I went to my first Sporting Kansas City game last night, and I think I’ve got an interesting story to tell.
Our Sportin’ boys played Toronto FC, and I hope I’m not giving away the drama when I tell you the game ended in a 2-2 tie.
Obviously, a tie isn’t the interesting part. It still is like kissing your sister…And, God, how I wish I had one…Or even a brother!
But already I’ve gotten away from the interesting story I said I had, so enough about my personal regrets.
Several weeks ago my financial adviser called and said he was sponsoring a night at Sporting Park for his clients and would I like a couple of tickets? Why, sure I would! Mrs. JimmyC will be out of town, I told him, but I’ll find someone to go with.
And, oh, he adds, the section we’re going to be in…the drinks and food are covered.
Well, now, I thought, this Sporting Kansas City thing is looking more promising all the time!
So, earlier this week I started asking friends — one at a time, of course — if they were interested in going to the game Friday night.
The excuses came cascading in: I’m going out of town; I’ve got a cold; I’m booked; my brother is coming into town; my feet hurt.
Well, I made that last one up, but you get the picture. So, as I headed for the game by myself — me, myself and I — I’m thinking of how I’ve got to tell my adviser, “I feel bad because I couldn’t find a taker and the $60 ticket went to waste.”
But then good fortune struck. As I stood on the corner across from the stadium, waiting for the light to change, a middle-aged guy next to me sidled up and said, “Got an extra ticket by any chance?”
Immediately, I sensed a kindred soul, because — as most of you know — usually I’m the guy who’s trying to score a ticket outside a sporting event.
“As a matter of fact, I do,” I said and produced the ticket, which was in the Coors Light section at one corner of the stadium.
“Let me pay you for it,” the guy said, opening his wallet.
“No,” I said, “I got it from my financial adviser, and now it’s yours.”
Frank — his name was — proceeded to tell me he was an old hand at the games…knew where all the sections were…and offered to take me to the Coors Light section. As we walked, we quickly became bff’s (that’s the right term, isn’t it?), and it dawned on me that it would be no problem, and not dishonest, to just introduce Frank to my adviser without telling my adviser that I’d just made the guy’s acquaintance on the curb five minutes earlier. That way, my adviser — Grant, his name is — would think I had put the ticket to good use…Again, nothing dishonest, just letting Grant draw his own conclusions.
So, as Frank and Grant shook hands. I told Grant that while I was a neophyte when it came to soccer, Frank knew all about it. “That’s what you want,” Grant said, smiling, before going off to make sure other clients were taken care of.
Then I told Frank — a KCK resident who is his 50s and graduated from Bishop Ward High School — that I knew a lot about KCK because I had run The Star’s KCK bureau from 1995 to 2004. That seemed to strike a chord with Frank, who said, “I know you!…Well, I don’t know you, but I remember your name.”
Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t. But just like with Grant, what difference did it make?
A few minutes later, Grant circled back around to exchange a few words, and, innocently enough, Frank just about blew the lid off the bff scenario.
Out of nowhere, Frank points to me and says, “I recognize him! I know who he is now!”
Grant looked at him kind of funny, then at me and let out a forced little laugh, as if to say, “What’s that? Hah, that’s a good one!”
After Grant wandered off, none the wiser, Frank and I sat down in a nearby section — the Coors Light section being full — to watch the game. I’d been taking in the crowd, and it was almost completely Anglo-Saxon…which meant just one thing: Johnson County.
Being a lifelong, dedicated urbanite, I was a bit nervous about the crowd because who knows what kind of weapons might have been hauled into the park from Olathe, Overland Park, Shawnee and maybe even Mission Hills? Hell, for all I know, somebody could have smuggled in an old-time mace — one of those spikey things the knights wielded back in the Middle Ages.
The game itself was quite different than a Royals or Chiefs game. For one thing, the game consists of two 45-minue periods, and the clock doesn’t stop. So, most people actually watch the game, and there’s not nearly as much running to the concession stands as there is at Kauffman Stadium or Arrowhead.
If play stops because of an injury, the clock keeps running, and the referee keeps track of the length of the stoppage. At the end of the period, the announcer tells the crowd that the teams will play so many minutes of “stoppage time” to compensate for the injury time.
Oddly, though, the clock doesn’t indicate how much “stoppage time” is left; only the referee knows, and he apparently likes to keep it a secret.
Last night, four minutes were tacked onto the first period and five to the second.
Another thing that is different about the soccer games is that, mercifully, there’s no Kiss Cam, Hot Dog Run, Garth Brooks or video-board images of fans mugging for the camera and thrilled with their five seconds of fame.
At Sporting Field, it’s all about the athletic contest on the field, and I’ll tell you, the Royals could take a lesson in that regard from Sporting Kansas City.
The first period was scoreless, but it went by quickly, even with the extra four minutes.
In the second period, Sportin’ scored first; Toronto matched it; and Sportin’ got another goal with about eight minutes left in the game. The crowd was happy, and things were looking good. But, then — wouldn’t you know it? — a Toronto player headed one in during the first minute of “stoppage time,” and then, all of a sudden, stoppage time stopped and the game was over.
With nothing more to cheer about, the fans began filing out. It was very weird. All that hoopla, and then nothing.
On the same curb where we had begun our great adventure, Frank and I bid each other a fond farewell. I headed back to Kansas City, he to his nearby KCK home…And everybody else got on I-435 and headed back to Johnson County.