By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
As part of this year's season-ticket holder package for the Colorado Rapids, fans were offered the choice of attending a "friendly" against either Mexico's first-division Tigres in July or the Everton Football Club out of England in August. Since any footie worth his weight in soccer scarves knows that Everton — a solid squad from the English Premier League, where many feel the best soccer in the world is played — is the far superior team, most Rapids fans chose to attend that match.
So on this windy Wednesday evening in early July, only the diehard supporters — yes, diehard Rapids supporters — are in the parking lot of Dick's Sporting Goods Park, drinking keg beer out of red plastic cups. Never mind that it's a work night. Never mind that this game against the Tigres has absolutely no importance in the Major League Soccer standings, or that the second-string squad will be playing while the starters rest.
Members of three occasionally clashing Rapids supporters groups — the Centennial Firm, Class VI and the newly-minted North Corner Council (NCC) — united both by their love of the Rapids and, more recently, their frustration with the front office, are here tonight. As they always are.
Soccer supporters groups are nearly as old as the game itself, with allegiances to squads passed down from generation to generation in the same way most Americans learn to embrace their favorite baseball or football team. Fans eat, sleep and breathe their team, sometimes with violent results. Incidents of hooliganism surrounding the game date back to the middle ages, and to this day firms, as they are known in soccer circles, will still meet up before, during or after a game with the sole purpose of beating the holy hell out of each other. For years, Manchester United's supporters group, the Red Army, was banned from attending away games due to the havoc it tended to create.
While some talk smack to those heading into the game early, others try to kick the keg, chugging more foam than they'd like. But in the end, they don't have the numbers, and the barrel is packed back into the trunk of a car. Then the group of diehards marches into the park as the waning notes of the Mexican national anthem dissipate into the Commerce City night.
For these soccer lovers, it's not about the quality of play on the pitch. If it were, they would have left a long time ago.
Since joining the MLS as one of the ten original teams in 1996, the Colorado Rapids has never won a championship; a second-place finish in 1997 is its most notable achievement. It's a perennial table team, typically getting into the playoffs (though in the MLS, ten of the now fourteen squads make the playoffs) but never bringing home the prize.
Still, it does fairly well when it comes to attendance, packing an average of 14,171 fans per game into the new, 18,000-seat stadium for each of the eighteen home league games. (Individual tickets average $18 a pop, with season packages available for $363.)
But despite last year's move to Dick's — the beautiful, soccer-specific complex built by Rapids owner Stan Kroenke — and despite the fact that the team is still in the running this year, last season's playoff miss, frustration with coach Fernando Clavijo and a history of underachieving have created an atmosphere of low expectations. So many Rapids diehards, an eclectic mass numbering anywhere from fifty to three hundred people on any given day, seek out their own fun.
Those who align themselves with one of the Rapids supporters groups — the C-Firm, the oldest, most established supporters group; Class VI, the more restrained group with the better seats; and the upstart NCC, which is perhaps the most fanatical — are here to talk proper football, to bang on drums, throw confetti and chant irreverent cheers while standing on their feet for the entire game. They're here to create that frenzied soccer environment that they've either seen on television or experienced first-hand at matches across the pond. They're here for the beautiful game, the way the beautiful game was meant to be enjoyed.
It's behavior that is both encouraged and discouraged by the Rapids and by Major League Soccer, which allows certain soccer-style displays of fanaticism, but has been careful not to let them get out of hand.
But Rapids fanatics think the team has clamped down too hard on behavior in section 100 — the supporters' section — and say that doesn't make sense, since the Rapids and soccer itself need all the love they can get in a country where other major sports are far more popular.
"It's getting to the point where it's hard for me to have any fun in there anymore," says Pablo Aguayo, the de facto head of the NCC supporters group. "I'm nervous to wave a flag or throw a streamer. It's like security there has their eye on us the entire time."
After a few photos with the roving Tecate girls, here to promote what the Rapids have christened the inaugural Tecate Cup, the diehards make their way to section 100. But there's not much to root for tonight. The game is a lackluster, boring effort, characterized by stingy, defensive soccer. Still, the supporters give it their best. Clumped together as close to the field as possible, they immediately start the chants.
"Over there, it's so quiet! Over here, it's a riot," they sing out in unison, their boisterous voices projected out across the stadium, contrasting starkly with the predominantly calm Hispanic fans, who stare at section 100. "Walking along, singing a song, walking in a Rapids wonderland!"
