An Ode to Shuart Stadium

[Photo: Steve Hamlin/TICC]

[Photo: Steve Hamlin/TICC]

Today, the New York Cosmos will play Rayo OKC in the NASL Championship Semi-Final at James M. Shuart Stadium. With rumors of a move to Brooklyn swirling since June and a possible final at Belson Stadium looming, there is a decent chance that this match will be the Cosmos’ last at Hofstra University. In this letter, Cosmos Country writer Steven Hamlin reflects on what the stadium meant to him.

Dear James M. Shuart Stadium,

Hello old friend. I hope you’re doing well.

All I hear these days is that we won’t be seeing each other much anymore. My club isn’t doing well in your confines, they might move. I figured it’s high time to talk to you one last time before I visit for what could be the last time ever.

It’s been six long years since I first entered your doors. I wasn’t even half the person I was today: a rosy-cheeked freshman in high school who was brought to you as part of his high school marching band. You were sold to me as a big football stadium where musical glory was to be achieved with my compatriots. I remember trampling the bridge built across Hempstead Turnpike, heart in throat about my first meeting with you. It went well, and I was hooked.

Your abstract beauty helped me grow through the years. You were my once a year visit, my ultimate musical goal, my performance stage. I brought my family, friends, and first loves alike through your doors to share in my hallowed hall. I will never forget my sophomore year: the day before my ultimate performance. I was hospitalized for dehydration, and skipped school the next day. All day I sat home, wondering if I had the strength to pull off my ultimate performance. I remembered your terraces, the thrill I had on that turf field. I pulled through, and it was all thanks to you.

I would watch football games year in and year out, performing in your terraces for the passion of my school. I would watch last minute field goals, heartbreaking loss, and everything in-between. You were a vehicle to practice camaraderie, something special to an awkward, doofy high schooler like myself.

Our relationship changed a few years later, when the Cosmos announced you as their home. I strolled over that bridge again and through your doors with a similar set of nerves as before, but this time more positive. I wondered what this club would do to me, if it would catch on at all. There I sat, watching the supporters section party in the terraces I had occupied as a performer over the years. I saw performers of a different ilk practice their craft on your turf field. When I left, I knew I was to come back.

I spent years in your terraces, sometimes giving a musical performance, other times not. I partied many times, pogo’d on your benches, and avalanched down to your fences. I broke rules and pissed off your protectors. I made mistakes. I got into fights. I continued to grow. I brought family and loves in your doors once again, giving them a peek into my special club at my special stadium. You were a great host, and were always there for me through every emotion I felt. You were willing to get draped in tifos, willing to have pyro set off. You brought me so much fun and joy.

However, as time went on and I transitioned out of the party you became more of an imperfect host. Debate was furious about whether you should continue to be the host: you were too far out of the way, your benches were too cold. We could not drink in your terraces, your one golden rule you would never want us to break. Everyone seemed to hate you, and I nodded along silently, secretly keeping on to the memories we made together.

[Photo: Steve Hamlin/TICC]

[Photo: Steve Hamlin/TICC]

As a media member, you brought me luxury. Your press box was a beautiful place, even if those who kept you up and running only supplied you with Sbarro’s. Your sidelines gave me yet another way to perform and perfect my craft: not music, but photography. Now, I was close and intimate to the game played on your field, hearing every word and feeling every tackle. The roar of the crowd comes from behind now, giving it even more volume. This, arguably, has been my favorite part of our relationship.

This brings us to today. Our one, final day together, my old friend. You have given me so much over the years. So much joy, so much pain, so many lessons that I will bring with me throughout the rest of my life. You were never perfect: shredded paper stuck on your terraces, rocks of your turf always got in my shoes, your elevator seems to never work. You were never the best, but you never needed to be. As the old saying goes, you were a dump. But, you were my, OUR, dump.

I would be remiss if I didn’t thank you for all that you have given. I have a very heavy heart when I am faced with the stark realization that I won’t have an excuse to visit you after today. Few places have felt as much as home to me as you have, my old friend. It’s a shame we have to leave each other.

One more game. Let’s make it a good one, huh?

With love and appreciation,

Steve.

One thought on “An Ode to Shuart Stadium

  1. This is a nicely written piece that is both heart-felt and real. With that being said, I look forward to never stepping foot in this lacrosse stadium ever again. The fond Cosmos memories and the friendships forged over the last few years occurred in spite of this poor, poor location, not because of it. Actually, I hope to not see Nassau County until July 2017 when I decide to go to the beach. I am glad that this nightmare is seemingly coming to an end. Welcome to being relevant once again NY Cosmos. Welcome to Brooklyn, Welcome to Queens, Welcome to the global stage, Welcome to New York City. Don’t f*ck this up.

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