Why We Are Fans

I haven’t written anything since LeBron James saved my soul by beating the Oklahoma City Thunder back in mid June. Nothing. I got halfway through an NBA Draft Review before reading Bill Simmons’ take on the same thing, realized mine sucked in comparison, and then scrapped it. Since that moment I have watched the entire first season of Workaholics 2.8 times, a miserable amount of Curb Your Enthusiasm, and put a fruit snack into a rotating fan and laughed like a four year old at it when it got smacked around the cage of the fan. The summer of snapchat has been fun to me, but I stopped writing when I shouldn’t have. For that reason, this article is about the roots of why if you’re reading this, you love sports, and if you love sports, why you love sports, because I love sports. We like sportz.

This is the kind of tomfoolery that kept me out of the game

If you missed me, I apologize. I let the 14 regular followers of this blog down. You probably didn’t though as I tend to inflate my own importance. But my obligation to write is not to the faithful 14, it is to myself.

My first sports memory is going to the Kingdome with my parents and my godparents for a Mariners game. I was afraid of the Mariner Moose (I just don’t trust the guy), and so my godfather took me up to the very last row of the stadium so the Moose wouldn’t come up there, and from that moment on I could watch the game in peace. You wouldn’t believe how easy it is to like baseball when you aren’t living in constant fear of a seven foot tall woodland monster with crazy eyes. Baseball became from that point on not my favorite sport by any stretch, but a crutch. There’s nothing on TV at 8:30PM in mid-July, you know what, I’ll watch the M’s lose 4-1. I’ve never expected anything from my baseball team, I don’t really enjoy watching other teams play. I don’t get stoked for Sunday Night Baseball. But I always have the Mariners in my back pocket. They are terrible now, but I can make fun of them whenever I want while they are terrible, I can make Justin Smoak jokes (Smoaks), but when they get good in the 22nd century I will be one happy guy.

You are looking into the eyes of a menace

That’s what being a fan is. I’ve paid my dues. I have seen so much bad baseball, through my mullet phase, my lesbian Tim Lincecum phase, through my semi normal cut I have now that I am endowed with the ability to ride the Mariners train whenever I please. I feel bad for a fan base that has never experienced a dreadful era of baseball, or of any sport. Having a laughable sports team is something that I have based my entire life on. My dad taught me Take Me Out to the Ballgame with the addendum, “So root, root, root for the Mariners / If they don’t win it’s the same!” That is the only thing I know. The extension of this argument goes over to a section of sports that I care about more than anything.

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The Italian Job

History. That is what was made on Wednesday in Genoa when the US Men’s National team beat Italy, marking their first victory against the Azzurri ever. Many will point to the fact that this was just an international friendly, but I believe it was much more than that.

First of all, let’s give you a rundown of the game. The Red, White, and Blue rolled out with a rather experienced starting lineup, having almost all of their key european based players on hand. The starting XI, which consisted of a 4-2-3-1 formation, was as follows:

Subs: Buddle, Spector, Guzan, Kljestan, Cameron, Parkhurst, Rimando, Boyd

A fairly strong selection for new coach Jurgen Klinsmann, although he was missing Landon Donovan, Juan Agudelo, Oguchi Onyewu, and Timothy Chandler.

The Americans weren’t overly impressive, but they possessed the “bend but don’t break” mentality that seems to be prevalent for this side. The Italians were on the attack all night, but the US defense held firm along their line, forcing the home side into nine offside calls. Now I will admit, some were a bit questionable and several called back goals, but overall it was a very impressive outing for the defensive group. The attack was somewhat lackluster at times, and I would have liked to see a little more out of the creative Clint Dempsey, Brek Shea, and Jozy Altidore, but they clicked when it mattered. A 55th minute strike by Dempsey would prove to be the difference. This goal would not have been possible if it wasn’t for Altidore’s strength on the ball to fend off the defender in the box and then lay off a pass to an overlapping Dempsey, who shot it back against the grain into the lower left corner, past the outstretching hands of the Italian goalkeeper Buffon. The goal aside, US starlet Brek Shea was non-existent in this game, succumbing to crucial turnovers in the attacking third. He was very erratic on the ball, beating one defender and then passing it to no one. Hopefully this was just a bump in the road for the young winger that has shown great potential in the past. On the other end of the spectrum, the center holding midfield play by Michael Bradley and Maurice Edu was impressive. Bradley, not making the squad at first with Klinsmann, has entrenched himself in the center midfield position and has been one of the most consistent players on the team. The Glasgow Rangers midfielder Maurice Edu provided defensive relief for the back four by making some crucial tackles throughout the course of play. It was fun watching this tandem work together in the middle of the field.

