My day began at the buttcrack of 5:00 in the morning. I can’t remember the last time I had woken up that early. My bags were packed, and I brought enough whiskey, tequila, and Colorado beer to slay a lesser man. I arrived at the stadium just as the sun was rising over the Dick. There is a joke about morning wood somewhere there, but I’ll just let you fill it in yourself. The Centennial 38 was about to begin their annual road trip out to Salt Lake City. For $99 you got a seat on the bus, a ticket to the game, and a hotel room. Basically, it’s the best deal you will find all year. I signed up as soon as I could, months in advance, eagerly anticipating the trip. A trip to the greatest rival the Rapids have, surrounded by fellow crazies. Count me in.
After the bus went to the Bulldog to pick more people up, it was time to get this thing started. We rolled out of Denver, and I was feeling optimistic. The sun was just starting to rise, I had a good seat on the bus next to great friends, and people were already bringing out the booze. I was meeting people I hadn’t talked to before, and making new friends. Things didn’t seem like they could get any better.
That feeling of optimism would be crushed later that day, but that’s for later.
The bus trip itself was great. The morning was turning into an absolute party. There was a self-appointed Drink Team, keeping track of how deep they were. We started chanting “No Number Two! Only Number Juan!” every time anyone tried to use the single restroom in the back, partly as a dig at everyone’s favorite Juan Fernandez. Don’t worry, he was laughing right along with us. Those of us in the back of the bus were talking about whatever we wanted. Mostly the Rapids, who should be in and out for the season, what 2018 will bring us, and the like. Some people even brought a TV and a PS4, so a group of us were playing FIFA and Rocket League on the bus. Do you think that FSL would have anything like that? Of course not. This is just further proof that everything we do in Colorado is better.
At around 11:00, we had an all-too-brief stop at a Subway in the middle of Sinclair, Wyoming. This wasn’t an actual town, keep in mind, just a truck stop with a Sinclair gas station. After cracking jokes about the “Boraz Special”, and getting a chance to stretch our legs a bit, we headed out on to the second half of day 1. The afternoon turned the bus from a party into a much more relaxed affair. The conversations definitely seemed like they slowed down, and people were starting to focus more on the screens in the bus. We certainly watched a lot of old episodes of The Simpsons that day. But, come on, what else are you going to pay attention to on a seven hour trip to Utah via Wyoming? The epic scenery?
The Hotel, the Tailgate, and the Game:
We got to the hotel, a Baymont Inn in the middle of Salt Lake City, later that afternoon. The place sucks.
I am completely serious here. The place was awful to us. My roommate and I were lucky enough that we didn’t have to worry too much about the room. They only had one major hole in the wall in the bathroom, and they set the temperature to a near-arctic 54 degrees. Other people weren’t so lucky. I heard stories of moldy food left in the refrigerator, exposed wiring, broken lights, and more. I’ll save you, the innocent reader, some of the more disgusting issues. Let’s just say, smells were frequent, and also nauseous. As luck happened, we didn’t have much time to deal with the actual hotel before the game.
We left for the stadium, or perhaps more importantly, our tailgate. With an industrial quantity of pizza and beer, we had a blast. We talked the coming game, and started our anti-RSL chants. We danced like maniacs with the drums blasting, the smoke flying, and the scarves swinging. We took a group picture on the hill, and it was only then that I realized how large our group actually was. Our travelling supporter’s group was actually larger than any group in Rio Tinto, during one of the most important games they would see all year.
Everything before the game was exciting. There was this thick atmosphere of anticipation and excitement for the game. We were going absolutely bonkers in our parking lot, and we barely heard a thing from the RSL supporters. We saw a few middle fingers our way, but I’m going to assume they were all just jealous. We started marching, and all the way until we were past security, we never stopped chanting. Various songs about how awful RSL and Rio Tinto are, and how awesome Colorado is. If you’ve been in the supporter’s group before, I’m sure you know what it is like. Then, the game started.