"Mama, mama can't you see? Mama, mama can't you see? What the Rapids done to me! What the Rapids done to me!"
"Mexico ain't got no Dick's!" taunts another chant, a play on the stadium's name.
The atmosphere is fun, if at times a little forced — only half of the small section is filled. But there's a whirlwind of confetti, healthy Tecate sales and then, in the eightieth minute of the game, several baby-faced Rapids fans light two smoke bombs. Pink and purple smoke spills into the air.
Ten minutes later, the fire-starters — who can't be much older than fifteen — are marched out of the stadium by a Commerce City police officer, who's wearing his most hardened scowl.
The game ends in a zero-zero tie and, chucking all rules and regulations out the window, the Tecate Cup proceeds immediately to penalty kicks, foregoing the traditional overtime periods. The Rapids eventually prevail, and the team gathers at midfield to accept the meaningless honor of Tecate Cup Champions.
"Hey everybody," a Rapids fan in the team's newly minted third jersey yells out, flashing a wicked grin. "We finally won a trophy!"
Victoria Baldwin — aka "Chili" on the highly catty fans message board, www.bigsoccer.com — started attending Rapids games at the old Mile High Stadium almost immediately after moving here from Washington, D.C. She had attended D.C. United games when the league began in 1996 and decided to see what Colorado had to offer. Her husband worked nights, so the now 37-year-old ESL teacher went alone. But she found her zeal out of place. "I would yell something to the ref about a bad call and people would look at me like I was crazy," Baldwin remembers.
Fortunately, there was an entire section that people viewed as crazy: section 127, an area that drew the Rapids' initial supporters groups, from the River Ratz to the Jolly Green Men to the Azules Negroes, cliques of fans that came and went but were united in their affinity for soccer and craziness.
Hooligans they were not, but fanatics they most certainly were, and Baldwin found herself drawn to the scene. She followed the team to Invesco and became good friends with many of the supporters, played soccer with them on the weekends and eventually helped form the Centennial Firm (a reference to Colorado's status as the Centennial State) in 2005, assuming the position of chairman of the board. "We decided that if we gave what we were doing a foundational structure and had a representative board, it would be easier to represent everyone," she says.
In the C-Firm's heyday at Invesco, Rapids goalkeeper Joe Cannon would leap up into the supporters' section after every shutout. Fan and player interaction was par for the course, with players calling out fans by name, offering up jerseys and balls.
But there were always problems with security guards at Invesco, Baldwin recalls, who would glare at the diehards. Raucous behavior stood out much more clearly in a cavernous yet empty football den, and the whole situation was extremely uncomfortable. As the team prepared to move to Dick's last season, members of the C-Firm met with Rapids officials to try to iron out the wrinkles and form a better relationship with the front office.
"We were invited out for the topping-out ceremony at the stadium," Baldwin says. "And we walked around with ticket reps and other front office people to try to figure out where to sit." C-Firm wanted to be behind the goals at the north end, so as to be closer to players coming on and off the field, but ended up getting section 114 (and later section 100), toward the southeast end of the stadium.
"We wanted to continue that player interaction, but it was not to be," Baldwin says. "Initially, they wanted us at the top of 114, which would have been totally ridiculous to have people banging on drums at the back of a section, over the heads of non-diehards. It took a lot of negotiating, but eventually we were given the front rows. We had hoped for a better relationship than with the security at Invesco, but from the very first game, Dick's security was right there, monitoring us."
In order to bring in flags or signage attached to any sort of stick, Baldwin says she had to present the front office with a variety of pole prototypes, so that the safest material and length of said material could be determined. Even when the signs were approved, however, some of their content was not. Last year, Baldwin made a sign for the highly anticipated match-up with the Los Angeles Galaxy and newly acquired star David Beckham, who then couldn't play due to injury. The sign's message, "If you came just for Beckham, sucks for you," was deemed too offensive to share.
For soccer fans well-versed in outrageous supporter behavior from around the world — from ultra-violence to racism to showers of detritus hurled from the stands — it's hard to swallow inappropriate sign content as a legitimate gripe from management.
