Few things stir the senses, raise excitement levels and bring out real passion like sport. But sometimes I forget — being from overseas and all — that sports aren’t that cut and dried here in America.
In other countries you’re either “on-board” from day one or not at all, but not here. America has what I think is a unique third category of sports fan: the play-off supporter.
I’m not being critical when I say that, I’m really not. I understand that with so many sports to choose from, many of them with very lengthy seasons, it’s impossible to be invested in all of them 100 percent. And there’s actually some pretty sound logic to waiting a team out to see if they’re even worth your time, money and the little piece of your heart that inevitably gets taken by anyone whose colors you might don. In fact, I did something very similar this year.
In 2013, when it was announced that Colorado Springs was to be home to a new men’s professional football (soccer) team, the Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
, I rolled my eyes. I figured it was just another football-shaped false dawn, a fly-by-night team that may just make it to the last game of their inaugural year before petering out in the off-season, never to return. I’m happy to say now how wrong I was.
Since their first ever exhibition game in October of last year, the
Switchbacks have not only entertained visitors to Fortress Sand Creek, also known as Sand Creek Stadium, but this year finished the regulation season in an impressive third-place in the United Soccer League's western conference, and secured a slot in the all-important playoffs.
This is the real deal, and our boys from the Springs have gone toe-to-toe with top-tier teams all season long. Sept 25th at 7pm, they host Seattle Sounders 2, a team that essentially represents their Major League Soccer counterparts' reserve squad, in the first round of the playoffs. The Sounders aren’t recreational players, these are pro athletes on the verge of making the step up to the highest levels of the game here in the United States.
In addition to the intriguing team battle, there are some individual storylines that also whet the appetite. The rock at the heart of the Switchbacks defense, Josh Phillips, is Seattle-born and keen to show the Sounders that they let a good one slip away. And tricky forward Miguel Gonzalez, formerly of Washington State, scored against Seattle the last time the teams met several weeks back and is aiming to do the same on Friday night.
So if you’re the kind of sports fan who waits on the playoffs before investing in team, I get it. But just like the Switchbacks, your time is now. Colorado Springs has a very real chance of going all the way and bringing home a USL National Championship this year. That doesn’t happen very often in this town.
Join the Switchbacks faithful at Fortress Sand Creek on Friday night (tickets are still available
, starting at just $10) and lend your voice to the local team. I guarantee you’ll be so impressed that you won’t be able to help yourself from supporting them from day one next season.
Mark Turner is formerly of Oxford, England, but has lived in America for over 15 years, the majority of that time in Colorado. Mark enjoys playing soccer (football!), hiking and biking when the weather's good. Follow him on Twitter @melchett, or @BackChatPodcast, a Switchbacks F.C. fan podcast on which he is a co-presenter.