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Running Gold Cup Diary, Part I

 Posted by on July 25, 2013 at 8:33 pm  Blogs/Media, United States
Jul 252013

Screen Shot 2013 07 22 at 5.47.58 PM Running Gold Cup Diary, Part I

9:23 am: Do you ever find it that even if you plan everything to a T, there is always something that falls through and messes up the entire situation? This is what happened to me this morning. As opposed to going out with my kickball teammates on Saturday night, I decided to spend the entire evening planning and getting ready for going for the Gold Cup. I had my bag packed, my busfare paid for (For some reason you cannot rent a car on Frederick on Sunday night,) and all of my research ready. I went to bed that night ready to go. This was going to be my first U.S. Men’s National Team game and my first ever time covering a soccer game as a journalist.

Of course when I woke up the next morning my color printer would not print out my bus tickets because I did not have a color ink jet. Even though what I was printing was only in black and white. It is a Canadian printer, so I blame Canada. Nonetheless, I was undeterred. And even when the batteries in my camera died, and my shaving cream ran out I was going to make this happen. So I left my house without a shave, a battery, or a bus ticket. I was going to make this happen. I was going to make it to the Gold Cup.

9:39am: I made it on the bus! After having sweet talked the lady at the bus station, I was able to secure myself a seat on the illustrious Greyhound bus going to Baltimore.

Now for those of you picturing a bus full of people who are happy to be there, of people eager to be on a bus, I can assure that the Greyhound bus system has very few of these people. Oh, there are some characters. As soon as I got on the bus, I saw some seriously depressing people. Some were clearly homeless, others looked like they were riding the buses across the country to just ride the bus, and of course there were people who were using it to travel. I am not sure how long some of these folks were on the bus, but I would imagine days on a bus could be determined by the number rolls under their eyes. Like the rings of a tree trunk.

I was very nervous going into today’s match. I had never covered a game before, and had never been to a U.S. Men’s National Team game either. It seems to be one thing to sit in your house and watch a game from your home, but an entirely different thing to do it at a stadium. Speaking as a fan, the atmosphere is very different and can cloud how you a feel a match is going. To prepare for the match, I started my pre-game research routine: I listened to the BBC World Football Phone-In, Around the League, and Beyond the Pitch podcasts. I also wrote down three questions that I wanted to be answered during the match or at the press conference:

1.) Will Landon Donovan cement his place on the U.S. Men’s National Team?

2.) How will the United States handle playing against a very hostile crowd?

3.) Will anyone stand out in the midfield and take control of possession?

For me so much of my writing is about getting in the right mindset. Listening to smart people and trying to think big usually gets the ideas out of me. I wish the Men In Blazers had put out a podcast this week. I could use some English wit right now.

11:33: My path from the Greyhound bus station to the California Tortilla was short, hot, and treacherous. Baltimore is not your prototypical clean, happy city. There is a reason why The Wire is so good: it is very close to the truth. The streets are rough, public projects take years to complete, and trash litters the ground. The walk from the Greyhound station is less than 10 minutes but has no sidewalks and dangerous trek across the CSX train tracks. Luckily I was able to link up with a bunch of fans of El Salvador and Honduras.

True Story: El Salvador and Honduras fans do not get along. Known as The Soccer War, the two sides fought a conflict directly after a qualifying match for the 1970 World Cup. Over 3,000 people were killed in this 100 hour conflict. Over 300,000 Salvadoreans fled the country, many to the United States. The roots and culture of these two groups of people are so strong that it is very hard to see these two groups of people being able to get along in a hot stadium, with alcohol flowing and the prospect of U.S. routing El Salvador very possible. Yet, while I was walking down this broken street, I saw two of the people in the group ahead of me engaged in a conversation. One was wearing a Honduras shirt, and the other had an El Salvador flag draped around his shoulders. Although I could not understand what they were saying (no hablas Espanol,) but it was good to see two people of bitter rivals getting along and having a laugh before a match.

As I was walking through the M&T Stadium parking lot, trying to get my bearings straight, I started to feel like I was in a completely different country. I saw hundreds of El Salvador and Honduras fans (and a smattering of Costa Rica fans too.) The air was electric; people were blaring music from the speakers of their cars, grills were out, and of course beers were being cracked. The line waiting for tickets stretched at least two blocks and this is close to 4 hours before kickoff! There were a couple of fights breaking out, and a few arrests but so far things are being pretty tame. Maybe I have watched too much South American soccer as of late, but so far things are pretty calm.

