Adventures in Civic Pride Through Sport: “See-ATTLE….SOUNDers!”

I am not a soccer fan. But I’m NOT a not-a-soccer-fan in the way that I’m a not-an-American-football-fan. I actually LIKE soccer.

So while my posts about the Seattle Seahawks and their amazing successes as Super Bowl Champs and crowd-noise world record holders reflect my bemusement at myself for even caring, this post is less of a stretch for me. I’ve always wanted to see a really high-level soccer game, and now I have. True, I would rather be blogging about the women’s World Cup matches going on just north of us this summer. But those are a little harder to get to. The Mate and I have talked about going to a game in Seattle for years, and this past weekend, we finally made it.

But if you’re looking for good sports writing, I’ll have to refer you to SI. This post is more in the realm of cultural anthropology. Here are my field notes:

Evidently Seattle has wealthy donors, and taxpayers, willing to spend quite a bit for a large sports venue–and I do mean LARGE.

Whoa. So BIG.

Whoa. So BIG.

Looking north from Century Link Field (now there’s a name that rolls gracefully off the tongue), one sees the Seattle economy is apparently alive and well.

When did the Emerald City get so SHINY?

When did the Emerald City get so SHINY?

If one didn’t know the team was called the Sounders, one would think we were cheering for the Seattle XBOX. (Is there anther sport which places product names above team names? Maybe NASCAR?)

So my green T-shirt says "Lopez Fun Run," not "XBox." At least mine was free!

So my green T-shirt says “Lopez Fun Run,” not “XBox.” At least mine was free!

The Sounders brag about having the highest attendance in Major League Soccer, and that night they posted 41,000. But nearly the entire upper level of Century Link field’s seats was blocked off until football season, which tells you something about the relative popularity of the two sports. And the power of the 12th Man.

Fully a third of the seats...waiting for the OTHER "football."

Fully a third of the seats…waiting for the OTHER “football.”

The fan base appeared young…some REALLY young. But very prepared.

Responsible parenting reigns in Seattle.

Responsible parenting reigns in Seattle.

This major league team sport does not have cheerleaders. Or rather, the crowd is the cheerleader. (Or, to use the British grammar that dominates soccer-speak, “the crowd ARE the cheerleader.)

The only time I ever saw the crowd prompted to cheer...

The only time I ever saw the crowd prompted to cheer…

No one seemed to miss the cheerleaders; most of the crowd stood (and/or danced) the entire game. And the cheers were very British: “Come on, Seattle. Fight and win!” (Seriously.)

...and it worked! Scarves up!

…and it worked! Scarves up!

Cliff Dempsey being the only Sounder I knew by name (since he plays for the U.S. in World Cup action), I focused my camera on him. It turns out I am a terrible sports photographer.

Ironically, none of Seattle's three goals were scored by this man.

Ironically, none of Seattle’s three goals were scored by this man.

Seattle beat Dallas FC three-nil. That is the only time you’ll hear Americans say “nil.”

Sports Illustrated this ain't.

Sports Illustrated this ain’t.

To conclude this report, here are my (completely objective) findings:

Reasons why soccer is incredibly appealing to people like me and will therefore never replace American football:

–terrifically fast action with no breaks (Need to use the bathroom or get some more snacks? You’re on your own.)

–no cheerleaders (Standing up and dancing for 90 minutes? Wonderfully energizing. And don’t get me started on cheerleaders.)

–no protective gear, so you can really see those athletic bodies at work (although, seeing some of those header collisions…wow. If that were my kid…)

–the women’s game is just as high-powered and skilled as the men’s.

Reasons why soccer is unappealing to people like me and is therefore growing by leaps and bounds within American culture:

–corporate logos are more important than team names. (Say no more.)

–this sport of running and kicking a ball is much more violent than it looks. (And corrupt. But you already knew that.)

Overall? We had a great evening. Parking and beer cost twice as much as the hot dogs we bought on the street, but hey–someone’s got to pay for that stadium, right? And it was still cheaper than one of those jerseys. So, go XBOX! I mean Sounders!


U-S-A! U-S-A! Uh…What Game Are We Watching Again? The World Cup & the Joys of Fair-Weather Fandom

I can feel it happening again. That un-earned pride. That need to boast. 

“Did you SEE that goal against Ghana?

In the first MINUTE? Yeah, that was Clint Dempsey.

Yup–plays for Seattle. He’s our boy.”

Like I’ve ever been to a Sounders game! Or any pro soccer game! Hey, I mean to, I really do. Just haven’t gotten around to it yet. But that doesn’t mean my pride in Team USA, and its northwestern components, is any less real.

(orig. image courtesy Erik Drost)

(orig. image courtesy Erik Drost)

Most English-language news stories I’ve heard about the World Cup have centered around the fact that this game seems to finally, maybe, perhaps, at last be catching on with TV viewers: a record 11 million-plus watched that first game, according to ESPN and Forbes. And they’re right, that is a story, though I’d be curious to see an ethnic breakdown to find out how much of that viewership is Mexican by heritage. Either way, it is indisputable that soccer is more popular as a TV sport now than ever before.

But that 11 million? It didn’t include me! I was traveling and didn’t even watch the game. A fact that takes nothing away from my ridiculous sense of pride in the victory. What IS up with that?

Personally, I think the real evidence that Americans have embraced the sport will be when our announcers start referring to the teams in the plural, like the English do: “Team USA have fought bravely tonight…” Could be a long wait.

But meantime? I’ll be happily tuning in, or NOT tuning in and feeling just as good when “my” team wins–especially on last-minute headers by 21 year-old bench players. It worked for me with the 2001 Seattle Mariners when they won 116 games, and again this year when the Seattle Seahawks won the Superbowl. My fair-weather bandwagonning doesn’t seem to hurt anyone, and if it’s annoying, well, no one’s told me yet to my face, so I’ll keep on cheering from the sidelines…kinda-sorta.

USA soccer? What’s it doing for you? Notice any changes in your fellow Americans? Please share!