As you may have noticed, I'm no longer going by BayAreaRefugee and am instead using the name my parents intended.
Mainly, this is a product of me planning to do more reporting-like coverage and I don't want it to seem like I'm hiding behind a mask of anonymity. I want people to know what I've said, either good or bad. I'm going to try to make it out to practice on a more regular basis with the intention of getting more stuff that isn't just off a press sheet. Hopefully, you guys will find that kind of content valuable, and the plan is for it to supplement my breaking-down-the-tape analysis I've been trying to do recently. I'm still experiencing a significant learning curve, but hopefully you've found my stuff insightful and helpful and my hope is that it only gets better.
I also want readers to be able to identify with me as a person and not as a faceless specter behind a keyboard. One of the things that I love about this site is the level of discourse that goes on here. Now that I feel like a full-fledged member of the Sounder at Heart team, I feel like this is a good opportunity to raise that discourse even higher.
Without belaboring the point too much, now seems as good a time as any to explain how a Bay Area transplant became a member of Sounder Nation.
Conveniently enough, I can trace my fandom back to a single day.
I was attending the Aug. 2, 2009 Earthquakes-Sounders game in San Jose, already knowing that I was going to be moving in a few weeks. Prior to that game, I had always rooted for the San Jose MLS teams, but rarely attended games. Although I followed the team in the newspaper, that was probably only the third or fourth time I had attended a game in person, and can't clearly remember ever watching a MLS game from whistle-to-whistle on TV.
I definitely considered myself a soccer fan, though. In 2006, my wife, two friends and I went to Europe with the sole intention of experiencing what it was like to be in the epicenter of the soccer universe. Suffice to say, watching the Quakes could never live up to that.
What I discovered on that fateful August day was that there were indeed MLS supporters who could do a pretty decent job of recreating the atmosphere that I fell in love with in Europe. In this case, they were called Emerald City Supporters.
Despite the Quakes winning the game 4-0, the Sounders were constantly buoyed by the chants, songs and music from various instruments coming out of their hundreds-strong supporters section. I happened to be seated a few rows in front of them and was simply amazed. (As a side note, I was also appalled at the way many Quakes fans taunted their Sounders counterparts after the last two goals. I don't necessarily think of myself as someone who is looking to pick fights at sporting events, but on this day I couldn't help but yell at several fans who insisted on aiming their cheers away from the field.)
I don't think I can honestly say I became a Sounders fan that day, but I was pretty sure that it was just a matter of time before I did.
Upon finally joining my wife in Seattle, we quickly decided that we needed a local team to root for. The obvious choice was the Sounders.
It was too late in the season, and we were too broke anyway, to get tickets to games, but we did make a point of watching every game we could at the George & Dragon, which happened to be just down the street from us. We were impressed at the game-day atmosphere, and could only compare it to the bars we visited during the World Cup.
I followed the team for the final few months of the season, and while definitely rooting for the Sounders, would still hesitate to list myself among the faithful. After all, I had only been in town a few months and barely knew the names of more than a handful of players. As a lifelong sports fan, I didn't really consider myself a fan of a team until I felt nervous at the start of games. Those kind of emotions simply can't be forced.
Once I started writing for Sounder at Heart -- I guess it was back the end of February that I started appearing on the frontpage -- my familiarity with the team kicked into high gear. By the time this season started, I felt like I knew who most of the players were and had a pretty decent grasp of their strengths and weaknesses.
Still, I think I watched games with a certain disconnect that I learned while working in newspapers. I definitely wanted the Sounders to win, but wins didn't fill me with joy and losses were still relatively easy to shake off.
That finally changed on April 17, the day Mike Fucito scored the stoppage-time goal. For whatever reason, that was the first game I remember pulling my hair out with frustration as the Sounders seemed destined for a scoreless tie. It was also the first time I erupted with joy when they won. I knew the emotions were real -- and not the product of herd mentality -- because I was watching the game at home, alone.
Obviously, that makes my born-on-date a pretty darn fresh 19 days. I realize there are fans who have probably been following the Sounders longer than I've been alive (obviously, we're counting NASL days here).
I know that in many ways, I'm still an outsider, and I still feel like a Bay Area Refugee in many ways. I also hope that you have come to accept me as one of your own, and appreciate the honesty with which my Sounders' fandom developed. The Sounders are truly lucky to have a fanbase like this and I consider it an honor to play a part in it.