Welcome to the refreshed Eighty Six Forever! To celebrate the new look and feel of our sports communities, we’re sharing stories of how and why we became fans of our favorite teams. If you’d like to do the same, head over to the FanPosts [http://www.eightysixforever.com/fanposts] to begin. We’re collecting all of the stories here [https://www.sbnation.com/why-we-are-fans] Come Fan With Us!
I'm a new writer at Eighty Six Forever. Because of this all of my interactions with the other staff have been through email. I don't know what their faces look like or for sure how old they are, but I can say with a pretty high degree of certainty that I am the youngest.
I know a lot of other people my age, in the range of about 16-20, choose to support a bigger foreign team. I’ve heard from more people than I can count that they don’t watch the Whitecaps because the level of soccer is so much lower than what’s on offer in the European leagues. It’s hard to argue with that assessment. MLS is growing, to be sure, but it’s nowhere close to the Premier League, or La Liga, or possibly even the Serbian SuperLiga.
Others, usually older fans, argue that MLS is too corporate and instead choose to support other smaller local teams. Once again, it’s hard to argue with their logic.
So why is it that I continue to sit through Kendall Waston’s aimless long balls to nobody while being bombarded with announcements about Chevron Prize Packs and the infamous “BMO move of the match?” Well, being a soccer fan isn’t really based on logic. For me, it has always been very much an emotional enterprise.
I feel a very emotional connection to the Whitecaps, probably because they’ve been a part of my life for so long. My hope is that, as I tell you my fan story, I will be able to convey how these feelings began and continue to this day.
This story begins at Swangard Stadium in 2006. I remember being outside the stadium with my dad, my uncle and my grandad. My dad joked that every time he went to a game the ‘Caps won 3-0.
I was eight, so my memory of the event is a little hazy. But I do remember that the opponent was the Portland Timbers and that it was sunny. I also remember the feeling of elation as the Whitecaps took the lead through David Testo.
The match finished 3-0 for the Whitecaps, just as my dad predicted, but I only remember the first goal because I made myself sick on candy and had to lie down. Nevertheless, I was enthralled with the experience.
My dad and I returned for another match against the Virginia Beach Mariners, another 3-0 victory. I made it through the whole game this time, and now I was truly hooked.
My dad took me to all of the remaining games that year. We stood with the Southsiders, probably not the greatest environment for an eight year old, but I turned out ok in the end, and I really admired their passion.
In the first round of the playoffs the Whitecaps faced a Miami FC side which featured Brazilian star Romario. But this was not enough to keep the Whitecaps down, as they won 6-1 on aggregate.
In the next round they came up against the Montreal Impact. Despite dominating the first leg, the Whitecaps couldn’t beat the towering Greg Sutton (I remember he only needed to stand on his toes to touch the crossbar).
The ‘Caps went to Montreal needing to win away. Back in the USL days the games weren’t often on TV, so my grandad brought a portable radio to a family dinner out and we listened as the ‘Caps defied the odds to win 2-0 and advance to the final.
In my grade 2 class we had a system to keep the kids in order where if you were loud during quiet time three times there’d be punishment. Since I was a quiet kid the only time I ever made it to three strikes was breathlessly recounting the Peter Schaad’s call of Sita-Taty Matondo’s late goal.
We watched the Final, against the Rochester Raging Rhinos, at my uncle’s friend’s house. I was very nervous, my little eight year old self was having trouble processing all of the emotions, so I turned to my Grandad for some words of wisdom. “They’ve come this far, they may as well win it” he told me, and that’s exactly what they did.
These handful of games at the end of 2006 would create within me a love for the team that was there to stay. I, along with a number of family members and friends, have been season ticket holders since 2007.
There has been a lot of joy, and also a lot of pain. I’ve grown up with the team, from telling all of my friends in grade 2 about the game to huddling over my laptop in my university dorm room, Whitecaps games have been an ever-present part of my life.
Most of my childhood heroes were were Whitecaps players. In particular I loved Jay Nolly. I was a young goalkeeper and I watched every home game from behind the goal in the Southside so it was only natural that Nolly would become my personal hero. One of my fondest memories of Whitecaps fandom is getting a hug from Nolly after they had beaten the Puerto Rico Islanders in the FInal and the players were celebrating with supporters in the Southside.
It’s these kinds of memories that keep me coming back, even when the team lets me down. No matter how many times Bob Lilley subbed off a striker and brought on a right back, no matter how many incomprehensible decisions Tom Soehn made, no matter how many terrible Carolina Railhawks players Martin Rennie signed, no matter how many years Carl Robinson re-signs Erik Hurtado for, I will always be a Whitecaps supporter. They may not be as big as Real Madrid or as in touch with their supporters as TSS Rovers, but they’re my team. It’s not logical, it’s just the way it is.
Despite criticisms that supporting the Whitecaps has lost some of its lustre since joining MLS, I still believe there’s something magic about going to a game. I was reminded of this when the Whitecaps played the Seattle Sounders just this past April. I brought my girlfriend; it was her first live soccer game.
Being from New Zealand she had more exposure to rugby than to soccer. The ‘Caps emerged 2-1 winners thanks to a Freddy Montero brace and a dramatic last second goal line clearance from Kendall Waston. When we asked her how she liked it, she had one word to describe the feeling: “Electric.” She’s now a fan.
We follow the careers of WFC2’s growing stable of Kiwis very closely and she’s genuinely excited that TV New Zealand has a deal to show an MLS game every week. For me this is proof that the Whitecaps still have a bit of magic to them, even if they are registered as a Delaware-based business.
The feeling in the air at a game, especially against a Cascadian rival is enough to convert someone who wasn’t even a soccer fan up until that point. The feeling when the crowd erupts after a goal is one of the greatest on earth. It’s something you don’t quite get watching the Premier league on TV and it shows that the team still has a soul. That my friends, is why I’m a fan of the Vancouver Whitecaps.