Bois highlights Washington’s ambivalence on ending slavery, his reluctance to act, and puts a spotlight on the many contributions of black Americans in the Revolutionary War. The hero of the pageant turns out to be former slave and leader of the Haitian Revolution Toussaint L’Ouverture, of whom abolitionist Wendall Phillips wrote, “I would call him Washington but the great Virginian owned slaves.”

Days before the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team was set to play New Zealand in a friendly, Saudi Arabia, with the tacit approval of and using weapons sold to them by the United States, bombed a mass funeral in Yemen, killing and wounding hundreds.

This is what ran through my head the evening of the October 11th at RFK Stadium when the American Outlaws unfurled their banner proclaiming us, “First in War, First in Peace, First in Soccer.”

It made my stomach turn in disgust. “First in War,” is not something to be proud of and I have yet to see evidence of either “First in Peace” or, indeed, “First in Soccer.”

I’d been expecting something different, something lighthearted. This wasn’t a competitive match, after all. Why not a banner making a reference to some of New Zealand’s cultural output--a joke about Flight of the Conchords or The Lord of the Rings, perhaps? But the fun, bantering atmosphere that I’ve come to love at D.C. United games is completely absent from U.S.M.N.T. games.

I attended my first Men’s National Team game earlier this year, during the Copa America tournament. My buddy Paul had an extra ticket to the game against Paraguay at Lincoln Field in the Stadium District of Philadelphia and, not knowing better, I accepted it.

There was a big, very friendly Paraguayan family seated to our left and a drunk American bros on every other side, including a real gem of a bro in Edgartown Red shorts kept standing up to flip the bird at the Paraguayan family. The chants of “USA USA USA” felt inappropriately belligerent and more than a little nativist. Chanting “USA USA USA” at the local immigrant population was not something I felt comfortable doing. I didn’t join in with that or any of the cheers.

Later that month, also during Copa America my friend L., who is Mexican-American, was going to attend an American Outlaws watch party with her husband, who is white. They ended up separated by the crowd. He was waved into the bar but she was turned away. “Members only,” the guy at the door said.

After those experiences I had decided never to attend another national team game or watch party again. That nativist atmosphere was just not something I felt comfortable with. But when this game against New Zealand was announced, I’d decided to give it another try, especially after local boy Bill Hamid was called up by Jurgen Klinsmann. My hope was that a friendly against a “white” country that didn’t also represent a local marginalized immigrant community would be free of uncomfortable jingoism. I was wrong. It still felt like a Trump rally when my section rose to its feet chanting “USA USA USA”.

I’d brought a cheeky handwritten sign with me expressing my disapproval of Jurgen not starting our homegrown hero in goal: “FREE HAMID.”

I’d intended it as a lighthearted joke but as the game wore on, and my discomfort grew, it felt more like a protest. FREE HAMID to join the Black Lives Matter protests or take a knee with Colin Kaepernick if he wants to. FREE HAMID from having to suck up to Europe-biased Jurgen or put up with these nativist chants of USA USA USA. FREE HAMID from this bullshit.

I’ll still cheer on and support the players on the national team but I cannot in good conscience participate in that supporter culture.

I’ll stick to D.C. United.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

[D.C. Untied 22-23] D.C. United vs Orlando City SC, September 24, 2016, and D.C. United vs Columbus Crew SC, September 28, 2016

When I last left you, gentle readers, D.C. United had valiantly fought back from a two goal hole, scoring twice in six minutes to tie the New York Red Bulls in stoppage time and for Viernes de Futbol the following week in Chicago they drew the same scoreline: 2-2. We made a party of it. After work, I took the Metro out to Maryland where I met my brother and sister-in-law and the new baby over at my parents house. Beers in hand (except for the baby) we tuned into the game on the big screen TV, laughing in gleeful disbelief as Rob Vincent took an indirect freekick from inside the penalty box, scoring the opening goal. And then we’d groaned in disappointment as it was answered minutes later by Chicago and then answered again. United seemed tired, slow of both foot and thought, as if the pitch had been spread with molasses. A second half stoppage time equalizer from captain Bobby Boswell salvaged a point but unlike the previous week’s effort, it didn’t feel quite like a win. Chicago is the worst team in the East and we just barely scraped out a draw? Was my optimism all for nothing?

Oh me of little faith.

Two weeks later and we’re sitting on our first winning streak of the season: 3 wins in a row, including a massive win on the road against Toronto FC. D.C. United has gone from clinging onto 6th place with our collective fingernails and a series of hard-fought draws to racing past Philadelphia and hot on Montreal’s heels in a fight 4th which would guarantee us a home game in the playoffs.

And I’m late writing about it for a few reasons.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

[D.C. Untied 21] New York Red Bulls vs D.C. United, September 11, 2016

And a note from me: Get well soon, Sean!!

