"The save, right on the line! And it's over -- Houston has won the 2006 MLS Cup! Pat Onstad denies Jay Heaps, and the city of orange goes wild!"
There's the call: The Houston Dynamo have won the MLS Cup. I give Mattress Mac -- a.k.a. Jim McIngvale -- a buzz over at Gallery Furniture. "Did you see them throw the canisters on the field?" he says of the Dynamo fans who were tossing stuff onto Pizza Hut Park's pitch. "They're crazy!"
But Mac, who paid for a convoy of buses for traveling Dynamo fans -- and paid for parking for Houston drivers, and then threw a tailgating party in Frisco before the game -- has nothing but love for the orange-clad crew who showed up at his store in the wee hours of Sunday morning to make the road trip. "Who else is crazy to paint their face at 7 a.m.? They're incredibly rabid fans, and they're wonderfully diverse and they have that get-it-done attitude. They really represent the diversity of our city."
Mac says he's "fast becoming" a soccer fan, and that he plans to work with the Dynamo next year. It's good PR, and it's good business: "We've had a great experience with them this year. Their demographics, the crowd they bring to the games, those are the kind of people who buy furniture here."
Darrell Luckett's, Mac's director of promotions, told me that if the Dynamo win, Mac would get a ring, too. I ask him about the chance of getting MLS Cup jewelry. "Ring? I don't have anything to say about that," he says. "They deserve them, not me." Mac tells me that the Convoy buses should return to Tex Star Motors (across the freeway from his store) around 11 p.m.
It's just after midnight, and the buses are nowhere to be seen. Finally, at 12:10 a.m., they pull up. People are still holding up signs and waving as the Caravan rolls in from a long trip down I-45. The doors open, and hundreds of orange-clad fans stream out, looking a little groggy but still crazed. One guy kisses his bus driver. Another dude breaks out a large orange flag and starts waving it around. Members of the Dynamo's Latino fan club El Batallon gather and start singing soccer songs while a drummer pounds away.
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Erick, 17, and Rafael, 19, say they were proud to rep the Batallon and take mess to the rival New England Revolution fans at Pizza Hut Park. "There weren't that many," says Rafael. "We met them when we were going in and tore them apart." On the way back, the Batalion crew chanted, sang and pounded on their drums on the entire drive home, which was delayed by traffic on 45. "Yeah, we tore them up," says Erick," of the Revolution fans, "but as you can see, we did much worse to our own people."
He motions to his friend, who fell dozed off on the bus ride home and whose face was subsequently scribbled on by three different Sharpies.
The lesson is clear: When riding home on a bus — as your buddies beat the hell out of a drum — after your hometown soccer team wins the championship, don't fall asleep. — Steven Devadanam