Dear RMBs: do not take your community for granted

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 started looking around for a place to watch Chelsea 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, and someone pointed me to Peter. I 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. Some of you 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:

Northwest BluesAgain, WTF? I was in the right place. It’s a big pub so I thought maybe the NWBs were in a room in the back. No, I was told, you’re the only one here.

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.

Rocky Mountain Blues

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6 thoughts on “Dear RMBs: do not take your community for granted

  1. Jason Smith

    It’s not all doom and gloom Sammy. The good news is that Shed End Seattle is a vibrant and thriving supporters club and we’d love to have you join us. Email me or follow back @shedend_seattle. Thanks, Jason Smith

  2. I can relate to this on so many levels. It was pretty much the exact same thing I saw when I moved to Seattle. I wasn’t really surprised because I think it’s the nature of people over there. When I talked to Ian, he seemed to have the exact same issue as well.

    I was left with a couple options. I could either join one of these groups (which I met Jason once or twice I believe and I became friends with Abdul of the NW Blues) but, with all due respect to both groups, it really wasn’t the same. My other option was to just watch games by myself which worked better since I worked all the time anyway.

    It was the ECS that I actually connected with better because they shared my passion and that’s where I got my social life and footy fix while returning to Denver specifically for Chelsea and Sounders games.

    I’ve appreciated the RMBs for a long time because it’s almost impossible to achieve that level of support and dedication. If you look around in Denver, we’re the only European supporters group that knows everyone on a first name basis. You need someone like Peter and people like him are extremely rare. His ability to recruit AND retain members is something that no one else in Denver can really do. Even the C38 and AO Denver have troubles putting it together like Peter.

    I honestly don’t know if it will ever get better. I always felt that “anti-Chelsea” agenda living there. Of course my long-term goal is to get back there and maybe try my hand using Peter’s model, but Seattle is a tough nut to crack.

    1. Sounds like you guys have a great organization. Moving to a new city can be challenging. Come see if we’re a good fit for you. I’ll be at the George for the live Basel match on Wed.(11:45am pst). Typically weekdays are a smaller turnout for obvious reasons. Would love to see you there. We are still working on a venue for Saturday. Mostly likely it’ll be the Market Arms at 9:30am for the West London Derby. We were there yesterday and had a good turnout (including new members). Frankly we find the atmosphere at Fado to be as pictured, but we have been known to go there for 4:30am kick-offs.

      Thanks,

      Jason

      1. I’m glad to hear that it’s the pub and not the community. I’m not going to be able to get up there for weekday games, although I work two blocks from Fado and expect to catch some there on my lunch hours. Weekends, though, I’m up for wherever and whenever.

  3. Sam,
    Sorry to hear that the turnout was not so good. A few years back before I discovered the RMB, I was one a few that would turn up at the Denver Fado’s, I could count on one hand other Chelsea fans that were regulars. I would try and grab as many email addresses as I could to stay in touch with the Chelsesa fans and try & get a consistent group together. We turned up for lunch one day at the British Bulldog and the then manager (who was a Gooner) told us about the RMB and the rest is history. I will never forgot the CL final, neither will my then 15 yr old son, who has always thought his mum was completely bonkers and our celebration that day only cememted it. Just remember what it was like in 2001 when the only way to catch the games was to listen to Big Blue Radio???? I used to hunker around the computer to listen to the radio version of the games, now we are spoilt and almost guaranteed a weekly ‘live’ match..

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