I think I now understand what 'it" is all about. For anyone who has read my initial few blog posts, you know that the Seattle Sounders are my club, and my club alone. As much as I enjoy the EPL, La Liga, Seria A, and the others, no team can move me emotionally like Seattle can. I've been away far too long, never seen a match at Century Link, and miss out on the public training sessions at Starfire and the USOC matches. I've missed the true fan experience. Today though, I was finally able to experience just how much the organization cares about its fan-base, and how as we go, they go.
Today was quite the roller-coaster. It started out early, around 0430 when I set off for the gym, motivated by the thoughts of watching the Sounders train at the Kino Sports Complex, here in Tucson. Five hours later, as the clock struck 0930, I set off with haste, and to be honest, probably drove a bit faster than I should have. I also remember squealing under my breath as I turned in to the parking lot. Upon my arrival I was surprised to see how few people were there to watch the team train. Literally, I was the only one. As I slowly made my way to the training pitch, off to my right were three well manicured fields, with the new Adidas Brazuca balls awaiting action. Come to find out, these fields were reserved for the reigning MLS Champions, Sporting KC. I turned away from the three pristine fields to head down to Seattle'e sole pitch, and to my surprise I had the chance to walk right by Dom Dwyer, Seth Sinovic, and Teal Bunbury, among others as they made their way to their training site. I rendered the proper courtesy of a "good morning" as I passed, but nothing more. Screw KC.
I finally reached the Sounders as Sean Okoli was making his way to the field, at which point I made it clear to him "thanks for repping the 253." I caught him off guard with the comment, but he returned it with a smile and a "you bet." A few more players made there way out, Kenny Cooper (HUGE MAN!), Lowe and Mic Master Ockford, Estrada, and Lamar. Unfortunately just as Lamar walked by, everything went a bit pear shaped.
A woman from the complex, obviously uncomfortable in what she was about to do, explained to me that I needed to leave, as training was closed to the public. To say I was disappointed, angry, and bewildered, is an understatement. I then inquired if this would hold true for all next week as well, as I had already taken the week off to enjoy daily viewing. She replied in the affirmative. :-( She apologized and explained that I could try to watch from the parking lot, but she could do nothing more. I could sense she was not happy about having to escort me off the complex, probably due to the fact that I was the only one there, and in my uniform.
Once back in the parking lot, I had to make a choice; go back to work, or take a walk over to the fence and see what happens. As a true Sounders fan and rebel without a care, I chose the latter. As I walked over to the fence I thought I recognized the man sitting at a table next to the field. Bearded, steely blue eyes, he looked strangely familiar, and then it hit me; it's Matt Gaschk! Thinking back to my days in basic training, I pulled out the "excuse me Mr. Gaschk?" Everything from that point on in the story, was beyond what I could have expected. After a great chat with Matt, he and his colleague Mike (I think it was Mike, and if it wasn't, I apologize, I'm horrible with names) invited me in to the training to watch with them and hang out. I was floored. I expected a pleasant "thanks for turning out," but to be allowed in to the session to watch up close and basically "shoot the shit" with M&M about all things Sounders, Washington, and soccer was out of this world.
I know for many that are local to the club have had the opportunity to get to know the players, personnel, and ownership. But for many of us, the displaced Sounder, an experience like this is once in a lifetime. I get it now. I now believe I understand on some deeper level the love and appreciation the fans have for this club, and the club for its fans. My passion has only deepened. I finally get "it."
PS: Next post will be my thoughts on the soccer I saw today, to include my impressions of Aaron Kovar, how great Kenny Cooper is with the ball at his feet, and Obafemi Martin's quads, cause they are redonkulous.