Will Chang Is Banging the Drum for D.C. United

Will Chang, United's majority investor, is fan-friendly.
Will Chang, United's majority investor, is fan-friendly. (Joel Richardson/twp - Twp)
Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Two years ago, at the first D.C. United game I attended after Will Chang became part of the team's ownership group, I stumbled into the 50-something owner in RFK's Lot 8, eating grilled meat products with fans.

"I'm just one of those guys that likes to have a good time," Chang said out there in the rain that April.

"It's not like you see Dan Snyder hanging out at a tailgate with a bunch of fans," one of the United supporters pointed out, which was obviously the first thing that popped into my head as well.

Chang has continued to join the fans in the stands and in the parking lots, home and away, banging drums and jumping up and down on bleachers and the whole bit. And since he became the team's majority investor last month, he's promised to continue this Everyman act.

"I do it not because I have to do it or [because] I think it's my job to kind of integrate with the fans," Chang told me yesterday. "I do it because it's fun. You know, beating the drum is fun. Jumping up and down in the stands is fun."

I pointed out that the owner tailgating with fans would be inconceivable at many venues, but Chang said more than once that this was a part of the soccer culture, not some quirk of his own personality.

"It's totally inconceivable at some of the other sports where the owner is jumping up and down with the fans, because it's culturally not right in those sports," he said. "Whereas it's totally okay in the culture of soccer to kind of be a part of it, although I'm probably on the extreme side. Although that's all right [too]. The fans, when they first came in touch with me, they said, 'Oh, Will's a little crazy.' And that's fine."

And so, he can tell you which fans have the best barbecued chicken. He expressed a preference for some of the homebrews offered in Lot 8. And he cautioned that you might not want to start banging on the drums without proper protection.

"I didn't realize, all those guys who are beating the drums have these ear plugs, and I did that without the ear plugs," he said. "I figured, 'Ah, this can't be worse than going to a concert when I was 18 years old.' Boy, did I pay for it. My ears rang for about three days."

I asked whether he ever feels self-conscious with the whole set-up, wearing the scarves and trying to make RFK bleachers bounce along with his paying customers.

"You know, some owners in some other sports feel that way," he said. "But I've always integrated with the fans from Day One, right? . . . If I didn't do this, and all of the sudden I bought [former partner Victor MacFarlane's] interest and I became the major shareholder of D.C. United and then I started going out, it would be awkward. But the fans kind of come up to me and congratulate me. I say: 'Well, nothing's changed, right? It's the same guy. It's the same guy who's gonna share a beer with you out there, it's the same guy who's gonna have a barbecue and the same guy who's gonna beat the drums out there. Nothing's changed. It's just I've got twice the headache.' "

That's where the ear plugs come in handy.

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