John Bratt — "Badger" on the message boards — made a sign last season for a game against FC Dallas which cleverly read, "F*C* Dallas." But he says it was confiscated as well. Ditto for a giant banner made by several fans and hung behind the goal with a giant hourglass and the words, "Time's Up for Clavijo."
"People are calling for (Mike) Shanahan's head, and he's won two Super Bowls," says Bratt, a C-Firm board member. "You can support the troops and still oppose the president. We're not screaming at little kids, we're not invading the pitch, we're not throwing flares, we're not throwing socks full of nickels at the keeper. You go to a Nuggets or an Avs game, other Kroenke-owned teams, and you'll see way worse, but you don't see those fans being messed with as much us. But because this is soccer in America, there's this misperception that this has to be for five-year-old kids and their soccer moms."
Or "Dippin' Dots," as they're referred to by the diehards.
The Rapids front office insists that it's just trying to keep the games family-friendly, but Bratt and others believe it's gone too far.
"The Rapids have the same fan code of conduct that every team in the MLS has," Bratt continues. "They've just chosen to enforce it, in my opinion, beyond the letter of the law. And that's hurting the growth of a real fan culture here."
That code of conduct — detailed in the Dick's Sporting Goods Park Fan Guide — can at times seem highly interpretive. Inappropriate behavior includes, "but is not limited to, standing on chairs/seats...interference with the event, or participants of the event in any way," using profanity or "disturbing other guests' enjoyment of the event." Throwing, tossing, or discharging any object within the facility is banned, but "streamers/confetti may be thrown in times of celebration of our team's success," the guide says. "Streamers or confetti thrown at players, referees or any event staff or during corner kicks or throw-ins is considered prohibited behavior."
For a brief period of time, the Rapids allowed the supporters section access to a fog machine, but after other fans complained, it was taken away.
Aside from being confusing, the rules and restrictions have also changed time and time again, often from game to game, supporters say.
Still, Bratt continues to seek open dialogue and reasonable discourse with the front office — because, as he sees it, that's the point of a supporters club.
But he also sympathizes with a new group of supporters that emerged this season, a group of fans who, while not militant, don't exactly avoid conflict. They are the North Corner Council, and they are the bane of many a security guard's MLS existence.
"My take on this is it's the MLS, it's the Rapids, for crying out loud," says Pablo Aguayo, one of the main pillars of NCC. "I know good soccer and I personally cannot sit in the middle of the field and take in the game because I'd fall asleep, so I go where the atmosphere is. Every time after a game I go home and watch the game on TV again and I actually see it so as to be a knowledgeable supporter, but I'm at the game for the atmosphere of the fan section."
Once a member of C-Firm, Aguayo says NCC was spontaneously created out of a dissatisfaction with that group. "A bunch of people didn't break off and form the NCC," he explains. "All we did was put a name to all these people that left but were still showing up and supporting the Rapids. The reason that I think a lot of those people left is because the C-Firm was just too G-rated, too tame. It's not like we're going to have a row with everyone and fight up, but if you're going to use a name like 'firm,' a traditional European supporter term, you need to have something behind that. We just kicked it up a notch."
While that attitude tends to draw more of the young soccer fans — little footie-philes who look like they could be TP-ing houses on the weekends — their behavior isn't exactly something out of Green Street Hooligans: some curse words, an inappropriately-timed streamer, a smoke bomb at the worst.
But their behavior does attract the attention of Argus Security — with which the Rapids contract — as well as Rapids and Dick's officials, who can often be seen along an elevated walkway above the north-end goal, poised like hawks watching Section 100 and calling out the offenders.
Dave Cleland, a 41-year-old IT project manager for a bank, recently found himself booted from the stadium a mere ten minutes into the game. Cleland, a huge fan of Arsenal — the famed English squad in which Kroenke owns a 12 percent stake — bonded with some Rapids fans while watching football at the British Bulldog and decided to give the local squad a chance. It didn't hurt that the Rapids have aligned with Arsenal — and that the Rapids fans he met at the Bulldog knew their stuff.
"I got two season tickets and I would always bring a different friend, and they all loved the atmosphere," Cleland says. "And I loved it too, I'd bring in a cowbell and a drum and it was great that you could be in there and stand and sing like you can't really do at other sporting events. It was fun in a totally different way for me."
