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Why I’m a fan of Real Salt Lake

Being a fan is about more than just victory laps.

Monterrey  v Real Salt Lake Photo by George Frey/Getty Images

Welcome to the refreshed RSL Soapbox! To celebrate the new look and feel of our sports communities, we’re sharing stories of how and why we became fans of our favorite teams. If you’d like to share your story, head over to the FanPosts to write your own post. Each FanPost will be entered into a drawing to win a $500 Fanatics gift card [contest rules]. We’re collecting all of the stories here and featuring the best ones across our network as well. Come Fan With Us!

There comes a point in every supporter’s experience that they go from being casually interested in a team to a diehard fan. It’s not always the sort of thing you’d expect, and for me, I don’t know that the answer is entirely clear, but there are a few defining moments in my becoming a hyper-interested fan of Real Salt Lake.

First, there’s that 2009 MLS Cup run. I was attending college at the time at Southern Utah University, and attending matches wasn’t really a practical affair. Watching those penalties took me from being interested to excited. But I didn’t know the habits of players, and I didn’t know the culture around the team. Not really.

It all sounds so typical, doesn’t it? I can’t apologize for it, but it doesn’t exactly make for an enthralling story. But there’s more than one moment here to talk about, so let’s move on.

Second, the 2010-2011 CONCACAF Champions League tournament. No, not the final. After that 2009 win, I made a more concerted effort to watch matches on TV, and I more regularly was able to make the trip to Rio Tinto Stadium. The most exciting matches, for me? CCL. The allure of the continental tournament had me. The matches were ridiculous and fun, and even if I was near-frozen in the stands, there was always a reason to come back.

Third — and I know this sounds strange — but it was the ankle break that took down Javier Morales that cemented my love for Real Salt Lake. It was the first thing I wrote about the team: an over-wrought examination of the way we talked about that moment. Too often, I’d heard “Javier Morales broke his ankle,” and the brutality of the tackle that claimed months of his career deserved to be called out for blame. That was for the old RSL Show podcast blog, back when it was Chris Enger and crew that ran that particular outlet.

It was that time that took me from somebody who watched on TV and was wrong about his ideas to somebody who watched in the stadium, wrote about it, and was still wrong about his ideas.

Maybe my falling in love with Real Salt Lake was little more than being in the right place at the right time. But there’s been so much more to it than just circumstance, than just matches won and lost.

It’s been the Twitter arguments, which have seen all of us at each other’s throats more often than is probably healthy. And after that, it was the comments here or elsewhere — Twitter’s sort of calmed down, probably because we’re all angry about other things in the real world now. As frustrating as those moments have been, it’s always been something to talk about.

It’s been the players that just capture your imagination, whether it’s for their steady-as-she-goes approach in Ned Grabavoy (I know I’m not alone in that love), the ingenuity of Javier Morales, or the unjust angst directed their way in Alvaro Saborio. And there are so many more players to name, but we just can’t do it.

It’s been the away matches — I’ve been to Seattle at least twice, and we never win in Seattle. I’ve been to Kansas City, and we lost that MLS Cup final in heartbreaking fashion. But being there with friends and family, both in literal and non-literal senses, made it into something more than just a series of disappointing matches. It was as much about camaraderie as it was about the players on the field.

Moreover, it’s been the heartache and disappointment. It’s been sharing that with the broader community, knowing that we all experience the same grief and excitement on a weekly basis.

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