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Last Wednesday, I fulfilled a 10-month/lifelong dream and attended the AFC Bournemouth-Minnesota United friendly in Blaine, Minnesota. Here is my trip report.
Rough Itinerary: Metra/Blue Line to O'Hare, Spirit Airlines to Minneapolis, Blue Line light rail to hotel, Blue Line/bus to bar, fan bus at bar to game.
5:44 a.m.: I wake up one minute before the alarm. Everything is going to go so smoothly today. For turning off the alarm before it wakes up a spouse, don't you get marital karma points or something?
6:10 a.m.: Transportation in the form of my father-in-law arrives.
6:15 a.m.: Arrive at train station in plenty of time for 6:33 a.m. train.
6:20 a.m.: Train arrives. Nice, the train is early. This is going to be a grand day.
6:50 a.m.: Mentally note all the people who did not quite make the train. Man, what a pisser.
6:51 a.m.: Wait. Crap.
6:52 a.m.: I'm on the EXPRESS train that does not stop at Jefferson Park. I'm a dolt.
6:54 a.m. Train conductor: "Where are you going?" Me: "Jefferson Park, but I'm on the wrong train." Conductor: "You are on the wrong train. You need to switch at Clybourn."
7 a.m.: Intercom "Next stop Clybourn."
7:04 a.m.: Train pauses but passes Clybourn. Intercom: "Next Stop Ogilvie Station."
7:30 a.m.: Board northbound train.
7:50 a.m.: Arrive at Jefferson Park and transfer to Blue Line.
8:05 a.m.: Wait, I forgot to print my boarding pass. Damn it, Spirit charges $10 for that. Those bastards!
8:15 a.m.: Watch gentleman attempt to balance on left foot while train is moving, only to repeatedly stumble back. Too pissed off at Spirit to record the inevitable injury. Disappointingly, he exits at Rosemont without incident.
8:20 a.m.: Check in at kiosk. Worst fears unfounded. Also, Spirit prints "TSA Precheck" on my boarding pass. I love Spirit!
8:21 a.m.: Damn it, middle seat. I hate Spirit.
8:45 a.m.: Approach gate agent. "If I want a better seat, can I pay you for that?" Agent puts me in 2F. I love Spirit!
9:30 a.m.: Plane finally boards around expected departure time. I hate Spirit.
9:35 a.m.: It's pretty clear this is a fairly empty flight. I hate Spirit even more.
9:55 a.m.: Push back from gate.
11:15 a.m.: After taxiing O'Hare roughly four times because of "weather between here and Minneapolis" and "waiting in line" and "switching runways" we finally take off. I hate O'Hare more than Spirit.
12:15 p.m.: Land at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
12:35 p.m.: Find (Other) Blue Line stop at airport. Try to buy "Go Card," but machine eats my $20. I drop a few F bombs. Somewhere a Ventra employee earns his wings.
12:55 p.m.: Reach American Boulevard stop. Damn, it's hot. To cope, I stop believing in global warming and suddenly it feels like 74.
1 p.m.: Check into Hyatt Place. Buy two bottles of water, thinking "HEY, I'm going to be drunk when I get back."
1:05 p.m.: Hey, nice room! Wait, it's a little hot in here, too. Discover air temp controls are of the old-timey analog "Lo Cold/ Hi Cold" nature. I summon more cognitive dissonance about global warming.
1:45 p.m.: After lunch, take refreshing shower.
1:50 p.m.: Wait, it's not very cool in here yet. I call on climate-change deniers to explain the heat away.
2:10 p.m.: Call front desk. Male attendant states somebody will be up "ASAP" to look at it. I figured the right answer is "Let's switch rooms." I wait a moment to think about how sunspots are the real cause of global warming.
2:25 p.m.: Manager greets me at front desk. She immediately arranges a new room. Guy sulks in background. He's probably one of those climate alarmists I read so much about.