On June 21, after tailgating in the parking lot with fellow fans for the home game against Houston, Cleland came into the game late; in his haste, he missed the rules of behavior placed on all the seats of section 100, replete with the new streamer-tossing-protocol handed down by league commissioner Don Garber in the wake of MLS fans picking up on what the rest of the world was already doing — throwing streamers at an opposing player taking a corner kick. But Cleland threw a streamer at the wrong time.
"I'm tall and easy to spot," Cleland says with a laugh. "And all of a sudden security was on me, telling me to get all my stuff because I wouldn't be coming back in. Basically, it ended with the security guard asking me for my ID and information, so I guess I'm on some kind of hooligan list. That streamer didn't go anywhere near a player; I wasn't aiming for a player. It was just ridiculous. I spent the whole game in the parking lot with another guy who had been kicked out. There's certainly going to become a point where I won't go anymore if this keeps up."
What's particularly frustrating for the diehards is that the Rapids have used the supporters groups in their brochures and advertising material. "There's a picture of me waving a Rapids flag that they use to promote season tickets; there's a picture of my son with a Rapids cape," Bratt says. "There's one of guys throwing streamers and smoke bombs going off. But now if I try to bring in a flag, Argus will be there measuring to a centimeter how long the pole is. It's frustrating, because our peers in the MLS, other supporters groups, are being allowed to grow, to flourish. In Chicago and D.C., more recently Toronto, they appreciate their fans, and they have twenty to thirty different fan groups. We want to grow and have five or six groups, hopefully have people in section 101, then 102, and really expand this thing."
It's a notion all of the Rapids supporters groups agree on.
"Denver is a great sports town," Bratt says. "They'll back a winner. You saw the Rockies last year. If this team would get on a roll, this stadium would fill. Denver's not about rock stars, Elway aside. This town is about a team that wins. If this team starts winning, we will get the supporters."
Kieran Cain, Rapids senior director of marketing and entertainment, says it's not the supporters groups as a whole that are the problem. "It's a couple of individuals that have consistently identified themselves as pushing the boundaries as far as behavior goes," he explains. "I would say they get a little bit of extra security, but that's because that's the only section where we have people throwing things or where there are repeated incidents. They keep an eye on them, but it's not the Gestapo looking to shut people down."
Cain, who has been with the Rapids organization since the early days at Mile High Stadium, can remember what it was like to have a mammoth stadium empty, with no noise from the fans, and in that regard, he says, the Rapids appreciate what the supporters groups are doing.
But Cain also views the Rapids as family-friendly. "It's the same thing with a hockey game. You go to an Avalanche game and it's probably going to be different from the atmosphere of a game in New Jersey," he says. "I think we as Coloradans tend to have a more family-oriented atmosphere, and with the amount of youth-soccer players that there are in this state and their families coming to games, you have to take that into account."
At the beginning of the 2007 season, when the Rapids supporters were seated in section 114, Cain reports that the front office received numerous complaints from families seated near the supporters groups.
"Not only did we have to give up seats for the supporters groups," he remembers, "but we were losing a couple of sections on either side as a buffer zone between people that didn't want to hear cursing and stand the whole game and have beer spilled on them and that type of thing. We wound up having a half-full section 114 and two empty sections on either side of it. It was just impacting our sales too much; we'd have to lose whatever hundreds of seats that is to get fifty people in there. So kind of by mutual agreement we decided to move everybody to section 100."
Mutual agreement is not what some fans have called the move to section 100, but Cain says it improved the relationship between the Rapids and their supporters. And since the entire Rapids organization is housed within Dick's, they are in closer contact with Argus Security and can better monitor behavior.
And the Rapids aren't the only ones keeping tabs on fans. Behavior at other U.S. soccer stadiums has forced MLS officials to take note.
At a Columbus Crew home game in Ohio against the New England Revolution in late May, the Crew supporters got a little unruly and begin hurling objects onto the field, in some instances striking players. More disturbing, however, was a video that surfaced after the game of an off-camera fan shouting a racial slur towards Kheli Dube, a New England player from Zimbabwe who scored the only goal in New England's 1-0 victory.
Members of the Crew Union and another supporters group, the Hudson Street Hooligans, denounced the fan's behavior, and the Crew vowed to ban the fan for life, but as of yet, the fan still has not been identified.
