5 Reasons to Go to a Red Bulls Game
It was a typical Wednesday. Hazy skies, hints of rain, the usual metro area aura. But as I stood on the overpopulated PATH train, surrounded by rush-hour regulars and salivating soccer fans, an undeniable energy flooded the car. The Red Bull Arena was only moments away.
Finally we reached Harrison station, fans and tourists alike bruising through the pack, unable to contain their exuberance. But only when I turned the corner on Frank E. Rodgers Boulevard could I see the glorious architectural masterpiece in full form.
I began to jog, and then sprint, and then stop because I was being ridiculous. Four blocks away from a pure escape.
As I breezed my way closer to the arena, a colorful tailgate absorbed my focus. Fans danced, ate, partied, smiled. A necessary diehard pregame of course, nothing out of the norm.
I then continued to the entrance, ticket in hand and adrenaline flowing through my veins. I had finally arrived at the beloved new arena. It was time to scamper in.
A man ripped my ticket and led me in the proper direction. I was on my way.
When I entered the colossal arena, I felt instant euphoria. This was no routine venue.
No, no, this was sports heaven.
What I saw during the next three hours can't possibly be summed up in five slides. However, I'm going to give you five reasons to go see the Red Bulls immediately. My adventures will be sprinkled throughout for flavor.
I'd like to call my experience culture shock.
5. An Architectural Phenomenon
Image via thevipersnest.com
Considering the team used to play at Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands Sports Complex (until 2009), it's easy to see why the new Red Bull Arena seems like an aesthetic masterpiece.
But all comparisons aside, this new venue has set a new standard for North American soccer stadiums.
When I entered the European-style arena, I felt an instant coziness. Walking around the concourse felt like World-Cup paradise. The structure had a soccer-esque cultural feel that North America has seemingly yet to adopt.
With its curvaceous architecture and open roof, the arena felt legendary, almost historic. But while the airy atmosphere was certainly spectacular, it was the element-protecting rooftops that truly amazed my eyes. The roof somehow covered the entire seating area and then curved down toward the playing field for epic effect.
Artsy, elegant and efficient.
4. A Festive Atmosphere
Image via Zack Pumerantz
Forget about the front-row fans only fingernails away from the pitch, this intricate arena offers all patrons a close feel. I was in the thirteenth row, corner-bound, and felt like I could touch the warm grass.
But who cares about seating charts, we're here to discuss the brilliant Red Bull Arena repertoire.
As I circled the upper level, constantly peeking at the vibrant field, a diverse selection of concession stands and beer vendors flooded my peripherals.
With a mix of Portuguese and Spanish cuisines, and the natural selection of franks and burgers, this was no average stadium selection.
But while potent chicken fingers and colorfully-layered nachos were obviously engaging, the stadium's treatment of all their patrons truly stole my attention.
Naturally, the arena staff was seen enthusiastically escorting handicapped fans to elevators, helping lost families find their seats and eagerly giving directions. Constant hospitality, check.
But it was my own experience that juiced up my respect for the staff. They allowed me to climb into the media sections and grab several iPhone shots and embrace several views. They even indulged in honest conversation.
Amid a potential crowd of 25,000 was the most personal experience I'd ever found at a professional sports venue.
3. The Diehard Following
Image via feverpitch.com
As the soccer craze continues to catch on in the New York area, three ferocious supporting clubs only get stronger.
Behind the celebratory smoke in Section 101 is the Empire Supporters Club, the oldest supporters club in Major League Soccer (founded in 1995).
But while this flag-thrusting section has ringleaders with echoing megaphones, they aren't the only loyal patrons in attendance.
The Garden State Supporters and The Viking Army also help to give this benchmark arena a European-like atmosphere.
And let's not forget the mix of newcomers scattered throughout the rest of the arena.
Often possessing noise makers and sporting trademark team scarves, these "regular" fans are seen either enjoying precious family outings or bro-ing out with buddies. And while energetic for 90 minutes, these classy fans were also just as respectful and polite.
2. The Man, the Legend
Image via soccerserieswallpapers.blogspot.com
Before reaching the glamorous arena, I could already hear chants of "H-E-N-R-Y" echoing throughout. The French sensation himself, in the flesh...a demigod to most.
Where do I begin in describing International phenom Thierry Henry. Maybe his time with Arsenal describes him best. An all-time team-best 228 goals with two league titles and three FA Cups, two FIFA World Player of the Year nominations, two PFA Players' Player of the Year Awards and three FWA Footballer of the Year Awards.
Or perhaps his time with Barcelona would better suffice. Winning the Supercopa de España, the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup in 2009 certainly shocked the world.
But in the end, his international production displays his winning nature best. He won the 1998 FIFA World Cup, the UEFA Euro 2000 and the 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup with the French national team.
He is the main attraction, a legend to Red Bulls fans. A marketable celebrity around the world, Henry has become a reason to follow the MLS, a reason to give this team a moment.
But while Henry enjoyed a fast start, as the Red Bulls won the MLS Eastern Conference by one point in Henry's first season (2010), the beloved superstar wouldn't be the main man on this unique Wednesday...May 23rd, 2012 to be exact.
An unheralded hero by the name of Kenny Cooper would score in the 56th minute to tie the game (1-1) against the Los Angeles-based Chivas USA.
Numerous opportunities by both teams were clouded by stellar goaltending performances.
A 1-1 draw was only fitting. But a hard-fought battle nonetheless.
1. A New Perspective on Sports
Image via tiki-taka.org
With a high-end club lounge for special guests and season ticket holders, a constantly-crowded gift shop and an absent New Jersey neighborhood (only a pizza shop and a convenience store in screaming range), Red Bull Arena would seem like just another routine North American sports venue.
But don't be fooled, inside the metallic exterior is athletic paradise.
As a hardcore sports fan, I'd like to believe I've seen it all. From sharing body space with 93,293 howling patrons at the 2009 Rose Bowl to freeze-framing the look on nearly 40,000 faces as Barry Bonds pounded a baseball over McCovey Cove, I'd only slightly scraped the edge of athletic study.
After visiting the unique Red Bull Arena, however, I felt like a world traveler. An innocent trip to Harrison, New Jersey somehow became an international vacation.
There's something about the passion behind soccer that can't be matched, an enthusiasm that can't be ignored. This new arena uncovers the truth.
With a European-style, almost bowl-like arena to drool over, North American fans can finally understand the worldwide phenomenon of football, as it is honestly called across seas.
For the first time in my life, I was actually watching soccer.