As Seattle Times sports reporter Scott Hanson found out on Monday night, standing with the Emerald City Supporters at a Sounders game is an experience you have to go through to understand.
The Sounders won by three goals, and my brother-in-law didn’t kiss me.
That’s what I call a successful night.
My brother-in-law Brian loves the Sounders. So much so that he hates going to the games because he gets so nervous. When they are on the road, he tapes the game and refuses to watch until it’s over. If they’ve won, he will watch it repeatedly. If not, he immediately deletes it.
Two years ago, I watched with him at a bar as the Sounders won the MLS title over Toronto. When Roman Torres scored the winning goal in the shootout, he planted a kiss on me. He has since forgotten. I haven’t.
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At home games, you will find him and my sister Shelly behind the goal with the Emerald City Supporters, and for years they have been asking me to come to a game with them. On Monday night I did, joining them and their Sounders-crazed friend who had an 8 a.m. flight to Washington, D.C., for a new job and had not started packing.
It had been eight years since I last saw a Sounders game live, back when Brian and Shelly had assigned seats. But they soon got rid of those, and switched to the general admission seats where the Emerald City Supporters stand, shout, sing and curse for the entire game.
The last time I went to a game with Brian, we did the march to the match from Pioneer Square, a ritual that is still very much alive and well. But Brian and Shelly have a new ritual now: tailgating with friends who are even crazier than they are.
Going to the Sounders games is an event. I know that because Shelly baked her famous chocolate chip bars. We arrived two hours early, and Brian gave me a Sounders scarf to wear so that I would fit in.
A few years ago, these friends bought a “party bus” that is painted everything Seahawks on one side and everything Sounders on the other.
There was quite an array of food and adult beverages, but it wasn’t enough to ease the tension of some of the partiers, who were nervous because two of the Sounders starters were unavailable because of national team duty. But after talking it through, they were convinced Will Bruin, who would be elevated to starter, would “tear it up against his former team.”
That settled, the party went on. I could have stayed longer at the party bus, but there was a game to watch.
I knew that fans in their section never sit down, but I didn’t realize they also never shut up and never quit waving the flags that sometimes blocked my view.
But I got into the enthusiasm. I got a song card, and tried to follow along. People all around me were waving their arms and singing loudly, while I was trying to figure out which of the nine songs on my song card they were on. Just when I would figure it out, it was on to the next song.
I was happy when they started singing, “The Bluest Skies You’ve Ever Seen Are in Seattle,” because that was one I knew. I was amazed how Brian could sing the song, stop to curse something that had happened in the game, and get right back to the song as if nothing had happened.
As the game went on, and people continued singing, chanting and waving their arms in unison, it dawned on me that this was a cult. “Absolutely, it is,” Brian agreed.
Leading the songs and chants was a guy who has the unofficial title of “capo.” I am not sure what’s crazier, that he does this with his back to the game the entire time or that he supposedly got a Celine Dion tattoo on his rear end after the Sounders won the MLS title.
Shelly has always been the sane one in our family, so I was a bit startled to see that she was a full-fledged member of the cult. But while I was wondering how I should break the news to my mom, Bruin scored for the Sounders. Brian nearly knocked me down. Strangers hugged me and I think 30 people gave me high-fives.
We never sat, except for the time everyone sat and started flipping the bird — to whom and why, I have no clue.
But mostly, it was all cheering. The Sounders kept scoring and I kept almost getting knocked over, but not kissed. I started figuring out the songs. I even sang a little bit. Everyone was so happy.
Even with the score 4-0, the Sounders fans wanted more. “If we don’t get a clean sheet, I am going to be pissed,” Brian said. But his annoyance at Houston’s late goal that made the final score 4-1 didn’t last long.
The players performed the traditional salute to the Supporters’ section after the game and everyone left happy — even my sister’s poor friend who wasn’t sure if she would have any time to sleep after packing.
When we got back to Brian and Shelly’s house, I tried to give them back the Sounders scarf. They said it was mine. Guess that means I have to go to another game.
I’m looking forward to it.