The game was dreadful. We all know how bad the Rapids are on the road, and at Rio Tinto, and especially in this season. That doesn’t begin to describe how bad we actually were. We lost in a 4-1 blowout, and the team had completely given up before the end of the first half. But despite all that, there was something awesome about the game. The C38 brought the noise. We never stopped chanting, clapping, and pounding the drums. Long, long after the Rapids themselves had given up, we didn’t.
There was something quite special about being in the C38 that night. High above the pitch, distanced from the rest of the stadium as much as they could, we still made our presence known. We made more noise than the rest of the stadium. We brought more energy. We showed why we are the greatest supporters group in MLS.
Sadly, the team didn’t do the same.
The Next Day:
I headed down the next day to get breakfast. Mumbled the usual “good mornings” to people, and sat down. Immediately, we started talking about the ‘Pids. How could things get so dark? Who do we keep? Who do we get rid of? Who do we sign? What was the fix? Should we get rid of Padraig? I don’t think so. Get rid of Cooke? Probably, but who would we get to replace him? Who should we get as our 3rd DP? Were Howard and Gashi living up to their paychecks? It was the usual round-table discussion, but no real conclusions. We had just proven that our team is no longer capable of competing in MLS. Questions were many, but answers were few and far between.
The bus ride back was a stark contrast to the start of the day before. Gone was the merry drinking and enjoying conversation. Gone was the optimism and excitement. Gone were the smiles and laughter. In their place, we were under a thick blanket of defeat. What else is there to look forward to in this season? We got blown out of the U.S. Open Cup. We got shellacked in the run for the Supporter’s Shield. We aren’t even going to qualify for playoffs, much less make a run for the cup. Our last hope for this season was to try to make at attempt to bring the Rocky Mountain Cup back home. And look what happened. A 4-1 embarrassment that left us leaving with our tail between our legs. I know that we haven’t won in Rio Tinto yet, and I know that this wasn’t exactly a time that instilled a lot of confidence for us in getting an away win, but think about it. What better way for the Rapids to show that they are serious about coming back in 2018? Bring a win in Rio Tinto. Give us that crucial away win, show us that Steve Cooke has the capability of improving on what Pablo lacked. Bring poetic justice by upending RSL like they did to us early on in the season, when they shattered our incredible undefeated streak. Come back with three points from Rio Tinto, where we haven’t claimed a win in since its inception in 2008. Show us that 2017 wasn’t worthless, and that there was still a spark in this flame.
But, no. We ended up losing our third game in a row, eighth in a series of winless games. The Rocky Mountain Cup was, again, lost.
The rest of the bus trip wasn’t anything epically interesting. Between the two days, we watched Animal House, Air Force One, Ghostbusters, Caddyshack, the Real Football Factories, the best MLS Goals from ’96 to ’03, and plenty of The Simpsons. No “The Big Green” though, because people somehow forgot about the greatest soccer movie ever made.
Sleep did not come to me on either of the bus trips. On the way back, I kept thinking about the scoreline. There again was the awful feeling I haven’t felt in a very, very long time. The last time we let another team put up 4 goals on us was during the 2016 season at the away game in NYCFC, where they dropped 5 bombs on us with ourselves barely managing to squeak out a single goal. The past several seasons, we have lived and died by our defense, and sadly, this game demonstrated why our once-impregnable wall has fallen apart. We have no offense to talk about whatsoever, and now even our defense is becoming a joke.
I walked away from the trip with mixed feelings, and it really comes down to two things. The trip itself, and the group I was with, was amazing. The people I made friends with, the stories I’ll tell, and the inside jokes I will be laughing about for years to come is exactly why I went on the trip. I will 100% be on board for the next road trip, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It was a joy to be on that trip with my C38 brothers and sisters.
But surrounding the whole thing is this feeling of dread. We’ve officially killed the 2017 season. What little thread of hope there was has been cut. Now, we can only hope that 2018 shows a noticeable improvement.
Rapids… step your game up.