From an outsider's perspective, sports has a way of pulling people, groups and communities apart on the field, court or other playing surface.
But it also has a way of bringing people together. Real Salt Lake superfan Ryan Terry found that out after he was recently admitted to the intensive care unit with severe medical issues. He told a few of his close friends, including current RSL television broadcaster Brian Dunseth, about the diagnosis — and the instant reception of support has been "humbling," according to Dunseth. "Once the whistle blows, you can be enemies. But as soon as the game is over, you go back to being friends," Dunseth said. "This singlehandedly proves to me what an incredible community that we are operating in. "He's an incredible guy, and in a lot of ways, he has become one of the important faces of the supporters groups. He's so outgoing and accommodating to other supporters around the league."
Friend and fellow RSL supporter Hiba Issa set up a GoFundMe page to collect donations to help cover Terry's medical bills. And though Issa was set to move to Seattle this weekend, the page had collected all but a few hundred dollars of its $10,000 goal within 18 hours.
As soon as Issa had set up the page, Dunseth began spreading the word — using his Web and social media platforms on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and so forth.
Renowned soccer players quickly caught on, donated and spread the word themselves. First came Seattle Sounders defender Brad Evans, who didn't just retweet the mention — he donated himself. He was quickly followed by donations from former RSL players Nat Borchers and Will Johnson, who now play in Portland, as well as New York Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles. RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando also donated to the cause, as did teammates Jordan Allen and Aaron Maund, among others.
Head coach Jeff Cassar chipped in $100 from his family, adding a note: "The Cassar family wishes you a speedy recovery!! You are in our prayers!" U.S. men's national team legend Landon Donovan helped make the effort go viral on a national and international stage, and the page also received donations from former RSL and New York City FC coach Jason Kreis.
When Dunseth visited Terry in a Salt Lake area hospital with fellow RSL fans Bean Mace and Jake Simons, he was humbled by the response — even as his battle was just beginning.
"He's through the first massive stage," Dunseth said of Terry, who was being moved from the intensive care unit Saturday afternoon. "It's still a long ways to go, and getting out of ICU is a big one. He's still looking at significant time in the hospital." Terry's friendly demeanor made it easy to get behind him, too. Competing supporters' groups like the Timbers' Army in Portland, the Cauldron at Sporting Kansas City and the Sons of Ben at the Philadelphia Union quickly jumped into the fray. "If you've ever been to a Real Salt Lake game, you've probably seen Ryan and his red and blue mohawk walking around saying 'hi' to everyone," Issa wrote on the GoFundMe page. "Including his extraordinary tifo efforts, he makes our match-day extra special. He is always friendly and helpful to everyone he knows. "Now it's our turn to help him."
This isn't Terry's first experience receiving help from the RSL fan community. When he and Simons had thousands of dollars of equipment stolen, they turned to the community to help replace their unique game day experience of creating fan-made banners, or tifos. The fans quickly rallied then, and they've done it again.
And they likely will anytime anyone needs assistance, Dunseth added. "There is something special about the soccer community in the United States," he said. "For a long time, it's been an us-versus-them mentality, and soccer is always the 'other' sport. It's an incredibly special community, and for a long time, I think we all recognized that. But I think now we've seen a cross-pollination from players, to fans, to coaches, to media, and we've been able to utilize social media, so there is an instant connection. I think people really, truly recognize opportunities to help one another."