Why The Pride: Bob Roat

 

“Soccer is a great sport for little kids!”

“Anyone can run around and kick a ball!”

“It’s a waste of a perfectly good football field!”

“Ties are stupid.”

“90 minutes of nothing happening.”

“The only way to improve it, is to put a flaming pit in the middle of the field!”

“How am I supposed to coach a baseball team, when I have players who’d rather play soccer on their club team?”

Yeah, I was that guy. I’m not proud of myself, but it’s who I was. How did I become a member of a supporters group? Am I a double agent for the anti-soccer militia? Should you be wary in my presence, shaking in fear of an enemy infiltrator in your midst? Have no worries! I’m one of you now. I’m a true believer, a comrade in arms. How did this transformation occur?  Longtime friends of mine consider my change of attitude and action similar to the conversion of Saul, or if not that dramatic, at least on par with The Beatles evolution in 1965.

As changes in life often do, they happen slowly, at the urging or example of those who are closest to you. In my case, it was the interests of my two oldest kids, a daughter, and a son. They both played recreational soccer as five-year-olds. I was fine with it. It gave them an activity until they could play a “real sport”, like baseball. A funny thing happened on their way to Cooperstown. They liked soccer! They really liked it!  “Oh no, what am I going to do now?”, I shrieked, as I broke into a cold sweat at the thought of my kids going by one name and having a weird Euro haircut. A little chronological perspective is probably in order now. This occurred in 1998 or so. I’m not really certain of the date. My brain lost all track of time and space due to the trauma of potentially becoming a soccer dad. Regardless, it was before the Brandi Chastain goal and the ensuing celebrity status of Mia Hamm and the rest of the USWNT. Soccer was still on the hazy tunnel vision fringe of the majority of American sports fans’ perspective.

As time progressed, they both continued to play at increasingly more advanced levels. As they played for the local select club, I became more aware of some of the skill and athleticism needed to be a good player at their level.

Each was a good player in their own way. My daughter became a hard-nosed defender. Think of her a short Dekel Keinan. My son had a knack and a true talent for the game. Most importantly he had a passion to be the best player he could be. After a winter practice at Wall2Wall in Mason, my son wanted to stay after his practice and watch Cincinnati United Premier practice. We did. He chased loose balls for them and watched and listened intently to the coaching and the drills. On the way home, he said, “I’m going to play on that team when I’m old enough!” It was at this point the lightning bolt knocked me off my horse. If he was going to be passionate about soccer, then it was my duty as a “great dad” to not only support his efforts but to learn as much as I could about the game. I started paying attention to the coaches at practice. Fortunately, his coaches were more than willing to explain the game to an old baseball guy when I asked questions after practices. After that, it was simply evolution. I absorbed as much as I could. I wasn’t easy but I became a fan of the sport itself, not just my kids or my kids’ teams.  

They both played for their high school teams. And yes, my son did play for Cincinnati United Premier when he was old enough.

 
 A soccer family! Who knew it could happen to me! 

A soccer family! Who knew it could happen to me! 

 

So how did I go from a soccer dad, to a season ticket holder and full-fledged fan and a member of a supporters group? I lost a few soccer years, to be honest. My youngest son was the baseball player. I got back into coaching baseball and coached his travel team. But after attending my first FC Cincinnati game I was back to watching EPL on Saturday mornings. I have season tickets in the General Admission section with my girlfriend. We, along with my now fully bearded youngest son, went to the first game in Indianapolis. We pre-gamed at the sports bar the supporters groups were at and did something I’ve wanted to do. I joined the march and stood on the fringes of The Travelling Bailey. No, I didn’t know the words to all the songs and chants, but it didn’t matter. I had fun. I made some “family friendly noise” and felt like I was actually a part of this team and club, unlike any connection I’ve ever had with any of the other teams in Cincinnati I’ve passionately followed my whole life. I was at Fountain Square for the MLS announcement and absorbed the atmosphere that rivaled a World Series celebration. At that point, I knew I wanted to join a supporters group. Which one was the best fit? I had contacted a couple of the supporters groups on Facebook looking for information as to the best way to ensure I sat with friendly fans in Indianapolis. Someone from The Pride responded and gave me the details I was looking for as well as the information on the pregame and march. I went to The Dime to watch the Open Cup match vs Pittsburgh because they posted it on their Facebook page. At the MLS announcement, I was talking to a couple of people wearing Pride scarves. Finally, The Pride Norden does their watch parties about five minutes from my house. That was the clincher! I could conveniently cheer for the Orange and Blue and drink good beer with like-minded folks! That is sheer perfection!

What’s next? I have plans to upgrade my seats to a section near The Bailey. I’m certainly going to be more involved with The Pride. The members have been incredibly welcoming to me and my family when our paths have crossed.

To those who know the Anti-Soccer Guy, buy him a beer, ask him to a watch party. Ask him to a game. You may have to ask more than once. You may be cultivating the next convert.

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Bob Roat