I became a cliche over the weekend. Yes, that was me. Cutest 2-year-old you've ever seen sitting on my shoulders, backpack strapped on, climbing up the stairs at Memorial Stadium to watch the Seattle Reign play the Portland Thorns on Sunday.
I was the dad taking his little girl to the soccer game. I loved it.
I had been to Reign games before. I'd even taken my daughter to a couple. But this was the first time I brought her along when she had any real hope of knowing what was happening. It was also the first time we had sat in the stands, as previous trips mostly featured her being allowed to run around the precariously perched press box doing things her mother would probably frown upon.
We weren't just sitting in the stands, either. Just one section over was where the Rose City Riveters had set up shop. If you've ever been to a Sounders game or been near a significant traveling supporters group, you have an idea of what that's like: Constant singing, occasional bad words, but generally just a lot of noise.
But sitting near the 75-100 traveling supporters is a bit different at Reign games. While the traveling support kinda fits into the overall din of noise at a Sounders match, there's not nearly as much covering up the Riveters' voices. The Reign have no organized supporters' group on anything like the scale of the Riveters. And while what supporters the Reign have do a decent job of getting the crowd to join into cheers, there's just nothing that comes close to matching the opponents' ceaseless singing.
Early on, it was looking like possibly a bad choice to sit there.
My daughter would periodically cover her ears when the cheering got too intense and she generally looked a bit worried about all the yelling and screaming coming from nearby. Luckily, YouTube came to rescue and that was able to keep her occupied for much of the half.
The mood started to change after the Reign scored. She could probably sense a change in emotion around her, as nervousness turned into excitement. Her disposition was so much better at halftime, that she asked me to get her popcorn.
Like any dutiful father, I did, leaving her in the care of seat-mate -- and ticket supplier SassySusie. The lines were quite a bit longer than would have been ideal, but they wait was well worth it. Not only were the Reign now leading 3-0, but I returned to find my daughter smiling from ear to ear and even more excited to learn that she now had a big bag of popcorn to keep her occupied.
Even though our cross-aisle neighbors continued signing and yelling virtually unabated, there were no covered ears. Only smiles, a mouthful of popcorn and an occasional sip of water. The crowd was loud, but hardly intimidating now. My daughter seemed to really be enjoying herself.
By the time the final whistle blew and the Reign were resounding winners, my daughter didn't really want to leave. She was having too much fun (she's also really bad at transitions, like most kids her age). But we eventually made it to the car where my wife was waiting, fresh off a rare childless day running errands.
The day was pretty close to perfect, frankly. I don't know that it will be permanently imprinted on my daughter's memory, but I'd like to think we shared an experience that will further cement our bond.
The Reign played no small part in that. Without setting out to create a traditional "family-friendly" atmosphere, they've managed it anyway. Best I could tell, there were no bounce houses or kids games, no face-painting stations or other similar trappings. They play in an old stadium that seems to be falling apart in places. But they've made their matches accessible and affordable.
Sure, they've still got a long ways to go in terms of really finding their place in the Seattle sports landscape. They don't have the benefits of sharing back office personnel and facilities with a more established team. But the Reign are still managing to provide something special, even if my daughter's most enduring memory is of eating popcorn.