Thursday, November 18 2004 DisenFANchised by BilFish, Soccernation.info I was preparing a “How I Became a Soccer Fan” personal journey story recently, just sort of musing on how fandom develops when you don’t learn it at your father’s knee. At some point I realized that in going from point A (general soccer lover) to point B (fan of the Colorado Rapids) I had somehow overshot the mark and stopped at point C (caring more about the team than they care about me). I went from Really Interested Fan to Mr. Jaded, Eyes-crossed Apathetic Guy over the past season. How could this happen? Locally, Hankinson is gone. That's a plus. There's a stadium on the way. That's a positive. League-wide, Season 9 will likely be seen as an amazing watershed year for Major League Soccer in America when everything brewing the past few years finally boiled over. Watching the success has been great — what with stadium announcements, new advertisers, new teams, new owners, new cities vying to be MLS towns, new up-and-coming players, the whole bit. Why, when good things seem to be happening all over, do I still have such a strong feeling of, well, not feeling strongly about the Rapids? Simultaneous to this, I’ve also had to watch the Rapids implode into a defensive shell (think injured turtle) with their lack of energy, no lack of injuries, infighting, zero team communication with fans (i.e. "shareholders"), boring-as-shite-soccer, crappy merchandise, and lackluster fan attendance/excitement. Another issue that bugs me is that the Rapids Management doesn’t even show an interest in promoting the positives to their fans. Not once this entire year of 2004 did Rapids Management personnel mention the Fans or give an indication that they knew fans existed until November 9th when Hankinson was fired. On this day Governor Charlie Wright disingenuously referenced "our passionate Rapids fans" for the first time. When the stadium was announced not a single fan was invited. Not one. Nor did any executive at any time indicate this was for the fans. At this point, the Rapids management have yet to announce any plans to include fans in the planning of the stadium. Niiiice. “You’ll sit where we tell you and like it, Mister.” When Salt Lake City announced a new MLS team, I expected a resounding challenge from the Rapids organization to be extended to their fellow Rocky Mountain team. It's weird, though, that once again you can't get the Rapids organization to discuss it publicly. I did get Hankinson (no longer part of the organization) to briefly discuss it in an article several months ago but that was that. Not one more word has been mentioned in public. Personally, I’d be excited to go whoop some ReAL ass. But the Rapids are acting about as exciting as an insurance company and as secretive as the CIA. And when the team struggled to provide any offense all year? Not one word came from Rapids Management apologizing for the embarrassing showing or at least attempting a feeble excuse. In fact, the coach simply said, “I don’t preach defend, defend, defend to the guys. I’ve been preaching attack, attack, attack.” Well, that settles it. When I broke the story back in early June that team Captain John Spencer was retiring from MLS at the end of the season, I assumed the Rapids would take the rest of the season to send their best international off in style. Instead, no official word was ever given that he was even leaving. And now he’s gone and we missed seeing him because he was benched with “injury” the last couple games and no thanks was given to team’s leader (by the team). When Kroenke announced his new pet TV channel (All the rich guys have one now), the website and press releases regularly failed to remember to include the Colorado Rapids in their coverage! As usual, even when the team is doing something right, they go about it the wrong way. Heck, they even improved Buck-a-Bud night based on fan suggestions to have more beer lines and add Buck-a-Brat. Did they tell the fans “Hey, we hear ya, great suggestions?” What do you think?!? I could go on. In fact, I think I will. When players have been injured, or undergone surgery, or may have left the country (remember Zizi appearing in African match reports and Denver at the same time?), or been waived, little or no mention has been made. When Zach Kingsley was waived, he was only mentioned because they had to say how the team was able to sign a new guy (Delgado, tee hee). The website posted obscenely incorrect match previews and injury reports, with lineups including players no longer with the club or out due to injury or national team duty but somehow in the starting 11... and generally gave fans worse than no information by giving them misleading information. Joe Cannon was practicing with the US National Team? No kidding! I didn’t read about it from the Rapids until after ESPNews interviewed him in Columbus. What if I want to provide feedback to the team? Is there a way to do so on the Rapids official website? Nope. What about emailing my favorite playa? Fuggedaboudit. Pretty Please? “Go away kid, yer botherin’ me.” Merchandise was and still is a joke. Bringing friends and guests to games and trying to find decent stuff to buy to support the team was nearly impossible. Unless you like green jerseys. Those you can find online...at MLS’ official gear website. Which leads me to another demonstrable lack of respect or acknowledgment. Already I feel jealous that CD Chivas invites 1000 fans to their team press announcements when the Rapids invite 0. Chivas has already started a cool-sounding club for supporters. Rapids really haven’t gotten around to it lately. Lots of little things like this really add up, clearly suggesting that Rapids Management isn’t interested enough to even go through the motions. It’s normal to say things like, “This is for the fans. We love you.” Even if you don’t mean it, ya at least say it. The Rapids can’t even be bothered to do that. Media coverage? Pretty much a joke and an afterthought. Online coverage? Nonexistent. Rapids fan websites? Just one. Yep. It all sort of adds up, realizing that I’m stuck with the Rapids ‘cuz I ain’t leaving Colorado, and thinking that perhaps there’s another option out there — an option such as seriously considering finding a team that cares about me as a fan and supporting them with my time and money. Sure, I’ll still go see some Rapids games, because I enjoy watching live professional soccer. But maybe I’ll secretly root for ReAL or Chivas. More likely it'll be Chicago since my relatives are Chicagoans and I love how interactive Fire GM Peter Wilt is with the Fan community. Maybe I’ll go to our local Denver Kickers clubhouse to watch games more often (it’s a fun environment, and the beer is better and cheaper, and they have a grassy knoll you can picnic on and watch the game). $5 for a big game if they remember to charge you. I won’t bother to buy the new team jersey (which is changing again for 2005). Not that I expect merchandise to be available before the season starts April 2nd. For now I’m happy with my Beckham T-shirt and the Real Madrid jersey my sister brought back from Spain and the like. I certainly won’t buy season tickets (this from a guy who had actively investigated with buddies the economics of securing a Rapids Luxury Suite for the season). And I’ll be stuck trying to form the Chicago Fire Mile High Supporters club with my brother-in-law, but at least I won’t feel like I’m locked into a dead-end relationship that’s going nowhere fast. Except with my brother-in-law. The Rapids took a desperate, wanna-be-included fan with money, time and impressionable kids and turned him into a head-scratching afterthought. Well, Phooey on them. But, still, there’s always 2005. Who knows? Maybe the Rapids will suddenly remember the fans. But I’m not holding my breath any more, and I’m not waiting any longer.