As I mentioned in my first blog, Blast fans were in an uproar not too long ago about a column that ran in the Baltimore Sun. The column suggested that, despite the Blast’s three championships over the last five seasons, and despite the team’s 5-5 record this season, the team is not as valued by the community as the Ravens or the Orioles. While no one at the Blast office would argue that the Blast is equal to the Ravens or the Orioles, we’re confident that we are an integral part of the Baltimore sports scene, and that the team has played an important role in Baltimore sports history. Indoor soccer may not be (and may never be) a “major” sport, but that should not (and does not) change the fact that the Blast is averaging more than 7,400 fans per game this season. And it certainly does nothing to change the fact that Blast fans are every bit as passionate and knowledgeable about the game as their football and baseball counterparts. In fact, based on what I’ve seen from Blast fans over the nine seasons I’ve worked for the team, I’ll go so far as to say Blast fans are even more passionate than fans of the other local teams.
In saying all this, it seems that now is the perfect time to identify, and call attention to, 22 of the team’s most loyal (and well-known) fans. (In no particular order…)
1. Wayne N. Jones – also known as “the guy in the hockey mask”. Enough said.
2. Don Bonn (aka Megaphone Man) - has a seat behind each goal so he can heckle the opposing team’s goalkeeper.
3. Ricky Walker – a fan of every level of the game, in 2000 Walker chose to spend his rent money to travel to Edmonton for the NPSL All-Star Game.
4. Nancy Neukam – has bid on (and won) every single game-worn Giuliano Celenza jersey that exists.
5. the twins – they quietly support the team, but I don’t remember not seeing them at a game (or other Blast event) in the nine years I’ve been here.
6. the Payne family – they sit on the stage and are well known among the opposing players.
7. Ron “the bread man” Boylard – keeps the Blast players and staff from starving.
8. David Hummer – holds a world record for soccer button ownership.
9. the Church ladies (and their husbands too of course).
10. Ed and Kathy Reynolds (“the honeymoon couple”) – they got married the night before a Blast game and kicked off their honeymoon at 1st Mariner Arena, cheering wildly for the team.
11. Angie the intern – she hid her obsession while she worked here but has recently outed herself as a die-hard fan.
12. Ken Fowler – outbid someone for a Scott Hileman jersey a few years back, only to give it to the second-highest bidder.
13. Doug Rawlinson – former president of fan club, now donates his time to assist the nightly pre-game activities.
14. Kurt who wears the Wakefield jersey – somehow manages to find his way into the locker room after every game.
15. Katie Vohs and her dad – follow the Blast (and whatever team Danny Waltman plays for) around the country.
16. Steve Eichelberger – the crazy guy in section 108 best known for his endless screaming at the refs.
17. Patrick Locklear – one of two people to win the dice roll.
18. Lee Loftice – proud owner of every piece of Blast merchandise ever sold.
19. Julie Elliott and her daughters – single mom who prioritizes the Blast among life’s important obligations.
20. Brandon Quaranta – the first person to buy a Michael Todd jersey (and we know he sleeps in it every night).
21. Matt and Laura Sparks – they keep the beer garden in business.
22. Mick Wolverton and Dale Kawamura – both drive from the DC area for every home game and, in the case of the Kawamura family, for weeks of summer camp.
I’m well aware that there are many, many fans I haven’t identified by name – you all know who you are… and so do we. The above list includes some of our season ticket holders as well as some members of the Blast Fan Club but (obviously) not all of them. The Blast Fan Club is well known throughout the League, for their size and their loyalty. The fan club sponsored a bus trip to Milwaukee for the third game of the 2003 championship. An entire busload of fans drove to Milwaukee to be part of the Blast’s first Championship in 20 years. Those fans not only bussed to Milwaukee, they bussed back… immediately after the game so they could get back to Baltimore in time to welcome the Blast players back to BWI.
And back to the topic at hand… for team that plays a game that’s “not a major sport” the Blast certainly has a loyal, passionate and growing-by-the-day fan base. The team, and the fans, have more than just a 5-5 record to be “sort of proud of”.