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Not A Bad Investment

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(Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
(Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
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The following post comes from The Daily Wiz reader, John Gibson. John contacted me via e-mail and wanted to share the following with fellow Sporting KC fans. Definitely a great read, and a good reminder of just how good of a season we all got to experience this year. A big thanks to John for taking the time to share this with us.  -Justin

 

I didn�t plan on buying season tickets for Sporting this year. Sure, I love sports in general, I have watched soccer for years, and my family and I even went to the occasional Wizards match over the years - but spending money to buy season tickets just did not make any sense at all. I am a lucky man in this or any economy: I have a job that pays well - better than I ever dreamed was possible for me when I was a kid growing up on a poor farm in a poor section of the Missouri Ozarks. Unfortunately, I also have found that raising a family in the 21st century is far more expensive than that farm kid I was ever dreamed. With school clothes and mortgage payments and future college expenses to think about, I gently told my older daughter that season tickets simply were not an option for us as we watched the glittering LiveStrong Sporting Park rise on occasional family outings.

My kids, both girls, are 15 and 13. The oldest is, as my wife points out to me frequently, a good son who always knows when the game starts, no matter what the game might be. When she wanted to go see Sporting, well, that was nothing new for a kid who has yet to meet a sport that she did not like. For my younger daughter to want to go to the home opener, though, that was a bit out of the ordinary. So, when our complicated schedule of two adults and two teens fell into place at the last second, we bought tickets to the home opener.

Our seats for that first match at home were great, except for the neighbors. Our delayed purchase meant that we were seated in the same section as the highly obnoxious visiting Chicago Fire fans. My wife (I knew that she was the woman for me when I discovered that she was as much a sports fan as I) and I loved the venue, and we enjoyed the match, even if we were distracted by the buffoonery on display by the visiting fans. Our daughters, on the other hand, were simply transfixed by the match. Our younger daughter in particular stood and cheered for the full 90 minutes. She even tried to learn the lyrics to the songs emanating from the Cauldron so that she could sing along. At home the next day, she was looking up the words on the Internet. She was also framing the poster of the stadium that she grabbed as we left the stadium that first night. I say grabbed because she dove into a box to get the last one, me clinging desperately to her wrist and hoisting her out again, uncertain what possessed her to do such a thing. I had never seen anything quite like this from my daughter.

 

 

I will call my younger daughter Rachel here, because no one calls her Rachel anywhere else. The last thing a 13 year old girl needs is her father writing about her and everyone being able to recognize her. Rachel is a sweet and smart and at that age where she is figuring out who she is. As is inevitable for a kid who is trying to figure out who she is, her parents are sometimes left utterly bewildered. The bewilderment is natural, and not anything to blame on Rachel. If she seems to be radically changed every time she wakes up, that probably because she is radically changed. And then the next day she may change back, or change differently, or grow, or regress, or just generally make me want to tear my hair out, maybe 10 times a day. This is normal, and I know that I was pretty much the same way. I try to be calm and connect with this moving target of a young woman during the final few years that she is in my home.

That last bit is hard, though. Rachel is a cool kid, but she often is way too cool even for her hip dad. She listens to music that I have never heard of, and if I ever learn about the band she likes one week, she moves on to another the next. She can watch anime endlessly, and can tell you about each intricate story line, while I can�t tell one show from another. Rachel and I both love books and the written word, but even there our tastes diverge. About the only thing that I had in common with my parents during long stretches of summers on the farm when I was her age were Cardinal baseball games, and that is still a love that binds me to my parents, my brother, and my aunts, uncles, and cousins. Rachel does not like baseball.

So, as Rachel continued to learn songs from the Cauldron and admire her poster on display in our den, I thought about buying more tickets. I had not purchased any for the second home match, and we watched CJ Sapong score the first goal at LSP from an Applebees. We were happy for the win, but it just didn�t feel right to not be there.

