This has been a tough season as a United supporter. There is no shortage of things about which to complain. Despite a league win last night and a decent run in the U.S. Open Cup that continues Wednesday, there is little hope for any meaningful turnaround. And the long term prospects for the franchise are weak.
Still, there is nothing better in the professional sports world than being a D.C. United supporter and season ticket holder. Today was the club's "Meet the Team Day." In the midst of a historically bad season, players mingled easily with fans and the club made nearly everyone involved with the operational management of the team available to the public. Coach Olsen didn't man an autograph table, but he did conduct a question and answer session with fans in the visitor's clubhouse.
The "Meet the Team Day" is a specially-calendered event with my daughter, the only absolute must-do of the season. Every year it seems to get better. More access, more activities, more opportunities for interactions. The club may not be able to sell a stadium experience or an on field product that merits significant investment of time and treasure, but it can sell its people.
For professional athletes, the bulk of United's roster are ridiculously nice people. Beyond their enthusiasm for making connections with supporters, the stories that staff tell about individual players paint a portrait of down-to-earth athletes who value camaraderie more highly than their own glorification.
This is the first year that my eldest has wanted to stay until the very end of the event. That is almost entirely due to the players (face painting and dipping dots also played a role) and their families.
Thank you, D.C. United, for another very nice afternoon.