Kumbaya ‘ma Lord…Kum Ba Ya

Blessed are we — thy lucky few — who lived to see that day.

The debut of Austin’s soccer team was absolute dynamite and nothing could have changed that. Even the antagonist banner flown across Q2 Stadium’s airspace — purchased by a few of the most bitchy Ohio inhabitants —  just made me laugh.

Seeing that banner didn’t bother me in the slightest — maybe it would have if the message wasn’t so dramatic or delivered by the most silly of communication methods in existence. The last time I saw a plane pull a small string of text was some years ago at the Austin City Limits Music Festival.  It read something like “TIMMY H. IS A VIRGIN” and gave me a similar chuckle to the one I saw flying above the Q.  The ACL banner’s messaging was a tried and true comical dig, and I imagine the subtle inclusion of Tim’s last initial allowed his friends to validate the adolescent prank and share in on the laugh.  Money well spent.   

The adults who burned a few thousand dollars to fly “Precourt is a snake” at our home debut are undeniably sad individuals who don’t know how to effectively burn an adversary. I’m not a psychic, but I’m willing to bet those who purchased the banner are over 35 years old, male, and still share the same purported level of sexual experience as Timothy H.  Yes — the Columbus Crew’s former owner decided he wanted to own a team in a more profitable market, and the whole league made themselves complicit by signing off on the option in 2013. While the words on the banner are explicitly directed, the scope of blame feels conveniently narrow.

Even if he saw the plane, I doubt Uncle Tony gave a single F. Crew fans have a new ownership group and new stadium. Everyone wins here — no need to act like grudge-holding crybabies.

Nothing on that evening could have derailed anyone’s good time.  Austin FC’s inaugural home game was hotter than hell and full of the typical game day fair.  Eager fans swarmed the giant concrete structure, adorned in their finest Thai-produced ATXFC merchandise, high on excitement and wallets at the ready.  Five-dollar artillery shell-sized beer cans selling at the adjacent Exxon gas station went for 4x the price inside the Q2 walls.  Some armchair analysts were screaming questions at professionals, demanding to know why our players did “this” instead of the glaring “that”.  The mood swelled at the prospect of victory and deflated once the opportunity passed.  I even saw a short, portly fellow throw up in the parking lot — presumably from the onset of heat-stroke or one too many cervezas. Professional sport has arrived in Austin.

While ATXFC’s home debut did offer all the conventional trappings of a live sporting event, it somehow still felt quintessentially Austin.  A few guys wore giant green wigs in spite of the blistering heat.  I saw a suspiciously tiny support dog who’s owner fitted him in a suspiciously tiny Austin FC dog cap. The old guy in the band’s drum line is now my personal hero.

Matthew McConaughey ran onto the field in a green suit with bongos strapped to his groin. The last time our Minister of culture made news for playing bongos in town, he was running around nude, high on psychedelics. He was clothed and sober this time, but maybe he gets arrested again after we win a Supporter’s Shield or MLS Cup. It was a downright good time, and something felt overwhelming good about it.

The game itself was certainly entertaining, but I think the more obsessive fans in the crowd did the heavy lifting and turned this day into something worth talking about. Le Murga de Austin drove the stadium’s unrelenting pulse with 90+ minutes of pounding and sharp brass.  The supporter’s groups, Los Verdes and the other one, chanted songs and kept the vibes high.  The Austin-themed tifo was the perfect way to kickoff this team. Everyone’s spirit was lifted. 

No doubt. I’ve often been critical of these folks — the ones who generated an entire culture around a team that didn’t really exist yet. I thought the whole thing felt rushed and oddly disingenuous. The last thing I wanted was to have a plethora of pre-baked chants about a team we’ve never seen play being shouted in a stadium they’ve never played in.

A few people visiting from out of town for the home opener made sarcastic remarks echoing this same sentiment:

“What in the world is there to sing about yet?”

”Did the front office hire people to write these songs?”

“Are they debuting the Hall of Fame today too?”

I’m not sure exactly when my thoughts changed. I can now imagine a home debut without the war cries and music ensemble but, in my daydream, everyone is the worse for it.

In all of my time spent following/writing about sports, I don’t think I’ve ever felt more connected to a team and I doubt I ever will. In that moment, I was completely engulfed in what was happening, in some strange way that intertwined sport, spectacle, and the energy of the masses.

I’m so happy Murga de Austin exist to tie the whole experience together, and I’m happy to admit I was totally wrong in my initial assessment, valuing prolonged cultural development over Game 1 readiness.

I’ve been to countless futbol matches across the globe, sat in many supporter’s sections, but never felt compelled to join in on the chaos. My experience with a newly founded hometown team feels completely different. Even days after the inaugural home match, I found myself quietly humming “DALE DALE ATX….DALE….AAA…TTT…XXX” with no one around to hear it. The entire vibe was infectious, and I stayed on that same wavelength until I returned to my seat for the Columbus matchup where I was prepared to chant along with 75% of the now memorized chants.

I even felt prideful in knowing the difference between “Alright, alright alright” and as some people sang it “Ole, ole, ole”. Those who were incorrectly singing the non-Austinized version of the classic song seemed equally as hyped, so I didn’t correct them on the day. If they were feeling it — as they certainly appeared to be — who I am I to spoil their good time?

The stadium’s energy shows no signs of slowing, and I hope Le Murga & Co. keep bringing the heat for the rest of ATXFC’s days — highs and lows, win or lose. Keep on fighting the good fight.

Listos my bros.

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