It was easily the most difficult thing I had ever been faced with. She pleaded for me to not say those inevitable words, with tears in her eyes. I was mostly to blame for this. I probably knew this was on the horizon, yet against all sense I got involved with someone who's heart I knew would shatter. I released the heaviest of sighs, and with the perfectly bittersweet combination of preemptive regret and absolute relief. I simply said: "I'm sorry. I have to go. I don't have a choice."
It's a difficult thing to explain to people whom I barely know, let alone people whom are close to me. I'm not a religious person. I'm actually the opposite. I'm quite scientific, and believe in the reality of the physical and testable. I'm not one for 'energies' or 'spirits' and oftentimes find myself struggling to believe in either, no matter how big a part of me wants to believe.
But there is no greater spiritual moment or awakening than being on the terraces. Never am I as at peace as I am singing with the ECS, begging the fates to allow our boys to succeed. It is within the unison of collective sighs, and deafening cheers that I feel most connected not only with my fellow man, but with the cosmos altogether. On matchday there is literally nowhere else I'd rather be. And nothing else I'd rather do. For 90 minutes, the whole of the universe legitimately is centered on one astronomically insignificant patch of grass.
A lot of you reading this can probably appreciate the poetry. Others would call it pure insanity.
I've always felt like a local in a foreign land. Phoenix, Arizona is fine and all I suppose. A lot of people like it. But it was never for me. Then a chance trip brought me to Seattle, a city that is notable in that it is probably the exact opposite of the Phoenix. I had never felt at home. And then in one perfect moment of awareness, walking down the pier, a perfectly modern and culture rich city to the left, the Puget Sound to the right, and a view to a mass of H2O molecules that had been absent in my life for the better part of the last 15 years, I was home. I finally understood what it meant to be 'proud' of a city. A clarity washed over me that I had never known. A voice whispered in the back of my head ,'This is where you belong.'
The best loves are the ones that are a part of your life. They make your life better and at their best, don't intrude on the other aspects of your life too much.
It's silly. People are in love with people. They're even in love with hobbies they actively participate in or try to make careers out of like music or art or teaching. That's how normal brains work. But the love for this game is more than just love. Now there are sports fans. And there are diehard sports fans, but even they would fail to understand the scope and magnitude with which the depth of the love for this game; the love for this team runs. We unconditionally love our friends. We unconditionally love our family. We may even unconditionally love our partners. But very few of them, if any, could drive one to such an irrational, ill planned, and lonely decision to abandon everything else.
It's a true romance. There is no better word for it. It's one of incredible ups and downs for sure but it never fails to fulfill. I'm thoroughly in love with this team. And it's incredibly difficult to ignore a romance as this. One that inspires. One that excites. One that never gets old.
A romance that truly makes you feel complete.
It's a Saturday. And I'm at work. Even worse, it's matchday. And I'm at work. Circumstance and financial situations lock me into a job that keeps me away from the city I love, and even worse, keeps me away from a television during the only 90 minutes of the week that mean anything to me. A part of me pities any customers that cross my path during that stretch of time between whistles. I don't mean to be overly tense or systematically absent and apathetic to their issues but there are more important things to worry about. Just think: you have a finite life. On a human scale, while we never have an exact knowledge on how many, you have a finite number of weeks left. And this isn't baseball, so you have a relatively finite number of matches left before you cease to live. And you're missing one. And if that isn't bad enough, you missed last weeks. Then it becomes three. Then four. Then ten. Then you've missed the majority of the season. Then you've missed the cup matches. Then you've missed the playoffs. And before you realize it, a whole season is gone. It would've been difficult enough if that season existed in a motion picture on a flatscreen 10 feet away, but you missed being there. Being a part of the crowd. You're getting closer and closer to death everyday, and you're allowing those moments that not only mean everything to you, but to an entire fanbase; an ENTIRE CITY, pass you by. Sure I can tape the game and watch it when I get home, or read the headlines and scout the boxscore, but it's not the same. I can wear the 'I Gave My Full 90' pin on the work lanyard; but I didn't.
We manage to lie just about every single Saturday. Or at least I hope we do. Or perhaps its just my warped sense of loyalty that drive me on such a tangent. There is a very simple, almost cliché line that permeates among most supporter's groups that goes a little something like 'I'm Seattle Til I Die.' Obviously if you're not Seattle till you can die, you can substitute it with just about any team and you're instantly in your element. Regardless of who you pledge your loyalty to, it's worth asking...
Does death really end that loyalty?
Sure, we can hearken back to some earlier statements I've made: Yes, I'm very scientific by nature. No I don't believe in an afterlife. No, against all my wishes that it will, I have no reason to think or believe my conscious mind will outlast my body. As much as I wish to sit my drunk spirit upon a star in the most remote corners of space as it supernovas, I know the likelihood that I will ever see that reality is practically zero.
But, let's say for the sake of argument that an afterlife does exist. Would passing into that afterlife stop us from really truly loving this team? If we believe, as a lot of us do, that we are reunited and together with our Earthly loves after we pass, why would we not carry this allegiance with us? Upon the cessation of our bodily functions, should we expect to stop supporting our Sounders? Would we high five Timbers and Whitecaps fans in the afterlife and joke about how silly we were to be on opposite sides in our previous existence? Perhaps in heaven or the afterlife, we have football still, and there are different regions of heaven for us to pledge our unwavering voice too. I suppose that could justify the 'Til I Die' chants, but that's on par with even saying 'Well in heaven I guess I'll meet a new woman, and no longer have a need for this love I had for my mortal wife.'
In fact what would a perfect afterlife even be perfect without this most joyous of loves? I fail to see a point in being a free spirit, freed from the shackles and physical constraints of my mortal body, if not to be able to sneak into CenturyLink Field for free and sit with thousands of Ghosts of Seattle, and thousands of actual people of Seattle, for those agonizing 90 minutes every Saturday. Even if I spent the entirety of my angelic existence exploring the farthest reaches of space, there is nowhere else in this universe, or in any other theoretical one for that matter that I'd rather be.
Perhaps it's that lack of an eternal promise that makes every win, draw, and even every loss so special. So inviting. So obsessively attractive. So undeniably compelling.
I'd struggled for a while to admit it to myself, but I found myself just about ready to say those words to one of my dearest friends, quite sure they would be simultaneously confused and hurt by the truth. It was never intended. It wasn't foreseeable. It was just a summer fling. There was a fleeting interest; almost for the novelty of it. Those types of things have their time, they pass, and you move on. But any void that had ever existed was suddenly gone. It was the girl you have a drink with at the bar, for whatever reason never get the number of, and then cant get out of your mind pretty much till your mind no longer maintains thoughts: 'Till you die,' as it were. When I examined many of the decisions that had led me here, and many of the rationales behind why this conversation was even taking place I eventually stumbled and accepted the true motive. I accepted why I had to explain to one of my oldest and dearest friends that I would have to leave not only him, but all of my other close friends, and my family behind. It wasn't that if I could have it my way, I wouldn't pick them all up and take them with me. But that sentiment wouldn't make it any easier. I didn't want to disconnect, but I had long since known I didn't have a choice. I scanned the room for but a brief moment to see scarves covering every inch of white colored wallpaper. I saw the sleeves of every different purchase, gift, and after market steal I had acquired through a creak in the closet door. And I knew the truest words I could say in that moment were:
"I'm in love with the Sounders. I love them more than anything. And I can't fathom to be away from them any longer."