Sometimes, a hero emerges in the concrete jungle.
Hudson River Blue: Were you a fan of MLS before NYCFC?
NYCFC "Spider-Man": No. Every once in a while I'd pay attention to it. I watched the last three MLS Cup Finals, because of Beckham, but it was sporadically. It doesn't compare to now, watching it week in and week out.
HRB: Did you grow up in New York?
SM: Yes. I live in Queens. Right by where the original Spider-Man lived. Out of all of the New York superheroes, Spider-Man is the top one.
HRB: What are the characteristics of Spider-Man that most appeal to you?
SM: The way he was brought up. He definitely went through several struggles and losses, which I can relate to in my personal life. Also, I can relate to his interests in computers and science. I always liked the story of Spider-Man, because it was realistic. It depicts some of the struggles that the average person goes through, and some of the encounters that a normal college kid or teenager would go through in their personal life. Compared to Batman? Honestly, how many playboy billionaires do you know? Not too many blind lawyers, either. So, I can't do Daredevil. Not too many mercenaries or vigilantes, so no Punisher. Spider-Man is one of the more relatable characters. What I'm doing is something that other MLS teams hadn't tried yet. In terms of mascots for other teams across the country, it's usually an animal, and for the national team, it's Captain America. So, I took a shot at being Spider-Man.
HRB: When did you start coming to games in the costume?
SM: The very first game I brought the suit was the Red Bulls derby in Harrison. I had been to every game, but I had to wait for the suit to be made.
HRB: When did you first meet up with the fellow costumed fan known as the "NYCFC Pigeon"?
SM: I knew the Pigeon was one of the mascots. He had appeared at a few of the games. It was a bit after that when we started interacting on Twitter. I met him at a game, and we got a great picture together. Now, he's someone I speak to regularly.
HRB: Why do you think NYCFC fans are so creative?
SM: It's such a huge melting pot here, in terms of people's backgrounds, their likes, their previous encounters with other supporter groups, and the other teams they follow. NYCFC has done a great job of bringing these people together. The Hooligans make some great apparel. The Blue Ladies, it's the same thing. All of the smaller groups have found a way to express themselves, and the ideas they produce, plus the merchandise they produce, it's all great. The location makes it easy for a bunch of people to get together for these games. It's not like the Red Bulls. They call themselves a New York team, but it's an empty stadium. People have been longing for a soccer team to call their own, and NYCFC has made it easy to get everyone to come out and support them. We need to make a name for ourselves, because we're new. A lot of people have taken the initiative to make our supporters stand out. We have so much diversity, and so many ideas. Everyone's expressing themselves in their own way.
HRB: What happened to you the day the Red Bulls played NYCFC at Yankee Stadium?
SM: Basically, the derby was a boiling point for me. It was definitely not the team losing. The issue was the interaction I had with the security personnel that day, being told that they are going to take me out and get me arrested if they see me in the suit, because they dislike the suit. There have been tensions between the supporters and Securitas. People get taken out weekly. It's a grab-and-go kind of thing. They're taking out whoever was closest to what they saw, thinking they're most likely responsible. They're not dealing with the situation. They're just pushing people away. It's bad for new supporters. You don't feel safe enjoying the games, because if a situation happens, you're on your way out, even if you didn't do anything. The situation isn't good, and it doesn't look like it's getting better. Our club has its hands tied, since we're in Yankee Stadium, but we need to pressure the club to help us out more, and we need to come together and help ourselves more.
HRB: What do you know about the regulations at Yankee Stadium when it comes to wearing a mask?
SM: It's a Yankee Stadium rule. At first, they just said, "Don't wear the mask." Generally, I don't. I just put it on after the game, and at halftime, to take pictures. Then, as I mentioned, for whatever reason, they told me they didn't like the suit. At the same time, they've said that other than the Pigeon, I'm the only person wearing a mask. My big question is: since we're the only two people wearing masks, why can't we work something out? They know where I am, where I sit, and who I am. There's no problem. The Pigeon has been thinking of talking with other mascots, official and unofficial, such as the Orlando Unicorn, who just wears a mask like the Pigeon does. The security in Orlando knows who the Unicorn is, and there's no problem with that. So, it's odd we can't work something out.
HRB: What are your thoughts about us having our own stadium?
SM: A lot of people have the misconception that, as soon as we get our own stadium, it's going to be a pyro party, but there will still be rules, including the league rules. If there's pyro, there are going to be designated sections, as it is throughout the MLS. There will still be enforcement. A few people in Fan Services know me as Spider-Man, and they think it's a cool idea. The club has posted pictures of me. They've re-posted my images and taken their own. That's a good sign that in the new stadium, the Pigeon and I will be able to wear our outfits. But until then, it would be nice to work something out with Yankee Stadium. Even some people in Securitas have said they like the suits. They've said it's a cool idea, and they don't understand why people are going crazy about it. It's their higher-ups who won't budge.
HRB: I'm assuming neither you nor the Pigeon has done anything against the rules other than wear a costume, right?
SM: If I caused trouble weekly, and that's why they recognized me, that's understandable. But they recognize that I don't cause any trouble, and that all I do is just take pictures and hang out in the suit. It's so odd that they can't seem to find a way to work with it. They're really stuck on whatever rules they apply during Yankee games, but soccer is a different game, a different culture, and a different way of celebrating the game.
HRB: What about the NYPD?
SM: The police are much better to us than Securitas are. They've become frustrated during the games, because they get called on every time Securitas can't handle a situation. A lot of the cops are pretty friendly. They're just watching the section, enjoying the game, and making sure nothing goes wrong. There are issues outside the stadium after games, but that's separate.
HRB: How did people respond to your online messages after the home derby, when it looked as if you might be reconsidering your support for NYCFC?
SM: There was some backlash about the way my message was sent out, mostly about me leaving people out of the loop. I worked that out with a lot of people. About 85 percent of the people who had something negative to say are okay with it now. They were more upset about the way I went about it than what I had to say. People thought I was abandoning the team and going with one of our rivals, since I posted an image with the colors of our rivals. In terms of being a fan, that day didn't change anything for me. If I can't wear the suit, that's not going to change my view of the team. But that wasn't really reflected in what I posted. I did say, "I'm leaving. I'm off to find somewhere where they'll let me do what I want to do." The team has interacted with fans, and it has performed an excellent job of reaching out to its fans. That's keeping me here.
HRB: Are you going to continue wearing the suit?
SM: As far as putting on the suit, I'm not going to be able to do it for the next month. If I return in the Spider Man suit, or any other suit, it might be at away games. My several away game experiences have been a bit more pleasant than doing it at Yankee Stadium. Red Bull Arena allows costumes. I let the Cosmos know in advance I'd be bringing the suit in. They said it's fine. The mask wasn't allowed, but I put it on, because the mask makes the suit. During the game, I was approached by security, and they said not to do anything stupid. The game went fine. I was in the front row, extremely visible. Other soccer-specific stadiums are more equipped to handle this. I don't know how serious Yankee Stadium is about that whole arrest-on-sight thing. If I do bring it in there, I'll just hide a bit better, or keep it to celebrations before or after the game. Letting time pass, I hope the situation gets better. If we can get an agreement, it's great. It would be a fun thing to continue doing this.
HRB: So, we might be seeing Peter Parker at Yankee Stadium, and NYCFC "Spider-Man" at some away games?
Probably more of Peter Parker now, in general, at whichever games I can make. You might expect me back at the next derby game. The place where "Spider-Man" was born, you might see his return!