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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Everywhere we follow....

I have written many times before about how following the game of soccer has transformed my life...in many different ways.  I'm healthier.  I'm more outgoing.  I'm more interesting to talk to.  I'm more balanced.  It all started with one soccer game at the Soccerplex when I saw the season opening game for the University of Maryland in 2011.  In those first moments, the minute the game started, I knew.  This was going to be something good.  I know this is why they will always be my first favorite soccer team.

When you commit to following a team, you follow them wherever they go.  You literally travel to places you that were never on your radar.  I was in Hoover, Alabama last December to watch Maryland play in the Semi-Finals for the NCAA Championship.  I think that game was the hardest I had ever worked as a fan.  We were down in the second half, but we fought back to tie things up.  The Maryland fans...the crew, parents, and a few others were on our feet.  Chanting.  Giving good vibes.  Transfering energy.  You could feel it.  It was amazing.  We fought through two overtimes only to lose in PKs.  My family and I actually stood with the Crew (Maryland's amazing Student Fans) behind the goal.  It was brilliant...all of chanting...hugging...and then then consoling.  We even stood by the bus to cheer on the team as they left.  It was heartbreaking.

Despite our loss, I stayed in town and really enjoyed Birmingham, Alabama - you can feed giraffes at their zoo!!  I also enjoyed watching the University of Indiana beat Georgetown two days later.  It was an amazing atmosphere to sit among the Hoosiers.  We were chanting with them.  The sheer number that were there was overwhelming.  It was my first time seeing a Big 10 team play.  They had a group of alumni who assembled a marching band to play during their tailgate.  It was inspiring.  It was top-notch fandom.  I wished that for Maryland...to be able to have that many people there to show support. It helps, I know that it helps.

2013 is the last ACC Season for Maryland, next year we will be in the Big 10.  I don't know if it will initially help to bring a bigger draw of alumni and fans out to soccer games.  I do know that my soccer fandom will take me to new places, places that would have never otherwise been on my radar.  I love what following the sport has done for me...I get on planes and buses.  I have crazy sport fan rituals.  When we are losing, my hair goes up in a ponytail.  I always wear my lucky shamrock earrings to games.  I have a pre-game ritual for every home game too.  It works, so I keep all these things going.  It helps, I know that it helps.

The ACC Championship (almost poetic in a way) was held at the Soccerplex in Maryland both in 2012 and 2013.  As a fan, watching them win the ACC Championship two years in a row on the first pitch I ever saw them play, motivates me even more.  They work so hard for every win.  It makes me want to work harder too. I trained for my marathon winding around the trails surrounding the Soccerplex, it was not an accident.  As 2013 starts to wind down, I can only imagine what my soccer fandom will inspire me to do in 2014.  I know that getting miles will be still be a theme...

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