As D.C. United enters its 17th season at RFK, the club is recognizing some of its most dedicated supporters. Throughout 2012, our Supporter Sportlight series will highlight amazing stories of commitment from every corner of the Black-and-Red's fanbase. March's spotlight is on Andrew Mack.
dcunited.com: Andrew, tell us your D.C. United story. How did you first come to be a fan of the Black-and-Red?
Andrew Mack: I was a fan from day one. I didn't start out sitting down with the supporters groups, but it was only a matter of time. I was in the stands when the team first took the field in 1996, and remember dancing in the streets in DC when the team won the first MLS Cup. It was amazing. You couldn't script a better first year for the league or for our team.
dcunited.com: What is your favorite memory as a fan?
AM: In 2004, I was speaking at a conference for work in Nairobi, Kenya.To get there I had to leave the night of the 2004 Eastern Conferencefinal, which I am constantly reminded might have been the most exciting gameevery played in any sport at RFK. Still, I had to choose – stay for thegame and go late, or bet that we'd win and leave early and try to just make thefinal in Los Angeles. I bet on the team. On the plane there were mostlyEnglish passengers and I got my cabin singing D.C. United songs with me. Andwhen I arrived in Africa I called friends in Washington, then happily re-booked myreturn from Nairobi to end at the final in L.A.
The next Friday after I was done speaking I got a cab for the airport.The traffic was terrible, blocked in every direction, and I nearly missedmy plane. But just in time, I arrived at the airport and on to BritishAirways where a sympathetic fellow passenger snapped a picture of me in myjersey on the plane with the Kenya Daily Nation. One leg down.
When I arrived at Heathrow I found out to that my plane to D.C. hadbeen cancelled. No way to leave for hours. It was the middle of the nightin Washington. Pulling some frequent flyer strings, I managed to finally get onthe next plane out to the U.S., 5 hours late. Frazzled and frantic, I got apicture with me in my jersey, with a copy of the Times of London. Notsure how to get to the West Coast, but closer at least. Two legs down.
On arriving in D.C. I knew I was lost. I'd already come so far but hadmissed my plane by hours and wasn't sure what to do. I was hot, and tired, andrunning on empty when I called my wife to say how distraught I was to bemissing the game.
"For once be quiet," she said. "We've been working to get you on a newflight for hours. No way I want you here for this game. Go out ofyour gate, turn left. Four gates down you're booked on the next flight toL.A. They're expecting you. You're welcome. Now go. Don't missthe plane."
So now, incredibly gamey and long past the point of exhaustion I got on theplane. A picture with the Washington Post and a big smile on my face.I was going to MLS Cup 2004.
Finally I arrived in Los Angeles. Nearly 40 hours in transit and a multi-countrydo-si-do had brought me to the final. A handful of United fans met me atthe airport. No way I was going to sleep. Off to Naja's for theirfamous 50 beers on tap, then three hours of well-deserved sleep.
The next morning, groggy and jet-lagged, I had coffee and a bit of breakfastwhile we took a picture with the Los Angeles Times and a big group of United fans –Barra, Eagles and Nortes – all pleased as punch. And when the game cameon national TV, I'm told that the very first shot the national audience saw wasof me singing and playing my drum in the DCU supporters' section. And ofcourse, they won.
I've seen a lot of games, and taken a lot of trips before and since, but aslong as I live I'll never tire of telling that story.
dcunited.com: As people can see in the pictures, you've taken your Barra Brava flag all over the world. What are some of the moreexceptional reactions you've received while taking pictures and has anyone everrecognized the flag?
AM: At the Acropolis in Athens I was nearly thrown in jail for taking a picturewith the flag. It's considered a cultural heritage site and apparently you'renot allowed to show any flag but the Greek flag. Who knew? I didn't.In the end, I spent a half hour arguing to get it back from the guard,which is comical considering I don't speak Greek.
In Costa Rica, I was given free cab rides for most of a week when I showed mydriver the flag and told him I'd met Roy Lassiter (who played in a suburb ofSan Jose prior to coming to United). I'm still convinced he took the longroutes so we could talk soccer while on our way to and from meetings.
And earlier this year, in Mexico, I took a flag photo with a guy from Puebla –another VW-supported team. He knew United right away from the 1998CONCACAF Champions year, and was very keen to get a picture with the flag.Yes, we do have fans in Mexico.
Overall, reactions around the world have ranged, from the curious to downrightrespectful. A few people think I'm deranged when I pull out the flag in frontof a national landmark, but most of them just smile and many want to get in thepicture. Around the world – and I've checked – a lot of people know thisteam, and they want our league to succeed.