Since I moved to New York from Chicago more than 25 years ago, I've always heard that New York fans won't stick with a team that doesn't win. When it comes to sports, like everything else, I was told New Yorkers have no patience. This isn't Chicago, after all, where generations of my family and so many others have lived and died without the Cubs winning the World Series.
Yet what I had heard about New York seemed not to be true on Friday night at Nevada Smith's, as my wife Sasha and I joined at least a hundred other NYCFC fans after a long week of work to watch what turned out to be a thoroughly miserable game. Though they were disappointed and clearly missed the momentum we all felt at the beginning of the season, the fans I talked to weren't going anywhere, and they were working hard to keep their spirits up.
While the game was on, they could have been watching the red-hot Mets battle the Yankees in a Subway Series, or the Rangers moving to the next round of the playoffs by beating the Penguins -- but they weren't. Those teams, which were around for decades before I was even born, make me feel like a latecomer because of all of their history, everything I missed out on and won't ever get to be a part of. Part of the reason NYCFC appeals to me is a real sense of ownership, and I don't think I'm alone in thinking about the team in that way. Some people were surprised to see more than 40,000 at Yankee Stadium come out in the cold for a team that had never played a home game before, but they shouldn't have been, and as writers in a number of major media outlets have pointed out recently, the fan culture growing around NYCFC is something different and special. I've been following it closely on Facebook, in Yankee Stadium, and elsewhere, and it has amazed me, over and over again. Multiple supporters clubs? Check. Fans driving crazy distances to get to away games? Check. Someone putting a huge team logo tattoo on his back? Check.
On Friday night, perhaps the most encouraging thing for me was to hear the fans acknowledge reality: we're an expansion team, and most of the time, you can't expect much in that kind of situation. Sure, we all want to win, but right now -- with Villa injured, Lampard in Manchester, and a third designated player yet to be signed -- NYCFC isn't exactly putting a lot of superstars on the field. Plus, even with a bunch of other negative factors -- injuries in addition to Villa's, Saunders getting suspended, an early red card in the Chicago game -- NYCFC still isn't losing by much. We haven't yet allowed more than two goals in a game, and every game we've lost has been by one. Maybe I won't be able to say this after we play the Sounders and the Red Bulls, but so far, this team has been competitive, in spite of everything that has gone wrong.
So, at this point, I'm hopeful. Hopeful that Sheikh Mansour will spend the cash necessary to build a winning team. Hopeful that Villa's return, Lampard's arrival, and the signing of a third DP will make a huge difference. But most of all, I'm hopeful that the fans will stick with NYCFC, no matter what. They've inspired me so much already, I can only imagine what they'll do when this team becomes a real contender.