A few weeks ago, I wrote a column about how I’d like to start following a sport and, since they were in the middle of a hot run, perhaps the Oklahoma City Dodgers were the way to go.
I was ignored by their ball club. Perhaps Patrick ruined it for me.
But there was one local team that, in no uncertain terms, said “Louis, we’ll take you! Come be a fan with us!” And that was our local soccer club, the OKC Energy FC (who conveniently also advertises on this website!) and, more specifically, their supporters club, the Grid.
You may have heard about the Grid in the news recently. The raucous group of soccer fans made headlines for alleged excessive use of foul language and overly rambunctious behavior. Reading media reports, you would have thought they belonged in a section inside the Thunder Dome. Members of the Grid continually downplayed this as I pregamed with them before last Saturday’s home match against Utah.
“You’re going to hear cussing at a Dodgers game or a Thunder game or an OU game,” said longtime Grid member John Bratt said. “I’d say it’s no worse than that. ”
“We had a discussion with the OKC Energy front office not too long ago and we felt it went very well,” added Grid President Joe Pugh. “The relationship between the two of us, the Grid and the front office, has been fantastic.”
Spoken like a true politician!
Before the game, members of the Grid tailgate in the secluded southwest corner behind Taft Middle in the same place where the Teacher of the Year parks the car and the local middle school riff-raff sneak a cigarette or two when no one’s looking.
For a tailgate, it was relatively calm, with the loudest it getting when fans chugged beers and began debating the merits of the different players, all mixed with a solemn reverence for their beloved coach Jimmy Nielsen, who is apparently a big deal in the soccer world. Also a big deal, assistant coach Chris Spendlove, who was just cleared of murder charges in England.
As I stood around, nursing my Chelada tallboy and speaking to various fans—some from even England and Australia—about how much fun it is to be a fan of the Energy, I could start to feel the energy of the Grid members rise with each new member who’d join the party. Now I am notoriously cynical and have even been told that I might suffer from “Oppositional Defiant Disorder” which, sadly, makes it a real bitch to become a sports fan, but I gotta say, the energy (no pun intended) of the Grid was starting to get me, excited to see what happens next.
Situated in section 8, the Grid has their very own chunk of seating and, judging from the amount of security guards situated around us, more than few officials waiting for us to screw up—this must be what Mahoney felt like in Police Academy. I was informed that not only do we as a group stand the entire game, but there’s also a handful of chants that I should pick up very easily.
And I did, locking arm in arm with the few Mexicans I managed to find in the Grid crowd as we sang songs welcoming our boys onto the field, unleashing a monster torrent of colored Smylex-esque smoke that I was still breathing out of my lungs the next day. Still, once the game started and we had possession of the ball, and even the slight possibility of a score might occur, a sense of total civic pride washed over my very being and I…I…I cheered. Loudly. Proudly!
Now I’ve never had a single thing against the state of Utah. They seem like a genuinely warm people. But as soon as The Grid belted into a song titled “You’ve got twelve moms but you got no dad!”, my blood was boiling towards the Salt Lake state. How would these interlopers even dare to come onto our field in our town? Screw them! Screw them in their non-caffeine enjoying asses!
“Good God…” I wondered. “Is this what it feels like to be a sports fan?”
But that was nothing compared to the intense hatred I felt for the refs who seemed to be in the pocket of Big Polygamy, allowing one blatant foul after another to take out our boys, leading to numerous chants questioning the ref’s parentage, eyesight and, most egregiously of all, integrity. In a show of unified support with my Latino brethren, many shouts of “¡Puto!” (and I think I may have heard a “¡Chinga tu madre!” or two) may have followed up the anti-ref chants. Damn this fiery futbol-loving Latin blood that runs through these mildly clogged veins!
Speaking of clogged veins, when half-time broke at the 45-minute mark, I made my way to the concession stand for a flat $5 Diet Dr. Pepper and a $4 jumbo frank served in a damaged bun. As I put a little Tapatio on it, I was wishing I had ordered the super large Energy nachos that had a clever soccer-related name to them instead, but the damage had already been done. I wasn’t about to spend another $7 on chips and cheese.
Back in the second half, here’s where it all came to a head. With numerous men taking off their shirts and proudly singing one anti-Mormon chant after another to our distinguished rivals, it happened: Oklahoma City scored a goal. Within seconds I was absolutely drenched in beer, bottles spraying and cups dumped on heads in an epic celebration that went on for what seemed like an eternity. It was a strange feeling to feel pride in something I had nothing to do with, but I couldn’t help myself, high-fiving and hugging wet shirtless dudes in total exhilaration.
The Energy didn’t score another goal that night, but we didn’t need to. Realizing Utah was a lost cause that was no longer an adversary but, instead, an afterschool special to be pitied, the Grid, along with a cadre of other die-hard fans, all promptly ran to the sidelines, cheering our Energy to another win, personally congratulating every teammate that strolled by.
I, on the other hand, stayed in the stands, dead tired from the total futbol excitement that was the past 90 minutes of my life. I was spent, wondering how these guys do this on a regular basis, rashes forming all over my torso from my beer-soaked clothing chafing with every inch I moved. But it was worth it.
So how would I describe the Grid? Remember how, at the end of a little league game, you formed a line and shook hands with the opposing team, supposedly saying “Good game!” when in reality, you and your teammates are actually muttering “Bad game!” under your breath? That’s what being an athletic supporter of the OKC Energy is—a group of like-minded sporting fans who believe that good sportsmanship is for bitches. More power to ‘em, I say!
Now the taxi ride home smelling like a homeless drunk? That’s another story for another time. Tulsa sucks. Olé, olé, olé.