2:40 p.m.: Depart for (other) Blue Line. How is it even hotter? Good thing the manager gave me this bottle of water for free. Because I'm pretty sure global warming was invented by the Illuminati to suck the sun's power away through massive solar panels.
2:55 p.m.: Train arrives. Wait, I have my previous ticket allowing me a free transfer, so I went right in. Weird. What a friendly mass transit policy.
3:15 p.m.: Arrive at Riverview stop to transfer to bus. Look for Route 22 Northbound. I am very confused with the 22B bus that arrives. Bus driver is a little fed up with my repeated questions about being on the right bus. [Editor's Note: He doesn't understand you are suffering from Post-Traumatic Wrong Train Syndrome, and will be for the rest of your life.]
3:18 p.m.: It's pretty apparent I'm on the right bus. My stop is the first stop.
3:19 p.m.: Try to enter the Nomad World Pub, which sponsors the Dethloon Express. Minnesota United is also known as the Loons, the state bird. Person picking up cigarette butts informs me that both daytime bartenders are on vacation and they will not open until 4. He recommends The Acadian, which is a block away. By now, it's so hot I need to start blaming libtards for their "Commie global warming talk" to keep from sweating through my shirt.
3:25 p.m.: Walk in and discover two genuine Bournemouth fans, Steve and Roz, complete with accents! I know Steve from the AFCB message board I frequent.
3:26 p.m.: More importantly, I order a beer. I want a Summer Shandy or a simple pilsner. This place does not believe in such silly things. But the Acadian set-up reminds me a bit of the Beachwood Inn. And that makes me sad. I sample two beers with descriptions that are too long for me to care about. The Beachwood used to serve Point in bottles, and that would have made me happy.
3:50 p.m.: I get the same beer again, not because I loved it but because I really don't want to hear two more descriptions.
4:15 p.m.: We go to the Nomad World Pub. Thankfully, it's now open. Four MN United fans are in already. We received some friendly dirty looks.
4:20 p.m.: Though I still want a Summer Shandy or pilsner, they have lagers and something called a "Ginger Shandy." They sure are friendly beer snobs.
4:25 p.m.: Steve and Roz talk about how friendly Americans are. For instance, they share a story about stranger who offered them a place to stay overnight in Wisconsin. I didn't have the heart to tell them about Wisconsin's serial killer problem.
5 p.m.: One of the Dethloon Express leaders announces "Welcome! We leave at 5:30 p.m. We'd also like to welcome our guests today. We're cool before the game and after the game, but during the game, we are not cool." Everybody laughs, in that "Shucks, you know we are friendly, right?" sort of way.
5:10 p.m.: One of the regulars introduces himself and talks about his favorite EPL club, Tottenham. Adele supports Tottenham. That is why she is so, so, so sad.
5:30 p.m.: Bus leaves. It's a yellow school bus. First song after the free beers are handed out: "We're drinking on a bus and you're not." Well done.
5:40 p.m.: 95-degree day plus yellow school bus vinyl seats equals removal of epidermis from back of my legs.
6:10 p.m.: Steve and Roz are especially enamored with all the songs until "When The Loons Come Marching In." AFCB's rival, Southampton, sings the same melody. Steve and Roz immediately start booing. Some of the MN U fans are slightly offended. So after a short break, they sing it again.
6:30 p.m.: We arrive. A Dethloon regular invites us to the pregame "picnic," which consists of two picnic tables and two coolers of beer.
6:35 p.m.: Steve: "We could never do this in England. That is great!"
6:36 p.m.: I point out a young guy wearing mirrored sunglasses and a Southampton jersey. Steve: "Wow, he even looks like a Southampton fan. He looks . . . looks very . . . " Me: "I think in America we would say 'douche.'" Steve agrees. I ask Steve if he wants to talk to him. Before I finish the question, he says "No." That's why they can't do this in England.
