The noise sounded like a plane taking off in the backyard. Louder than before — before, well, you know — if not in decibels, then certainly in my memory.
A spontaneous eruption of cheers from a stadium packed tight with fans. That sound. Remember it?
The piercing roar. The energy that hits like a Mike Tyson uppercut. The communal gesture of high-fiving and hugging total strangers because social distancing has no business being part of a sporting event.
To experience that scene again, to hear it, whew, words cannot do it justice.
So I stood there Wednesday night and just listened.
It was beautiful.
Allianz Field, home of Minnesota United, came alive with 19,209 fans in attendance to witness a 2-0 win over Austin FC in this market's first major sporting event at full capacity since the COVID hiatus.
The stadium rocked as fans danced and waved scarves and screamed until their throats burned. Same as it ever was.
Take a can of soda, shake it for 15 seconds and then open it. That's how the stadium looked when the Loons scored two early goals.
"We've got a special atmosphere here," coach Adrian Heath said. "The one thing it shows you is how important supporters are to this game."
It's amazing how unique and special a regular-season game in front of a sellout crowd feels after having it taken away so suddenly. Maybe we all took going to a ballgame for granted before the pandemic, the routine nature of it. Probably not anymore, at least not for a while.
Wednesday marked the Loons' ninth game of the season. It felt like opening day, like something brand new and different.
"It is going to be surreal," said fan Charlie Piotrowski, who plays drums in the Wonderwall supporter section. "I have been looking forward to this for a very long time. Being with my friends, being in the stadium, being with the community."
The sports world's return to normalcy has come in drips. First there were games in protective "bubbles." Then games in empty stadiums with piped-in music. Then a small percentage of fans were allowed in.
The slow march is nearly complete, thankfully, with stadiums and arenas opening back up to full capacity. The Twins, Vikings and Gophers have announced plans to fill their venues.
Fans are beyond ready. You could feel that anticipation outside Allianz hours before doors opened.
"It's going to be unlike anything else I've ever experienced," Piotrowski said. "It's all pent-up energy."
For fans but also for team employees. United CEO Chris Wright admitted being emotional as he reflected on the magnitude of the moment and the journey. It had been 20 months since United's last home game at full capacity, and the heaviness of events in that space both globally and right here in Minnesota have changed us.
"To get to this point and to be able to celebrate in front of 19,000 people," Wright said, "is going to be absolutely incredible."
Some aspects never change. Navigating concourses felt like a combination of bumper cars and dodgeball, a hot, sweaty mass of humanity. No worries. Fans looked entirely comfortable being crammed together again.
"You just want to be around everybody and absorb the energy," Piotrowski said.
That's precisely the essence of being a spectator at a sporting event. You want to be part of something, hopefully something fun, and that cool experience has been absent from our lives for too long.
Smaller crowds were better than no crowds, but not a satisfying substitute for the real thing, a full-throated sellout crowd.
A United player told Wright recently that playing in front of 4,000 fans at Allianz sounded like 20,000.
"Well, OK, I bought that at the time," Wright said. "But wait and see what it's like tonight. And if we sing 'Wonderwall' at the end of the game …"
That was the topper. Fans got to perform that post-victory tradition. They sang as loud as their voices could muster.