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Magical Night in the Land of Enchantment

Meow Wolf Night at New Mexico United, Cotton Candy, and Unforgettable Smiles

By Seth Biddulph | Photo: Adam Nish | seekandstrikecollective@gmail.com

It only took us seven months, but this past week my family and I finally got to take a vacation. While we can’t do big trips, we try to give our kids weeks that they’ll remember. Somehow, my wife always manages to put together a magical time for us. After visits to White Sands and a few nights camping, I could only hope that my idea was just as magical for my family. My idea? A night out at The Lab. While I was expecting magic on the pitch, the real magic took place in the four seats to my right.

As excited as I was to hear the announced attendance of 14,327, the most important part of that was that I was getting to share my love of football with my wife and kids. An adventure-filled week for our family was capped off with a loud, rainy night at The Lab and it couldn’t have been better.

I’ve been a football fan for several years and my love for it has grown since I first sat down to ever watch a match. Over the past couple of years, my kids have seen me watching football on the weekends and have had moments of interest whenever it was on. I can’t think of a single match that I’ve watched that has held their interest for extended durations of time.

Tonight though, that all seemed to change.

Other than myself, none of my family had ever been to a professional football match before tonight. This year, I’ve had few opportunities to attend matches as a fan. For the most part, I’ve been at The Lab or the Salt Yard as a journalist. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s a much different feel going to a match in a professional capacity than going as a fan.

Both of my boys have started playing in recent years, my oldest taking to it. My youngest son tried, but maybe he just wasn’t ready yet and we struggled to get him to stay with it. For my wife and daughter, they hear me talk about going to the matches, or watching them on t.v. (whether it’s Everton, Atlanta United or New Mexico United), and I’m sure they didn’t always understand my love for it.

I wanted to give them all an experience they wouldn’t forget. What better chance to do that than at Meow Wolf night. All week long my boys kept asking when we were going to the soccer match. The time to leave finally came and we strolled up to the gates about an hour before the initial kickoff time. I was worried the weather delay would sour the mood, but they handled the delay gracefully.

Okay, maybe getting some fries and cotton candy helped a little. (Why don’t all the vendors accept cards? And how in the world could an ATM run out of cash? That could have been disastrous.)

As the players filed out for kickoff, my kids were all singing along to the United rendition of Seven Nation Army and I could see my boys’ eyes fill with wonder watching the movement on the pitch. My daughter and wife were watching the boys, enjoying their excitement. As kickoff happened, the questions began.

I’m sure many folks out there have tried explaining sports or another topic to someone else before. Football is one of those things where it’s beautiful, frustrating, exciting, heartbreaking, and infuriating all at the same time.

Try explaining offside or flopping. Try explaining what happened on a particular foul. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Seeing the level of understanding and excitement growing was incredible.

When the assembled crowd erupted after Daniel Bruce’s opener, my family did so along with them. It was pure joy like nothing I’ve ever seen. If you don’t believe me, my wife has a video of it. As time ticked on, the rains came, but that didn’t stop us. My youngest put on a poncho and insisted on standing and cheering the entire time. My oldest son wouldn’t sit either but opted to forego the poncho. As for my daughter, wife and myself, the rain was a very welcome relief from the heat.

When Austin Bold equalized later in the half, my boys deflated momentarily along with the rest of the crowd. My youngest didn’t last much longer, amazingly falling asleep in my wife’s lap (and stayed that way the rest of the match). Nothing could keep my family down on this night. Not even the extremely drunk guy behind us who kept playing with my hair, thinking I couldn’t feel it. (I hope you managed to make it home okay.)

We lived and died with every moment in the second half. First, Kevaughn’s goal and then the brace for Amobi Okugo. My oldest son never found his seat. Talking to my family about why we reacted the way we did to the calls, or lack thereof, on the pitch.

Admittedly, we left before the 90th to beat the traffic. Have you ever tried to pack up and move with a sleeping toddler? Or done so in the middle of fourteen thousand other folks? My oldest son was bummed that we left, but I think it was more so that we didn’t win.

My wife and kids got to see the sport that I love and share in an incredible experience with me. I think now they understand how much this club and this sport mean to me.

This club, under the leadership of Peter Trevisani, has built something that can’t be matched. The entire experience that my family had tonight, drunks and empty ATM aside, was something that I would recommend to anyone.

Tonight is a memory that I’ll never forget. For my kids, I hope that not only will they have this incredible memory of a night out as a family, but that it helped to create a love for football that they will one day pass on to their kids.

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