This personal soccer revival has been brewing for the past few weeks, likely as part of me understood the Sabres post-season run would be time-limited (and the fact that Sabres-obsession basically trumped any real attention to Liverpool since, like, February). It really came to a head about a week or so ago when I saw a tweet from DGWU favorite Phil, from Black & Blue & Gold, about FC Buffalo's upcoming trip to Brooklyn to play in a qualifier for the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. I confess that, as soon as I thought about catching this game, I knew I was going to need a tutorial on the team. Keeping up with this new team in the Buffalo sports scene is pretty hard for an expat, though having heard months back that the business side of this new squad was being led by Nicholas Mendola, I can't say I'm surprised by what I've found since.
Cutting right to the chase, everything I've seen about this team has made me all warm and fuzzy inside as I am further impressed at how well the team has marketed itself to be quintessentially Buffalo. Take, for instance, this interview with Mr. Mendola and fellow team founder Donny Kutzbach (in Spot Coffee no less...the original, real deal, Spot, too... God, I miss that place)...
The City-centered approach to this team's identity coarses through much of the material one finds at the end of some basic google searches. "For Our City," a team slogan, is evidence of this. For the unabashed fan of all things Buffalo, I am instantly hooked and already making plans for t-shirt and scarf purchases. What's more, this focus on City-Team cohesion is reminiscent of football traditions throughout the world - the idea of your home's identity being so wrapped up in the community's pride for the local football team. Of course, Buffalo fans already do this so well with the Bills, Sabres and Bandits, and FC Buffalo is smart to use this as a template for its business model. While we, as fans, are sometimes used to teams and players that seem so far away from the commonfolk - almost to such an extreme that sports exist in some kind of other-worldly bubble - this amateur squad is making the concerted effort to push the curtain aside and embrace the greater community. They may not have the star power of a higher level MLS or A-League club, but that might just be what ends up making this whole vision get this team off the ground.
I could go on and on, but I think you all get the point. Even the fact that they're named (at least in part) after Wolf Blitzer doesn't get me down on them... in fact, the resulting fan club "The Situation Room" more than makes up for the mouth vomit that rises up when I think about Wolf's tendencies to ruin news with bearded ego.
Which brings us to the game coming up this weekend in Brooklyn. Now that this team has, via the wonders of the interwebs, gotten me hooked and ready to fall in love with yet another Buffalo sports export, I am pretty amped to see them live this Saturday. Before naysayers start hopping up and down, I realize that The Blitzers have a lot to prove, especially since they are, admittedly, in the rather lowly ranks of the NPSL. But, after many conversations with the Yachtsman about the need for U.S. Soccer to develop and support national and local infrastructure to support the game - stuff like elite youth academies that submerge players in the very fabric of the game and multi-tiered national tournaments that foster excitement for the game top-down - it feels pretty good that Buffalo is getting in on the effort. Besides, even if this is their first foray onto the US Open Cup stage (albeit on the qualifying stage), I'm in the mood to dream about what this Buffalo team can accomplish, for their city.
So, in the spirit of further educating myself (and any of you readers who need it) about this team so I won't get down to John Dewey High School on Saturday, clueless as to what I'm watching, I'll be back on DGWU throughout the week to discuss the following topics (subject to my laziness and/or workload):
- Some history on the US Open Cup and where this qualifying match fits in with the tourney structure;
- What to expect from some of the key FC Buffalo players this weekend;
- How the "Brooklyn Italians" rank in the world of head-scratching team names, and how their history is nevertheless a beautiful thing; and, of course
- Plans for pre-game drinking, including possible linkups with roadtripping members of the Situation Room (Beer Island looks like an early favorite).
And, on the day of, make sure to keep your eyes glued to twitter for DGWU's game updates, photos and reactions. Which, after a few tasty brews with the Coney Island sand between my toes, should be good times.