The last time I attended a Forward Madison game I was in, well, Madison.
We watched from a packed a crowd at the effortlessly cool Breese Stevens Field. There was an energetic drumline, a smattering of Dane County’s most noteworthy foods, a children’s play area and, of course, a lively crowd.
Forward Madison FC’s dairy cow mascot Lionela Bess was there to greet fans. It rained.
It probably goes without saying that when I attended the Forward Madison game in Wauwatosa on Sunday, it was an entirely different experience.
For starters, we traded Breese Stevens Field for Hart Park, a charming green space that I learned during the walk from the car would be perfect for stringing up a hammock. The field was less trendy and more reminiscent of high school track meets, perhaps because the last time I was at this field, it was for a high school track meet.
There was no drumline, no children’s games, no Bess. It did still rain.
Of course, I never expected watching the Flamingos to be the same experience as it was a year ago. It’s 2020; nothing is the same. And frankly, if the stadium had been anywhere near as packed as it was when I went in 2019, I would’ve turned right around and walked out.
But the outdoor stadium was set up with social distancing in mind. Everyone was required to wear masks and there were lots of signs and announcements to remind you of just that. Seats were appropriately spaced to keep groups of fans distanced from each other, especially on the track where I sat with my group.
And masked or not, Flamingos fans are a rowdy crew. Like any other sport, half of all soccer cheering is shouting at refs when they make a questionable call or miss something seemingly obvious. There was plenty of that, especially near me.
I may not know a lot about soccer, but I did know to cheer along with the crowd when the ball when in the other team’s net, which happened a winning three times that game.
Plus, when the team scored, we did too, with two-for-one glasses of Wisconsin-made Wollersheim wine. As for beer, there was a wide selection, including a number of Wisconsin brews such as Spotted Cow, Great Dane Stone of Scone, Goose Island IPA and more.
I’ve never been a huge sports fan, but I have always loved going to games. I love to root for a team and be a part of a crowd. I’ve missed that feeling throughout the pandemic.
This weekend, it felt good to cheer, to watch a team win, to do something normal. And while I look forward to a future when I can make a day trip to Madison to watch the Flamingos on their home turf, this was a spirited alternative for the time being.