When Evan Whitney moved from New Orleans to Boston in 1995, he found that soccer connected him with the local people and was a pathway to friendship and support in his new city. MLSsoccer.com caught up with Evan over email to learn about his journey to and through Revolution fandom.
MLSsoccer.com: When and why did you first become a fan of the New England Revolution?
Evan: It was probably sometime in late 1995, not long after I had moved to Boston from New Orleans. I spent a good bit of time exploring the city while trying to land a job and one day stumbled upon the old World Soccer Shop in Faneuil Hall Marketplace. It turned out to be as much a place to stop and talk soccer as it was to shop. I made it my routine to stop by, talk with store managers Neil and Tony, pick up a copy of Four Four Two, and get to know some of the other regular patrons, a number of which were passionate soccer fans looking forward to the start of MLS. It wasn’t long before I was meeting up with some of them on Saturday mornings to catch Premiership matches via satellite at The Irish Embassy Pub in Boston’s old West End where we’d discuss everything from kits to the New England Revolution. I’m still friendly with a number of those people to this day.
In many ways, becoming a supporter of the Revs came as a natural extension of moving to Boston. I didn’t necessarily choose the team, but I’d been a fan of the game since I started kicking a Nerf soccer ball in my backyard (two white birch trees served as goals) around age 5, and I had recently been attending matches involving the New Orleans Riverboat Gamblers who participated in the Southern Challenge Cup and old USISL. In 1996, I started bumming rides down to Foxboro Stadium with some of the people I’d met through the World Soccer Shop and The Embassy and eventually fell into a group that shared my sensibilities about the game. I’ve been going ever since.
MLSsoccer.com: Which supporters group do you belong to, and what has your role been throughout the years?
Evan: I belong to both The Midnight Riders and The Rebellion, but have been an active member of the former going back to 1996. In an official capacity I served as Philanthropy Chair for the Riders from 1997 - 2006, coordinating the group’s charity efforts and helping raise money for a variety of causes from an after-school soccer program for inner-city children to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I’ve also helped design Midnight Riders merchandise including scarves and buttons; have made flags and banners for use in The Fort; travelled with the group to away matches in Washington, New York, Columbus, and Toronto; walked the full 26.2 Boston Marathon Course twice as part of Team Midnight Riders to benefit The Jimmy Fund; and while not directly affiliated with the Riders, I was a regular contributor to Pictures of Chairman Mao, a fanzine by and for supporters of the Revolution that had a cult following over the first five years of the League. I also commissioned and hand-painted what I believe is the first, large overhead supporters banner (or tifo) in MLS. It was done in my studio apartment back in late 1997. It was actually bigger than my studio apartment, and the great thing is that it continues to be used in The Fort to this day.
MLSsoccer.com: Can you tell us about your scarf desinging hobby, and what's your favorite design?
Evan: Well, the short version is that always I wanted a supporters scarf for the USMNT or the Revolution but I’d never been able to find one that was particularly interesting or well designed. So back in 2005, I took it upon myself to learn Photoshop and started fooling around with some design concepts. I believe the first one I produced was for a match between the U.S. and El Salvador at Gillette Stadium on September 4, 2004. Seven years and many, many mock-ups later I’ve had a total of seventeen designs actually produced, most for supporters of the USMNT, but alsothe Revolution and the Boston Breakers.
It would be hard to pick a favorite, especially considering the thought and work that has gone into each one, and more than anything my greatest satisfaction comes from seeing them in the stands at matches around the world. That being said, I’m particular proud of a bilingual (English and Spanish) design I came up with two years ago, especially seeing it around the neck of Landon Donovan after the final WC2010 qualifying match against Costa Rica. It doesn’t matter what language you speak or what heritage you claim: we can all support the United States with passion and pride. Click here to see more of Evan's scarf designs.
MLSsoccer.com: Who are your favorite Revolution players, past and current?
Evan: Taylor Twellman and Joe-Max Moore would run through brick walls for their teammates and are deserved legends for their contributions to the club. Michael Parkhurst was one of the smartest players I’ve ever seen put on a Revolution jersey. Rusty Pierce had the piss and vinegar to get under the skin of any player and I like what I’ve seen from A.J. Soares and Diego Fagundez to this point. However, my two favorite players of all-time were Steve Ralston and Francis “The General” Okaroh - two classy players who just went about their business and made any team they were on better. If my daughter ever plays soccerm I’d want someone like them coaching her.
MLSsoccer.com: If you could give one piece of advice to a new soccer/MLS/Revs fan, what would it be and why?
Evan: Don’t just be a passive fan or casual observer. Take the initiative, check out a club supporters’ group, get involved, have an open mind and don’t forget a sense of humor. I’ve said this time and time again, and to the point where my wife teases me about it, but I could travel to pretty much any country on Earth, start kicking a soccer ball or some approximation of one around, and by the end of the day I can guarantee you I’d have made some new friends, seen plenty of smiles, and heard tons of laughing.