You remember the Baltimore Bohemians, the upstart minor league soccer team playing its games in Charm City while wearing some uncommonly swagged-out uniforms. Joe Tirabassi, one of the Bohs founders (and designers of that awesome kit), will be keeping a diary of the Bohemians inaugural season for us. His first entry is here, his second is here, and his third is here.
We had no idea what we were doing, or what we were getting into, when we started this team. We don't have sports management degrees, or even business training for that matter. All we had, and have, is the love of a beautiful game and the determination to make outdoor soccer work in Baltimore. This great experiment that we undertook evolved from a napkin drawing of a kit to a full-fledged, actually existing minor league club in a bit under six months. From a bar napkin to a team on the field, playing actual games in front of actual fans—in the grand scheme of things, this is maybe not much. But it consumed me for the better part of a year, and absolutely ate me whole during the actual season. Which is part of why it's been so quiet since our last update.
Since the season ended, I've gone through withdrawal. I expect to wake up each morning to find my inbox flooded with injury reports, ticket requests, food vendor miscommunication, budgetary issues, constructive criticism, yellow card tallies, travel arrangements, urgent news of missing socks and the thousand other moving parts that drive this whole thing and filled up my life these last months. Now I'm usually only greeted with mailing list missives that I thought I'd unsubscribed from and I sigh a different type of sigh than the one I would normally exhale during the season. I've tried to embrace this new void at the beach, but I find my mind wandering to next season and you can't really get anything done on the beach anyway. I want to be parsing the standings to see how we can weasel our way into playoff contention. After all those months of doing that, I still want to be doing it. I suppose that's a good sign.
I know that enthusiasm is not always contagious. Even though we are giving our players a chance to show their worth at a higher level, it would be unreasonable to expect the type of loyalty you'd receive from paid players—this is a summer league, after all, and so a pit stop for a lot of these players on their way to whatever future awaits them in or out of soccer. When the season wrapped up, our players all went back to their colleges and their lives as the Bohemians shrunk in their rearview mirrors. This season could be a thing they remember for awhile and then forget—the black and gold pushed to the back of the shelf and lost amongst trophies and medals and newspaper clippings of past accomplishments. It might even be reasonable if that's how it wound up.
But I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge that a lot of them surprised me. Gratitude isn't really a quality that blossoms in college-aged folks, but we managed to pick a squad of not only good players, but good people. They were genuinely appreciative of the opportunity given to them and the challenge forced upon them; though the season was frustrating more often than not, the guys actually started to get into it. You could see it in the goal celebrations. You could see it as they made their way to the stands to thank the fans after every game, even on the road. You could see it from the family members who risked traffic and heat to turn up to every game.
But, to me, the most beautiful, poignant moment of this season was not on the pitch. It wasn't online, where my first foray into clothing design received heaps of mind-blowing praise. It wasn't during a pre-game ceremony. It wasn't watching our first goal, our first win or anything like that. In fact, it came after the final game had drawn to a close.
The rain had held off for every home game, but the clouds had begun to assemble at the start of the second half that day. The standoff between the looming precipitation and the matter at hand—a soccer game—was drawing to a head. After the final whistle, as most of the fans made their way to the parking lot, a few stragglers stayed behind, along with an assemblage of players, coaches and staff. In the finest cinematic fashion, the skies finally burst, dumping sheets of rain and tossing flashes of lightning our way. The motley crew that remained took cover under a rickety tent as the world's favorite rallying cry—"We need to kill the keg!"—brought smiles from those seeking shelter from the storm. We washed down the first season with ice cold Natty Boh and pizza. There was no distinction between those with a roster spot and those who had roasted all season in the shadeless stands, all for the love of this new team—it was just a few people brought together by natural forces. Not the rain, mind you, but by the absolute and pure love of the world's favorite sport. I wouldn't have seen it out any other way.