As a Seattle sports fan with some mainstream sports journalism experience, I understand failure. I've been paid to watch the worst of Husky football, Cougar basketball, and the Storm. I watched the Sonics fall from grace and later disappear. The Seahawks, during my time I was paid to cover them, were as mediocre as mediocre could be.
The Mariners though! That was their heyday. That was 116 wins, and playoff failure. That still hurts, but that season I will always remember. It was predicting Ichiro's success, and eventually being proven right. It was the All Star Game celebrating my city. It was September 11th setting sports aside for several weeks and then a New York narrative that did not come true.
Prior to my employment in sports, I got to witness the height of the Supersonics. I went to a single game when "Not In Our House" shook KeyArena to its foundation. Then they lost. Jordan disappeared, but the Rockets took advantage. Jordan came back, but the Sonics charged forth and had a near historical win total. GP, Reign Man and Det took the court against the greatest to ever play. They lost.
In 2005 the Seahawks took flight. The best O-line in the modern NFL was on the field. Shaun Alexander was as good a running back as could be that year. It was the coming of an age, brutally ended through Bill Leavy.
This is the ground I walk as a Sounder. My native teams at the top level know failure. Sure, I was in the stands for the 2007 USL-1 Final when Sounders crushed Atlanta. It was great. Yes, I cried when I rode in my car and David Locke called the Storm's first title.
But failure defines a Seattle sports fan of my generation and younger. At least until 2014. The Seahawks changed that. They changed it for everyone. We could believe. Reign, Storm, Sounders, Mariners, Huskies, Cougs. We all believed.
Then we watched our team fall short of the ultimate prize, again.
As a Sounders fan, and blogger, I'm used to success, but never that thing that gives a team a parade and a star (parades are really cool, and I think stars will be too). In 2014 for the Sounders, there was no reason to think that history couldn't be made. Until it didn't get made.
I got asked this a lot when talking to my old coworkers who are still in traditional media here in town - "Would you trade this year's Supporters' Shield for the MLS Cup?"
I have to view that question within the background I have. It is varied, and traditionally American. The Cup is the prize above all prizes. Banners are neat, but that MLS Cup is still waiting for its parade down Occidental.
But then I look back on 2014 and a trip to Portland with one of the greatest soccer games I've ever attended ending 4-4 thanks to Clint Dempsey. I think to the game at Philly and the Sounder at Heart gathering to watch that victory. The stories that came out of Chester, Penn., that night were legendary.
The regular season ended with those two games against L.A. Seattle drew down there and then won. It was heavenly for me. Pappa changed everything. The Shield, a trophy not yet won by Sounders until this year, was passed around the front of ECS.
Over the next month it was passed among every group of fans. It made two trips to Renton, one to Tacoma. It's been in more bars than Zane Lamprey. It is our Shield. For a full season, it is this thing that joins fans at Thanksgiving. Do you want a chance to meet the Shield? You have it. Because you are a Sounder, you can hang out with a major trophy.
I doubt that will happen with the Tiffany produced MLS Cup. Sure, the players and the coaches and the front office will get it. But will a fan get to serve shots of Sparkle Donkey off of the MLS Cup?
Yes, there will be a parade. It will be fun. Some of us may touch the MLS Cup then. Some fans got to touch the Lombardi Trophy. There will be a star on the kits forever afterwords.
But I would never exchange this year for an MLS Cup. This year was special. Twenty wins, a double, two players in the Best XI, maybe an MVP, definitely a Defender of the Year, and a couple players at the World Cup.
This year the Shield is ours.
I sill want that MLS Cup. I would exchange another year's Shield for it. Not this Shield. Not this year. I have faith that at some point I will see an MLS Cup in Seattle with a parade and party in the streets. I do not end 2014 unsatisfied.