Nearly two months later, on July 21, the Crew fans again found themselves the subject of controversy in a friendly match against English Premier League squad West Ham United. When a group of West Ham fans made their way into the Crew supporters' section, they were greeted with chants, and a brawl broke out between nearly a hundred Crew fans and thirty West Ham supporters, with Columbus police officers and Crew Stadium security staff eventually separating them.
"You hope that this stuff is freak occurrences," Cain comments. "Columbus for whatever reason is getting hammered with it this year, but you hear about things here and there every once in a while. I do feel it's infrequent, though, not a growing problem or anything. A hooligan over in the U.K. would look at anything that's going on in the MLS and say, 'That's nothing.' At the same time, you hope that your supporters police themselves."
Because if supporters won't, police will.
"Recently, I think there have been some flare-ups," says Sergeant Wayne Granger of the Commerce City Police Department, who has worked many Rapids games and is familiar with section 100. "Everything that I have seen has been related to park issues where there have been repeated warnings and people continue to disobey the rules.
"Smoke bombs are my biggest concern, because that's a fire, and you have kids in there," he continues. "This is not Britain. This is not Germany. They're not going to allow people to be standing there shouting profanities in a family environment; if they can't understand that common courtesy to the rest of the people there, then they are going to have security talk to them... It's a large venue. Family and safety is what we're all about, and we're supporting Kroenke in what he's doing. I don't think there is anything unfair in those fans getting more attention from security because they subject themselves to more scrutiny by not calming down."
Retired Rapids star defender and U.S. International player Marcelo Balboa says it's a fine line. "You want diehard soccer fans, you have to let them be diehard soccer fans. But you also have the family element. It's tough in the MLS, because the league and the concept of diehard fans haven't been around that long, so people aren't used to it or don't know what to make of it," says Balboa, who hosts a local radio show on AM 1060 and will be NBC's soccer analyst during the Olympics in Beijing. "But in Europe, South America you have leagues that have been around hundreds of years. In Argentina and Brazil they're dancing in the stands, they're dancing tango, they're dancing salsa, there's flags waving and smoke filling the air and they want you to dance on the field, they want you to make soccer beautiful on the field. As a player, myself, I'll take a stadium of 80,000 that hate me but that are screaming and into it over fans that are just sitting there."
It's a Sunday in late July, and the Rapids are taking on the Columbus Crew at Dick's in a game that could lift the home team into a playoff spot with a victory. In section AA of the parking lot, the tailgate scene is three to four times larger than it was for the exhibition match against Tigres.
Throngs of cars are parked by the practice fields, trunks open in proper tailgate fashion. A small sea of supporters clad in Rapids maroon — or whatever international jersey they've chosen for the day — chat and laugh with one another, eating hot dogs and drinking beer, while little kids try to juggle soccer balls as best they can.
"It's really kind of a community among us," Bratt says. "During the off-season, you really miss these people. We'll meet up once or twice, but it's never like it is during the season — like this, with everybody out and having a good time."
Paige Burnham agrees. In fact, the community feel among the supporters is the only thing keeping her here. She's not even sure if she wants to go into the stadium tonight, doesn't see the point. Burnham and her husband, Tel, a goateed Englishman with a shaved head, are fed up with the organization. Last season they had six season tickets, but they canceled them this year. For Tel, the club's decision to keep coach Clavijo was the last straw. The only reason they're here tonight is because of a free ticket offer from the C-Firm, which was given a hundred extra tickets by the front office in an attempt to grow the group. The Burnhams don't align themselves with any particular supporters group but are merely Rapids fans. Though probably not for long.
Paige recently voiced her frustration in a letter directly to Jeff Plush, the Rapids managing director.
"I sat in the upper section of 100 during a game on June 21. As I sat there trying to watch the game, I watched DSG Security, Argus, Adams County Sheriff and probably other agencies pick out individuals one by one, bring them up to the top of the section, interrogate them, make them produce their ID and then write down their information," the letter begins. "Some of the 'selected' left the park, others returned to their seats looking humiliated. I know there are always a few bad seeds and troublemakers. But for Pete's sake, it has become unbearable for 95 percent of the people that love the game to go and cheer and watch. I ache for the days of eating, drinking and breathing the Rapids. My passion is slowly dwindling and fading fast, and this bothers me A LOT.