6:40 p.m.: More people come up to Steve and Roz. Earlier, Roz expressed concern with where to get in, so I lurk about. Just before exiting the current conversation, a new person wants to interview them. I walk away for a bit and find them answering the same questions. Steve and Roz politely answer them once again, but I can tell they are being a little robotic.
6:50 p.m.: We walk in just time for some quick food. I buy a bratwurst with sauerkraut. I add mustard. Three others add ketchup and relish to theirs. They might be friendly, but their condiment selection has much to be desired.
6:58 pm We all stand for the national anthems, starting with England's. Two Loons fans put their hand to their heart. Either they are really friendly or the Loyalist threat still remains.
7:10 pm Minnesota United is so friendly they have their goalkeeper throw the ball into his own net. They sure know how to make a club feel welcome!
7:45 p.m.: Just before whistle I head toward the other goal. On my way, I spot Bournemouth player (and Chelsea loanee) Nathan Ake being escorted by MU staff. Two other neutral fans stop him for pictures. The staffer asked Ake "How long have you been a Bournemouth fan?" Ake: "I actually play for Bournemouth." After our picture, I say "Isn't this better than Chelsea?" Ake laughs nervously. I forget to drop my "Chelsea fans kill puppies" line. Dammit.
7:47 p.m.: I almost immediately run into Steve and Roz. They said "It's hard to watch the game because everybody wants to talk to us." They are smiling, but their eyes appear to be slightly wearied.
7:50 p.m.: I get a halftime snack and field AFCB questions from an MU fan. As expected, he's friendly. Ugh. Would somebody talk a little trash, please?
8:20 p.m.: I've grown tired of the friendliness. I stand in the lawn between the two MU supporter sections. A neutral fan keeps yelling "Pass it to Gradel!" mispronouncing his last name.
8:25 p.m.: In the corner, Gradel and an MU player go toe-to-toe after a hard tackle. Both head-butt each other slightly. Both are sent off. Finally, some unfriendliness.
8:26 p.m.: The MU supporter section sings "You'll be relegated, you'll be relegated." Finally. That's more like it.
9:15 p.m.: On the trip back, we run into typically friendly Minnesota friendly. A three-mile backup develops because everybody refuses to use the zipper merge. Yes, friendliness is bad sometimes.
9:45 p.m.: Steve and Roz talk me into having "one more." Steve hands me a beer, while he is held up at the bar. This leave me with a beerless Roz.
10 p.m.: Steve: "People here are friendly." It's said in a part matter-of-fact and part exasperated tone.
10:05 p.m.: I can tell Steve, Roz and I are "talked-out." Two separate MU fans approach the table in a pincer-like movement. The nearest one to me wants to talk about EPL club Arsenal. I want to talk about how much I dislike that team, but there is a problem: He's much too friendly.
10:30 p.m.: Both fans leave. I wish to converse with Steve and Roz, but I'm afraid that if I stay longer, more MU fans will stop by with more stifling friendliness. So after some goodbyes, I depart. Usually, I express thankfulness for the beer and comraderie, but Steve and Roz need some rudeness to restore their faith in humanity.
Beachwood Sabermetrics: Based on all historical data available from the beginning of time, soccer is more fun to watch when fans are not so friendly.
Sugar in the Cherry Kool-Aid: England hired "Big" Sam Allardyce for their dumpster fire of a national team. This also improves Sunderland's chances of relegation. Hull City's manager Steve Bruce also resigns. But given the size of both men, this news causes the sugar futures market to plummet based on oversupply concerns. Because like me, they are pretty fat.
Population of the Cherry Nation: Four, up one from last week. Me, my high school friend who lives in Montana, the new Bournemouth signing American Emerson Hyndman (who didn't play at MN), and a guy in Florida.
Percent sugar in the Cherry Kool-Aid: This Week: 100%. Last Week: 100%/0%.
Previously in Breakfast In America:
* Which EPL Team Are You?
Breakfast proprietor Eric Emery welcomes your comments.
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