When you talk to Brian Schmetzer about Seattle and the fans he smiles. This is home. Before he was a player, and long before he was a coach, he was a Sounder. He remains a Sounder. He’s been a fan of this club for quite some time.
It started, like so many stories of fandom, with his dad. “Memorial Stadium, Pepe Fernandez, Dave Gillet - I was there when Pepe broke his leg. Dad took me to the stadium because he was a big into soccer and it’s something fathers and sons do,” Schmetzer told Sounder at Heart. “It starts tradition. It’s great, right? Everything about that is great.”
Maybe you picked up soccer because of the Seattle Sounders. It’s a common tale in our lands - famous players visit town and we discovered the game. Schmetzer started the game prior to seeing the team play, but the team still gave him amazing stories prior to his signing a pro contract.
“They used to, in those early days, do different things to try and promote the club, the team. It was a new sport, right? So somehow, and I don’t know how this happened, I don’t know which of our parents or whatever, they bought a birthday party with a couple of Sounders.”
Brian tells stories like you are at a campfire or picnic table with him.
“A buddy of mine had a big backyard and we’d all go out there and kick the soccer ball around. We had Davey Butler, Hank Liotart, Pepe and a couple of others and here we are playing soccer in the backyard with Seattle Sounders. We are just going ‘this is the best thing that’s ever happened to us.’ We didn’t know any better. At the time we were young and you reflect back on it now and it’s pretty special. That was the things they did back in the old days to make those connections. It was one of the best days of our guys lives. It was pretty cool.”
I asked Coach what it means to be a fan. It is how he started, and what he remains.
“It means you support your teams. We can’t go to every single sporting event, but when the Sonics are playing the Bulls or the Seahawks back in the ‘80s were playing the Raiders or the Broncos, or the Mariners, that might be on the lower end, but I’m always keen on having the Mariners do well. When Griffey did all that stuff, I was cheering. I was off the seat of my couch. When they were all pig-piling on him when he rounds third base ... I was there. I was involved in all that. It was always something. Civic pride means something.”
We have that pride. It’s a core element of being a ‘fan’ or a ‘supporter.’ It’s why we start blogs, or make two-poles. Pride is why Schmetz still glows remembering the height of the Seattle Supersonics.
“When the SeaDogs were around one of the perks was that I got season tickets to the Sonics. I had two season tickets for the Sonics! What time period was that? The SeaDogs were ‘94, ‘95, ‘96? right? Just when they were in the heyday of The Glove and Shawn Kemp and all those guys. It was awesome!”
MLS teams are not clubs, at least as it relates to how a soccer club is seen in most of the world. They are franchises, teams. Except that Brian Schmetzer sometimes uses the word club. He does so with intent. He frequently says that the club is the special relationship between the fans and the players.
How does he describe that?
“I would describe it - when you watch some of the interactions with fans and pro athletes, and I think we have a bunch of nice guys, whether it was in the USL days with Roger and Taylor and those guys would be coaching their teams in leagues around here. They won some championships. Seba came here and he was really engaging with all the fans. Craig Tomlinson and the stories I just told you from the ‘70s and ‘80s there was a ton of those. I remember the one Kick magazine cover article that I still have. There was Geoff Hurst in rolled down socks and really tight shorts with the shirt off coaching a bunch of kids at Renton Stadium. There’s a guy that scored a hattrick at a World Cup interacting with Seattle kids.
“All of those things, you fast forward to times now and you see Jordan speaking to a kid or that Dempsey give me your shirt and I’ll give you some popcorn and Clint gives this kid a jersey or Jordan makes time to do this, or Cristian goes out in the community and has these moments with these kids - that’s what’s impressive. That’s what’s special, I think. Those guys, they do it not because it’s their job. I think they do it because they enjoy what they do. They enjoy being pro soccer players. This is a great place to live. We’re a pretty successful team. You could be doing a lot worse. You could be doing a hell of a lot worse.”
We are the Seattle Sounders - fans, players, coaches, trainers, front office and back office. We are the Seattle Sounders in Seattle, in Renton, in Marysville or Yakima. We Seattle Sounders are scattered around the world even. We are doing quite well.