Fan Reaction: More than Soccer

“Down in Mobile, they’re all crazy,” or so begins the infamous Eugene Walter’s line. Nothing has brought out the feelings of every event being a party than the cow bells, drumming, second-lining, and other antics of the Causeway Rebellion. Every game is a party, and what began as a simple game has exploded into an event for everyone to take part in. But it goes beyond the ninety minutes.

In our second Fan Reaction, supporter Dustin “the cow bell guy” Wilson explains how AFC Mobile has become part of his daily routine.

I realized how in an almost eerie way how threads of my life connect back to AFC Mobile.

I think there are a lot of ways I could tell you what AFC Mobile means to me.

When I sat down to write this I was so full of good ideas I literally typed 5 or 6 full blogs out and looked them all over with some smug sense of accomplishment steeped in the tradition of a hipster who types poems on an antique typewriter for $5.00 each.

Then I highlighted them all and deleted them.

I didn’t like any of them.  The words I’d written seemed disingenuous at best, placating and condescending at worst.   Words like hope and pride and community fell to my fingers and spilled onto the pages ceaselessly and in the end, each of the blogs I’d written seemed very much like well written canned marketing hooey.

AFC Mobile is a soccer team.  The gentlemen on the team, and the people coaching and supporting the team, play a game.  They do it in a place surrounded by people laughing and cheering and screaming.  When you boil it down, it’s not much more than that.  So despite my un-wavering support of them, I had to ask myself. What does AFC Mobile actually mean to me?

And I thought.

And I thought more.

And about 2 hours and several thoughts later, it hit me.

AFC Mobile means almost everything to me.

I realized how in an almost eerie way how threads of my life connect back to AFC Mobile.   I can look back to the tiniest beginnings of the maroon and gold azalea and remember how my U6 coaching debut was against teams coached by AFC Mobile board members.  And while we’re on the subject of kids, mine were excited to go to each match and made homemade banners and signs to support the players and coaching staff.

If we are talking about homemade, I suppose I should talk about the custom cowbells and face paint mixtures I bought (because NO ONE sells the perfect AFC colors) to use in support of the team.  Being known as ‘the cow bell guy’ was a highlight of my summer year for sure.

Thinking about my financial expenditures in support of the team now, I fondly thought about the smile on my face every single time I wear my AFC Mobile silicone bracelet that served as my season ticket.  I wear it frequently; I love the way it reminds me of all the excitement throughout the season.  Another outlay was the ticket to the supporters’ bus to the Biloxi away match.  That may have turned out to be the best money I spent all year.

That was the trip where people who were just faces in the crowd became friends. The men, women, and even kids I had seen all year were now standing beside me, yelling, screaming, and singing as one single unit.  It made me feel like a part of something.  My nominal financial investment in support of the team seemed to have had one of the highest returns on investment of any money I’ve ever spent.

There was another investment I thought about while on the subject which was the investment of my time.  Silly frustration permeated my thoughts however, when there were no ‘bad’ moments spent in connection with AFC.  Whether it was being physically present, recounting matches with friends over pints, arguing over calls by the linesman or the referee, or the time I spend plotting and planning how to be a better more flamboyant supporter next year.  There was a lot of time spent in connection with AFC Mobile and the more I tried to discredit it, the more evident it became that it was time well spent.

These thought processes really led me to memories.  Surely, I thought, the memories connected to AFC Mobile worth cherishing and holding on to were fewer than I realized.  There were those memories of my kids being a feature photo in a recap of a match and how excited they were to wave at all the player each time they went by.   There were the memories of watching my friend and neighbor break a rib jumping the fence to celebrate the team’s first win.  There were the memories of grown men and women running down to the side of the field to give high fives and hugs to sweaty players who for 90 minutes were the root cause of every emotion experienced.

They couldn’t all be good memories worth holding right?  Realistically I won’t remember the smiles on the player’s faces, or the flags of many nations waving at the stadium, or the sore voices the day after matches from yelling so hard.  The names of the players, the supporters, the owners.  Those are things that surely were not going to stay in my head. The taste of Jepsen’s Malort shared on a supporters’ trip, okay well maybe that memory is terrifying, but the friendship and camaraderie born of that drink is certainly not.  I can concede however the swarm of termites early in the season was a touch unpleasant but seeing 850 people all swatting at the air at the same time actually looks pretty humorous and it was towards the end of the match anyway so even the bugs had the decency to not be too bothersome.

I kept trying to find something, anything, even in some remote, Kevin Bacon game way that wasn’t actually connected to AFC Mobile and I just kept failing.

My sense of community pride in the mayor who showed up to a match, the silly second line parade, the Causeway Rebellion, the phrase Sweet Lunacy, the Facebook friend request from one of the star players, (OMG CHISOM FRIEND REQUESTED ME!!!) the fact that in this time of swirling craziness outside the bounds of our team, AFC Mobile becomes a safe unifying topic of conversation that transcends borders, nationalities, race, status, demographics, or any other barrier we can construct.

So when I was asked to say what AFC Mobile means to me, I can honestly say,

Everything.

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