There is a box on my dresser in my childhood bedroom, where I’ve been staying since the weekend and where I’ll be staying for the foreseeable future, or at least until the Summer. I used it, for years, as a place where I left assorted little trinkets and keepsakes, but the years that it spent in disuse have provided me a sort of time capsule for events I’ve attended in years past. Each stub has a story, both in the event to which it allowed me access and in the lessons and memories that I took away from them.
June 25th, 2016 – Seattle Reign vs. FC Kansas City
I attended as many FC Kansas City matches as I could throughout 2015 and 16, and I miss them probably more than I miss any other sports team I’ve ever called my own. I normally tried to sit in the bleachers behind the South goal at Swope Park Victory Field, which was practically a practice field with a seating capacity of around 3,000 or so, but I couldn’t get there in time for those tickets so they put me in the West bleachers. FC Kansas City’s tenure in NWSL was dominant but sadly muted. The team’s ownership hired probably the best coach they could’ve in Vlatko Andonovski, who’s currently the National Team head coach.
The period of FC Kansas City’s presence in Kansas City was at moments, particularly those on the pitch, joyous, but for the most part very frustrating. There’s something nice about the fact that I was able to watch athletes who were and would go on to become global-level megastars (Like FIFA Players of the year Carli Lloyd, who I saw in 2015, and Megan Rapinoe, who I saw in a different FCKC/Reign match because she was injured during this time, and 2011 World Cup winner Nahomi Kawasumi, who played in this match), but there’s something frustrating about the fact that these teams were relegated to effectively a practice field in the Sporting KC training facility.
It was really odd looking back during the 2019 Women’s World Cup, when FOX kept cutting to the mass of USWNT fans celebrating goals at the KC Live Pavilion in the Power & Light District. It was like, where were all of they when those same athletes were playing right in their backyard for the cost of only twenty-four dollars per ticket? A lot of that was due to a poorly-run front-office that didn’t advertise the team well, didn’t have a deal with any local TV stations, and a local MLS club that probably could’ve bought the club in 2017 rather than letting them go to Salt Lake.
I don’t know. I miss how intimate that venue was to an extent, and I miss the atmosphere of those games, and if anyone knows what happened to the Calvin the Raccoon suit, I will be willing to bid on it. But I think the story of FC Kansas City, particularly their inability to stay in town despite having multiple World Cup winners on the roster, reveals probably a deeper issue with the way that Americans treat both women’s sports and national team sports. The further analysis of that is currently stowed in a different project, but mostly I’m just sad that I don’t have an NWSL team anymore.
Hopefully the SD Loyal ownership group can do something in the coming years, though I have to assume that the NWSL is gonna take a hit in their stability as a league due to the pandemic.
September 4th, 2010 – North Dakota State vs. Kansas
Little did I know, as a fifteen-year-old high school Sophomore, what this game was going to mean in the grand scheme of things for both programs involved. This was the first game of the Turner Gill era in Kansas Jayhawks Football, an era which would end the following year after a total of five wins and twenty losses. This was, as I’m sure most of my readership would know because I cry about it all the time, the first year of Kansas Football’s dark decade, a period of ten seasons, the best of which featured three wins, the worst of which culminated in a winless season in 2015. KU had five different head coaches, lost to every team in the Big XII at least seven times, and has yet to recover.
I came to a realization on Topical Solve a few weeks ago that (though I’m skeptical) there is a decent chance, potentially, of there being Kansas Jayhawks Football played this year, depending upon how the Coronavirus situation is handled over the summer. And I’d welcome it! How bizarre, a team so horrible, and yet I’d treat them like a Seagull revealing that our ship’s close to land at the end of all of this.
