Every time you hear a chant, or listen to a drum beat in the stadium, know that what brought that sense of atmosphere to you, is the culmination of hundreds of hours of work from your local supporters group. The songs, the pyro, the beer, the terrible dancing and even the tailgates are the result of volunteers. No one gets paid for this. No one is making money off of this (at least not ethically). When everyone laments the end of the NASL season, it is the first day of the offseason for SG leaders, and that’s when the madness begins. By the time opening day rolls around, what comes as an exciting day of rejoicing for casual fans and ultras alike, is actually graduation day for most SG officers – the result of the entire offseason coming to fruition. Road trips are no different. The measure of planning, coordination and firefighting is in how much you do, without letting anyone know about it. The following is a look at a 24 hour window, before and on an away game. The names have been changed because I don’t feel like listening to them bitch.
Saturday Morning, April 9th –
8:35AM – The alarm goes off. I’ve set it to the Star Wars Cantina song because I have a hard time hating it, and it doesn’t jolt me out of sleep like the default alarm sound. Plus, I have to pee.
8:44AM – The alarm goes off again because I accidentally hit snooze and laid back down. I get up and get dressed in my finest basketball shorts and Ralph’s Mob t-shirt / jersey. I’m going with the Sons of Pirates today.
8:52AM – Jump in Fiona (the truck) and head down to Winn Dixie on the way to the stadium. I have to get some ketchup and pickles and racks of ribs for the tailgate. I stop by RedBox, and rent three movies – Ant Man, The Martian, and Mad Max. I anticipate someone will be upset that Daddy Daycare was not on the playlist. One thing an SG leader knows is that you cannot make everyone happy, and there will be many who hate you no matter what.
9:08AM – Get to the stadium and open up the storage area. Begin loading Fiona with tables, tents and coolers.
9:12AM – Unload first batch in the parking lot to the Mahaffey, where the bus will be coming. Repeat previous step two more times.
9:47AM – People have started arriving for the bus trip. We discuss our food situation, and it is determined that we lack hamburgers and buns. I drive to Publix up the street.
10:12AM – Buns achievement unlocked. Hamburgers acquired. Hot damn that place is expensive.
10:37AM – Pretty much everyone has arrived. Current head count is 42. We were hoping for 55, but a few people had to work or just didn’t feel like going to Miami. The bus is supposed to be here for our 11AM departure. There is no bus.
11:02AM – Still no bus. I call the team, who set up the travel arrangements. They check the email confirmation – the bus should be there. No answer from the company. We play phone tag for the next 30 minutes or so, trying to find out where it is. The bus company does not return phone calls. In my head, they are unable to come to the phone, because they have all taken their own lives by seppuku, as it is the only way to restore their honor after this failure. I deny them the glory of a warrior’s death.
11:42AM – We have started doing shots to kill time. Rum primarily, but there’s vodka as well. A few people have peeled off to get food at Subway and hit the bathrooms. The weather is awesome, except the fact that there’s no bus. A small panic has set in behind my eyeballs. It sounds like Gilbert Godfrey having an orgasm with a seagull.
12:17PM – Borderline panic / anger. Call it Panger. People are discussing storming a bar nearby and watching the game from here, fuck the bus. The team calls back, telling me that the original bus company never called back, so they scored us another company who is on their way. ETA 1:30PM. I take back most of the mean things I’ve said about them, except about Shane Hill. There’s just no forgiving some things. If we build a monument on the stadium grounds, I want it named Beth.
1:18PM – Bus arrives. Much rejoicing is had. We load all the shit into it with precision and are underway in under 15 minutes. As we pull out, I throw my pirated copy of Deadpool into the dvd player and we watch a 1080p bootleg with Korean subtitles. We’re all about multiculturalism. And piracy. Because we’re pirates. Or sons of pirates. Whatever.
1:57PM – I realize midway through the pegging scene that there are children on the bus. I consider apologizing to the parent for the crash course in “daddy what does that mean”, but decide it’s best I pretend not to notice. I go on the internet with my phone. There are people on Reddit who are wrong and they have to be stopped. I make several new enemies.
2:42PM – We pass nothing of any interest. Ryan Reynolds breaks the fourth wall and we all learn the lyrics to X Gon Give It To Ya. The toilet in this bus is very nice. It has a seat lid this time, and actually flushes. The last one literally had a hole and a lot of sloshing. We are fortunate enough to have a swarm of mosquitos in attendance. Everyone is slapping and clapping in the air. If they weren’t drunk this would be a lot less funny. Most of the bugs die from alcohol poisoning. Amateurs.
