It was a beautiful day in Buffalo.
It smelled like match day.
There was enough of a gust to imagine wind might play into the tactics, but the classically-warm May morning met the smell of cut grass to tease what might as well have been Opening Day of our season.
Today marks exactly one year since we kickstarted our 10th Anniversary season with a visit from Monarcas Morelia of Liga MX. That was a Friday, where after a day of taking the opponents to local schools to meet high school players, we put on our white away jerseys and met several players for the very first time.
The songs of supporters echoing beneath the roof at Robert Rich Sr. All-High Stadium were still in our ears as we piled into Mes Que for post-match reverie. There was a sort of rushed mayhem as we double-checked passports and plane tickets ahead of Sunday’s flight to Germany — That’s an entire post worth of other memories and emotions — but all-in-all we were flying, free to dream of exploring our world and our club.
Yeah, it smelled like soccer today, though that free feeling is shut down for now.
We walked past the team jerseys several times, and hearts weren’t skipping any beats in preparation for the opponent and occasion.
We eyeballed stacks of tee shirts but didn’t have to wonder which would sell best and need re-ordering come Monday.
Our eyes even caught a glimpse of bottles sat gathering dust instead of collecting water, and the mascot’s head — sorry kids, he’s not real — just stared across the room at towels that would not require use by the adjacent washing machine and dryer.
God, we took it for granted. We didn’t know we were, honestly. Maybe you didn’t, either. This club has always underlined its gratitude to supporters, who’ve always pushed the blood out of its heart and into the stadium. For fans in the seats, for their voices reaching out to the players. For the chance to wear a blue and gold shirt in pursuit of goals, victories, and that untapped keg of glory.
Those things are shackled up right now, and let’s be honest: They are rattling around in their containers, causing the locks to dance and the chains to clang. It’s an eerie, unsettled feeling; Passion without an outlet, a flame with neither hearth nor wood. A calendar where the only guarantee is that the day ends in y, the preceding letters mostly irrelevant.
So for our part, we push forward. We’ve been announcing the players that committed to our team before the coronavirus changed our summers in a major way. We’re on multiple calls a week, if not every day, discussing what might allow some sort of soccer but also how to support what we’ve built over 11 years. The moods and outlook oscillate like an electric fan with every news report, scientific study, or governmental edict. Can we start in July? What’s the latest date we can mix it up, and how do we make it there? Can anyone watch in person?
We know we’re not alone. The local men’s league would’ve opened play today, and this sport has gifted us friends all over the world. They’d be @#$@#$%& fired up in Minneapolis, in Cleveland, in Duluth, and — yes, maybe, probably, we guess — that town in Northwest Pennsylvania with the Krispy Kreme and the Maritime Museum.
Friends we made last year and followed from Dortmund, Hamburg, and Duisburg were feeling this pain even earlier, not just the knowledge that the game’s been taken away from them by a nefarious villain but the fact that that foe is strong and will threaten so many of our friends and family if we do the things we love so much.
And so we wait, and it stinks. There are way worse and more vulgar verbs we’d like to use there, but it doesn’t sit right with anyone.
It doesn’t smell anything like the warm, classic air that led off this post.
That’s still with us, and it can carry our hope not just for soccer but for the brave people helping us beat this thing. We’re not just talking about the myriad health workers, first responders, scientists, and advocates working toward a cure, nor even the folks making sure we can pick up fresh food for our family or restore order when something breaks, but also those of you who have claimed your role as a social distancer, a mask wearer, a positive voice in negative discussions, and an encouraging spirit in the most dire of atmospheres. We know we can be better because you are showing us.
Don’t get us wrong: This can be a daunting time for the hopeful. It can toss weighted vests on the most buoyant of personalities and douse the most passionate members of our club with the cold waters from the darkest depths of despair.
But we’re encouraged every day by the people we’ve met in growing this club, the ones who make it more than players and staff, scary budget lines and un-inflated match balls.
Planning is difficult these days but we want you to know that once we come back, whenever that is, we’re going to celebrate you, celebrate us, and celebrate everyone who got us through the dang thing (Nurses and doctors, if you like soccer, we’ve got as many tickets as you need. If you don’t like soccer, maybe meet us for a drink or snack after the game?).
We’re thinking of you. Thanks for thinking of us, and doing what’s right to make sure as many of us as possible have a chance to walk out into the stadium when it’s good and safe, and hear those wonderful words carrying into the North Buffalo night.
We’re tearing up a bit just imagining the scene.