A week ago Wednesday, our very own Dave Clark wrote a posting about what it means to be an evangelist of sorts for the sport that we all love – soccer.
It got me thinking – what kind of evangelist am I for this sport, nay, community, that I have become so passionate towards. How did I get here? Where did I come from?
There was a time – not so very long ago – that I was "that guy." That guy who would say soccer was boring. That guy who paid zero attention to anything soccer related (are you actually telling me that the US hosted the World Cup in 1994? How in the world did I make it through that entire year and have absolutely ZERO idea that this was happening?) That guy who would have scoffed at anyone who tried to tell me about soccer.
Until a fateful day in March of 2009. The day that I was asked "Hey, do you want to go to a soccer game on Thursday?" I said yes because honestly, I had nothing else better to do. As the day approached, I was given a scarf to use as my ticket (a scarf? Really?) and I learned that the Sounders would be playing their very first match as the newest expansion team of Major League Soccer. Their foes? The New York Red Bulls, who just so happened to have lost the MLS Cup match the year before.
In my mind this meant a slaughter. Not the 4-0 kind of slaughter over the Galaxy, but the 0-4 kind of slaughter by the Galaxy.
I had no idea what to expect. I knew nothing about the players, the history, the club, the supporters, the rules. I was that guy. The perfect guy to have been invited to my first match. Because I opened my mind to experiencing something new.
And what an experience that was.
Being me, after that first match, I had to learn everything that I could about this team. I learned that they practiced down the street from my work (I started to even time my 5 mile runs so I could use the midway point as an excuse to watch practice through the trees and to get a short breather.) I learned the players. I learned the history.
Heck, I even bought a jersey! Something that took me thirteen years to do for another sport/player that I loved.
And I haven’t looked back since.
That first match opened my eyes to what I now know as the beautiful game. It has allowed me to experience women’s soccer (first with the Sounders Women before the World Cup players appeared, and then after.) It allowed me to experience the U-23 team (where I witnessed a certain Nate Jaqua suit up in a playoff match.) It allowed me to experience our National Team – both the Women’s and the Men’s. I’ve experienced Starfire. I’ve enjoyed beverages from random flasks on a bus. I’ve flown a BFF.
Everyone that I work with, my whole family, all of my friends – they know that I’m a Sounders fan. My newfound passion even rubbed off onto my brother when I took him to his first game (where our tickets oddly placed us in the middle of the SJ supporters . . . can you say, awkward?)
This community has shown me so much and I’ve also met countless people that I call friends through our shared passion.
This game has made me cheer like a mad man. It has made me cry. It has excited me. It has broken my heart.
I now own more scarves that I have ever owned in my entire life.
Besides, what other sport would have allowed me to experience The Church of Fucito, Dempsey Watch, The Future, The Hydra, and The Enemy’s Goal is Down? (Sadly, I knew about scuba diving before a certain Mr. Levesque showed me.)
Five and a half years later, my level of passion and enthusiasm still grows. I’ve shared that with family and friends and complete strangers. My first date with the love of my life was to a Sounders match. An ex-girlfriend even used her learning soccer against me when that relationship went sour.
I promise to share my passion with everyone and to never judge.
I promise to be a Sounder at Heart.