The Sounders have been part of my life since 1994. Twenty-one years spent laughing, crying, cheering, angry, elated, frustrated, thrilled, disappointed, overjoyed and well, fucking pissed (I mean, losing to Portland in the playoffs? For the love of…).
I was a shy kid growing up. Like, painfully shy. So when I saw kids getting autographs from my favorite players, the ones I wrote about in my 3rd grade journal in Mrs. Rivas’ class, I wanted autographs too. Only I wasn’t brave enough to ask. I remember my parents sending me over, but I would hang back and as things started to feel too chaotic, I would turn back and shrug. I could get an autograph the next time. Or the next time.
In 1997, I started saving everything Sounders. Programs, ticket stubs, newspaper articles. I would search every page of the sports section until I found the tiny article, usually on the back page and cut them out. I remember going to Denmark that summer and asking the petsitter to save the sports page every day so that I didn’t miss anything. A few articles with pictures went on my wall, the way other girls has posters of JTT (Jonathan Taylor Thomas – the other JT wasn’t famous yet). My favorite was an action shot of Wade Webber and his bleach blonde hair.
In 2002 my dad and I saw Coach Schmetzer at Quest during the very first game at the new stadium. My dad suggested we say hello. I was too nervous, but my dad marched up and said hello and told him all about my scrapbook full of old Sounders stuff. The whole thing was a blur to me, but ended with an invite to the team practice at Memorial Stadium to have it signed by the guys. Thinking back on it, I can still feel the excitement radiating through my body. Coach Schmetzer waved us over and said I could go right out onto the field. I took half a step onto the turf and froze. I was terrified. I remember he eventually walked me around to the different groups of guys, starting the conversation for me and the players took it from there. They asked about me, about being a fan of the sport/team, they looked through my stuff and were really kind to me.
I hugged my scrapbook to my chest the entire ride home.
I arrived early before the next game, waiting by the entrance with a carnation foreach of the guys, thanking them for signing my stuff. When they approached, they remembered my name, would chat for a minute, take a picture with me and suddenly I didn’t feel so invisible anymore.
After the game I would wait with the rest of the fans wanting an autograph and I remember Scott Jenkins taking the time to talk instead of signing my program and moving on to the next. Viet once ran to the locker room and grabbed a game worn jersey and an autographed ball. And Craig always had the biggest smile and a hug for me (and still does today, 13 years later).
This is why I support not only this team, but these guys (playing or not) so many years later. None of this was required by the team, the coach. This was never about being a publicity stunt or trying to gain more fans. This was about being nice. They did something nice for someone just because. And it taught me that you never know how much your kindness can effect another person. Today. Tomorrow. Or 13 years from now.
Sports fans come and go, but when you’re ‘Sounders Til I Die’, there is no end. Not the end of the game. Not the end of the season. And certainly not the end of any one players career. #EBFG