For me, Family Day at NYCFC began with babies and baptisms and ended in a barroom.
To be clear, I’ve never really been big on things like “family day”. Even when I was a kid – it wasn’t like my folks waited for one to bring me out to a game. (What did we wait for? We waited until my hero, Gordon Banks, and his Ft. Lauderdale Strikers made their way to the old Giants Stadium to take on the original Cosmos. Because yeah, I’m that old.)
Or maybe it’s because my kids don’t care about soccer, or sports at all really. Thus the idea of bringing them to Yankee Stadium had about as much appeal for any of us as a weeklong cost-accounting seminar at the Moline Holiday Inn. And anyway, one of them lives in the Big Easy and the other was on stage at Lincoln Center so it wasn’t going to happen even if we wanted it to. And we didn’t. Which was fine.
Or maybe it’s because it’s not like Yankee Stadium is a “family-free zone” during any other match. Frankly, the number, style, class, ethnicity, organization and make-up of the families I’ve seen at home games since I started covering NYCFC would have boggled the mind of someone even slightly less cosmopolitan than myself.
But that got me thinking. Maybe I was looking at this the wrong way around. Maybe there were other ways to define “family” – ways that New Yorkers have been doing for centuries actually. And maybe that was what we really celebrating.
So I stood myself a dram at Stan’s (where you will find me before and after most home games), and I thought about what I’d seen at Family Day at NYCFC.
It’s a Family Affair: Family Day at NYCFC
Your family in the stadium.
I don’t care if you’re a season ticket holder. I don’t care if you come to one game a year. I don’t care if you come to one game in your life. When you’re in the stands, your section is your family. You come, you cheer, you live and die by the passes and the runs and the saves and the goals. You stand (or sit or lean or whatever) beside people you barely know but to whom you will be bonded for life in a second by something inexplicable that you both witnessed. Something that you will never forget, something that amazed you. Something that you will tell your friends about for as long as you have friends. But you won’t have to tell the people you sit next to. Because they were there with you. And that makes them family.
Your family in blue.
There’s another family that isn’t limited to the five or six people around you (or in the case of my brother and I in Section 29, the 50 or more – because we tend to get loud). There’s the family you discover out in the world, beyond the confines of pitch and stadium. The guy you see on the Union Square platform wearing the David Villa shirt. The car ahead of you on the LIE with the NYCFC sticker. The woman with the NYCFC scarf in Penn Station in December. The person who lights you up in one of the NYCFC Facebook groups. The patrons of the bar you just discovered arguing about an NYCFC podcast you listen to. The literally tens of thousands of people you don’t know and are never likely to who live and die by the same lineup changes, the same formation decisions, the same wins and losses that you do. You don’t know their names, and they don’t know yours. But they are your family too.
Your family on the pitch.
I’ve talked to these guys after the games. Newsflash: They know you. Not by name, of course. But by sight. And certainly by sound. And they see you around New York. That’s why they stop along the rope line at Gate 2 to talk and take pictures. To discuss the last game and talk about the next. Win or lose. Healthy or injured. In a hurry or at their leisure. English or Español. Now think about that for a second; when other athletes are letting their bodyguards hustle them by a back door to their Escalades, these guys are talking to you. Why? Because you’re family.
We are One
Look, “Family Day at NYCFC” may just be a marketing tactic. A way to bundle some tickets and coupons and create a little noise about a game that might not draw as well as, say, the New York Red Bulls. And hey, I’m a marketing guy. I get that.
But what’s not a marketing tactic is the bonds that are made across politics, ethnicities, languages, religions and creeds. Those really do exist, and never has it been more important that they do. And as a marketing guy, I get that too.
Will NYCFC win tonight? I don’t know. Will they win on Wednesday at Rio Tinto? Or on Saturday in Orlando? I don’t know that either.
But will we still be a family, regardless, when they come back to the Bronx against New England? Of course we will.
Because that’s what families do.