Originally posted on Yahoo, December 3, 2007
In the spring of 1992, indoor soccer was thriving in Detroit. The Rockers were the home team. They were winding into the end of a season that would pull them through the playoffs all the way to the final game of the championship series. At that game, the battle cry of Queen’s We Will Rock You was timed to begin playing We Are The Champions as the final buzzer rang. It was an exciting year to be an indoor soccer fan in Rocker-town.
Indoor soccer is a relatively obscure sport. I have “ON TV,” the three hours of programming a day on one channel cable service we had in the late 70s, to thank for introducing my family to the sport. At that time the home team was the Lightning. ON TV showed Lightning games as part of their programming. After watching a couple games on the tube, we decided to try it out in person. It was sheer excitement from the light show introductions to each reboundig-off-the-dasher-boards-at-a-rate-long-field-soccer-cannot-fathom goal. Dad was set to invest in season tickets for the family in the reasonably priced sport in which my brother and I were already members of the kids club. But, even though the Lightning did a fair job of filling Cobo Arena, they only lasted in town for one season. It just left us hungry for more!
In 1990, The Rockers were a new team in an old favorite sport. I was responsible for writing in the sports stories for our radio news at broadcast school that included names like Superman Andy Chapman and Oscar Draguicevich. The sports readers loved me for it whenever Oscar had a good game! Okay, even I stumbled over his name on the air after one game! What started as trying it again after being left after only one season by the Lighting, became season tickets for Mom, Dad and me through 2000. When the Illitch family, owners of the Red Wings and Tigers, gave up ownership, the team was purchased by a less than interested group looking for a tax shelter and something to be a background for corporate parties. But thanks to the Illitchs, we had our sport in town for a decade!
The 1991-92 season was magic. The Rockers had come of age and the “show” both on the field and in the stands was electric! Mom and I had gone on a few road trips to see the guys out of town and cheer them on. We went to a game in Canton with the booster/fan club and even the playoff game that clenched the finals for them in Chicago. At that game we, along with the Detroit contingent of fans, were invited into the locker room to celebrate the victory. Our keeper, Bryan Finnerty, just looked, beaming at the support from fans who drove the 6 hours to see the game and proclaimed, “Looks like we need more beer!”
The Wright State mug is from the game we saw in Dayton, against the Dayton Dynamo. Mom, Jeff T and I drive to the Nutter Center, where the Dynamo played their home games. As we walked into enemy territory, wearing our Rockers colors, we were greeted in the customary indoor soccer fashion by the home season ticket holders. We were given a warm welcome to their town and their home arena...and "we hope you don’t win." In a small sport, the welcoming is much warmer, supporting the sport and trying to keep it alive first, THEN loving your team within that sport.
Perhaps the most lasting memory from that trip, and one that I still use today, is the comment about “page 5.” When we were walking in, a salesmanship savvy program hawker broke from his usual “Programs, get your updated stats,” when he eyed a few teenage girls chatting and giggling walking towards his booth. “Hey, cute guys on page 5!” Page five, of course, started the team photos and bios. Since that day, “page 5” from me, has meant a man whose “stats are well worth looking up!”