North Dakota State, on the other hand, took this win and ran to its first ever FCS Playoff berth. They haven’t missed them since, and they took home the FCS National Championship in 2011, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, and 19. This 6-3 win, for which I was in attendance, started off a decade of brilliant dominance for the Bison. How odd is it that one game can be the harbinger of doom for one team and the harbinger of greatness for another? Neither team even scored a touchdown! A 6-3 result is indicative of the idea that both teams were nearly evenly matched (Which is not good for Power-Conference Kansas and very very good for Second-Subdivision NDSU), but their trajectories could not have been further from each other.
I struggle to think that there’s another game in college football history that forbade such different futures for the two participants.
August 3rd, 2011 – Sporting KC vs. Real Salt Lake
So if you remember in Summer 2018, I wrote a lengthy and emotional goodbye to what I consider my favorite venue in all of sports. It remains that way. Since that piece, I’ve been to Banc of California Stadium, Angel Stadium, Chase Field, Jack Murphy Stadium, Torero Stadium, and the Rose Bowl each for the first time, and I gotta say, basically none of them felt as special to me as Sporting Park. Maybe the Rose Bowl would’ve had I been there for anything other than a game between a very bad UCLA team before their classes were in session and a very good SDSU team, but I didn’t get the Rose Bowl aura when I was there, really. Viejas Arena at SDSU definitely had a feel to it, though, that’s the closest anything has come to matching what I feel when I go to Sporting Park in Kansas City.
This was, if my memory serves me right, my first Sporting KC match at what was then Livestrong Sporting Park. It was Sporting’s eighth home match of the 2011 season, and I’d missed all of the prior home matches that summer because I was working at a scout camp all year. I don’t remember too much about the game itself, though I remember Sporting won, records show me that Roger Espinoza and Teal Bunbury both scored in a 2-0 win.
The big thing that I remember from this game was that we had tickets in the club section, which is on the West side of the stadium. The food selection was very strange, like, it was stir-fry, pasta, and really nice hoagies, very atypical of the ballpark fare to which I’d grown accustomed at CommunityAmerica Ballpark. I wanted some nachos, but I couldn’t get them there, so I walked to the other side of the stadium shortly after half to get them. When I did, and I tried to re-enter, I had to argue with the security guard to let me get back into my section? I don’t know if it was the outside food or what, but like I showed them the ticket and they still hassled me about it, I think I only got in because it was very clear that I was a confused sixteen year old and they had sympathy for me. I think that policy has changed, now, either that or hopefully there’s a hot dog cart for people who don’t want Filet Mignon in there now.
December 4, 2004 – Oklahoma vs. Colorado, Big XII Football Championship Game
My friend Jack had neighbors who were big Kansas State fans, and for people not aware of the minutia of Big XII football history, 2004 was supposed to be a big year for the Kansas State Wildcats of football, that just didn’t come to fruition for whatever reason. They bought tickets to the Big XII Championship game presumptively before the season, and when the Wildcats went 4-7 and missed out on even a bowl game, they suddenly had four eighty dollar tickets that were of no use to them anymore. They gave these tickets to my friend Jack’s Dad, and he invited me to the game, and that’s how I ended up at the 2004 Big XII Championship Game between Oklahoma and Colorado.
The 2004 Big XII Championship Game was a 42-3 drubbing by the eventual National Runners-Up, Oklahoma. I think the big takeaway that I got from this game, looking back, was that Oklahoma football fans are very dedicated to their team in a way that I think I understand but I know I’ll never be able to empathize with.
As previously established, I like a Kansas team that is traditionally very bad. If, by some miracle of both modern medicine and Les Miles’ ability to coach, the Jayhawks made it to the 2020 Big XII Championship Game, it would be one of the biggest games in program history, and it would be treated as such. KU fans would trek to Arlington in an indescribable mass. We took over Orlando, Florida in 2003 for a bowl game we knew KU had no shot in during December 2003 just because we hadn’t been to a bowl game in like a decade to that point, there’s no question we’d show out for a potential conference title. That won’t happen, but if it did, it’d be a huge deal.
