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Happy Birthday to Sounder at Heart

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It was this day in 2008, or the 27th (records vary), when www.SounderAtHeart.com went live on the servers that made Prospect Insider (PI) run. That summer, Jason talked me into a return to blogging. Many years prior I wrote a bit for him at a couple local Mariners projects. Since I would not shut up about my excitement for MLS, his answer was to give me a voice. PI was the father of SaH. SaH's godfather was the old GoalSeattle forums, now GoalWa.net. Prior to SaH, David Falk's site was my primary source for Sounders action, but I wanted my own voice.

Sounder at Heart was born as a WordPress site with a couple margins, widgets and just an About page. It wouldn't be until September 1st of 2008 that my first soccer post would appear - Player ratings show six more players ready for MLS. And some of them actually did.

Since that tiny beginning, the site has gotten to it's fourth logo. The second is at the top. The first was a city skyline with the words Sounder at Heart. The third was designed by a loyal reader.

Sounder at Heart Logo 2012

The original slogan was "Sounder in Sport. Sounder in Life." It since changed to nos audietis in somniis. nos audietis in altum. A Latin phrase from sidereal that means You will hear us in your sleep. You will hear us from the deep.

The site joined SBNation.com in the Fall of 2009. That anniversary will probably get a mention in a FanShot, but this one is the biggie, for me. It combined with Seattle Offside and discovered two great writers; Eric Flatness is still with us from that.

So many writers have joined. Jeremiah being the most significant, but a full 20 writers, photogs and designers published at least one story in July with another half dozen who are still active. Former writers have left for full-time work with SBN, others to freelance, a few left because the rest of life took over.

From day one SaH has been a little bit of news, but mostly analysis, analogy and community. That community aspect truly exploded under the Vox Media empire. So much as that in August we will have our most pageviews ever (about 1.5 Million) but only our fourth most unique users in the month (that peaked this past June).

Way back, I first broke onto the national soccer-sphere with a silly post-game analysis of the first ever Sounders FC win - Sigi's Game.

Maybe I have stretched the metaphor, or shoe-horned it, but just maybe The Enemy's Gate is Down and Sigi, Hanauer and the Sounders are changing the way the league operates.

They certainly did.

I asked some of the other writers about their favorite Sounder at Heart moments and here's their input. It's a trip down memory lane for me.

  • Dempsey Watch - Abbott says "[It] was a moment that could only happen with a community like S@H: #DempseyWatch. Rarely does the leverage of community journalism attain it's lauded potential. But the SoundersFC signing of Dempsey showed just what is possible with this type of community." nimajneb said this about Dempsey Watch "my choice has to be Dempsey watch for its absurd, infectious enthusiasm. The community can get carried away - and that's half the fun of being in the middle of it - but it didn't lose its ability to poke fun at itself (easy to do with joyous news)."
  • Losing Steve Zakuani hurts me - Realio says "At the end of the day its Sounder at HEART, and nothing is more emblematic of this feeling than the heart of the site. This is its creator Dave and what he brings as a culture that is absorbed and cherished throughout. I, too was deeply moved when it was time to move on for Zak, and Dave just infused so much raw emotion into this post and truly captured the connection we feel to these guys. It is this genuine caring from the site owners that trickles down into to the best comment section in the blogosphere and enticed me to share my own opinions and eventually become a contributor. No other site comes close to replicating the amount of passion and creativity that consistently appears from writer and poster alike."
  • Choose your own adventure: Be a referee - Ethan wrote this, but it was Jake L (we have two Jakes on staff) who gave these reasons for suggesting it: "The interaction between writers and the SaH community is great. It isn't a regular sports comment section like MLS where it is just fights and includes people posting job ads/spam. As a favorite though, I'd probably have to say in recent memory it is Ethan's Choose Your Own Adventure - Be a Referee. It summed up a truly ridiculous event and helped ensure that laughter got me through it."
  • Ethan noted the point-counter point between sidereal and Aaron - Sigi Stay and Sigi Out. It was a decision that deeply divided the community. Those two writers did a lot to keep it together.
  • Chris Tobin didn't mention a post, but a day when he discovered that people do in fact read Sounder at Heart. "The easy answer is #DempseyWatch, but I have another story. Early in this season, I'm walking to my seats 15 minutes before kickoff. A fan I have never met that sits about 10 rows above me gets my attention by calling me by name. He wanted to ask me why I picked one specific topic over another for my weekly Three Big Storylines piece that goes with the weekend MLS viewing threads I write. That was the first confirmation that more than just my mother (hi mom!) reads my weekly piece."
  • Jeremiah remembered the first time he defended Brad Evans from the naysayers. Since he wrote Brad Evans: Unfairly maligned the formidfender became a regularly on the fringe of the US National Team, the team Captain and a star in MLS.

There's a lot more. One of the things I'm thrilled about is that we launched a Reign blog - Ride of the Valkyries. That subblog with it's own line of clothing is Susie and sidereal's baby. Soundersmom was our first ever writer focused on the women that play the sport in our great region, and now RoValks is to the Reign what Sounder at Heart is to the Sounders.

Lastly, I'm thrilled every time I see someone I don't know wearing a shirt from this site, or a scarf, or that they recognize me and say something. Back in September of '08 about 100 people viewed Sounder at Heart. Half of that was family that thought I was insane. Half of the remainder were spammers.

Now, there is a community of staff and readers that is large enough I know I'll never meet you all, even if we do have another event in Temple's basement with Arlo White and Adrian Hanauer. But I know I'll meet you here and we'll have fun learning more about the game from this community.

Thank you, all of you, for joining me on this journey from personal blog to become a community of voices that are bound by one thing - love of all things Sounders. Go get some cake.