Way back in the dark ages of 2011, I opined about being a soccer hipster. I do it often. My theory has always been that while many soccer fans do indeed want to grow the game, a good portion of soccer hipsters like having their own thing. They do not want casual fans at their events.
We were there in crowds of less than 7,000. We stood tall in the pouring rain. We remember when Zack Schilawski was our savior. Where were you, man? Still with the establishment, huh?
Forget about television deals with ESPN and Fox. Forget about the fact that MLS out-averages other institutional sports teams. Us hipsters have never cared about your clichéd stats, facts, or figures. Those things are too tripe. Things only looked at by corporations, you bourgeois clone.
We don't care that Portland and Seattle have moved soccer into the sporting lexicon of their cities, while the New England Revolution have still remained an afterthought in Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Connecticut (even though they are only pretend New England - says the guy living in Alabama). This has, is, and probably always will be our thing. But us soccer hipsters see it coming. We see what is happening.
We're going mainstream.
At this very moment, the Revolution, their supporters, and us aging soccer hipsters are sitting on the precipice of something that may be looming larger than our biggest piece of silverware ever. This is not just due to the upcoming MLS Cup Final appearance either. To me, it all started when Boston Magazine's Kevin Alexander wrote in a provocatively titled piece that, "The Krafts are the Worst Owners in the League." This was the beginning of a climb up from complete irrelevance.
Honestly speaking, no one will ever claim that Alexander's article did anything other than say, "Hey, we have a soccer team, and they're being ignored by not just you, but their owner as well" but to me, in my world of hyperbole, it saved the team.
Since that article, there has been a major player acquisition in Jermaine Jones. An MVP-caliber season and international call up for Lee Nguyen. Seemingly substantial movement on a stadium in Boston - though I wouldn't be the first to question if it is real or not. And record crowds in Gillette.
More importantly, my father is texting me about soccer. This is something that he has never done before. Not when I was a season ticket holder and invited him to games, which he somehow always had an excuse not to attend. Not during the World Cup, when he would at least casually watch the game.
Over the last few weeks, my father has become obsessed with aggregate scores, away goals, Lee Nguyen, that Charlie David [sic] guy, the kid from Leominster that doesn't play anymore, and if a stadium in Boston - not too far from where he works - could be feasible. Yesterday, the day prior to MLS Cup, my father actually texted me a picture of himself and my mother holding a replica MLS Cup in New England Revolution gear.
You don't get too much more mainstream than that.
Three MLS Cup Keys for the Revolution
Seth offers three keys to an MLS Cup Victory in Southern California
It's odd as an admitted I-don't-care-if-you-want-to-support-soccer-or-not guy, that I am finding that I do care. My soccer hipsterism is making way to a hey-it's-kind-of-cool-that-my-seventy-year-old-dad-cares attitude, or a I-like-having-this-team-receive-legitamate-attention-from-major-outlets feeling. Maybe that's part of getting older. Maybe that's part of seeing this team and league grow up. Maybe even us hipsters give up our berets and skinny jeans, shave our goatees, cut our hair, and buy glasses for prescriptions instead of style.
It's weird for me, a noted and proud soccer hipster, to watch games from thousands of miles away and look into the Fort and not recognize faces. Up until last season, I could look on to the Fort on TV and recognize at least three-quarters of those standing and cheering. Now I have trouble pointing out the people I've known. My fellow hipsters who were there before it was cool. And oddly enough, though I wasn't sure this would be the case, I'm okay with that. As a soccer hipster, it didn't matter if the needle moved or not. Now that I'm older, I realize I do kind of care.
Sure, winning MLS Cup may not move it completely. Michael Felger coming out in constant defense of the Revolution may not do it. Michael Holley saying that he knows MLS isn't the best, but we should support local sports probably isn't the savior. And a loss in MLS Cup followed by a few seasons of mediocrity may push the Revs' importance back south of the Providence Bruins and Pawtucket Red Sox.
But, even as a soccer hipster, I can see things changing. I guess this is good. I guess growing up means becoming part of the establishment. Joining those who we rebelled against, or in this case having those who rebelled against soccer join us. I guess this is a good thing. This maturity. This growing up.
Plus, despite everything else, we can all remain steadfast in our abhoration of Dan Shaughnessey.