It's been two long weeks since we've seen our Reds in action. Seems an eternity doesn't it? The international break wreaks havoc on anxious supporter nerves; or at least it does on mine. And while I'm happy for the players that get to go represent their countries and glad that the injured players get some more rest and rehab time - I'm selfish, I want to see TFC play every week. Weird, right? I want to see them play - all the time. If you'd asked me 6 months ago if that was the case I'd have looked at you as though you were insane - did any of us want to watch this team by the end of last season? I kept going to games and for some reason continued to torture myself by watching them on TV - but really by the end I was just going through the motions. Going to BMO was mostly to see some of my footy family and the watching on TV? Well, we were all part of the fine tradition of 'train wreck watching' - so horrifying, yet just couldn't look away.
But these last two weeks have been a little different; hell this season's been a little different. Maybe it is possible to change the culture at this club. But for me and also it would seem a number of fans the change is slowly coming and it all began with a little jaunt to Montreal. Two weeks ago myself, Duncan (our esteemed editor) and another friend decided to make the trip to Montreal. Keeping in mind that we are not the most optimistic of trios - it's true, my optimism was rather tarnished by the end of last season and is still in a fragile state - yet we were all pretty hyped to make this trip. We weren't going for the weekend, or even for the night - no, we drove up in the morning, went to the game and drove straight back. Madness you say? Maybe. But really, it was a lot of fun - some of that can be attributed to the company of course - but it was fun to be excited enough about Toronto FC to want to get up at a ridiculous hour and then spend hours in a car for what would be only 4 hours in Montreal. That's right; a 17 hour spur of the moment road trip to watch our Reds for 90 minutes. Seriously, fun! And something you likely couldn't have paid me to do last year. But now? That was so much fun that I'd gladly do it again - in fact I'm already plotting something in oh about 4 weeks time...but that's another story.
Montreal was potentially the start of some good things both for the team and for the fans - would you have thought that more than 3000 fans, hell more than 300 fans of Toronto FC would have travelled anywhere to see this team by the end of last season? And yet there we were - loud, red-clad and enthusiastic - all over the upper deck and the supporter's area. Kudos to the Impact and TFC for partnering up on the tickets that allowed so many to travel and to be part of the whole record setting thing (we're #1!) and to the fans for taking advantage and well, wanting to come out to support the team. Yes I know that they were free tickets but again I ask you, how many would have made that trip last October? Hell, last August? Anyone, anyone, Bueller, Bueller? I can think of very few who would have considered that a good investment of their time - and that includes even the most optimistic, all will be well supporters that I know. This year however, the feeling of hope is so far refusing to die - we the long suffering, gallows humour embracing, cynical bunch are actually looking forward to games - looking forward past next week and next month. It's only been 3 games and already you can sense the change in the team - will that change lead to the fans returning to BMO?
That brings us to the home opener - the SkyDome was just a warm-up - finally we're back in "Our House" of BMO Field! No more sitting in unfamiliar seats, no staring across a giant empty expanse before your eye lands on the pitch, no monster truck rally announcers and no plastic! Finally we get to sit in our regular seats, with our respective section mates, don our new jaunty plaid scarves - OK, the red thread (please stop) is a bit much - but they are quite natty nonetheless, and then maybe tuck in to some perogies or have a butter chicken hot dog? OK, the latter isn't really for me as I rarely partake of any food at BMO but for those of you that do - lots of tasty new choices - bacon on a stick anyone? Mmm...bacon...
And if you enjoy really loud music and "beer", the North Patio is being rechristened (and rebranded) the 'Budweiser King Club'. Expect lots of special events, the Bud Big Rig (whatever that is) and all sorts of corporate marketing mayhem throughout the season. Although the rumour of $5 "beers" may be more than enough to pack the patio each game. My advice? Use another gate - sorry, the cynical side slipped out for a minute - I'm just not one for faux atmosphere and well I don't like Bud - not even $5 Bud. However none of that matters for me at the moment; I am happy, no scratch that, I am excited about this game. I haven't felt this excited to be going to a game (except the CCL matches) in almost a year. That's what the 2012 season did - sucked the enjoyment out of going to games. Whether this feeling will last of course remains to be seen. And with reports that only 18,000 or so are expected at BMO it looks as though not everyone is back in their happy place just yet. What say you? Will you going to the Home Opener? Are you happy, shiny people?