A guest post from Stu followed by the first-ever guest post from Dana Wessel? #manohman
Here's Wessel on his trip to Kansas City for the U.S. World Cup qualifier vs. Guatemala:
Well look what we got here! Longtime RandBall reader, first time contributor. Now I just need to eat buffalo wings in every zip code and my bucket list will be complete.
I made the trek on Monday to Kansas City to see the United States Men’s National Team face Guatemala in a must-win World Cup Qualifying match at the beautiful Livestrong Park.
Joining me for the journey were my friends Tim, Amy, Jimmy and Dylan the rocket scientist who flew in from Denver.
We arrived late Monday evening in time for the always-epic American Outlaws night before party. The American Outlaws are a national fan group founded in 2009. It currently has 75+ chapters across the nation and tens of thousands of members. Gathering with other AO members is the best. I liken it to being a nerd and meeting up with your friends at summer camp -- you get picked on everywhere else for being different but this is a place you are accepted.
Plenty of soccer celebrities at the bar. I shook hands with former US players and current broadcasters Alexi Lalas and Taylor Twellmen. Both super cool guys. I also briefly met the golden-throat Ian Darke. You may remember him from such play-by-play calls as Landon Donovan rescuing the US against Algeria in the 2010 World Cup and Abby Wambach stunning Brazil at the last second of the 2011 World Cup. He jokingly told me I probably didn’t need any more 32-oz beers. He was probably right.
The day of the match will make the podium of my best days of 2012. Our hotel had an indoor water park and I took advantage. My buddy Tim and I scoffed at the 400-pound weight limit for the two person raft ride and went down it anyway. Any time you have an opportunity to risk your safety riding down a water slide on the same raft as one of your best friends, you have to take advantage. It’s all about the little things in life.
After crushing ribs at Arthur Bryant’s, we went to the tailgate at noon with fans from all over the country in attendance. Beer was flowing. Bonds were being made. Soccer was being talked. I made it a point to shake hands and take pictures with a few of Guatemalan fans. I’m all about diplomacy. They were all very cool and polite, which made me feel kind of bad (not really) for the entire stadium singing “You’re not going to Brazil” at their small fan section once the US had put the match away.
An hour before the match we took part in another of my favorite US match traditions: the march into the stadium. Picture hundreds of US fans marching in a mob to the stadium, singing, blowing horns, banging drums. A very cool scene.
The American Outlaws section is always GA directly behind the goal. Our crew ended up in the third row inside the box. If you watched on TV, you saw how passionate the crowd was, singing and chanting the entire match. Thankfully unlike the meatheads at the Ryder Cup that chant U-S-A over and over, we have tons of songs and chants.
The US fell behind 1-donut but scored the final 3 goals of the match and won going away. I hugged multiple strangers after each goal. That is one of the magical things about sports. They have the power to propel a grown man into the arms of another grown man he has never met before.
The coolest part might have been an impromptu celebration that happened on the way out of the stadium.A few hundred fans gathered in a big circle and sung God Bless America at the top of our lungs in the entry way of the stadium. I get a lot of guff for being a soccer fan, but moments like that make me not care. It is them who are missing out, not me.
It was a successful trip. My beloved US squad got the full 3 points, kept their World Cup dreams alive and I had a blast, despite losing my voice and acquiring bruises in odd places. The only thing that went wrong is that I still haven’t found a way to be best friends with Clint Dempsey (I swear he’d like me if we ever met, I SWEAR).
If you ever have a chance to go to a US match, soccer fan or not, you should definitely do it. It is an amazing experience and unique to what you’ll find in other sports. We all may like different NFL/MLB etc teams, but we are all citizens of the same country. And rooting your country to victory is as cool as it gets.
The final round of qualifying (The Hexagon) starts in March. Six teams play each other home and away for a total of 10 matches. Three points for a win, one point for a tie, top three go to Brazil 2014. Hit me up if you want to carpool.