BY RBNY OPTIMIST
Staff Writer, Red Bulls
When I took this writing gig at Empire of Soccer, I really had no idea what shape my postings would take week after week. I’m pretty sure as the season goes on I’ll inevitably be weighing in on the performance of the team, attendance figures, television ratings, and a whole list of perceived slights by national media against the team that I love (Spoiler alert: It’s…the Red Bulls!).
In the meantime, I’m having all kinds of fun delving into the psyche of “The Red Bulls Fan.” Oh, I know I’m making gross generalizations, but anyone plugged into Twitter, Facebook, and assorted message boards probably has the exact same composite picture in their heads of the fan base. And there’s no better time to dive into some generalizations and clichéd stereotypes than when the team announces even the slightest negative news.
Sure, for some, our first match felt more like two dropped points than one point gained, purely due to the way in which it happened. But if you had polled most fans before the game started, I’m pretty sure that they would have happily signed up for leaving the City of Roses with a point. So, even though there was some grumbling, it certainly didn’t rise (fall?) to the level of last year’s dismal opening match in Dallas.
The next shoe to drop, however, was yesterday afternoon’s news that Juninho would miss this week’s match against the SJ Quakes with a “strained calf.” And with that, cue the bad news domino effect.
It starts with Twitter, where the beat writers (usually the ever present Franco Panizo and our own Dave Martinez) report the news mere seconds after it leaves the mouth of Head Coach, Mike Petke (MIKE PETKE!).
Next up, other Twitter news sources, and various pundits — both recognized and self-proclaimed — with the “We told you so! The Red Bulls and their crazy predilection for big names that are too old or just plain incapable of producing in MLS. They will never learn.”
Then, quickly behind them come the fans in tweets, discussion board threads and blog comments: “And so, it begins;” “Here we go;” “Probably foreshadowing how the season will turn out” as though it was a foregone conclusion and the only surprise is that it happened so quickly.
To some other fan’s credit, there was a small and hardy band making exactly the point I want to leave you with here. It’s a minor injury in the first game of the season. It happened on turf. It does not mean that Juninho is too old to play in MLS. It does not mean that Juninho will miss a long string of games due to injury.
Look at the guy’s record. Is he old for a soccer player? Yes, he is. But look at his history — between April 2011 and the end of last season in Brazil, he appeared in 50 games. This is not a brittle player, just the opposite.
Of course, one of my favorite phrases, especially when it comes to our beloved Red Bulls is Past performance is not an indicator of future returns, and even I have to admit that this cuts both ways. So, just because he’s been durable doesn’t guarantee that he will continue to be, but on the other hand, just because he got injured in the first match of the season doesn’t mean that the Red Bulls made a horrible mistake and he’s going to be riding the pine (or more accurately the trainer’s table) for a large chunk of the season.
In reality, no one knows how this one will turn out. Like so many other things that will happen during the season, this is something we cannot control. What we can do as fans, however, is control how we REACT to it.
Calm down. Take deep cleansing breaths. Root on your team and see what happens. It’s the Optimist’s Way.