When talking about the decision to sign Jordan Morris, controlling owner Adrian Hanauer said that it was a matter of family. It was not a pure soccer decision. That resonated with me. Adrian has made similar decisions, particularly with the retention of Taylor Graham, Roger Levesque and Steve Zakuani in formal non-soccer roles.
There have also been decisions that were not about family. Those hurt me. Not because they were friends, or a surrogate family. But because so often we connect with our teams and sports in emotional ways that defy logic. I don't have access to the club's spreadsheets. Even when they were the most open to me, I didn't know column AA and row 37. But I do have access to my emotions, and through Sounder at Heart the emotions of others.
Like family, I don't agree with every thing, but when confronted from outside, I defend. Internally, the debates become fights. We scrap and scream and rage, but in the end, we are family - eternal blue, forever green.
But, despite any angst, I know that my Sounders family is not those that carry business cards. It's you. That you is pretty awesome. It's first wave Academy players; the you is my friends who stood by me during my days of unemployment; that you is a coach and team employee that reached out to me when I lost my mother-in-law.
Sounders as family is not about the team. Sounders as family is about us. It's about readers who message you to say, "You need a job. I have some opportunities." Sounders as family is about an Academy director that pays as much attention to those that will be pros as the 85%+ that go on to be Sounders for life, without ever being paid. Sounders as family are the people that go to YachtCon and SonarFeed spending thousands of dollars to make Seattle (the whole Puget Sound really) better.
It's the family that holds you after a loss. It's the family that cheers with you in a win. It's the family that spends dozens of hours celebrating a Supporters' Shield win when most people in Seattle think it's a normal Saturday night.
It's a lot like family when I see the first person I encountered when I took a paycheck to work in sports get his dream job, talking about soccer in Seattle. Two decades ago we were mocked; now we both do this, as a job. It's a family when I think we're making a mistake, but only we can tell the world that, not some outsider.
I don't know when the Sounders became a family to me. My seatmates include my real family and the only friends that I've known longer than my wife in my post-Army days.
But there was a point when my family by choice became this soccer team in Seattle. A few players helped that along - Fucito, Neagle, Estrada, Zakuani, Scott and a lot of the Academy men. There were coaches involved; oddly, it was everyone but Sigi, because they all know me better than he does (that's my fault more than his). Leadership from Supporters' Groups out here are a part of that; at various points they've all been close friends. Of course these Sounder at Heart writers, editors, graphics makers, gifers, and photogs are part of my family. They know me as much as my battle buddy in the Army.
The worst years of my life, non-soccer division, were during the best years of my life, soccer division.
That's got a lot to do with why my Sounders family is my family-of-choice.
At every difficult step I've taken I've had people support me. When I made bad choices they told me. When I made good choices they supported me. They is you.
I'm ready for 2016. I don't need wins. I don't need silverware. I don't need the organization to formally recognize my family-of-choice.
I'll have it no matter what. We have 34 regular season games, an Open Cup game, at least two CCL games, a few dozen S2 games, a few dozen Academy games, many dozen Reign games, the USWNT at the Olympics (that's nearly certain), the U23s at the Olympics (because by Morris they'll do it), and the USMNT at the Copa Cenetario. We will have SonarFeed and Nos Audietis events, our little memes, shirts and beers.
We'll be a family of thousands. That's what being a supporter is. It's more than being a fan. I was a damn good fan of various teams. I'm surrounded by much better supporters - I'm surrounded by family.