- Central Park in all its glory
When your boss asks if you want to go to New York City to cover a Championship Final, you don't say no.
The Brickyard Battalion — Indy's grassroots support group — was offering a bus trip to give diehard fans the chance to watch their team battle for a championship. $100 got you a seat on the bus and a ticket to the game, a steal for fans looking to cheer their team on in person.
I was able to snag a seat on the bus, get a media credential request approved and book a hotel room all while not saying something ridiculously stupid to dash my chances — gold star for me.
Here's how it went down.
It's 8:15 a.m on a bright and sunny Saturday morning in Indianapolis; a charter bus full of crazed soccer fans rolls out of an IUPUI parking lot, and the journey begins.
If you trust Google Maps, the trip was supposed to take just over 11 hours. (We'll see, I remember thinking.) Our first pit stop was a scheduled stop in Columbus to pick up the last of our crew, a few fans who attended Friday night's World Cup qualifier against Mexico — we won't talk about the result of that match. The Battalion stopped at Target — why we were there for 45 minutes is beyond me — where I got a pretzel and buckled up for what was bound to be a long day. Fast forward 10(ish) hours and we're on the outskirts of New York City. Due to a bridge closure, we're taking a detour right through the heart of the city.
Now I'm not complaining, because we got to see Times Square at night and some other rad sights, but it did delay us to the point that we arrived at our hotel in Queens at 11:15. I'll do the math for you real quick: that's a 15-hour bus ride.
Check in and hit the hay, right? (Imagine my best Donald Trump impression here.) Wrong.
A few other party animals and myself decide that we deserve a beverage after being cooped up in a bus for what seemed like a week. We grab an Uber and hit a local spot called The Flamingo. Cool place, terrible beer selection. Time to press our luck at the casino. Roulette is our game of choice, and betting on Indy Eleven players turns out to be a good strategy because we all walk out with more money than we came with.
Wait, it's four o'clock, and where did the time go? Commence sleep.
Morning: It's game day, y'all. The match is set to kick off at 7 p.m. so we've got some time to kill. Time to be a tourist and hit the city. So, like any good New Yorker, we purchase our MetroCards and hop on the subway. It's 60 degrees and sunny in the middle of November and we're not crazy so we take a stroll through Central Park first. After yours truly takes way too many pictures, we begin to make our way to Times Square. On our way, we stop at Trump Tower — HOLY BATMAN THE SECURITY — and I show it how America feels right now in the form of a middle finger.
We've been wandering for days at this point and it's well past lunchtime so we stop at a little tavern in Times Square. Hot take alert: Times Square isn't all it's hyped up to be. Anyways, I order a Brooklyn seasonal, which was quite delicious, and Irish french fries.
Afterwards, as I'm waiting on a few friends to grab slices of pizza, I get caught by a struggle rapper. He personally signs his mixtape for me and says I should definitely review his tunes. ... And unfortunately I left it on the subway ride home, so please accept my apologies from afar, Bank B.
We head back to the hotel as it's time to start getting ready for the match. When we arrive, the pregame has already started. Faces are being painted, shots are being taken, the Brickyard Battalion is assembling. As we make our way to Belson Stadium on the campus of St. John's University, excitement levels increase tenfold; the bus is raucous. Chants break out. We're ready.
Once we arrive I head to the media center to find where I'll be sitting, which turns out to be a makeshift tent — hoorah. The rest of the crew takes their place behind the west goal. They stand the entire match. They cheer the entire match. They stay until the final player has walked off the pitch. They prove again why they're the best supporters in the league. The result wasn't what they had wished for but they showed their true colors — loyal fans.
The journey is almost over. Only thing left is another 12-hour bus ride home. As I finish writing this, it's 7 a.m and we're rolling through Ohio. I think I'll hone my inner bear and go into hibernation now.