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Grant Wahl’s gift was nurturing soccer media’s tree

There’s no corner of American soccer that he didn’t touch, even this site.

England v France: Quarter Final - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Grant Wahl read Sounder at Heart.

That’s what I learned back in 2010 when I met him. At the time, and now at his passing, he was the preeminent soccer journalist in the United States.

It was a simple interaction. He shook my hand, talked a bit about this very site’s blend of unadorned bias, complex analysis and ability to break news. Then he went on KJR with Gas, doing a radio hit before attending a Sounders match across the street. Like me, Wahl wouldn’t head to the press box that match. He was going to the stands, enjoying the Seattle Sounders as a fan.

Grant Wahl read Sounder at Heart.

What a silly learning to now put in the past tense. Grant’s gone now. Tragedy struck during a soccer match, which I guess if you’re the best soccer journalist in the history of a nation may as well be the way to go. But it’s too early, too soon. Grant was a year older than I am.

If you cruise social media, you can see so many statements from emergent bloggers, podcasters and other creators where Grant gave them a sentence, 10 minutes, an evening — whatever. The Grant Wahl soccer media tree is the largest in the U.S. He lifted many of us for a moment by sharing his belief in us and telling us that we could do this.

Grant Wahl read Sounder at Heart.

I walked away from learning that with a small smile and pride. At the time the site was me, Jeremiah, Graham, Kirsten (I think I have the rough timing correct). We were tiny and I don’t think any of us had ambition. All four would go on to work fulltime in soccer, at one point or another.

For me, that was partially because I had learned that Grant Wahl, American soccer’s most well-known journalist, read the website that I created because I wouldn’t shut up about the Sounders.

Grant Wahl read Sounder at Heart

That tiny bit of inspiration helped me grow.

I ask that of you now. Wherever you are, whatever you do — grow your tree. Help branches form and see that they do things you can’t do. Celebrate their success as so many journalists, TV voices, players and bloggers are saying Grant did for them.

Empower people. Believe in them. Have them grow and whether near or far understand that their story becomes part of your story. Because when you are gone their branches and leaves will live on and so will you. Give someone a statement that inspires them to struggle and succeed. Help them not because there is a transaction expected, but because helping others is good.

That’s Grant Wahl’s story. Not his story about LeBron or Beckham or ‘Pinoe or whatever.

Grant Wahl’s story is that he touched nearly every member of the media that covers the game here in the United States. His branches and their trees will still grow. Grant Wahl was taken away and yet will remain as long as American soccer remains.

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