The story of D.C. United at Red Bull Arena begins almost two weeks ago on Thursday, September 1 at Yankee Stadium. Days after an incredible 6-2 hosing of the Chicago Fire, D.C. United traveled north to New York to face N.Y.C.F.C. To say that expectations were high is an understatement. D.C. United had just scored six goals. They looked good and the fans were ready for the first winning streak of the season.

The problem is that N.Y.C.F.C. is a team that can win games. They’re very uneven and their defense is one of the worst in the league but they can win. N.Y.C.F.C. spent big money on David Villa (17 goals) and Frank Lampard (12 goals) for a reason. If they’re going to win, they’re generally going to win by outshooting you, not by keeping goals out. D.C. United, on the other hand, under former defensive midfielder Ben Olsen, has spent the last few years winning by defending and has spent most of this year unable to score much of anything and scraping out a fair number of 1-1 draws. You have to add up our top seven goal scorers this season to equal the total of N.Y.C.F.C’s top two, and one of those seven is centerback Steve Birnbaum!

But D.C. United seemed to have figured it out. And they played the first 75 minutes of the game against N.Y.C.F.C. like the team we’d seen take Chicago out behind the woodshed. Fluid attack, keeping N.Y.C.F.C.’s chances to a minimum… but we’d only scored once. And we’d lost that 1-0 lead too many times this season. Would this be the game that broke the streak? As the clock ticked on towards 90 minutes, all of us watching at home started to hope. Yes, it would be today!

And then it all came crashing down.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

[D.C. Untied 20] D.C. United vs Chicago Fire, August 27, 2016

Good luck tonight, D.C. United!! I have to admit that I got caught in my "Tommy McNamara For President" T-shirt in Clarendon on Sunday by the dad of a friend of Tommy's. He stopped me and was like, "Tommy McNamara the soccer player?" "Yes," I replied. "I'm a big fan! I'm so mad he didn't get called up to the U.S. Men's National Team." "Well," said Tommy's friend's dad, "I hear he's having a lot of fun in New York." "Tell him I'm cheering for him!" I said. But, the truth is, tonight I'm not cheering for Tommy. I'm cheering for the boys in Black and Red! SORRY TOMMY! Tonight you're on the wrong side.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

[D.C. Untied 19] D.C. United vs New York Red Bulls, August 21, 2016

Picking up the story from where I left off in the last post. I’d just gone to the Q&A on Tuesday evening, the 16th of August.

I was still in the process of emerging from jet lag as the week finally rolled into Friday. I’d made it through. And my reward was that one Mr. Steve Birnbaum (the “Pear Tree,” as my Dad calls him) was going to be doing a little autograph signing in the Wells Fargo right by my apartment building. I have no idea what sort of sponsorship Wells Fargo has with D.C. United but I will say this: I’d never have had a reason to set foot in a Wells Fargo without the lure of an autograph from Six Thirty Birnie himself.

The event was set to take place from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. Not wanting to seem too eager, I showed up at the cool, way more casual time of 4:05. A couple of the bank staff were outside with signs and a balloons and they seemed excited to see me. “I’m here for that,” I said, pointing to their sign.

“Just walk right through to the back,” said the Wells Fargo staffer. “He’s really nice.”

As advertised, when I’d threaded my way through the tiny bank branch, there was Steve “Big Time” Birnbaum standing and chatting with a couple and doting on their baby. All the jokey comments I was going to zing him with about making sure his ladyfriend kept those preppy photo shoots coming flew out of my head. My stomach started to hurt and I could feel myself beginning to flush. I was star struck.

Monday, August 22, 2016

[D.C. Untied 18] D.C. United vs Portland Timbers, August 13, 2016

YES I'm back! My jet lag is swiftly falling away and I should have the second part of this up in the next day or so. For the four or five of you who read this. Heh. Comments are welcome, feel free to message me or tweet at me or whatever. I know I don't always get everything right and I know that there's a lot I don't know about soccer and being a supporter but I'm learning. Slowly learning. I've also been told by certain people they don't care if I use their names. If you are one of those people who doesn't care if I use your name, let me know. I try to err on the side of caution and privacy but am happy to attribute quips at my expense where credit is due.

“You look like a zombie.”

That was how Tim greeted me at the District Ultras tailgate on Saturday. I had nothing to say in response. It was a fair assessment. He’d been watching me slowly shuffle my way across Lot 8 towards the river. I’d even downed a cancer-giving Red Bull--before setting foot on sacred RFK ground, thank you very much--but it was no use. I felt like a zombie. I’d been back in the United States for less than 24 hours and the only thing capable of powering my beyond-fatigued corpse was the thought of being back in section 127 cheering for D.C. United.

Note from Filmi Girl:

I love Bollywood - and all the ridiculous things that happen in Bollywood - but it doesn't mean that I can't occasionally make fun of various celebrities and films.

If you don't like my sense of humor, please just move on by - Trolls are not appreciated and nasty comments will be deleted.

xoxo Filmi Girl