3:29PM – We hit Alligator Alley. I put Mad Max in the DVD player. The light in the bathroom breaks, so if you have to pee, bring a phone. Operation Spray and Pray becomes the defacto standard. Women undertake Hovering Yoga poses. Max eats a CGI lizard and somehow people think this is a good movie. I argue on the internet some more.
3:58PM – We stop at the only gas station in the Everglades. It’s a combination rest stop, gift shop, toilet and shower place. Everyone buys snacks. They have a pink camouflage alligator head for sale, and I secretly consider purchasing it. Hashtag Florida Man.
4:22PM – The gas station corn dogs were a poor choice. I secretly curse The Brickyard Battalion. The dark brown gods of the underworld begin taking up residence in my lower intestines, and they are displeased. A sacrifice of anti-acids is made to appease them.
5:39PM – We arrive at FIU stadium. It’s a madhouse. There is no parking. Despite the conversation I had with the Miami FC OPS guy, no one knows where we’re supposed to go. The phrase “go up two entrances” becomes actual coded language for “please move out of my eye sight and become someone else’s problem.” We are stopped by the parking enforcement. They are vaguely aware that there’s a soccer game. No one has walkie talkies. The soccer gods laugh at us mockingly.
5:42PM – A fair is going on next door. And a baseball game. We have parked literally in the middle of the road while I play phone tag with the Ops guy again. The phrase “organic tailgate” is brought up in conversation again, although this time, I took the deeper meaning to be “we have no idea where to park your bus, you’re on your own.” In my head, I have just disemboweled him through the phone, using telekinesis. It’s the only way I can achieve satisfaction. Using a tool would be too swift, although I am considering a belt sander to his genitals as an alternative.
5:56PM – We move the bus again. Two more exits. Now we must turn around because we are no longer near the stadium. Parking Enforcement gets off the phone. They have no idea we were coming, or who we are. In their defense, they also have no idea who the Miami OPS guy is either, which is good, because they will not be emotionally impacted by the gruesome discovery of his corpse. At least in my head.
6:02PM – We have to turn around. Once we do, we are now in the same spot, facing the opposite direction. More phone calls are being made. The natives on the bus grow restless to tailgate. The alcohol has worn off and Furiosa is no longer doing her thing anymore. Dude got his face ripped off. I’m secretly fantasizing that this the fate of the bus company that stood us up.
6:07PM – We have to move up a little further. Out the window, we see Dade Brigade playing drums. We wave and flip them off. They wave and flip us off. We’re a classy bunch. So much love. So much love.
6:12PM – We’re back in the middle of the road, this time facing away from the stadium. We pile out of the bus, but we’re not allowed to tailgate. Tailgating is not permitted. So, we break out the ball, grab some of the loose beers from the cooler, and enjoy ourselves. I find out that the bus will be staged behind the baseball stadium, a half mile away. The game starts at 8pm, and we won’t have time to set everything up and tailgate. The anger has now teamed up with the rum shots and the corndogs to create an unholy union of stinky hatred below. I crop dust the Miami FC fans waiting in line by Gate 8. You’re welcome.
6:47PM – I track our group sales ticket rep down, and we do the whole exchange money for tickets thing. One of our fellow traveling fans (who didn’t ride with us) is on the phone with him, asserting themselves angrily and given the opportunity, rectally with a hot fireplace poker.
7:08PM – The bus moves to the left hand side of the road. Tickets are distributed. We play soccer in a field next to the road. It would have been the perfect fucking place for a tailgate. I die a little on the inside. Some of the Strikers fans join us. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. We take pictures.
7:32PM – We pack up the bus, bid it goodbye, and march to the match. Our entrance is closed. So we march further. That one is closed. So we march a little further to the open one. The line is about 100 people long. Thankfully no one recognizes me from Operation Crop Duster. We serenade them with chants and drum beats. No one has any idea who we are. No one is wearing a Miami FC jersey.
7:52PM – After navigating security, and the labyrinth beneath and now on top of the stadium, we make it to our section. Put up our banners, and get into place just as the national anthem is being played on a 1970’s reel to reel. Seriously. They couldn’t scrounge up a high school band to play? Did they blow all their marketing money on “babes”?
8:04PM – The game starts. No one does the “I Believe” chant. My heart swells with pride.
