Every part of why I came up to Boston, Massachusetts was outlined this afternoon. After a rising round of donuts and Dunkin [part one…to be continued] I made my way down the ‘streets’ [ally-ways] to Dilboy Stadium; the field that the Boston Breakers have called home for a few years now.
First, the stadium is next to a Gulf gas station [yes, Gulf does exist…I’m as surprised as you are] with a 24/7 Dunkin Donuts inside the building. Second, the field is a mix of a track, football field, and soccer field. The town of Somersville, Massachusetts owns the park and the Breakers rent the field for their game day use. I parked the car and started walking around the field, noting the fences, building style, and the street vendors that were putting up shop outside the field. At this time a bald man was walking down the stadium entrance as well; the Boston accent almost as evident as the Kansas City Shock t-shirt he was sporting. Indeed, I had found my man.
Meet Ryan, he’s the logistics coordinator for the Boston Breakers, also goes by Mr. Dunkin, and Director of Media Relations. Professional doesn’t even begin to describe the guy. He’s been chatting with me for years on Twitter, literally. Since the Women’s Professional Soccer [WPS] days. However, today was the first time we met in real life. Ryan, along with the GM of the show “LB” were two of the primary reasons I was here. “LB” had been at the WPSL AGM in Las Vegas and Ryan had been keeping track of the Kansas City Shock. Factor in some of our crew meeting Ryan and their head coach, Lisa Cole, in Indianapolis this winter and let’s just say that the connections between the two programs continue to grow.
When I met with Ryan we just talked small talk, got started on setting up the field and the press box. I got a pass to wander around the facilities and just watch it all work. It’s incredible watching a professional organization get their stuff together for their home opener. Sure, not everything was perfect [when is it ever?], but it was so smooth. You could tell this program had been around the block a few times. Their new sponsor; Ocean Spray [yes, that one] was already noted on the runner boards [advertising boards] and jerseys. “NikeSoccer” was plastered everywhere compliments of the National Women’s Soccer League [though it has not been formally announced as a sponsor for the league], and people were running around in order and structure to the game ready that was four hours away.
While Ryan worked on setting up all of his computers, iPads, and glow sticks in the press box “LB” was spotted in the bleachers talking through the ever-so-needed walkie talkie. Thank goodness he remembered me from Las Vegas. After a few minutes of chit-chat he asked about my seating, and I had purchased a ticket [of which I do not regret], but “LB” had other plans. He gave me a ‘pitch side pass’ [for NASCAR fans this would be a pit pass] and showed me my seat that was on the field, literally a few feet from the sideline.
Several times I found myself just standing there watching everything ‘grow’, it was fascinating from the start…and humorous at times. I stepped out of the stadium and saw merchandise tables going up, and I started to chat with everyone I met. The passion of these people were unreal. Here are all these individuals spending their Sunday’s setting up a field for a game in which they’re not even getting paid; they’re volunteers. Welcome to the world of women’s professional soccer…still. While eyeballing the gear my eyes laid upon a phone cover. Yes, an iPhone 5 cover that had the Boston Breakers on the back of it. Interestingly enough I had just been upgraded from my company to an iPhone 5. With that was this request,
You have a $50 budget to get a phone cover.
This cover was $15. So, before I knew what had happened I had swiped my company card through the Square [very easy by the way] and I now own a Boston Breakers iPhone 5 cover. I did this for two reasons: first, it’s a nice cover for the iPhone 5 and it’s the Breakers; secondly, because I enjoy messing with our accountant at work and I’ll be curious to see her remark about the iPhone 5 cover purchase in Boston, Massachusetts.
Once I had received the cover I spent some time in the press box, meeting members of the local media, seeing the video for live streaming being set up, and again…just watching.
As we moved closer to the 6:30 PM EST kickoff the players started to show up, the coaches appeared, and with that…the fans. It was a sold out, and I’m not talking “sold out because we gave away all the tickets” sold out…I mean a packed house in the cozy 2,500 seat stadium with standing room.
Note: Due to the crazy harsh winter the new 1,000 seats that are to be added across the field haven’t been installed, but they are coming.
Children, parents, the elderly, and even the mayor of Somersville all came out tonight. Additionally, Cheryl Bailey, the commissioner of the National Women’s Soccer League also stepped in for a few words. The air was frigid, the wind was blowing, but when the players took to the field it didn’t matter. At this point I had found my seat, but also noted a friend of mine from Facebook was sitting in some seats a few rows behind me. Again, like Ryan, I went hunting and found the man with his three daughters. It was refreshing to see people that are just as genuine in real life as they are digitally [no Catfish issues here]. After the national anthem, the game got started.