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We’re Still Here!

Another lengthy layoff from posting for Boyd and I as we decided to take the Winter break off from SS&O, which was unplanned but unfortunately the case. Unlike the sporting world, our posts seem to stall from time to time. Please bear with us. We’re still here! Anyways, I hope everyone had a great and relaxing Holiday!

I can’t speak for Brandon (I’m sure he sat inside and played Tecmo Bowl all day), but I was lucky enough to visit the wonderful country of England over Christmas. I was even luckier to attend an English Premier League soccer match (I’m sure our non-existant european audience cringed after that wording). I took in Fulham FC vs. Bolton on December 17th at the storied Craven Cottage. Seating just a shade under 26,000 fans, it was one of the most amazing sporting venues I’ve been to. Built in 1896, the tradition and history transcends the likes of old Yankee Stadium and even Fenway Park. Our seats were situated up against the Cottage itself, which was built initially as the player’s clubhouse and changing rooms, but now accommodates those who wish to pay a little more for their football experience.

To the home crowd’s delight, the Whites netted two and held firm along the defensive line to earn a well deserved 2-0 victory. An even better treat was American star Clint Dempsey found his way onto the score sheet with a well aimed header, alongside a crafty chip by Bryan Ruiz. It was a sporting environment that is very unique to those that we are used to in the U.S. I took a fair amount of photos before and during the game and have posted a few in a slideshow below. Hope you enjoy them!

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A Lesson From Adrian Hanauer

The Sounders have been present in the Seattle sports landscape for decades. Before our beloved Mariners and Seahawks, fans would crowd into Memorial Stadium and the Kingdome to see the Blue and Green play the world’s game as a member of the North American Soccer League, stretching from the mid 70s to 80s. Over the ten-year period in the league, the franchise averaged 18,307 people in attendance. That number today would rank sixth in the MLS. There even was a 58,218-person turnout to christen the Kingdome when the Cosmos came to town. Seattle has always been a soccer town. The true spirit of Seattle fan-ship is displayed in the early years of the Sounders. Soccer was practically an unknown in America at the time and the Emerald City welcomed it with open arms, just as it has done with every other sports team that has made it’s way here. Through the years our city has seen the Sounders come and go, but everything changed in 2009.

The I-5 Rivalry: One of the league's best rivalries, which is between Seattle and Portland.

After years of dominance in the United Soccer League, the Sounders had the privilege of joining the MLS. It quickly became the hottest ticket in town, selling all 22,000 season ticket packages in their inaugural season, which was the most in the league. Also that year, the organization set an MLS attendance record of 30,943 fans per game. Every game that year was a sell out. On top of this incredible buzz, the new expansion team was actually quite good, making it to the conference semifinals in the MLS playoffs. From then until now not much has changed. The squad is one of the best in the league and the newly named Century-Link Field regularly houses 36,000 of the most spirited soccer fans in the country. But the real beauty of the franchise isn’t just the large crowds or quality style of play; it’s what happens behind the scenes. It’s the people who are in charge of piecing together this goal scoring, ticket selling machine: the management.

Led by majority owner Joe Roth and minority owners Adrian Hanauer, Paul Allen, and Drew Carey, these men have developed a winning formula on the pitch and in the front office; something hard to come by in this city.

General Manager Adrian Hanauer on the left and Head Coach Sigi Schmid on the right. A winning combination.

These four individuals have brought creativity and ingenuity to a team who is a member of a league that is straining to catch up to its counterparts abroad.  One of the most unique aspects about the Sounders is its “Alliance,” which is composed of all season ticket holders and others who are willing to pay a small fee. What the “Alliance” brings is the ability for the fans to have a voice. To let management know when they are happy or upset with the product that is being put on the field. Every four years the organization puts power into the hands of its supporters, allowing them to vote on whether to retain or get rid of the current general manager. This system has been very successful at soccer giants around the globe, including Real Madrid and F.C. Barcelona. The Sounders are hoping for the same results. As for the general manager who will sweat it out when November 2012 rolls around, I don’t think he has much to worry about.

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