When my marriage fell apart in 2010 I quickly realized just how much of my social life was tied to my wife’s friends and family. I had friends of my own, of course, but most were married with families, or they lived way the hell out in the ‘burbs. Very few were of the “let’s go grab a quick beer” variety, so the result was that I spent a lot of time alone.
Let me amend that. I spent all of my time alone. And given the upheaval that divorce represents, not just in your routine, but in your soul and in your psyche, it’s probably safe to say that I have never felt quite so totally alone in life. Her family had become my family, and all of a sudden my family was taken from me. No family. No tribe. No community.
In some respects alone was helpful. I needed to reconnect with the guy I had lost over several years of dysfunctional marriage, and time with my thoughts was important. But I’m a social person and I needed human contact, too.
Then I stumbled into something. I’m a huge Chelsea FC fan and I started looking around for a place to watch the games. Some were on cable, but a) not all, and b) that channel wasn’t in HD. A bit of snooping online revealed that the British Bulldog carried Chelsea matches and was only seven blocks away from my new apartment.
I pulled on my strip, biked down the hill, and walked in…to a sea of blue. I believe it might have been the FA Cup semis, and the place was packed with Chelsea supporters. So packed it was all I could to find a place to sit and order breakfast.
I didn’t know it yet, but I had just found some community.
I sought out the leader of the operation, Peter Wohelski, got signed up on the Facebook page, and began meeting other members. And over the coming weeks and months, as I became more integrated into things, the Rocky Mountain Blues became more than a group of people to watch the games with. Many of them became friends. People I could talk to. People I could grab lunch or a beer with. People whose importance in my life went well past game day.
I was a bit less alone.
Fast forward to my move, three weeks ago, to Seattle. I hated the thought of leaving the RMBs, and just as a new season was starting, no less. I had invested a great deal in the community and it hurt to leave it. But at least I was moving to a city famous for its football culture. And Seattle had not one, but two CFC supporters groups. While they would never be the RMBs, at least I had a point of interest where I could meet some new folks.
Shed End Seattle meets at a place called the George and Dragon, and they’re the independent club up here. I decided to start there. I checked the G&D Web site Friday only to see that the game apparently wasn’t being carried live. I called and was told no, they were showing it on replay in the afternoon. The woman I spoke with indicated that they liked to spread the games out for business reasons.
Ummm. WTF? The game was this morning and we all know what happened, but let’s get together and watch the replay at 3? You can’t be serious.
So I then called Fado, home of the Northwest Blues (the local affiliate of the vast Chelsea in America network). Yep – game will be on live. Okay, there we go. So I arrive downtown, park, walk a couple blocks, and head into…this:
Wow. Well, I’m here and I’m hungry, so I parked at a table and had breakfast (the corned beef hash was excellent, btw). I talked with bartender a bit and he said that the Chelsea crowd hadn’t been very good lately. They had a few in for the first game of the season, but he doesn’t know what’s happened. Maybe their leader left or something.
So here’s the situation. In the most vibrant soccer culture in North America, a place where the MLS team outdraws the baseball team (by something like 2-to-1), it doesn’t look like there’s going to be a Chelsea community for me. I might go up and check out the Shed End crew, but I can’t imagine how you can build much of an emotional connection to, you know, watching a replay. And as for the Northwest Blues…well, you can’t build a community with empty barstools.
And so, here I am in a new city, and the process of finding a tribe begins afresh.
To my RMB friends back in Denver: I don’t know that all of you fully appreciate what we have built there. If I live to be a million I’ll never forget the 2012 Champions League final, which may have been the most exciting moment in my sports fan life. I’ll remember 20+ of us in the Dog for a 5:30am Sunday kick. I’ll remember waking up Ronan MacScottie and driving up to Boulder to watch the Blues in the Club championships in Japan last year at Michael Leaves’s shop. I’ll cherish the chance I was afforded to serve on the executive board.
Sure, I’ll be on the Facebook page and online for the games each weekend. But it looks like I’ll be doing that from my couch instead of from a local pub with my new friends.
It goes without saying that it won’t be the same.