As I walking through the Shaw neighborhood to try and connect up with Camden Yards, I saw a mural of Frederick Douglas that said, “Without struggle, there is no progress.” I really like that quote.

I am still trying to find batteries for my camera. As of right now, you will just have to take my word for it that these things are occurring.

12:43pm: I have been sitting at the Bullpen bar for the past hour cooling my behind off and making small talk with Katie the bartender. There are very few things as enjoyable as a cold beer on a hot day, and good conversation with the bartender. The bartender is in her mid-20’s and in her second week working at the bar. She seems interested to talk to me because I told her I am a writer and am not ordering Tuaca like the people next to me. I am interested in talking to her because she is good looking, kind of smart, and serving me beer.

The Bullpen bar, due to its proximity to Camden Yards home of the Baltimore Orioles is unquestionably a Baseball bar. To accommodate the soccer crowd coming in, the manager spends at least twenty minutes trying to find a soccer channel. I tell the bartender the U.S.A. game will be on Fox, and that the Costa Rica-Honduras match will be on Fox Soccer Channel because it is apparent that they have no idea what channel Fox Soccer is on.

Although most of the TV’s have on beINSport which is showing a friendly between German teams Bayern Munich and I believe Borussia Monchengladbach. However on the main TV, the manager insists that the British Open be shown despite nobody watching it. Katie and I had a good laugh about how awful British teeth are and what the Royal Family should name the baby. Since the both of us are Batman fans, we decided that Alfred Pennyworth was the best choice. As I was leaving the bar, I left her my number and wished her good luck and lots of great tips (Author’s note: As of 11:35 PM Monday, I still have not received a call back. Boo.)

In the bathroom at the Bullpen, many people have written statements on the walls, with some being more forward than others (fight, have sex, etc.) Since I am on my way to a soccer game, and since I am a soccer journalist and must be objective while at the stadium, I leave my last pro-America statement on the bathroom wall at the bar.

“We are going to Brazil.”

2:53 PM: There are many cool things that one gets to do if you have a press badge. You get into the game early, can talk to the players and the coaches after the match, and you get free food (sadly, no free booze.) But to me, the coolest thing is that you get to talk to people that you might not normally associate with. After I got into the stadium and took a walk around the inside of the park I found a spot to start writing down my thoughts for the game. As I am doing this, one of the ticket ushers comes up to me and introduces himself. His name is Jason and he just wanted to know how I was doing. I told him that I am doing great and just enjoying the atmosphere in the stadium. He explains to me that this is his first game working at M&T Bank Stadium. He is a young guy, probably early 20’s, but the complete opposite personality of every usher I have dealt with. He a.) does not care that I am sitting in someone’s seat and b.) is willing to talk to you like a person even if you have a beer in your hand. I tell him not to worry about the Salvadorean fans, that they will just be good practice for when the Pittsburgh Steelers fans come to town. You could tell that he has been coached to not talk crap about other teams, but I at least get a smile out of him when I ask him if hates the Dallas Cowboys.

One of the other ticket ushers asks me if the players get to choose the music that they dance to after they score. I tell him there isn’t any music after a goal, that there is just a small celebration because no one wants to get booked. He tells me that if he was a soccer player he would pay the Public Address announcer 5 million dollars so to play “Beat It” so he could do the Moonwalk.

M &T Bank stadium has very little soccer tradition, but the city of Baltimore for me is a big part of why I love soccer. The first ever professional soccer match that I saw as a kid was the Baltimore Spirit, who used to play in the National Professional Soccer League. Being in the arena and seeing the field reminds of the first time I went to First Mariner arena and watched professionals play a game that I had only ever seen on T.V. before or playing with my brother. I do not remember much of the match, but I remember my Dad, Don, sitting between me and my brother and explaining to us all of the finer points of the game. I do not remember much of what he said (I was too busy enjoying a pretzel,) but I do remember him saying to me at a goal kick, “You see how he does not kick it like a frog. That is what you need to do.”

It is a pretty cool feeling to be back here after all of these years.

As I am standing outside of the press box about to go in, the security looks at my badge long and hard. I tell him that I look much better in person. He is not amused, but lets me in.

(I will be back with Part Two Tomorrow. Keep reading and keep watching the Gold Cup!)


Sean Maslin

Business manager for Global Football Today. I write the occasional article, but mostly stay behind the scenes.

  One Response to “Running Gold Cup Diary, Part I”

  1. [...] Note: In case you missed it, here’s Part 1 [...]

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