Now, this game was Oklahoma’s third straight Big XII Championship Game appearance, their fourth in the prior five seasons. In this game they played a Colorado team that had really no shot against Oklahoma, who had been mediocre at best all year, and Oklahoma ran through them 42-3. It’s one of those weird things I haven’t had to think about because KU doesn’t win very much, but I imagine the price tag of Oklahoma football fandom is ridiculously high. If you’re a season ticket holder, plus you attend the Shootout in Dallas every year, plus you travel to Bedlam when they play in Stillwater, plus you travel up to KC for the Big XII Championship game, plus you travel to whichever January Bowl Game they inevitably lose, that all has to add up, right? Like, that’s so much money to spend on football, and I have to guess that, even in a win, attending a blowout like this one must’ve felt like kind of a waste.
I wasn’t thinking about that at the time, I guess. I was nine years old. All I remember was that Oklahoma fans were everywhere and Colorado only had this little contingent in the top corner of the stadium. This was my first time ever in Arrowhead Stadium, come to think of it, because my Dad wouldn’t let me go to Chiefs games (fans too vulgar) and I didn’t know about the Wizards yet. Also, it was very cold. I wasn’t that introspective about sports at that point.
Shit this is just the card denoting my birth
This isn’t my official birth certificate, it’s just a card stating that a baby was born on April 26th, 1995 at 4:36 AM in Shawnee Mission Medical Center. Not even a name here, yet. That’s weird to think about, isn’t it? This whole card was written up, signifying my existence, but they didn’t have even a first name for me. Like this card is about Joe Bush, but it was before there was a “Joe Bush” to put to the little wretch that would later become Joe Bush. All they had was my weight and that I had a penis. If I remember what I’ve been told right (I have no memory of the event itself) I was immediately put into an incubator thing because my skin was messed up, so I guess they didn’t have time to figure out my length, or my head size, or my chest. But how strange to see this, the first document of my existence in the world. This is what started it all, before the essays, the posts, the tweets, the time I was in the Lawrence Journal-World Newspaper when I was asked about my favorite horror movies (Halloween II), the inevitable mugshot, the inevitable obituary, we had the “I’m A Boy!” document.
Michigan vs. Clemson / Oklahoma vs. Murray State – March 19, 2009
I don’t know how my Dad and I ended up with NCAA Tournament tickets. This was one of the weird years in the Big XII when Kansas City’s Sprint Center hosted the tournament’s first round, but none of the three area schools played games there in the first round. Instead, Oklahoma, the South Regional’s 2-seed, anchored the weekend in KC.
The OU/Murray State game, I barely remember. All that I remember really was that Oklahoma’s Power Forward, a kid named Blake Griffin, was very good. No, what I really remember was the 7/10 matchup between Clemson and Michigan. Nobody from either Clemson nor Michigan was the sort of standout athlete that Griffin was. Only one player from either team, Trevor Booker of Clemson, went on to do anything in the NBA. But this was my first time ever as a neutral fan at a sporting event. I really recommend it, if you live in a city that hosts postseason tournament games, even if your team isn’t a part of them, I recommend trying to make it out to one once we have sports again. It’s a cool experience to be a part of the atmosphere without having an emotional stake in it at all.
I remember Michigan got a fairly big lead in the second half, like at least ten to fifteen points, but Clemson had a ridiculous comeback attempt in the last seven or eight minutes and I think eventually tied the game up. Michigan was able to shut the door, but it was so fascinating to see that game happen because it was highly emotional for everybody on the floor, even though most of the fans in attendance weren’t there for that game, so we were just watching a great, fun game of basketball. We were proxy to the emotions of an NCAA Tournament game, but we didn’t have to feel them. It’s a strange experience to be a part of, but one I’d like to have again someday.
