Michael Yarnevich and his son, Adam, started attending MLS matches in Kansas City together at the beginning — back when the team played in Arrowhead Stadium, back when the team was the Wiz and then the Wizards.
When the stadium now known as Children’s Mercy Park opened up in 2011, the duo committed to season tickets and stepped their fandom up to the next level. Michael found a favorite spot at the stadium: a steel beam supporting the concourse level above the Cauldron supporter's section, almost directly behind the north goal. In fact, Michael called it “the best spot in the house.”
Adam confides that it also lent Michael the physical support he needed; nearly 40 years of work at a power plant left him with bad arthritis in his hips. But, as Adam notes, “He knew that you don't sit in the Cauldron.”
Then, on November 17, 2015, Michael went for a scheduled surgery to repair an aortic aneurysm doctors had diagnosed several days earlier. There were complications post-surgery, and Michael unexpectedly passed away the following day.
Adam, known to many of the SKC faithful as superfan "Brisket Bob," soldiered on through the 2016 season, and even hilariously spoofed Timber Joey’s log-sawing routine at a game against the Portland Timbers.
Adam as "Brisket Bob," with his father looking on, at Children's Mercy Park.
But he still found himself drawn to the spot where he and his father watched matches. He commented to fellow Cauldron members that he’d love to someday see a plaque on the post where he and his father watched the team’s 2013 MLS Cup and scores of other matches.
Last November, on the one-year anniversary of the surgery, he tweeted about the day and pondered a plaque:
One year ago tomorrow I lost my dad. I'd still like to get the pillar/pole he used to lean against in the MS w/ a plaque in his name ...— Robert Baconwurst (@Brisket_Bob) November 18, 2016
Jonathan Kaplan, the club’s digital and communications manager, saw the tweet.
“I remember when Adam's father passed away, and I know how much the club meant to their family,” Kaplan recalls. “I sent the tweet to [Sporting KC President] Jake Reid and [Vice President, Ticket Sales and Service] Gregg Allen to get their thoughts on this, and both immediately responded that we should make it happen. From there, we worked with [Vice President, Development] David Ficklin to actually get the plaque designed and installed.”
The plaque went up inside Children's Mercy Park just before the first home game at the stadium this season.
“Initially, we thought it would be cool for it to be a surprise for Adam when he showed up at the first game,” Kaplan says. “But after internal discussions, we decided to loop Adam into the process so whatever text would go on the plaque would hold special significance for him and his family.”
Adam was indeed touched by the gesture, especially on behalf of his new daughter, who was born in 2016.
“I think it's neat that his granddaughter can go into Children's Mercy Park when she's older," he says, "and see her granddad's name in the Cauldron.”
Kaplan notes this is the first time that the team has honored a fan in this way — but Kaplan formerly worked with the Houston Dynamo, who also unexpectedly lost a superfan, 25-year-old soccer journalist and podcaster Leo Ponce, last year. The Dynamo organization responded by dedicating a bench in BBVA Compass Stadium’s original supporters’ section in his honor.
“I knew Leo very well, so I was glad to see the way the club honored him,” Kaplan said. “As a league, we are more than 20 years old and have many fans that have been with us from the beginning. We all recognize that MLS would not be in the current position without those supporters, so a bench or a plaque is the least we can do.”
Though Adam and other fans expressed their gratitude for the gesture via social media, Kaplan notes, “To be honest, this wasn't something we did to get a reaction. Adam has been an important part of our club and we know what this club meant to his father. Creating this plaque was just the right thing to do.”