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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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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