"Your sister wanted you to know that Sporting traded Dom Dwyer." Those were the first words I remember hearing after coming out of anesthesia after a minor surgery in July 2017.
"Did you say Sporting traded Dom Dwyer?" I asked my mom repeatedly. Anesthesia fog had me in a place of not really being able to tell what was reality and what was a dream. That day I thought those were words that would encompass my thoughts for awhile. What were we going to do? Who in the world would be a goal scorer for us now? No Dom and we were without Nemeth too! Would my favorite player, Daniel Salloi, be the one responsible to keep things going? That was what I thought I would be worrying about until a week later when I heard the words that would take over my mental space. One phone call from a doctor and the words, "I got your results from your surgery and I am shocked. I didn’t think it was going to say this but it shows you have cancer."
I am not the typical Sporting Kansas City fan. I didn’t start watching The Wiz in 1996. I never saw The Wizards play at Arrowhead or Community America Ballpark, but somehow at some time this team has taken ahold of my heart and my thoughts and made me full-on fan.
I grew up in a loving home in a great little town just outside of Kansas City. We were a sports loving house. The Chiefs and the Royals were the only teams to cheer for. The Cardinals and the Broncos were hated. My summers were spent playing softball, sliding every chance I got whether I needed to or not. Fall was filled with the sound of volleyball and the winter saw almost every night in the gym playing basketball. We were a sports loving and sports playing family and I loved every second of it. I was an athlete. It was who I was, but one sport we knew nothing about and didn’t give any thought to, was soccer. My father called it a "Communist Sport" because he felt it was only played by people in Communist countries. No one I knew played soccer. No one watched soccer. No one talked soccer. In my childhood it was like soccer didn’t exist.
I’m not sure when that changed for me, but I think I started taking notice of the team with the rebranding of the Wizards to Sporting Kansas City with the new ownership group, new marketing of the team and the beginning of the new stadium. I started watching games on television and learning about the game through those broadcasts. I’m not going to lie. I had no idea what was a foul and what wasn’t. I had no clue what offside really was but I did know that I was falling in love with this game. How could a match that ends in a 0-0 draw be that exciting?
I knew things had really changed when my family, including my "soccer is a Communist sport" dad, set together in the living room and watched Sporting win the 2013 MLS cup. We nervously watched the penalty kicks, talked about how crazy those fans were to be standing out there in the freezing cold and we even bought the t-shirts. That was it. All it took. I was hooked.
I attended my first match sitting in the South stands in 2014. I called the next day to see about becoming a season ticket member. I was on the waitlist and got a half season in 2015 and became a full-time season ticket member in 2016. I fell in love with watching the players play, the atmosphere of Children’s Mercy Park and cheering along with The Cauldron.
I was loving life. Attending all the home matches, reading Sporting articles, listening to podcasts, interacting with players on social media and feeling like a part of this amazing fan base. Then my life felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me. I was diagnosed with uterine cancer in July 2017. I was 36 years old, a kindergarten teacher, a "good girl" that never drank or smoked and I was shocked with the news!
I was told it was caught early and shouldn’t be too difficult to overcome. I was scheduled for surgery in August. I was told I would be out of work for 6-8 weeks. I knew I had to set my sights on something good to look forward to. Since I knew that soccer was a bright, shining happy part of my life I decided my goal would be Sporting related so I decided that I would not miss any home matches. Surgery was set for August 29. Sporting had two away matches at NYCFC on September 6 and Columbus on September 10 so I made my goal to be healthy and ready to go for Krisztian Nemeth’s return to Kansas City when the New England Revolution came to town on September 16. That gave me 17 days, 2 ½ weeks to shoot for.
I was lucky. I didn’t have to go through any treatments after my surgery but it was a painful recovery. I sat around, did puzzles, watched television and practically died of boredom, but Sporting KC was a positive distraction from the difficulties of that time. I watched away games, listened to podcasts and read Facebook and Twitter posts. I woke up the morning of September 16 with some continued pain but I was ready to go. Too bad I didn’t get to see much of Nemeth after the knock to Zusi’s head and being sent off with a red card, but I was there in row 5 of section 101 just like every other home match and for that I was grateful.
So maybe I’m not like a normal Sporting fan. Maybe I don’t have the long history with the team that many other fans have. I can’t say I watched Jimmy Conrad. I didn’t see Peter Vermes play. I wasn’t at the freezing cold MLS Cup match, but that doesn’t make me less of a fan. I might not know everything about formations. I don’t look at stats and heat sheets after a match, but I love these guys and this team. When I needed something to believe in, positive ways to spend my time and something to look forward to, soccer, and specifically Sporting, was where I turned.
I look forward to the future as a fan of this team. The growth we will make, more cups we will win, new players we will acquire and new "fights" about who should and shouldn’t be getting playing time. So thank you Sporting Kansas City. Thank you owners. Thank you players. Thank you fellow fans. Thank you for being the perfect stress relief, my favorite conversation starter, my favorite thing to occupy my time and my favorite thing to be a positive light in life’s dark times. I hope every fan feels as lucky as I do to be a fan of Sporting Kansas City.