That's the general attitude I see a lot among hardcore soccer fans. That's the vibe whenever I'm ecstatic over a big result or down after a big loss. That's also a big problem that MLS has to overcome to truly make it in the US.
I talked before about the Atlanta Ruckus being the first team I ever really felt connected to. The second was DC United. John Harkes was my favorite player back then, and DCU became my team when Harkes was allocated to them. When they drafted Mike Huwiler, a former Ruckus player, that just sealed the deal. I still have the first DC United shirt they ever sold, with Harkes' autograph on it, even though it's pretty much falling apart at this point.
By this point in my soccer life, I was able to see the big European teams play from time to time. I saw a Manchester United v. Newcastle game that hooked me on the Red Devils because of their attacking style and Cantona's brilliance. However, I'd get to see that United 4 or 5 times a season while I could see the DC version in most every game. It was no contest as to who I cared about more.
Bringing in Jaime Moreno halfway through that first year completed the squad, and DC went on a crazy run to get into the playoffs. I'll never forget the first ever MLS playoff game against the MetroStars at Giants Stadium. Great game, and then the shootout went ten rounds (I think, close to that anyway). The Metros somehow changed their order and ended up winning, which meant DC had to win 2 in a row at RFK. They handled the first, then Rob Johnson took down Etcheverry for a PK in the last two minutes of the clincher. DCU rolled on to sweep the Supporters' Shield winning Tampa Bay Mutiny to head to Foxboro for the first MLS Cup against LA. Everyone should know that story by now, they went down 2-0 in a driving rainstorm, came back to tie, and Eddie Pope scored the Golden Goal in extra time to bring the Cup to DC.
I remember watching as they won the double a few days later over Rochester from the A-League and then driving from Athens to Atlanta to get one of the official "Double Winners" t-shirts. 1997 saw another MLS Cup, in another storm, but this time at RFK. The expansion Fire shocked DC in the '98 Cup, but my biggest memory of that season is winning the Inter-American Cup over Vasco in 1998 in many of the old guard's last game in DC colors. Harkes, Tony Sanneh, and Bruce Arena said their goodbyes and while the team went on to win another MLS Cup in 1999, things were changing.
The salary cap reared its ugly head and the team struggled to rebuild. It took a while, but United finally put it together to win their fourth MLS Cup in 2004. 2005 started the years of disappointment with a crushing CONCACAF loss to Pumas (5-0 in Mexico), a gut-wrenching collapse in the Sudamericana (going up 3-1 on aggregate in Chile before giving up 3 second half goals), and then a brutal 4-0 loss at RFK to Chicago in the playoffs. The Supporters' Shield returned in 2006, but the team still came up short in the playoffs, this time to New England at RFK in the Eastern Conference title game. DC won its second straight Supporters' Shield in '07, but still came up short in big competitions. Chivas narrowly knocked them out of both CONCACAF and the Sudamericana and the Galaxy pulled out a surprise in the SuperLiga semis. The Fire returned to ruin the playoff run, with United again bowing out on their home field.
I don't have that type of history with other teams I follow, there's too much distance. I'll go out of my way to see a DC game, but just don't care about other teams enough to do the same. DCU feels like "my team" while I just like watching the others play. Does that make any sense? It's hard to really put into words, but that's how it is.
That's why I get so ticked when people say things like, "But it's only MLS..." or "That was a pretty good for an MLS game..." or something similar. This league, the one in our backyards, shouldn't be taking a backseat to leagues thousands of miles and oceans away. I really want to see that change quicker.
So, in closing, that might be why I'm not in the best of moods today. My team came up short yet again in the playoffs. The great comeback in the second half just made it worse. It might have been entertaining if you didn't care about the result, but it was like a punch in the stomach if you did. On top of that, there's a fairly decent chance that this could be the end of another era in DC history. It wouldn't be shocking if that was the last game in DC colors for a few very important players. I hate to see them go out like that. We'll see in the coming weeks and months what's going to happen...
Adios 2007 DC United. I was hoping to get to see you guys in the MLS Cup in a few weeks, but no such luck. At least CONCACAF starts up in a little over 3 months...