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07 / 25

Kick This Around – A Lansing United Blog

WRITTEN BY: Dave Ellis
PUBLISHED ON: July 25, 2014

I had the trip planned since March.

My great-grandfather was a season ticket holder at Arsenal, and I have been a fan since I started following the game. I watched the Gunners win an improbable title in 1989 on a scratchy feed from a Canadian station across Lake Superior in 1989, but there was not any way for me to go see them play Independiente of Argentina that summer in Miami.

A quarter century later, they are finally playing back in the USA when they take on the New York Red Bulls on Saturday afternoon in New Jersey. My plans changed due to a new job and the trip was scrubbed, so I will miss out on seeing them play in the States again.

But that is not the match I am most upset about missing now.

Despite my long affiliation and a dozen trips to go see Arsenal in person, I am still just a fan. Big enough that my personalized car license plate refers to them, but it goes no further than that. I have never worked for the club, have no personal relationship with any of the current players or staff, and will not change either of those two facts any time soon. They will continue to dominate my sports fan identity for most of the calendar year, but they are going to have to make room for what has become my real team.

I was not there for the initial idea about starting the franchise when owner Jeremy Sampson hatched the idea. But he kept me in the loop for a lot of the planning and initial thoughts, and I felt included enough to make some suggestions and offer some advice. When he needed someone to bounce things off of, I was happy to be the person he trusted to respond. He even let me trump up my own “official” title in the organization. I told a friend that I feel a little like Obi-Wan to Jeremy’s Luke Skywalker – I have got guidance but he is the one out there doing it. And we all know how well he has done it.

I have been on a number of road trips this season with the boys, and I’m always impressed with how they all carry themselves. We’ve had great conversations, a lot of fun, and I’ve never seen a one of them do anything that could embarrass or hurt the club. With each match, my affection for them has grown in much the same way it has for you the fans. We added in the hometowns of the starting players in our announcements at the Midwest Regional playoffs, and it was great to show people what a unique mix we have been privileged to see become a true team right in front of us.

The HBO documentary “Do You Believe in Miracles?” about the 1980 US Olympic Hockey team had a revelation for me when I watched it for the first time – after the players left Lake Placid and went to the White House for a reception, they all said good-bye and suddenly it was all over. Many of them didn’t even have the chance to say what they wanted to before their teammates left. I went out to training on Thursday to make sure that I got a chance to say thanks to our players for everything they did and everything they gave to us – and all of you. They interrupted their stretching to give me a round of applause, and I was choked up instantly. What a great bunch. I said this about our intern staff and it’s true of the players too – we will have great teams in the future but this one will always be the first one, the group that set the bar for what success really is.

I’ll watch Red Bulls v Arsenal on TV on Saturday, and feel a little pang of regret that I’m not there.

I’ll be following along on social media like many of you on Sunday night. And I’ll live and die with every post or tweet.

Because now, this is my team. And I hope it’s yours too. Best of luck boys, we’re with you all the way.