In the beginning there was the LA Blues, and from day one Blaine Jenks wanted to be involved in the local supporters group for the newest team in Orange County. Blaine’s “origin story” is like a lot of young kids in Southern California in that it started with AYSO in the third grade. He played some club soccer and played in high school, but that was as far as it went on the pitch. Luckily, as is the case with many sports fans, he was able to continue his love of the game as a supporter of a local team.
Looking back at how he came to love the game of soccer, he can remember when it happened. “It pretty much started with the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea. Waking up at 4 o’clock to watch the US, and that’s kinda where my fandom started was all with that World Cup. I didn’t even know what a World Cup was before that.”
It wasn’t until 2007, with the L.A. Galaxy, that he started to follow the domestic leagues in the United States. This was his team until 2011 when a team started close to him in Fullerton called the LA Blues. He had always wanted to support local teams, but until that point it was just the Galaxy. The early days for the Blues weren’t an overnight success. Looking back, he admitted that “it was me and two other guys that started a supporters group that first season for the then L.A. Blues.” There were usually 5 to 10 people in the supporters sections and a crowd of 150-200 people.
Most of those early games were tough to follow because the closest team was in Dayton, Ohio. They were in the International Conference against teams in Antigua and 3 Puerto Rico teams. Open Cup games became the focus for early supporters shenanigans. He mentioned a specific trip to Norco, where were only two really small stands, so they brought a couch and set it up in the corner of the field. “We were all on a couch singing, drinking, and razing the players.” He mentioned that he could only tell some of the other stories “off the record.”
His two young children keep him and his wife’s hands full, so they can’t travel as much as they used to, but he reflected fondly on his time traveling with his wife to early games against Phoenix where the fans took them out for beers before hand and made sure they had enough water during the game too. He also mentioned following the US team for qualifiers. “Kansas City games are great! That stadium is awesome! I would have loved to travel to Kansas City and play Swope Park even though there is nobody there. That would have made it even more fun.”
He also mentioned a trip to Sacramento where there were only 3 of them. “Sacramento was one of the teams that was top of the league, and we won that game 1-0. Sacramento fans, at that time, weren’t accustomed to losing at home so they got a little angry with us just by the fact we were singing. Fans, especially in Sacramento, they know a little more about supporter culture and traveling fans where it doesn’t get under their skin the way it did back then.”
Blaine, and the early supporters, were big advocates of the re-brand to Orange County and the supporters group. In a move opposite of teams like the Angels, he, and other supporters, “were also pushing to embrace Orange County as not being L.A. It was easier when (the team) is bracing being the local club. So we re-branded ourselves and started anew when the club started anew.”
He talked about the club’s growth, saying “it’s hard to even fathom back then that the club would be where it is at now. I know there are other clubs we’d like to be more like, but if you look at our history and where we are now, it’s pretty crazy.”
When not being an OCSC supporter, Blaine works in the audio/visual industry and likes to travel. On that before mentioned Phoenix trip, he and his wife did work in some National Parks such as the Grand Canyon and Zion. He also plays in an adult 7v7 league in Irvine. “I try to play once a week, get out there, run a bit.”
I asked him what he missed about old traditions or things he’d like to see brought back. He didn’t have a whole lot he wanted to say, but later he did come back to the question. He said the one thing he did wish they brought back is back in the UCI days, they were allowed to bring in their own beer to the stadium. The University did not sell beer, and as long as it was in cans, the police and the team looked the other way.
So, if you see Blaine out in the County Line Coalition, bring him a beer (you can tell him you brought it in with you) and ask him to tell you some of those “off the record” stories about the early days of the Orange County Soccer Club.