Two years ago I was a virgin. A soccer virgin. Then I went to the Real Madrid-Union match at Lincoln Financial Field and decided to become a full-time fan. I haven’t looked back.
Reader Mike requested that, with the dawn of the new EPL season, I should write a casual fan’s guide to the league. Which is what I will do. In the Greenwich meantime, here is my post from two years ago, when I wrote about my first time.
I didn’t know what to expect.
It was my first time and all I knew was that most in the world are obsessed with it. The unadulterated passion that evokes far-ranging emotions and actions, the primal instincts it brings to the surface — they’re all present.
It was warm. A little too warm, in fact. Not knowing what I was getting into was the toughest part. Would I be left for the better after having experienced it? Or will it send me into a crazed, pseudo-obsessed frenzy, one whose roots extended well beyond my professional life and deep into my personal existence?
I’ve never really come close to giving it a chance. Sure, all my life, in my 28 years, I’ve danced around it, and I have, on occasion, flirted with it. You can’t help but wonder: if it’s so good for so many people, what am I waiting for?
I plowed ahead.
There would be no turning back now. My heart began to race a little. Flutter, even. Beat beat. Beat beat. It was a nervous excitement that could only be likened to the feeling of giving a keynote speech in front of a room full of admired peers. So much could go right… far more could go wrong.
I kept going.
Breathing heavier and heavier, I felt a bead of sweat drip down my brow. I wondered if I would even last. I was already melting and this certainly was an activity that applauds stamina.
I had read so much about it. Knew the basics, but understood very little. It’s like drinking alcohol for the first time, really. Everyone knows what sort of experience he or she wants to have, but not until you do it a few times — for several years — do you really get the hang of it and come to know what you can and can’t get away with. When you first start drinking, everything seems like fair game: Frangelico and Coke? Sure, why not? Vodka and apple juice? You bet.
Quickly you learn those concoctions lead to a date with the sad side of a toilet seat and everything you thought you knew about becoming a pro, an adult drinker, was incorrect.
That’s sort of how I felt as I was on the precipice of succumbing to my desires. I thought I would be able to make a killer Tom Collins right off the bat, but somewhere deep down inside, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. Not tonight.
As I pressed forward and saw the menacing facade of Lincoln Financial Field surrounded by throngs of Hispanic Real Madrid fans wearing clothes and hairdos I did not know, I knew this experience was going to change my sports fandom. For better or worse.
I pushed forward.