There are a lot of things wrong with "soccer." There are also a lot of things right with "soccer." It's booming in America and it's not. On social media that's led to little frays and skirmishes about league structure. Some advocates want to bring the USA in line with "the international standard" of promotion & relegation are so fascinated by the structure American soccer does not have that they've forgotten why they love the game.
I'm talking about the simple things about the game. The reason you love watching soccer.
For me it started at about 6, maybe 7. My parents wanted me to do some sort of organized activity. I did a lot of these, but soccer seemed to be the one that appealed to me the most. I'm GenX and my father is one of the much maligned coaches who "don't know anything." He volunteered to coach because the previous head coach quit, and someone needed to keep these kids organized. He bought and borrowed a bunch of books that I also read.
And then I played.
I'm small as an adult, but through my youth I was tinier. I wear glasses, have significant allergies, had ankles that broke constantly and growing up there was a thought that I would be an honest-to-god midget. But I played soccer. I was a pretty awful right back/right mid on a team with a several good players. Over the years the core of us in the Kent Parks & Rec League were decent enough.
I had to get by on my smarts. I discovered that even though I was short I could win headers through positioning and timing. That felt awesome. Facing better athletes I could out-sport them. I could find the spaces that they couldn't cover, even with their superior speed. I could see the pass that needed to be made, but couldn't complete it. I loved soccer.
The broken ankles ended my soccer and youth baseball life. Missing a couple straight seasons with injury isn't good for you. But the players better than me? They went on. All played for the junior high and high school. All even went to college. At least one is a local high school coach that produced a pro talent. At least one other played professionally, even playing for the Sounders.
That's probably the other reason I love the game - community. I bumped back into Travis 15 years later and he remembered me. We talked about those teams; we talked about soccer; we immediately reconnected. We'd done things together.
My seatmates in 214 are similar to me. One is my brother who quit youth sports earlier than I did because of a concussion, two played at local CCs, another is like me and played younger and doesn't now, the last of us I only know because of soccer and my brother.
Many people here at Sounder at Heart have similar experiences. You played as youth and now you watch soccer at the highest level in the city that defines our region. Many of you are picking up the game again (or for the first time) at the adult level.
It's a community of people that will welcome you in, without regard for race, creed, sex, politics, just as long as you do two things - love the Sounders and love soccer (or come to love it).
Maybe I've been polluted by the wrong parts of social media, but damn... the discussions that say that you can't watch a local side because of some sorts of by-laws or systemic thing that has nothing to do with race, creed, sex(uality) or politics stuns me.
I can't imagine ignoring the Sounders community both real and virtual. I can't imagine not being able to see B-Rad play the way I wish I was good enough to play. I can't imagine not watching MLS, college, Reserves, Academy, local clubs train next to my house.
Because it's this game that doesn't need height, or strength, or even speed. I've loved other sports. I still do, but my love for soccer is unique. It's the only one I was kind of good at playing. It's the one that convinced me to re-enter sports media. It's the one that flexes my writing muscle several times a day.
Sometimes it's just good to remember why you love the game that can be played at any level. All you need is a ball, a goal and some people. That's soccer. I love it.