For the first 45 minutes I froze and waited, cheered and froze, looked at the audience and froze some more. I despise Nike and that $50 hoodie was sounding more and more appealing as I thought of it. At halftime I had to move around, so I figured I’d try some local grub. Indeed I went for the Italian Sausage food cart. For $13.50 I got a massive dog and bun and more fries then I knew what to do with. It…slid down…just fine. Always worth taking a look at local cuisine when the chance arrives. Sadly I was not able to bring the food to the seat on the field, and it did include me looking at a security guard and saying,
Ah ya kid’n me? Ah, faugit ’bout it!
…I had to try it at least once. While munching on some fries I was greeted by two more people that I had spoken to on Twitter for quite some time, in fact one of them before I met Ryan years back. Again, the sincerity was instantly noted when talking. It’s insane to think about the amount of people that were at this game across the country, that were pulling for the Kansas City Shock on a daily basis. Trust me, these people know us and they like us…a lot. After a man told us to get down since the game started I worked on a few more fries and headed back to my seat.
A few minutes passed and I saw “LB” talking to the Cheryl Bailey of the National Women’s Soccer League. Honestly, as the CEO of the Kansas City Shock it would be a crime if I didn’t find a way to at least greet the woman who was to guide…so much. I watched “LB” pass by, along with one other man [who turned out to be an owner of the program]. Cheryl was alone, texting on her phone.
I made my move.
Realistically, there is nothing smooth about anything I do. I’ll confess to that, and this was no different. She was sending a text and hadn’t noticed that I was standing next to her. After putting the phone away I was able to awkwardly greet her, play the ’20 name game’ with her, and then introduced myself. It was…awkward. The Kansas City Shock is in the Women’s Premier Soccer League, and this is the commissioner of the National Women’s Soccer League [go ahead basketball junkies…break out the ABA/NBA stories]. We just shot the breeze for a while, but I enjoyed her passion for not only what she was doing, but her entire passion for actually growing this league. She was realistic, but also optimistic. A blend that isn’t easy to find these days. I asked her a few questions about the league, and she answered as I expected…vaguely, primarily because we can’t predict the future of any of the programs. Fascinatingly enough we left one another in peace by…exchanging business cards? Yes, as strange as it seems, I can now say that I received a business card from the commissioner of the National Women’s Soccer League, a small victory in my book.
After sitting back down [and freezing] I spent the rest of the match watching the game, including a game tying goal in the 91st minute of the match (90 minute game with extra time for injuries and fouls) by the home team; of which the crowd went insane. I was able to chat with this older man sitting next to me, screaming his ever-living heart out. His family actually houses two of the players that are out of town, we took some time to talk about that experience, and how much he loved having this opportunity.
When the game had finished, I hopped up to the press box to give the ‘pitch side pass’ back to Ryan. It was then that things went from fascinating to awesome. Before I knew it I had followed him onto the field. So, I’m surrounded by all these players and suddenly it occurred to me:
I need to find the Aussie, we have common ground.
I met Kyah Simon for the first time ever tonight; very gifted athlete, very humble soul. We chatted on briefly, but we did talk about her, her club back in Australia, her time here, and I brought up our Aussie as well…these are professional athletes, individuals I should never have met had my life continued its original path. It was unreal.
Finally, after all was said and done, I found Ryan on the field once again and of all the people that I had met, there was still one I hadn’t:
Ryan, is there any chance I could chat with Lisa?
Several months ago, I had received something from a coach, some words of encouragement that meant the world to me. It was perfectly placed, perfectly timed, and did exactly what should happen from a coach…it motivated me to do better. Interestingly enough it came from a person I had never spoken to in my life; the head coach from the Boston Breakers. If nothing else, tonight I needed to at least say thank you.
Here came this short woman [everyone in Massachusetts…minus Ryan…is short] in a Breakers coat, and she didn’t even do the formal introduction; she knew exactly who I was:
There was a rumor saying that you’d be here tonight.
That was from our GM tweeting to her last night…
We walked and chatted for a few moments; talking about life, the game, the world I’m in, and her thoughts on the future. Just as before, only in real life, her words of wisdom just sank in. I’m not sure what her gift is, but I wanted to listen and learn. “Focus on yourself and your situation, everything else will work itself out.”
Afterwards I said my farewells to Ryan, spoke to a few more media individuals, and headed across the street to Dunkin Donuts [part two] for coffee.
On my way to the hotel; recapping the entire afternoon/evening. This game, the environment, the words, everything…it was all exactly what I had looked for. Everything that I was hoping to find in Boston was there. I felt/feel recharged, optimistic, realistic, and determined. The mixture of the respect tonight, the excitement of the environment, the encouragement, and even the discussions I’ve had recently with my girlfriend all combined just as a perfect reminder that I’m exactly where I need to be.
It’s fascinating how a game, a random city, even more random people can unknowingly take what God needs you to hear, and ensures that it is exactly what you hear.