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Seattle pulled off a practically perfect parade

The crowd was massive, but somehow didn’t even feel like it was too much.

Hey, that’s me!
Mike Russell/Sounder at Heart

It’s not very often that I get to be “just a fan.” I don’t say that to complain, I choose to be in the press box for the vast majority of games and I accept there’s a responsibility that comes with the territory. I’ve made my bed, and if that means I don’t get to scream and cheer after a big win, so be it.

Sometimes, though, I choose to make an exception. Tuesday’s MLS Cup march and rally was one such occasion.

Admittedly, it was a somewhat pragmatic decision. There probably wasn’t going to be much “news” to come out of the Seattle Sounders’ celebratory march through downtown. Plus, Sounder at Heart had a few other people attending who would be covering it. Seemed like a good chance to let my daughter play hooky from preschool and have a day out.

I’ve yet to take my 4-year-old to a Sounders game — although she has been to several Seattle Reign matches — but I’ve been singing supporter songs to her since she was born. By now, she’s quite familiar with songs like “Seattle,” “Roll on Columbia” and “Go Sounders Go.” I figured it would be fun for her to actually hear those songs in the way they were meant to be in person. My only concern was how she’d handle the crowd if it was a bit overwhelming.

Photo credit - MikeRussellFoto
Photo credit - MikeRussellFoto
Photo credit - MikeRussellFoto
Photo credit - MikeRussellFoto

Rally was boisterous but not remotely overwhelming.

I had hoped to get to Westlake Park in time to join the supporters groups at the head of the march, thinking that might be the most fun way for her to experience it. Unfortunately, we got there a bit too late, before the march started but not early enough to get to the front.

It turned out to not really matter. My daughter and I found a decent spot about 100 yards from where the march began, watched as the supporters, players and Sound Wave went past us, and just followed the procession. Soon enough, we were walking alongside the trolleys, watching as players signed autographs, posed for pictures and throwing shirts and other souvenirs into the crowd.

One of the funniest things I saw was GM Garth Lagerwey and Sporting Director Chris Henderson sitting quietly on their phones as the parade rolled along, presumably listening in on the Expansion Draft. It served as a brutal reminder that there really is no offseason in MLS and that a host of these players were going to have to face some tough choices in the coming days and months.

Otherwise, it was just as joyous of an affair as you’d hope it to be. The grins on players’ faces were as wide as possible and they were clearly amazed at the size of the crowd, snapping their own photos as the crowd snapped theirs. Various estimates have suggested 40,000-50,000 took part in the festivities, and after seeing overhead shots of the crowded streets and Fisher Pavilion, that may actually be conservative.

This may not have been a city-consuming celebration in the way that the Seahawks victory parade was in 2014, but I feel comfortable saying that no club soccer team has ever received a greeting anything like this in the United States or Canada.

For me, the crowd was just about the perfect size. It was big enough that it felt like “a big deal,” but the streets and Seattle Center weren’t so packed that you felt overwhelmed. I was able to walk the parade route with my daughter on my shoulders and never felt like she was in any danger. If I felt too crammed, it was easy enough to find a spot with more space without sacrificing any of the atmosphere.

I also appreciated that there was an overwhelmingly positive vibe. That’s easy enough to assume would be the case, but large crowds have a way of getting antsy and I experienced none of that. My daughter was comfortable enough that whenever we were near the ECS portion of the parade that she was singing along. Once at the rally, we were able to comfortably find a spot near the back of the crowd and still see what was going on.

It turned out to a particularly fortuitous decision to have the rally at Seattle Center, at least for me, as anyone with young children — or who was carrying them for the bulk of the 1-mile walk — was surely appreciative of the plentiful food and drink options.

I also loved that I was able to hop the Monorail to get back to Westlake where I had arrived via light rail — and it was cool to stand next to Congressman Jim McDermott, who was rocking an Osvaldo Alonso super cyan shirt.

Generally, I thought the entire production went off about as well as you could hope. Aside from the unfortunate accident with the bike officer, there didn’t seem to be any serious problems, and fans looking for a wide range of experiences were able to get something out of this. Even the police presence felt appropriate, clearly there but not at all intimidating. It felt like a truly community-driven celebration, and I am definitely looking forward to doing it again.

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