Kansas City Royals vs. Minnesota Twins – May 29, 2009
This ticket stub got me into the last Kansas City Royals game I’d attend for about six years. I wouldn’t make it back to Kauffman Stadium until the 2014 season, the Summer after my Freshman year in an event that my family remembers as “the cold early May game where we lost by eight runs to the Tigers and Laurie played Zelda on her 3DS the whole time.” This game, though, I don’t really remember any specifics from. I know that this was a free T-Shirt game, because I had the shirt for years.
This was the last Royals game that I attended before the 2009 Kauffman Stadium renovation, which if I remember right turned our seats into what is now the bougie Diamond Club (they redid the section numbering during this as well, the current section 104 is down the left-field line). We used to attend so many games at the K when I was growing up, probably 5-6 per year from 2001 to 2008, back when we had a shared season ticket with family, and after renovation we just stopped going entirely.
Just to think of my mindset when I would’ve held this ticket in my hand, coming into this game against the Twins that the Royals probably lost because they did a lot of that in 2008, it’s interesting. I had no idea that I wouldn’t come back to this stadium again for another six years. I was freshly thirteen at this point, I wouldn’t have another ticket to a Royals game in my hand until I had finished my Freshman year of college.
I’d never see that stadium the same way again, either, due to the renovations. The things I remember most about Kauffman growing up -> The big LED board in center field, the the retired numbers behind the Center Field wall, the Dodge Ram behind the left field bullpen, just the fact that the entire area behind the outfield wall was inaccessible, it’d all change by the next season and I’d never step into that stadium of my youth in quite the same way. I personally feel that every change in the 2009 renovation was an improvement, but just to know that the kid who held the ticket as he entered that stadium in May 2008 had no idea of how much everything would change, not only in terms of the stadium’s construction but in his life in general, between then and the next time he’d step in there is, I don’t know, it puts things in perspective.
Ever since, basically, everything came to a halt in March, I’ve found it so difficult to think of the future in any meaningful sense. It either depresses me or feels futile. We’re staring down at the very least severe economic strife over the next few years it seems, and the rich ruling class took this opportunity to close ranks and leave everybody else out in the cold. I’ve taken a very pragmatic approach to living right now, focusing basically on what ‘tomorrow’ will bring and that’s it. I don’t think of July, let alone 2021 or 22, certainly not like 2026.
I suppose that I can take solace in empathizing with Joe from May 2008. I wasn’t thinking at all about six years in the future back then. I don’t think I had a sense of where I wanted to go to college, or what I wanted to study, or whether I’d be attending baseball games during 2008. I didn’t know that everything, even the stadium within which I was sitting, would change so severely within that six year span. By the next time I sat down in Kauffman Stadium after May 29, 2008, not only would the LED Board and the Dodge Ram and the left field video board be gone, but a whole lot would change in my own life.
Between May 2008 and May 2014, I’d go through four years of high school, I’d have several fallings-out with close friends, I’d gain several new close friends, I’d see my father suffer through lymphoma, I’d get into a committed romantic relationship, I’d meet people who I didn’t know at the time would become my closest friends, and uh, the Royals would have their first winning season in a decade.
I don’t know what major life events are going to happen between March 2020 and March 2026, and I’m not really thinking of them. I know that date’s going to get here eventually, though, which provides some solace.
Unfortunately, the move to convenient digital platforms has rendered the ticket stub a relic of the past. It would be very nice, actually, if I had a physical ticket stub from the last sporting event I attended as a fan before the Coronavirus shutdown, which was San Diego Loyal SC’s match against Las Vegas Lights FC on March 7th. I had no idea, as it was happening, that it would be the last sporting event I’d attend for a long while, but it was. Quite a lot has already changed between then and now, and it’s barely been a month since. I imagine it’ll be significant, the change not only in mindset but just in my view on the importance of sports to my life between March and whenever I’m back in a stadium. Whether that’s this summer, or next year, or the year after, I have no clue, but I’m confident at the very least there will be a next time, and I’ll take some solace in that as well.