Sorry Revolution, I Cheated…

It’s no secret that I’ve been an admirer of the success that the Seattle Sounders have had since joining MLS, heck… who hasn’t admired its success.   I’ve asked it to stop rubbing its success in our collective New England faces and I’ve gone as far as to call it my soccer mistress.

Well, that mistress and I, we finally went all the way.

After countless business trips to the greater Seattle area, I finally made it to a Sounders Game, as they beat the Colorado Rapids last night.  I was in the second level, first row, mid-field line.  Arguably, for a non-chanting supporter, the best seat in the house.

And in all honesty, I’m struggling with how to describe about it in any reasonable way relative to what my “norm” is within MLS.

You see, I have been lucky enough to be at games in many countries, and attended matches in many of the most revered stadiums in the world but I cannot compare games I’ve seen in London, Milan, Rio de Janeiro, etc. to Foxboro.  Far too different, far too distant, far too much history for that.

But, in theory, this game should be similar.  And in many ways, it was.

But in just as many ways, I might as well have been back in Barcelona or Lisbon watching a game.  It was THAT different.

To really take it all in, I wanted a true feel for the club’s atmosphere… so I didn’t just go to the game.

I drank (anonymously) with its supporters at the bar Fuel, which is a key pre-game locale.

I listened to the Sound Wave marching band. (Hey, no snickering.)

I walked (marched?) behind the supporters as they chanted through the streets from Occidental park to Qwest Stadium – in a tide of awkward teals, electric greens, clowns (yes, clowns) and synchronized arm-waving and singing.

I went into the stadium pro-Shop and local sports stores.

I bought a darn scarf.  (OK, I do this for most games I travel to, cut me some slack…)

There’s too much here for me to mentally recall, digest and describe in any reasonable amount of time and blog-space, so you will be seeing a few more posts about this event (it is an event) and comparisons to the New England Revolution’s game-day experience.

But I will note these few observations from my day in Seattle:

  • There were 36,000+ fans at a regular season MLS game, and they cared.  Period.
  • Without any facts to back it up, I wouldn’t be surprised if that in its brief existence, the MLS version of the Sounders has sold (or distributed) more scarves, jerseys and t-shirts than the Revolution have since the league began.  They were EVERYWHERE.
  • I was unable to attend the Sporting Lisbon v. Celtic game in Fenway Park, so I’ve not experienced a Boston “city soccer” experience, but it only reinforced for me the view that a city resident stadium could be a game changer.  (Duh.)
  • Soccer Specific Stadium?  Who needs it?  (Some sarcasm included.)  Not only does a Sounders crowd fill the stadium reasonably well, but the branding is much more balanced between the Seahawks and Sounders.   There are still some awkward NFL leftovers that are seen, but far less than at Gillette Stadium.  Be it MLS themed seat covering tarps, pictures in lobbies better co-located with NFL shots or having the Sounders logo on key doors and stadium fixtures with, or instead of, the Seahawks were all things that added up to  make a difference.

I have never been to an MLS game like it.   The MLS Cup in RFK a few years ago came close, and the 62K+ that watched the Revolution lose the MLS Cup final at home was interesting.  But neither had this level of involvement.

All that said, things are not perfect with any team.

There’s a great discussion from about a year ago over at Pitch Invasion, which I highly recommend.  It talks to concerns that the “atmosphere” around the games are too canned – being orchestrated by the club and pawned off on the fans.

I agree with nearly everything in this article, which suggests that the prepackaged nature of Seattle’s “event” are less long-lasting than the do it yourself variety that comes from a supporter’s club.   (Don’t underestimate the very strong supporter’s influence as well though.)

However, where there is not interest, you create some.  Where there is limited history (yes, I know the Sounders existed pre-MLS, but it didn’t really “exist” for most of that 36K+ fans…) you create some ties that bind.

Well, Seattle didn’t give out ties.  They gave out Scarves.   The Scarves promotion and over-the-top love affair that has overtaken Seattle get’s people to feel they belong.  And that’s what being a fan is often all about.

And Revs fans “belong” to this same group.  We do have things in common with the Seattle fans.  We both sit down.

Of course, the whole bottom bowl of Qwest stadium only sat down at halftime.

Which is, of course, when most Revolution fans stand up.

“We” have some work to do.

6 thoughts on “Sorry Revolution, I Cheated…

  1. When I saw the title of this post and that you “cheated”, I thought “is he going to be sleeping on the couch for a while?” But sadly, the Revolution are way too desperate for fans that they would never reject someone from coming to bed – or a game.

