The Five Billion Person Party

Notes of a wandering American soccer fan

RFK, My Friend

Posted by steigs on March 9, 2008

It’s almost DC United opening day, with our first home game next week against Harbour View FC of Jamaica.  Time to head back to RFK and I’m looking forward to it.  While all the talk lately has been (rightly) about DC United’s next home, whatever it turns out to be, I’d like to go on record saying, you know, I like RFK.  I understand the economics dictating that United get its own home but there’s a part of me that wishes the team could somehow take ownership of RFK, maybe fix it up a little, and call it home for a few more decades.

Okay, sure, it’s run-down and has acquired some quirky seating and other features (thanks, Nationals!).  But it’s ours.  It’s got some atmosphere (thanks, Screaming Eagles, Barra Brava, and La Norte!).  It’s easy enough to get to.  And it’s got some history.  That’s a rare combo for American soccer.

There’s a bit of pop psychology that says male friendships are often built on shared experiences (while female friendships are supposedly bulit more on shared confidences).  In that case, me and RFK, we’re friends.  We’ve shared a lot of experiences….

Some are familiar to most DC United fans — the epic 2004 conference final victory over the Revolution, the 1997 MLS Cup win in the rain over the Rapids, the 1999 conference final destruction of the Crew.  (Not to mention some more painful experiences, like the more recent play-offs.)  Or US national team games, like the qualifier against Jamaica back in ’97 or friendlies against teams like Uruguay and South Africa.  The Women’s World Cup in ’03.  A Belgium-Saudi Arabia World Cup game in ’94 that featured one of the most remarkable goals in World Cup history, though I was too new to the sport to understand just what a fabulous play I’d just seen the Saudi player make, particularly because I was surrounded by unhappy Belgian fans.

Others are more personal.  My first date with my wife was that rainy April 2000 comeback victory over the Fire.  I first really got to know my future father-in-law when he came to town for that brutal World Cup Qualifying loss to Honduras in 2001.   Heck, the time I saw the late, great Ramones at the HFStival, watching the whole floor of the stadium pogo-ing along.  A couple of U2 shows, particularly that drizzly one on the ZooTV tour.

Then there are the more mundane aspects, the warming familiarity of the rituals.  For me, that’s taking the Metro to the game, feeling heartened by the others I see wearing DC United gear along the way, and that walk past the Armory, often amused by the scalpers just outside Stadium-Armory  stop.  (Hey!  We’ve arrived — there are guys who think our tickets are worth re-selling.)  Meeting up with friends who have seats nearby.  Discussing on the subway if it’s hot enough to drink the Sunset Wheat beer or whether we’re in the mood for fries or something else for dinner.  Assessing the game on the ride home.

I know there are plenty of different rituals other fans have, such as the extended, perhaps legendary, tailgating of our friends on the “loud side.”  Maybe kickarounds in the parking lots for the suburban types who drive in with the kids.  These rituals a part of being a fan.  After a tough week at work, it’s soothing to be able to relax and do the usual fun things before, at, and after the game.  I’ve seen it on my travels.  The Arsenal fans grabbing a pint at their usual pre-game pub.  (Wonder if they’ve found a new one, post-Highbury.)  The AC Milan fans snacking at the concession vans in the San Siro parking lot.  Lord of the Wing often speaks for the Celtic fans who take the charter bus into Glasgow for their games.  It’s part of what we love.

I’m sure I’ll like, probably even love, DC United’s new stadium, wherever it turns out to be.  Our management seems to understand that there are some mandatory requirements, like Metro access, and has development experience.  But I’m going to miss RFK when it’s gone.  Probably a lot.  That happens with friends sometimes.  I’ve moved cross-country from where I grew up and went to college and lost track of some friends in the process, people I may never see again.  I miss them but at least we’ve got good memories.  Leaving RFK may be a little like that.  We have to go our separate ways eventually but, you know, I’ll miss it too.   And so I’ll try to take the time to appreciate the next few seasons there, understanding that it’s just a temporary thing now, not the permanent part of my life it’s been for the last decade.

See you there next week!  Let’s have a few more memories before we part.


2 Responses to “RFK, My Friend”

  1. DCUMD said

    You forgot one of the most important parts of RFK… Lot 8!!!

  2. […] friendly.  (See story below.)  It’s certainly no palace but it’s a home.  I can appreciate the pleasures of a familiar rundown place to see a game, that’s for sure.  And I have a soft spot for the team because it’s currently coached by one Dean Saunders, […]

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