To Sounders Fans, Near and Far
I joined the celebrations for the very first time as the Sounders downed the Timbers 2-0 last Sunday. It was long-awaited experience that was fulfilling, exhilarating, and it could not have come any sooner.
I first caught the Sounders craze in early 2011. Being from small-town prairie-laden Wyoming, falling into a Seattle-based soccer fandom was quite unlikely for me. Wyoming, of course, is a state where professional sports teams have never assembled and soccer, then, was hardly recognized as being a sport. While traveling in the Pacific Northwest with my high school, I stumbled upon an irresistibly loud green-and-shale jacket while at the Space Needle. The Seattle Sounders logo was decoratively embroidered on the front. I distinctly remember thinking, I have no clue what a ‘Sounder’ is, but I’ve gotta have this jacket. It became the best purchase of my sports-loving life.
I did my research and discovered that the Seattle Sounders F.C. soccer team would be opening their 2011 campaign against the L.A. Galaxy that very same month. Having bought their apparel, I nonchalantly decided that I ought to at least tune in to one of their games. And although I had no recognized interested in the sport, what I saw during that game caught my attention. There was a certain spark I couldn’t ignore. Even on the heels of a 0-1 loss to the Galaxy, the fans at (what was then known as) Qwest Field were still singing, chanting, bouncing, believing. It was incredible. It was indelible. I had to watch more.
Fast-forward to 2014. I had become a rave-green blip on the blank soccer map of Wyoming, celebrating the Sounders’ successes, lamenting the fallouts, all with boundless enthusiasm. I never missed watching a game, MLS, Open Cup, CCL, or friendly. I learned the players, memorized the stats, hummed along to the chants, scarf held high as I cheered them on from behind my computer screen in Wyoming. I watched the videos, read the articles. I did everything I could to drink it all in. But in my fourth year as a fan, I wanted to be a part of the craze in Seattle. I needed to see and confirm for myself that the game day madness was everything it had been hyped up to be.
On July 13, 2014, I got my chance.
My family found the time and perfect window of opportunity to sneak away to Seattle for the highly anticipated match against Portland. And so, for those of you who, like me, root for the Sounders from your own not-Seattle corner of the universe, take my following advice:
Go to Seattle.
See the Sounders.
It IS everything you are hoping it is.
And then some.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll never stop grinning when you find yourself floating in a sea of rave green. You’ll feel the electricity in the air as you meet your fellow Sounders compatriots, as you discuss your favorite players, and as you try to predict the game to come. You’ll lose your voice yelling along when the starting eleven is announced, and you’ll throw your hands high as you become a part of the chaos and the chants for the very first time.
Maybe you’ll get to meet Roger Lesvesque (who, I will add, has got to be the friendliest person on the planet), or any other one of the numerous Sounders legends. You’ll raise your scarf high as you march in step with thousands of others down the streets of Seattle, catching your breath as you realize that the hype, the fandom, and the crazy you hear about surrounding the Sounders -- it’s real. You won’t know every word to every song, but you’ll still sing along anyway. And when that beautiful, beloved clock ticks for the kick off, you will jump and cheer and scream and believe for the next ninety minutes like you never thought you could.
I’ll never forget the percussion of the collective fan heartbeat in that stadium, much like I’ll never forget the how warmly the Sounders community embraced me, a fledgling Sounders fan, from dawn till dusk. And the most unforgettable piece of it all: The deliciously harmonious eruption of sound when Clint Dempsey delivered his game-winning strike in the seventy-first. It was the greatest sound I had ever been a part of. My ears are still ringing with that euphoria.
From cover-to-cover, it was an extraordinary and unforgettable experience. As somebody who doesn’t have the opportunity to regularly watch the Sounders play live, game day in Seattle was more than what I was hoping for in every respect. The fans, the game, the atmosphere, the hype, the jubilation. It was all prefect.
And so to the Sounders faithful who regularly see the boys in green grace CenturyLink, thank you for making the experience what it is. Thank you for bringing your passion, your energy, and your enthusiasm to the sport, and catching the eye of many of us around the globe. Thank you for your hospitality, for the kindness that you showed me throughout my very first game day experience in Seattle, for letting me share a piece of the fandom, despite being so relatively new to this team.
And to the misplaced Sounders fan like me who dot the globe, take the opportunity to venture to Seattle when it comes your way. Make the trip. It is everything you are hoping for. Even from afar, you are still part of the Sounders family. But take my word that it is something incredible when you can actually stand amid the army of green, raise your scarf to the sky, and sing like you’ve always wanted to sing. Go. Make it happen. Go.
And to the Sounders themselves, thank you for giving us so much to believe in. We are behind you for every minute of every game.
I’m counting down the days until I can do it all again. You have my word that I’ll be back, Seattle. But until that day comes, rave on, everybody.