Whether it brings a family closer together, helps someone heal or creates a sense of community, Real Salt Lake means many things to many different people. "Difference Makers" will explore some of those meanings, with five RSL fans - one for each weekday during Real Week - sharing their stories about what role the club plays in their lives. Today’s installment comes from RSL fan Sheila McGuire, a second-year Section 16 season ticket holder from Evanston, Wyoming.
In many ways, this is a love story. I attended my first RSL match in June 2010. I admit it, I really only went to placate my husband – who had been repeatedly asking to attend a match for a couple of years. I finally decided to take him as a birthday gift. At the time, my soccer knowledge consisted of a few self-taught rules learned through my kids’ involvement in AYSO. I don’t really know what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t to fall in love with a sport, with a team, with a stadium full of strangers, and even more in love with my family.
RSL defeated the LA Galaxy on that day. I immediately regretted the years we missed out on and vowed to come back for more. This sounds simple, but it can be difficult. We live in Evanston, Wyoming, and each trip to the RioT is nearly 200 miles round trip. I’m a full-time grad student and Mom to three kids – ages 16, 8, and 3. Finances can at times be challenging on my husband’s one income, and finding something that the whole family enjoys can be equally challenging. But in the past years we have steadily increased our match attendance to becoming section 16 season ticket holders in 2012 and 2013. Real Salt Lake has become part of nearly everything we do.
It’s my 3-year-old daughter singing “Believe” at random moments; learning her alphabet through such phrases as “B is for Beckerman;” getting confused and referring to Jafar from Disney’s Aladdin as Jeff Cassar; and asking if Mommy, Daddy, Leo, and Jason Kreis will be proud of her when she learns something new.
It’s watching our 8-year-old son blossom on his AYSO team – from uncertain and introverted to a confident team leader scoring his first goal last summer – and knowing that he’s learning something in all the matches we watch. It’s the memory of meeting Kwame Watson-Siriboe in an elevator of an SLC hotel last summer after his RSL debut, and him teasing my son about how good his Frosty looked.
It’s the fact that we have something that bonds us with our 16-year-old son, an age when many kids want nothing more than to distance themselves from their parents. Not only do we have something huge in common, but every once in a while we still get to be the “cool” parents when we take his friends along with us to the stadium. It’s watching him dance, chant, cheer, and lose himself in the drums and the rhythm of the RioT.
It’s my husband working loads of overtime without complaint in order to support our family pastime. It’s the look of pure joy on his face at matches, even when he’s yelling at the ref, the other team, or, alas, our own team.
It’s my 40th birthday, when we hung out after the match and met players for autographs and pictures – photos that are now signed and framed and sitting on my desk – and the smile on my face in those pictures that my husband calls my “Kool-Aid smile.”
In short, Real Salt Lake is around us every day now, teaching us about teamwork, about never giving up, about giving back to the community, about finding camaraderie amongst strangers – even about the alphabet. In RSL, we find inspiration, motivation, dedication, and love – for our fellow fans, our team and our kids’ role models, and, most of all, for each other.