Friday, October 12, 2012

Minnesota Stars FC soccer game – Blaine, MN

I’m a nominal fan of soccer, having had played it growing up through high school (I broke a LOT of pairs of glasses back in the day). When I moved up here to Minnesota, the Thunder had folded and moved on, along with the Lightning (the women’s team), so I was pretty bummed that I wouldn’t get to see any big games for a while. Thankfully, the Minnesota Stars popped on the scene and actually won the championship last year. That’s a BIG deal for the North American Soccer League. So yeah, Minnesota has a rockin’ team.

I’ve got friends with season tickets to the games, and who travel to see them out of town, so it was only a matter of time before I made it to a couple of games. I made it to the season opener for my bachelor party, but it was in the Metrodome and not the same feel as being outdoor at the National Sports Center in Blaine – their home field.

The night started with some tailgating with A-Wow, Killsbury Doughboy, and David Deckhim. Actually, the night started by sitting in traffic after leaving work and driving to the stadium, but you all don’t want to hear about that. Tailgating consists of drinking beer (Surly is a big sponsor) and eating chicken wings (Buffalo Wild Wings is also a big sponsor). We consumed both of those things.

Then we went inside the stadium to eat and drink some more. The Anchor Fish & Chips food truck is parked in the “beer garden” and provides a whole host of British-ish footballer food. I’m a major fan of their restaurant, so this mobile version put a smile on my face right away. You basically have your choice between a battered and deep fried sausage or a meat (or veggie) pasty. A-Wow and I decided we’d split one of each between the both of us. That was a smart move.

The deep fried sausage is pretty delicious. It’s exactly what you’d think it is and not much surprising about it. It’s good – end of story.

The pasty is a deep fried meat packet. The insides were a little mushier than I expected, but thankfully, the flavor was also good. So, clearly, you can’t go wrong with either thing. Next door to the food truck is the beer truck, which serves really cheap Lime-A-Rita’s (Bud Light’s version of a margarita). So we filled up on those – Trashy AND tasty.

The belligerent-fan cheering section at the Stars’ games are known as the Dark Clouds. As in “everywhere you go, there’s a dark cloud following you.” These are the die hard fans that wear all the gear, make homemade flags, pay to have professional flags made, bring smoke bombs, and drink like fish in the stands. Additionally, many of the Dark Clouds bring band instruments, including various drums, trumpets, and noisemakers – which they play almost non-stop during the games. On top of all this, the group’s unofficial ringleader (Ben) keeps the Dark Clouds chanting various cheers and singing various songs with the lyrics changed. The entire time. Seriously, the entire game. This is why the NASL reporter has described the Dark Clouds as “what a marching band would be with a three drink minimum.” It. Is. Awesome.

And it isn’t even as if the actual game part is secondary. Somehow, they manage to keep it ALL at the front-of-mind and maintain focus on game action, heckling players (including their own) and refs, singing, chanting, lighting smoke bombs during goals, and parading huge flags made out of Hot Nuts wrappers around the field. All at top volume. So much fun, I can’t even describe it adequately.

During this particular game, the Stars beat Puerto Rico 4-nil and you can imagine how loud these fans got. The Minnesota Stars are still an awesome team, so it makes it that much more fun to watch! There are as many people in the cheap seats with the Dark Clouds as there are in the fancy grandstand stadium across the field. My suggestion, sit with the Dark Clouds and meet your three drink minimum (of lime-a-ritas).

That was seriously some of the best fun ever. I can’t wait to go back.

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