It's probably best for me not to say much about how NYCFC played on Sunday. The fact that we couldn't even manage a tie with a one-man advantage for more than half the game says a lot about our team's performance. But not all of the action was on the field: our fans showed up in full force, and they put on quite a show themselves. And our passion was self-generated, not manufactured by the owners of our team.
So, the real question to the Red Bulls is, who's plastic now?
Honestly, what does it say about the Red Bulls that so much of the online chatter in the lead-up to the game that drew press attention was generated by the team, and not by the fans? Why were red, checkered flags and a series of banners about the Big Apple being "Red" to the core left on the seats for the Red Bulls fans in the supporters sections, before the fans even showed up? Were those even made by the fans? Maybe so, but that wasn't evident to me. And who, exactly, made and raised the huge banner that went up in front of the Red Bulls supporters sections at the beginning of the game, the one mocking NYCFC as being 20 years late? Was it really the fans, as claimed in an article by Brian Lewis in The New York Post? Or was it the team's ownership?
Why would the Red Bulls organization have to work so hard to create enthusiasm? Because it appears it's simply not there without them doing that. Just look at all of the photos we've seen of Red Bull Arena this year, with plenty of empty seats during games.
It seemed to me that we had just about as many die-hard fans at the game as the Red Bulls did -- that our group in the visiting supporters section nearly matched their group in the home supporters section. And it took us hours to get there and back. So much for what New Jersey calls convenient public transportation.
I started the day, as did hundreds of others, at Stout NYC, and marched to the PATH train at Herald Square. The people on the street didn't quite know what to make of us, and the authorities in the station appeared to be even more taken aback, as reported in The Daily News (thanks to Chance and everyone from The Third Rail for helping to get us on the train in time for the game).
After a long ride, we marched to Red Bull Arena, taunted and jeered pretty much the entire way by tailgating Red Bulls fans. We chanted, sang, and waved flags all along, and continued to do that outside the stadium, as we waited to get in. Inside, we stayed strong and loud for most of the match (this wasn't the first time I shouted myself hoarse for NYCFC). The wide array of creative outfits and props was truly impressive, from drums and flags to masks and wigs.
What I experienced on Sunday was even more of the real, true fandom I've experienced at Yankee Stadium -- win, lose, or draw. Lewis said in the Post that we left the stadium "sullen" after the game, but that's hardly what I saw. Sure, people were disappointed with our performance, but no one I talked to was giving up anytime soon...and we had plenty of energy left.
On June 28, when the Red Bulls come to Yankee Stadium, we may match or exceed our high-water mark for attendance (already, the 300 level has been opened for that date). We'll see how many Red Bulls fans show up, but I'm betting we'll mostly see that sea of blue.
Re-posted as edited. Thanks to Jeff Weisinger for his assistance.