Saturday, October 12, 2013

Why I’ll (probably) never be a soccer fan

A visit to BBVA Compass Stadium

As you may recall, the University of Houston football team had to scramble for game venues this year. Old Robertson Stadium was razed, and the one rising in its stead won’t be ready until the 2014 season. Consequently home games are being held variously at Reliant (the luxurious home of the Houston Texans), Rice (home of neighboring Rice U Owls), and, alas, the sparkling new BBVA Compass soccer pitch (home of the Houston Dynamo).

Please don’t get me wrong. Cougar fans are extremely grateful for the Dynamo’s generosity. Given the way 22 cleat-wearing heavyweights tore up their turf, their kindness and charity boggles the mind. So what’s my gripe?

Okay, first the good points.

1. It’s very clever architecture. The entire facility appears encased in a goal net. Think the Bird’s Nest in Beijing. 2. It’s cute, and adequate in most respects. Plenty of restrooms and concessions at regular intervals. 3. The arena is superbly designed for visibility and acoustics. Of course that could be a negative if fans get zealous with vuvuzelas.

But BBVA Compass is soccer-specific and does not translate well to football. The most glaring difference is between the two fan bases. Soccer followers are obviously much smaller. The first-grade-sized seats lack cup holders and arm rests, and the rows are so close it’s like sitting in the backseat of 1960 VW Beatle. Knees to the chin.

Then there was that sideline sign that occasionally flashed encouragement to the crowd to dispose of trash properly: “Find the Right Receptacle.” But when I went to fetch food, I discovered they meant it as a game, as in: Where’s Waldo.

No trash can at the concession stand; none by the condiment bar; blank walls beside the restroom doors. Find the right receptacle indeed. Find ANY receptacle. I carried the empty relish packet and soda straw cover back to my seat. Quite a feat considering no carrying box was provided by the concessionaire and I was already juggling drinks and sandwiches.

They were there, of course. On our way out my husband pointed to the tidy, inconspicuous units of four containers each tucked against the inside wall. I was looking for those ugly 30-gallon jobs with grimy swinging tops, not small designer bins labeled for proper recycling. Sigh.

So thanks, Dynamo, for allowing our uncouth lot to raid your lovely stadium. And rest assured that neither demographic will allow it to happen again.

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