SANDY — For Dustin Bitter and Eric Garza, Real Salt Lake is more than just a Major League Soccer team. It’s a borderline obsession.
Bitter, 25, and Garza, 27, are part of a group called the Idaho Boys, who are Real Salt Lake fans. The group consists of more than 20 members, from around Idaho. Over the weekend, the group traveled to the Salt Lake City suburb of Sandy to take in a game. Three group members are from eastern Idaho.
“I love going to the games,” said Bitter of Idaho Falls. “It’s not just about the games; it’s more meaningful than that. I’ve been going with this group of guys for a few years now and it’s great. We’ve got people all over the state in this group.”
Bitter said he isn’t able to attend all 18 of Real Salt Lake’s home games, but attends as many as possible. The regular season starts in March and runs through late October.
“We usually plan a few trips a month,” Bitter said. “When we go down we like to make a weekend of it. A lot of times we’ll … camp over the weekend. Not only do you get to go to a game and support a team you love, you get to spend a weekend with friends and have a lot of fun.”
Members of the group get together between outings as well. They often watch away games on TV together and paint signs to display at games. The Idaho Boys members are often clad in team colors and several have Real Salt Lake-themed tattoos. A few even have customized license plates.
On Saturday, Bitter drove to Sandy with the rest of the Idaho Boys. He said the three-hour drives are always worth it.
“These trips are something I look forward to,” Bitter said. “I love soccer and I love RSL. There’s no better feeling in the world than sitting in the stands, with a group of people you love and celebrating a goal. I’ve never experienced anything else like that feeling.”
The Idaho Boys have also followed the team to California, Oregon and Washington for away games.
“Road trips are always fun,” said Garza of Idaho Falls. “Last year we went up to Seattle and went to a Mariners game, saw RSL play the Seattle Sounders and took in the sights. It was a great experience I probably wouldn’t have had on my own.”
Garza also made the weekend trip to Sandy.
“Soccer is kind of a niche sport around here,” Garza said. “It’s nice to be able to spend some time with people who are just as passionate about the team and the game as I am.”
Garza has been attending the games for four years.
“This group was formed by a group of RSL fans in Boise,” Garza said. “I heard about the group ... so I sent them a message on Twitter. Four years later, I’m still here.”
The club doesn’t take the dedicated support for granted. Paul Monteverde, fan relations coordinator at Real Salt Lake, said it makes the club special.
“We really have some amazing fans,” Monteverde said. “We sell out most of our home games and our fans are loud and really support the team. It’s amazing to see the way the crowd can lift our players during a game.”
For Garza, supporting Real Salt Lake goes beyond just a soccer game.
“This club is a part of my life,” he said. “I’ve had so many great memories watching their matches and being with my friends. Idaho Boys offers me a wonderful chance to watch games with a great group of friends. It’s special.”
Nathan Davis can be reached at 542-6762.