The following is the view of my camera man. See more like this in the Behind the Lens series up now!
I grew up in northern New Jersey. My father played soccer in college, and fittingly was my coach for most of my life. I was never particularly good- a little too slow and a little too clumsy. I knew there was no future in playing soccer (or any sport for that matter for me), but what I did know was that I enjoyed the game and being part of the team.
The World Cup in 1994 was played in the United States, and I recall watching the games, and going to see a match live at Giants Stadium- between Saudi Arabia and Morocco. Tony Meola, Tab Ramos, and Alexi Lalas, and Eric Wynalda were household names. Two years later, the MetroStars would become the New York/ New Jersey team in the MLS. As such, it was only natural that they became my team, going along with the Jets, Mets, and Devils.
Fast-forward a few years, and I eventually moved away for college for four years to upstate New York, then south of Philadelphia for another five years. In that time, the MetroStars were rebranded as the Red Bulls, and with it, my passion for them declined as the team I had loved as a boy was no more.
This past weekend was the first time I had seen a Metrostars game in the form of the Red Bulls since then, and I was truly sorry- sorry that I had let my support waver. We met with the supporters groups prior to the game, and one quote stood out- they didn’t choose who owned the team, just like you don’t choose your family, and you don’t choose your loved ones.
Spending those two days during the Eastern Conference final made me proud to be from New Jersey, and proud that these supporters had maintained their traditions and made new ones. Proud that the team had not forgotten its roots and that it was making the fans a centerpiece of the experience. While the team name, the players, and the owners may change; the supporters never wavered. I was proud to rejoin that enthusiasm for my boyhood team.