“Come on you Loons!”
I heard the roaring litanies of the Dark Clouds as they cheered for the greatest soccer team in all the land, the Minnesota United FC. I was standing in the middle of this frenzied mass of soccer hooligan unity as they cheered, yelled, screamed, chastised, and loudly voiced their disapproval of bad calls. “The Green Team Sucks!” (the Green team was, at least during this game, the color of choice for the Referees) is a great example of soccer fan expression. Never before had I been at a sporting event where the crowd was more entertaining than the game, and I felt right at home.
Spenser and Ashlee had an extra ticket, and invited me to join in on one of their Nerd passions: watching the Minnesota United FC play soccer at their stadium, the Nessie. It was a beautiful summer day, perfect for watching two teams of professional athletes compete against each other in a contest of wit, tactics, stamina and fortitude. I arrived there about 30 minutes before the game started at 7 PM. I met up with Spenser and Ashlee outside, was handed a scarf, and in we went. I loved the feel of the stadium, everything felt open and fun and didn’t have any of the bullshit that went with going to other professional sporting events. I got my beer and we headed to the stands.
As Spenser and Ashlee are members of the Dark Clouds (United’s official Fan Club) we stood in their section. Here, I was handed a pamphlet with several lines of chants, a bag of hot nuts, and watched as various instruments of celebration were being distributed and flags being posted. Meanwhile, fellows in front of us gathered and marched, readying what appeared to be megaphones as the crowd patiently waited for the game to start.
Soon, the players were introduced, starting with MN United. Everyone cheered at every player that came out, screaming various chants and crazy phrases at their favorite players. What I found to be entertaining is what happened next when the opposing team came out. After the announcement of every opposing player, the crowd would yell “WHO?!” in response, instead of just booing or being silent like at other events.
After the national anthem, the game was off. In Soccer, each game is divided up into two 45 minute halves with no timeouts, its just a constant back and forth grudge match for 45 minutes straight, twice. The first half was heated, and entertaining. With each passing of the ball, the chants would get louder, and stranger. A small group of people would march in front of the crowd with megaphones, starting up chants and cheers, reading the game and picking the best one out for the situation. Everything from singing about Hot Nuts, to bellowing out their beliefs about the Scottish Lake Monster, Nessie (the nickname of the stadium). They knew how to tell what the crowd and the team needed, and when. Everytime MN United would get a corner, out would come the scarves so they could encourage the team. Everytime they’d score, they’d explode out of the bleachers and wave their flags like they were on the field of battle.
Before long, a damn duck came and landed on the field. Players had to play around the duck, the duck didn’t give a shit, that was his field to land on. I was promised a duck by Spenser and Ashlee, and damn it, they delivered. Pretty soon you started to hear “You can’t call the duck!” coming from the crowd. Seriously, they’ll chant anything.
After two halves of rip roaring energy coming from the stands and a ferocious game played by MN United, they emerged victorious over their foes. The most die hard fans went on the rail, waiting to get a high five, a hug, a handshake and/or a picture from their favorite player. We got a chance to meet a few and get some autographs. All in all, a total success.
I’ve since been to another game after this first one, and dare I say it was just as much fun as the first. That time though, I really got a chance to see the community of the Dark Clouds and soccer in general. They brought us to a cookout in front of the stadium, sharing free beer and great food. People from all different backgrounds were laughing and having a great time, sharing their mutual passion with each other.
I dare say, I’ve become a bit of a fan myself, and now believe in a Scottish Lake Monster.
“Hot Nuts! Hot Hot Nuts! Hot Hot Nuts! Hot Hot Nuts!…”
– Dark Clouds