    That being said, none of this surprises me the slightest – how could it? We all know there is a rather large spectrum of teams and fanbases in MLS, and the Revolution and Seattle are almost further apart than the distance between them. That would be 3031.07 miles, to stress just how far they really are.

    Nonetheless, I look forward to hearing more about your experience at the Sounders game. Next time you visit your mistress, I expect to see a video that documents your trip.

  2. Interesting to see an outsider’s perspective. A couple notes…

    1) We get frustrated by the club directed marketing as well. It often backfires and gets pushback from the support groups. The marching band is one of them. They also tried to sell some supporter culture to an insurance company that had a “write a new song” competition which was something the FO admitted to be a disaster and dropped. They probably should have seen it coming but at least they knew when to admit it. But at least some of what people see as FO directed actually came from supporters and that has been key to their success.

    2) While the USL side couldn’t get consistent support, I’d say most people who go to matches regularly now had at least some exposure to it. They just didn’t buy season tickets.

    I think you’re also seeing the first generation of soccer playing youth reach the age where they can afford it so you have a pretty soccer savvy market here. A lot of these folks have watched Euro leagues for years and just couldn’t get behind a USL side but entry into MLS was an opportunity to capture that group. I count myself in that group and even still, wasn’t sold on MLS initially. I’d seen what you guys suffered through in earlier years and wanted no part of this.

    3) Let’s face it, Seattle embraces the alternative and soccer is a sport that crowd can get behind.

    4) I can’t emphasize enough the importance of the downtown location. I guarantee we’d have a lot more trouble drawing if it was in the suburbs.

    Our success is on the shoulders of those of you who dealt with the lack of quality and weird rule changes in the early years. I hope the other supporters around the league understand that most of us genuinely understand and appreciate that. Hopefully in return Seattle has shown how the older teams can build and we’ll all benefit.

  3. Take everything you read on that Pitch Invasion post with a grain of salt. It’s a Portland fan. They’ll say anything to make Seattle’s side sound less appealing. They like to say things like “they have song lyrics on the screens” and “they pump in crowd noise”. but let me ask you this: did you ever see lyrics on screen save for the national anthem? Or did you ever get the impression that noise was being pumped in? (They get that little tidbit from the New York Giants, who, after committing 11 false start penalties in a game in Seattle, claimed that the team was pumping in extra noise. The league checked it out at the next game the two played, and found nothing, despite the stadium being just as loud).
    That article also neglected to mention that back in the North American Soccer League (NASL) days, that the Sounders were among the top attendance teams, up in the 5 digits like we are now. The reason why the team wasn’t drawing during the USL days was because it was the USL, AKA Seattle is a big league town first. Thats why even with the Supersonics gone you don’t see a bump in Storm attendance, or why with the Mariners sucking right now the Rainiers aren’t suddenly super popular, or why without a hockey team the Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL) aren’t drawing huge crowds.
    The blog writer was far less condemning than the average Timbers supporter, but I still take immense offense at the whole “plastic” label. You be in Qwest Field for a goal in a league match, and its an eruption of joy almost unrivaled in the northwest. These aren’t a bunch of transplants from the NBA, and most of them aren’t season ticket holders for the Mariners or Seahawks (unfortunately, most of them would say soccer is “boring”). The people that go to these games grew up with soccer, and grew up with it in Seattle. Washington has the most active soccer players per capita of any state in the nation, and its those people who are showing up in the rave green.
    I respect Portland immensely for supporting a lower tier team so well, but that doesn’t change the fact that I hate their Portscum attitude, and so does the rest of Seattle: The record for a preseason MLS game happened this year in a game between the two, at some 14,000 people. You think there’d be that kind of crowd if it was a bunch of fans who only joined up in 2009? Because none of them would know a thing about that rivalry. The car vandalism when you take trips down south, the booing of Roger Levesque, and the whole “we’re ‘REAL’ fans” bullshit just makes the rivalry even sweeter when they get ignored.
    Anyway, I’m sure glad that you have been having a good time, and it’s just a shame you didn’t get a chance to buy a Revolution/Sounders match scarf from early June. I know I’ll be buying a Vancouver/Sounders version next year (Vancouver is My mistress).

  4. Its getting harder and harder for the Revolution FO to pretend they are in any possible way in line with what’s going on in the rest of the league. Of course when your STH base is mostly group sales/AYSO people who just need something to take Junior and his friends to besides mini-golf, why change?

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