And now we can actually get started.
So much of Austin FC’s inaugural season was special. Not just exciting, or inspiring, or any of the usual feelings of joy that accompany sports, but capital S all caps “SPECIAL.”
The first road match. SPECIAL. The first goal. SPECIAL. The first home match. SPECIAL. The first celebrity part-owner in a special suit. SPECIAL. The first time Ceci flailed to the ground like a pigeon shot out of the sky. Somewhat SPECIAL.The first victory, the first premature talk of the playoffs, and so on.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s always an element of the new in each season and every match. There’s always going to be new players, fans learning the chants for the first time, those annoyed by supporters who actually support the team, and those trying to find a free, nearby parking spot fifteen minutes before kickoff.
But the joy of the second season is much like the joy of a great movie sequel. For the most part, we know the main characters, we understand the rules of this world, and often that’s when the story can really unfold.
In the first-ever home match at McKalla, our Minister of Culture fired the crowd up with a green suit, a bongo, and a stadium-wide singalong. But last night he was simply on the sideline, talking to the manager, much like he does at UT football games. But on a football field he can get lost among the dozens and dozens of players, game officials, media, etc. At McKalla there’s fewer places to hide, so we all saw him. The “Wolff of Wall Street” chant that sprung up, and that he ended up leading, was organic, not flashy, and in many ways more powerful than last year’s very verde show.
In the supporters section, La Murga de Austin showed few signs of rust and the capos are, for the most part, experienced at leading the crowd. It’ll take us a few games to learn the new songs, but that’s to be expected. The first few home matches last year were a little more rough. Getting the sections in sync, ironing out the role of the capos, and learning all the words to a dozen songs in a couple languages took a few matches. But if we’re this in sync and this coordinated for match one, then the verde wall will be even more formidable this year.
More importantly, the players knew what to expect. Last year, the Austin FC players seemed thrown off by how loud the crowd was, and Brad Stuver and others admitted it was hard to hear each other on the pitch. But in this season’s home opener, it felt like the crowd was powering the players, and, while there are always bound to be some miscommunications, it seemed like even the new players were ready for the noise.
There are countless highlights from last season—mostly off the pitch, let’s be honest. And I know that each of us who played a role will never forget our inaugural season. Whether you were a capo, a trumpet player, a tifo puller, someone who lost their voice every match, or someone who was only able to cheer from home, you were part of something special.
Season two, however, not only comes with higher expectations (after five goals the #WolffOut crowd gets the week off) but a deeper kind of appreciation.
Just before the match started, capo extraordinaire Imani looked out over her section and said, “Alright, we’ve got some veterans here.” She was right. We’ve gotten SPECIAL out of the way, we know what we’re doing, and now we can actually get started.