"Please stop the insanity!" the letter continues. "Stop trying to homogenize the fans and turn them into a seated and sedated section, with hands folded on laps. It is safe to say the Rapids aren't doing so well. I would think this is a time when the fans and their passion is exactly what the team needs to boost morale. Every game, I hear of one more fan who just doesn't find the time or energy to come back. Once bitten, twice shy, I suppose."
As rain begins to trickle down and the clock moves towards 7:30 p.m., the tailgaters pack up their bags and move inside. The Burnhams go along, too: A free ticket is a free ticket. Atop section 100 is a brand-new placard informing all who enter that this is the supporters' section, an area prone to prolonged standing and singing. If you are not comfortable with this, the sign suggests, perhaps it's not the section for you. Fans see the sign as a welcome development and waste no time firing up the drums, tambourines, plastic horns and cowbells, and belting out a tune familiar to any soccer fan:
If I had the wings of a sparrow, if I had the arse of a cow,
I'd fly over Columbus tomorrow, and I'd shit on the bastards below!
Shit on, shit on, shit on the bastards below, below!
Shit on, shit on, shit on the bastards below!
The chant merits a few surprised glances from patrons in neighboring section 101, followed by shrugs. Twenty-one minutes into the game, Columbus puts one past the Rapids Senegalese keeper Bouna Coundoul, and the entire section is a sea of raised arms of frustration as the visitor takes a 1-0 lead. In the 43rd minute, a red card against Columbus player Steven Lenhart converts that sea into one of middle fingers. Two miscreants remove their shirts and scrawl "FO = Dicks" on their chests — a not-so-subtle broadcasting of their belief that the front office is a bunch of dicks. After the half, in the 66th minute, the first smoke bomb goes off. In the 75th minute, Columbus puts a second goal in the net, and chants of "Fire Clavijo" pour out of section 100.
Then, in the 81st minute, something very strange happens. Section 100 sits down and shuts up. At first, just a few NCC leaders push the move, but others soon join in and soon a section that had filled the air with chants and drumming, streamers and horns, is completely silent.
Before the game, Aguayo had talked about organizing such a sit-down to show the front office what they'd be missing if section 100 didn't participate. There had been communication between NCC and C-Firm members about when such a sit-down should take place, and if it should at all, but no final decision was reached. Now, completely impromptu, section 100 is silent for the first time all year.
Then a security guard removes two young fans from the section — the apparent smoke-bomb enthusiasts from minutes before — and the quiet quickly erupts.
"What did they do?" one supporter yells.
"Let 'em stay!" another cries.
Suddenly everyone has something to say, and when word filters down from the concourse that both young fans are being removed, one banned from the stadium for the rest of the season, the fans stage a walkout. Roughly half of the section makes their way up the stairs, past the security guards and police and out into the parking lot. Others remain in their seats, confused.
And when the final whistle blows on the field, signaling a 2-0 loss that puts the Rapids in second-to-last-place in the league, one of the few remaining supporters walks out, disgusted, holding a Rapids scarf for all to see: with the word "Colorado" upside down.
"Hey, your scarf is facing the wrong way," someone yells.
"I know," he yells back, frustrated. "There's a reason for that!"
The soccer message boards were aflame after the game against Columbus. One post in particular stood out from the rest, though, a missive from a Crew fan named Sean Kelly. A member of the Hudson Street Hooligans Crew, a Columbus supporters group, Kelly used his Air Force duty leave to make the road trip from Ohio for the game.
He and a buddy got the typical razzing from the Rapids diehards that any away fans would get and enjoyed the environment. Then they headed for their seats in section 135 and asked those around them if they minded if they stood. Later, when Steven Lenhart, received the red-card in the 43rd minute, Kelly and his buddy began chanting, "Bullshit" as they do at Crew games.
"Shortly after, ten police officers, four event staff security guards and a man in a suit and a woman nicely dressed approached us, took us from our section, took all my information down and ripped my ticket up," he wrote.
Kelly said the officials insisted that he and his friend had been warned multiple times about their language. He also said in a follow-up letter that they had apologized about twenty times and protested that they hadn't been warned.
"She then told me to calm down because they didn't want another West Ham incident. I could only laugh," he said.
"So thank you, Colorado Rapids, for making me waste $200 on gas, $300 on hotels, not to mention food and our tickets, all so I could watch the game from a bar across the street from your stadium," Kelly concluded. "Again, my issue is not with you fans but your front office. I will never return to your stadium, which is a shame, because I was having a great time up until that point."