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Sounders vs. San Jose - Aftermatch Aftermath: The Randomness of Luck

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After holding San Jose Earthquakes to their first scoreless game in 23 matches, the Sounders emerge victorious. There was much joy to behold.

What a bunch of dorks
What a bunch of dorks
Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

In this crazy, wacky world we live in, sometimes people make mistakes. In the sports world, mistakes can manifest themselves in wins and losses. It just so happened that during the Saturday game between the Seattle Sounders and the San Jose Earthquake, that the Sounders made fewer, or less costly, mistakes than their opponent and won as a result.

The mistakes I make aren't as magnified by public scrutiny. Last night, for instance, at a restaurant I had a full glass of water, and as I picked it up to drink from the straw, I tilted the cup as if I were going to drink from the glass. The result was a lap full of ice water and that was the end of that. On Saturday, Chris Wondolowski mishit a penalty by mere inches and everybody got flashbacks to Belgium. Tyrone Mears made a bizarre decision in going in for a tackle at a poor angle, which resulted in the aforementioned penalty.

There was an Al Pacino movie made some years ago called "Any Given Sunday" in which he coaches a fictional NFL team. In a pivotal scene, he gives a speech, the speech of inches, where he talks about life, and football, being decided by inches. The Sounders season has been one where it seems one inch here or there can drastically alter the results we've encountered thus far. Those first three games, three consecutive losses to start the season, weren't systematic dismantlings by our opponents, they were all decided by an inch here, an inch there.

If each game has one or two 50/50 decisions go in the way of the Sounders, we could be talking about three consecutive victories by the Sounders and the best start of any season they've ever had, Sigi Schmid being praised along the way. Conversely, if our wins have that same 50/50 switch, we could be talking about the collapse of a powerhouse, the worst start in the Sounders MLS history by far, Sigi Schmid being condemned for his part.

But that's the thing, each game has a thousand instances which have the power to determine the outcome of a match. In certain leagues where there is a large discrepancy between the teams in terms of financial muscle, the gap in skill between teams can render luck moot. In MLS, where parity is paramount, sometimes all it takes is a Mark Geiger or two in order to win or lose a game.

That is the fickle nature of sports. All the planning, all the preparation, it all boils down to a moment or two, where you're in the World Cup, one on one with, as some claim, the future best goalkeeper in the world, and all you need to do is do what you've done thousands of times in order to cement your legacy and proceed on your path of glory. So when your margin for error in kicking that ball is an inch either way, the results vary between the goal of all or some fan catching a souvenir fifty rows up.

As fans, we can read too much into outcomes determined by randomness, luck, or an inch here or there, allowing it to shape a narrative that suits our whims. We can get caught up in the highs and the lows, not separating the trees from the forests. Fandom is an emotional investment, one where it helps to know that when you have the right players with the right coaches in the right environment, those inches start falling your way more often than not, that with time, you can determine your own luck, that those 50/50s start skewing toward more favorable odds. We've seen glimpses of that in these past few weeks, and the hope is that those glimpses become sustained periods of time. Those periods of time become games, which becomes a season, which becomes trophies after trophies.

GIF me down to Paradise City

Games between these two teams are always tense.

Often times they're also unwatchable.

Early goal! This is gonna be a slaughter!

We're looking good. I wonder how many goals we'll score this game.

Wondo had a one on one and didn't score? How brilliantly bizarre.

Sure, we're winning, but this second half is a little closer than I'd like it to be.

Seriously? Another goddamn penalty to steal a victory? Burn it all down.

He's scored so many of these penalties over the years. Of course he'll do it again.

Or maybe not!

Maybe he's lost all that magic.

Jordan Morris goal!

Morris? More like FOURis! No, that's dumb.

What a lovely victory to behold.


A Mea Culpa

In last week's article I called out a local artist for using one of Mike Russell's photographs in one of the Sounders Posters by the People without first seeking his permission. While I do not condone that act, after speaking with the artist it is easy to understand how a mistake like that could occur. Also, the amount of abuse the artist has been forced to endure from fellow Sounders fans is abhorrent and appalls me. I did not name names for a reason, so it is unfortunate the artist had to face such vitriol. Like us, the artist is a Sounders fan, and we are all a family. I apologized to her for my part in this, and I apologize to you all for inciting such negativity.