Our budget certainly did not include four season tickets for Sporting. I had heard that happiness requires shared experiences more than it requires purchased things, though. With teenagers, there are precious few shared experiences that all four of us truly enjoy. My wife and I decided that this might be the kind of shared experience our family would treasure forever, and that might even be one of those experiences that the grandkids we do not need anytime soon would hear about. So I bought season tickets. I even splurged a bit for the benefit of my wife and I�s 40-ish year old selves and bought seats in the more protected West Stand.

Rachel was ecstatic. Every match, she had her season ticket member�s scarf draped around her neck. Every match, she wore the jersey that I bought her that first night. For the match that I had to miss for a business trip, she brought a friend from school to take my spot. Rachel and I discussed every match before hand, and we dissected each match afterwards. For months, this 13 year old girl and I always had something to talk about, and that is no small thing.

I knew that Rachel was completely hooked after the Dallas match. The club gave out team posters before the match, and after the match the players were going to autograph them. The game was terrible at the end, and Rachel�s mood had swung to match the terribleness. She was tired, and her team had lost, but she absolutely had to have those autographs. The line was huge - impossibly long for what everyone told me was a niche sport in a town that did not much care for soccer, I thought. My daughters were some of the older kids in line, and kids were everywhere, even as the hour passed midnight. Rachel was grumpy and whiney in a way that only a 13 year old can be. She hated the waiting, but she did not want to go home without getting her poster signed. After a couple of hours of waiting and complaining, Rachel�s turn to meet the players came. Despite having already signed autographs for a couple of hours after playing - and losing in crushing fashion - a soccer match, every player was friendly, professional, and polite. Roger Espinoza asked Rachel about her weekend plans and seemed to genuinely care what they were. Jimmy Nielsen was charming and larger than life. I don�t know exactly what Kei Kamara said to her, but Rachel laughed and Kei is now her favorite player for any sport in any league and on any team. Rachel was happily sleepy for the ride home after 1:00 a.m. that night.

When Sporting played at Colorado in the playoffs, the entire family watched together. We are not big television watchers, but we have taken to all gathering around for Sporting�s away matches. When we played Colorado on that cold and rainy return leg, Rachel wore her blue jersey with a blue scarf under a blue coat with a blue stocking hat that I bought at the stadium that night. This girl who had never been much on being cold or wet for any reason sang and danced and cheered all match long, and she beamed and glowed as we walked to the car and all the way home.

We made an event of the Conference Final. It was our last match at home this season, we knew. Plus, the girls both needed to be outfitted for an upcoming school event. We parked early in our lot and walked to the shops to buy lunch, dresses, and accessories. If you are a father of teenage daughters, you know what it is like to see them try on dresses: you are both proud and terrified as you see that little girl who used to want nothing more than a puppy come out looking so beautiful and grown up that you could cry for a million different reasons. I carried our bags back to our car and then met my wife and the girls before we went into the stadium.

I do not need to rehash the match. When the second goal went in for Houston, I looked down our row of seats and saw Rachel begin to cry. I traded seats with my older daughter. I put my arms around Rachel and held her close as she sobbed harder and harder as the season drew to a close. I have been fan of many teams in many sports for my entire life. I know that most seasons end in heartbreak. Rachel has been a fan of only Sporting, and for just this season. She never really thought that losing was even a possibility. I told her that we should be proud to applaud our team off of the field no matter what.

Our drive home started somber. Rachel admitted to being a little embarrassed of her tears, but my wife found numerous Twitter accounts of car loads of crying children, not to mention more than a few crying full grown men, as I drove us home. Rachel played us all a few peppy songs from her iPod that I vaguely knew. She did not go to bed happy, but her heart was not quite so broken by then.

This morning, Rachel was worried about which of her beloved players might be lost in the expansion draft. We all reminisced about the great season that we had enjoyed, and we struggled with the moral quandary of who to root for in the final now that Sporting was out. Rachel almost bounced out of the car when I dropped her off at school, wearing her blue jacket.

I have already paid for next year�s season tickets.