A Sounder 'til I die
I’m a Sounder ‘til I die.
I’m a Bulldog like anyone who grew up in Sandpoint.
Like most longtime Sandpoint natives, I also claim to be Packer, especially during this year when the region is putting forth an all-out blitz for former Green Bay legendary guard and SHS alum Jerry Kramer to be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. (Be sure to vote at www.krem.com.)
As a 1969 U of I grad, I’m a Vandal.
I’m a Bronco because of three BSU alums in the family.
I was a full-fledged Saint throughout last year’s NFL season and the Super Bowl. When you’re married to a Louisianan, you’ve got to be both a Saint and a Tiger. Bill’s mother earned her Master’s at LSU.
I’m a ZAG because their games provide my therapy through the long winters. Besides, I’d probably have to go to confession if I did not support the Zags in this area.
My daughter lives in Seattle, so it’s imperative for me to be a Mariner, Seahawk and yes, now a Sounder.
Actually, my personal sports-fan plate is getting pretty full, but I’m still managing.
When I die, maybe my tombstone at Pack River Cemetery should be covered with decals representing all those mascots.
What does a ZAG look like anyway?
Actually, I became a full-fledged Sounder last month while celebrating my daughter Annie’s thirty-second birthday. The blue-and-green Sounders flag flies from my car window during Seattle visits. Besides the flag, I have two spent tickets from seating areas at Quest Field to keep among my paper memorabilia.
This winter I plan to wear the pretty Sounders FX scarf Annie bought for me on her birthday. I reciprocated with a Sounders hat for her, which she immediately began wearing proudly. I also bought a refrigerator magnet, destined for Ruby, a local soccer lover, whose eyes lit up one day on a horseback ride when I told her about my upcoming plans to attend my first-ever Sounders match.
Yes, I’m even versed enough to call it a “match” and not a game.
Sounders home matches go far beyond 90 minutes’ worth of action on the field with agile, high-powered athletes running, kicking, falling (often feigning serious injury), cheering, jumping, bumping and even stomping off the field after being ejected by the referee.
The ball gets a lot of punishment too. At that wonderful, uproarious moment, when it sails past the opposing players and the ever-vigilant goalie into the sweetest spot ever for the offense, I’ll bet even the ball must be happy.
After all, it gets a rest while all those jubilant players, who’ve been kicking it and head-butting it toward a goal to score a point, take a moment to run, jump and hug in celebration.
I remember once, years ago during my soccer-mom days, when one of my son’s teammates kicked the ball into the sweet spot, past his own goalie. He did not celebrate. He had scored a point for the other team, and it was not a sweet day for that poor little guy. I felt so sorry for him I bought him a hamburger at McDonald’s.
I doubt the pros do that when one of their teammates screws up.
I have heard and now have learned firsthand that Seattle Sounders FX and their fans put on much more than the match whenever they play another team on the Quest Field home turf.
For many Sounders diehards, like my daughter who holds an inaugural season pass, each of these events is a meticulously timed and planned happening.
The match I attended, pitting the Sounders against a team from Costa Rica, had little impact on Seattle’s overall season success, so attendance was down.
Annie was disappointed about that because she had wanted me to get the full flavor of Pioneer Square turning into a sea of humanity donned in blue-and-green scarves, jerseys, hoodies and even wigs. When her friend Miriam comes to matches, Annie wears a florescent blue wig to go with Miriam’s green hairpiece.
The next challenge during pre-match is to make it through the door at Fuel. It’s the sports bar with the pig statue outside. Inside, while tattooed waitresses wearing shorts and tank tops maintain a nonstop gait winding through the packed house with trays of brews and food. The noise level increases steadily as the next phase of Soundermania nears.
That’s the March to the Match. The Sounders have their own very entertaining and talented marching band. As the band plays on and assumes parade formation, fans assemble, ready to march while lifting scarves from their necks and holding them proudly while moving toward the stadium directly behind a row of twirling tuba players.
Once in the stadium, the real work begins for the diehards who stick together enroute to their seating area at one end of the playing field. It’s called a seating area, but these wild and raucous folks never sit down. In fact, while watching the action during the pre-match and the first half, I concluded that the fans may just get more of a work-out than the players on the field.
They not only stand, but they also jump up and down a lot. They sway. They dance. They stomp. They clap. They yell constantly. Their arms must feel like falling off by the end of a match from the endless holding and twirling those scarves high in the air.
And their lungs! What punishment! Back in 1965, my classmates bestowed the honor of “Best School Spirit” on me during my senior year at Sandpoint High School.
In those days, I was a pretty active loud mouth when it came to cheering, and, yes, I yelled my lungs out, “We’re from Sandpoint, couldn’t be any prouder. If ya can’t hear us now, we’ll yell a little louder.”
I wonder how these Sounders fans have any lungs left. From the time the match begins, their boisterous cheering never stops. The decibel level is significant.
Then there’s the content. Annie warned me that I might hear an F-bomb or two. Let’s just say that within the first 30 seconds of this crowd’s performance, our school principal Dick Sodorff would have been standing, glaring and shutting down the cheering section.
But these are not high school kids. In fact, I saw several heads and beards of gray among the predominantly college age to 30-somethings.
Now that I think of it, I probably spent more time watching the cheering section than the match. I was actually tuned in, however, when Seattle scored a goal at the opposite end of the field from us. And, yes, it was the right goal for the Sounders who led 1-0 through the first half.
At halftime, I watched a 60-something lady and her 30-something son leave the rowdy section. If she was anything like this Sounders novitiate who tried in vain to keep up with the cheering, the lady was probably relieved. And, the son probably knew that Mom might not last the whole match in such an atmosphere.
I stood silently envious, figuring I was there for the duration.
While I was observing their exit from the stands, though, Annie was busy texting. She soon received word on her iPhone that her boss had tickets to seats in a more “family-friendly” setting. Soon, Annie and her much-relieved mom were leaving the renegades behind.
Finally, I got to sit down in nice, comfy seats, so I liked the second half much better than the first, except for the score. Those Costa Ricans kept edging that ball past the Sounders, and Sounder goalie Kasey Keller seemed to be off his game that night.
The match ended with the Costa Ricans triumphing 2-1, but it might have been a pyrrhic victory, of sorts. Late in the game, one of the Costa Ricans fell to the ground, obviously injured, right in front of the renegade section.
“Let him die! Let him die!” the crowd shouted. The Costa Rican lived and eventually got up off the ground to tell about it and maybe even to thumb his nose at the Sounder faithful.
I have now had the complete Sounder experience, and it will be months before another opportunity presents itself, but that’s okay.
After all, it’s ZAGS’ season, so I’ve got other fan responsibilities, like wearing my ZAGS sweatshirts, joining family, enjoying pizza and controlling my outbursts when things don’t go so well with our team.
After all, my 89-year-old mother will be in the room too, and she has new hearing aids.
As an in-home, exuberant ZAG fans, we all get to sit in comfortable chairs throughout entire games, and that’s also okay with me.