8:00PM to 9:18PM – Soccer stuff happens on the field, and we sing songs. We yell at the referee, Daniel Radford, who we all think should die in a fire. Several people get yellow cards. There is a foul called every 30 seconds. We try and get snacks at halftime to no avail. While in line, a security guard asks Nancy who the Tampa Bay Rowdies are. She tells them it’s one of the teams playing right now. He asks if they’re in “the MLS.” Somewhere up in heaven, Soccer Jesus kicks a puppy in anger.
9:22PM – Some dude plays halftime music. I have no idea what he’s saying, but it sounds good and the Miami FC “Babe” marketing concept is in full swing replete with booty shorts and dancing. Somewhere in California, feminist icon Gloria Steinem weeps silently into her chai latte with soy milk. Another puppy is kicked.
9:24PM – The dude’s name is Maluma, and I have been informed he is the best thing ever. Thanks Jon.
9:27PM – I become aware of the lack of promised “babes” at this particular end of the stadium. Unless “babe” actually means “abuela” in Spanish, I have been lied to. Maybe their marketing guy is just into older women. Much older. I’m thinking Golden Girls Porn. And that image is most likely to burn in.
9:44PM – Three dudes in OCSC gear show up and start hanging around our banner. Dave takes up permanent residence and tells them to fuck off. They say mean words in broken White-Boy Spanish, but Dave is undeterred. They fuck off. The banner is safe. Dave decides he is now the capo from about 30 rows up. No one can hear a word he is saying, but it looks pretty epic. Crazy man yells at clouds. Man I love Dave.
10:24PM – The game is over. We stole a point thanks to a PK. Everyone is starving and we want to go home. We exit the labyrinth by way of four closed gates near our section. 12 minutes later, we finally make it out. No one gives us a hard time. I suspect the ultras won’t show up for another 4 or 5 home games. Good luck to whoever travels here next time – there’s no security. At all.
10:54PM – We finally make it to the bus and I say fuck it – no food will be wasted, so we break out the grills and unload the bus. A hastily assembled smorgasbord is created, and we begin cooking. The vegetarians feast upon leafy green things, and their vegan bloodlust is sated… for now. Mitchell comes over from Dade Brigade, and we swap scarves. He gives us local beer. It’s warm, but tasty. Our beer is nice and cold.
11:02PM – Both grills break. Probably the regulators. But fortunately we get three batches of hot dogs and three batches of burgers out. People are fed. Beers are drunk. People are drunk Everyone is happy. We try and cook asparagus because we think funny smelling pee is hilarious in a broken toilet. I am an evil bastard.
11:15PM – We give up on one of the grills, and eat the asparagus. The bus is reloaded, and we’re underway. We watch Super Troopers. We laugh but mostly everyone falls asleep.
Sunday Morning, April 10th –
12:28AM – We stop at the same gas station. I buy antacids and release a vengeful demon upon the sewage system. In my mind, it becomes a Golgothan and travels through the waterways and in the home of the Ops guy. It strangles him with methane and corn kernels. I rejoice. As the life slowly slips away from his putrid shell of a body, and he is swallowed by malevolent darkness, his dying question of “why?” is answered with the words “organic tailgate.” In horror he then knows my vengeance, as screaming demons tear his soul asunder and drag him down into the depths of the underworld, where eternal torture hungrily awaits him. I also check Twitter. The toilet paper is 1 ply. The Soccer Gods laugh.
We reload the bus, and I put The Martian on. People are mostly asleep by the time we break through Naples and up I75, including myself. I dream of a competent midfield and relentless attack from our 4-3-3 formation. It is too good to be true. I try and science the shit out of it to no avail.
3:57AM – We arrive back at the parking lot, and unload the bus. People disperse. We load up my truck as well as a few other vehicles, and return all the stuff to the storage place at the stadium. Everyone is happy, but tired. We head home.
4:39AM – I shower, and finally crawl in to bed. Everything hurts, including the arches of my feet for some reason.
8:35AM – My alarm goes off because I forgot to turn it off. I go back to bed. My dreams are a lot less angry.
This is not meant to do anything more than entertain you. I am not looking for pity, or a comparison to any other SG’s, but I ask you this one simple favor – if you see one of your group leaders, and they look frazzled, or burned out with that thousand yard stare, go up and thank them for their hard work. Offer them a beer that they won’t have time to drink. Give them a hug. Hell, do the reach down and cup / lift of a butt cheek if you want. Just show them some love. Then, most importantly: volunteer. Find four more people, and have them volunteer too.
The Soccer Gods know we need your help.