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Why I’m Salt Lake Till I Die

Through good times and bad, RSL is more than just a team.

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!

I’ve been around soccer my whole life. Playing, reffing, coaching, and for the past 7 or 8 years being a talking head. It’s how I have defined myself for as long as I can remember. I’m a soccer guy. When people ask what I do it always comes around to some project I’m working on, episode I’m about to record, or hot take I’m about to write. It’s gotten to the point that a friend introduced me to his new wife a while ago and she said, “oh, SLTID JAKE!”.

Kinda made me think about how and why I got here.

When I was a kid I wasn’t allowed to play the sport I originally wanted to. I felt like American football was going to be my thing for so many years. My uncles had both played in college and were who I looked up to when it came to sports . My dad didn’t really play sports but was very influential in my love for soccer so there’s that. He didn’t want me to get hurt like his brother and brother-in-law had in college so it was decided that I would play soccer. He was my first coach, and my coach for a lot of years after that. He’s the hardest worker I know and taught me that work ethic mostly through soccer. Working hard at something, for me, helps me fall in love with that thing. My world revolved around soccer, but I was the only kid in my neighborhood that really took it seriously or wanted to play past a certain level. At that time I didn’t have a way to watch international games and didn’t know anything about MLS until I was in high-school and one of my friends on the team was a Rapids fan (he’s an RSL fan now, we can forgive him). I would wait for Eurosport to get to my house every month to check out new gear and read what I could about the world game.

High-school was where I really started to get into the game. My coach was a fan of the world game and instilled a love for all things soccer in all of his players. We would go to teammates’ houses during the 2002 world cup, all 40ish of us, and have massive sleepovers to wake up at 2 am and watch games. Every night. We started going to Utah Freezz games, playing indoor 2-3 times a night in the off seasons, and pick up games every day after school — all together. Most of that team had been together since middle school, or longer, and it was amazing to be accepted as a part of that group.

During those years, it started to dawn on me just how cool it would be for there to be a pro team in Utah. I was jealous of people who got to go to the games I was watching on TV on the weekends. It became a longing for something that I had never experienced and didn’t know if I ever would.

When Real Salt Lake was announced I was out of the country and the news arrived to me in a letter some weeks after the team was announced. My mom sent me the news clipping with the announcement, and I showed EVERYONE that my home town was getting a professional soccer team.

A year and a little bit later I got home and went to every game I could, started getting involved in the budding online community, and did everything I could to consume information about RSL and MLS.

In 2009 my then-wife, and I separated just before RSL won MLS Cup. I remember that we didn’t get together to watch the game, so I went to a neighbors house to catch it with some of his family and friends. There was such an emotional build up around that match. I ran around his basement screaming at the top of my lungs when Robbie put away the last penalty.

In 2010 I got divorced. It wasn’t messy, but it wasn’t fun. Coming out of that I had lost touch with most of my friends and was in a really weird spot. I was overweight and incredibly unhappy, lost and unsure of who I was anymore.

One night in the spring I decided it was time to get my crap together and figure some stuff out. I had a yellow RSL training jersey and some adidas warm ups I’d had for a few years and my cleats from years before sitting in my closet. My nights became filled with hours and hours of touch drills at a middle school close to where I was living. Things started coming back together for me. I realized, again, that soccer is such a part of who I am that I am not me without it in my life.

I threw myself, even more, at RSL during the coming months. Twitter had become a thing and I was talking with people there about the team. Some of my best friends today are people that I met on twitter talking about RSL. We started having watch parties at my place for CONCACAF during the run. I jumped over my couch when Jamison scored that scissor kick. We’d play pick up five-a-side street soccer during half time. We’d talk during the day about the matches, line ups, transfers, and everything else we could get our hands on. It became fun again. Life became fun again.

When I look back at those years, 2010–2012 specifically, I see myself finding my feet and RSL being a huge part of that. So many moments during those years brought me through the bad times. I leaned on the results when I couldn’t lean on anything else. Call it cheesy, but this club is still more to me than just a team that I support. It is still a family. It’s my family. I’ve made so many good friends through our shared love for this team and the game in general.

Those memories and those friends are what make times like we’re having now bearable. They’re what I hope the future will bring for all of us, sooner than later. More nights filled with songs, over drinks in pubs and basements with friends and family celebrating the good and the not so good that brings us together.

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