BY TREY HIGDON
Electric. Passionate. Enthusiastic. Loud. Moving.
I could list off synonyms all day about the Brickyard Battalion’s “leave-it-all-on-the-pitch” support during last Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup exit against the Chicago Fire. Indy Eleven might have just fallen short a penalty kick to advance to the next round, but with a group of nearly 200 of the most dedicated supporters in the league, the team knew that we were there for them no matter the circumstances.
The day started like most game days – congregating with friends and fellow supporters outside of Carroll Stadium buzzing about the upcoming match. The only difference between that game day and the others (aside from it being a rare weekday match) was that this tailgate was spanning across a three hour bus ride to the outskirts of the “Windy City”. With bags full of snacks, water, beer and hard liquor, it was safe to say that we were ready to set off.
We were separated into two buses; the first bus was filled primarily with the 21-and-over crowd that frequented the BYB regularly, while the second bus was more of the family-friendly demographic. I was lucky enough to be placed on the first of the two busses while a friend of mine happily shared his insight on the happenings of our second bus.
As you can expect chatter was in full swing over possible line-ups, formation and score predictions, and pre-planning for our “Schlabst Cup” victory ride home. Not all talk was serious, though. Many jested over inside jokes, some even birthed/expanded new subsidiary supporters groups (a shout out to the Salmon Short Ultras and the Shitty Chardonnay Ultras). From the front of the bus to the back, laughter, music, chants and drinks were being shared amongst the family of Eleven supporters. From what I could tell through the various text messages and Snapchats from bus #2, not much was different….aside from the obvious difference in the collective BAC level and volume of our bus #1 patrons.
After a surprisingly fast bus ride, thanks to our bat-out-of-Hell driver, we had finally made it to Toyota Park. After stepping foot on to our gravel pit parking lot, one could tell a new wave of energy was injected to our crowd. It was pure jubilation to be where we were, knowing what was coming next for us. For the remaining hour that we remained in the tailgate lot, we took the opportunity to continue drinking and hyping ourselves up with members of the Front Office and even a surprise visit from Indy Eleven’s Jamaican star Omar Gordon. The clock finally struck 6:45 p.m.; a signaling call for the away support to gather and march into the Fire’s home.
It certainly didn’t take long to see the sort of influence we would have on the fan support between both teams. We easily filled the fan section with some overdraft into the neighboring sections. A quick glance around the stadium made one thing apparent: we outnumbered their [collective] supporters. Our excitement began to transform into an anxiety-fueled anticipation. Like every other cliché in the book, we experienced a “calm before the storm” moment as the announcer’s voice rushed over the stadium. It was game time.
The atmosphere mimicked what you would expect out from the BYB during a home game; chanting, screaming, harassing the match officials, but the experience was different than that. It was more… intimate. It was a full 120 minutes full of pure intensity. Our drums and voices boomed over Section 8’s and Section Latino’s efforts. We were astonished by our loudness after discovering the sound of our own echo bouncing back at us from across the stadium. These factors gave our chants, our voices, more power; more confidence. Everyone gave it their full effort and some even went above and beyond—I’ll admit, I may or may not have hijacked a few of our section’s chants early on (Sorry Peter and company). We sang as a whole. We were an anamorphic blob of unadulterated fandom.
In the end, the result wasn’t what we traveled out for, but that didn’t stop us from flexing our proverbial muscles until the bitter end. We should be, and are, proud of our efforts. Members of Section 8 made a point to mention to some of the figureheads of the BYB that we were the loudest supporters group to visit Toyota Park in the 2016 season, blasting Timbers Army out of the water. We should be proud of what we did that evening. We have continued to prove that we are the best fans in the NASL, this match being no exception.
Our support didn’t go unnoticed. Members from the team and the team’s FO took to social media to thank us for our efforts and our support. Knowing that our traveling support influences the team’s morale makes the whole experience worth wild. While many casual fans may think players are only playing for money or glory, it’s great to see that players show their affection for their club and their fans, be it through social media or visiting the fan section to chat after the match.
While this was my first time traveling with the BYB, I plan on making a more conscious effort to do so when possible and I hope that more first time travelers will follow my lead. Social media posts can only do so much and our players need feel the same at-home energy while on the road—it makes all the difference. It all boils down to that no matter the outcome, our “Boys in Blue” are reminded that we are “Indy ‘til we die”.