Our first soccer game

Mike’s birthday was last week!  I planned to take him out for dinner, but he just wanted coffee when he got out of work, so instead we walked up the street to a coffee shop and got coffee.

Now let’s talk about the Sounders FC.  For the benefit of those who either a) aren’t into soccer or b) don’t live in Seattle, the Sounders FC is the Seattle Major League Soccer (MLS) team.  Mike and I knew that we often saw Sounders shirts around and we hadn’t seen soccer shirts around in Michigan, so we vaguely felt that soccer must be more popular here but never put much more thought into it than that.  However, to celebrate Mike’s birthday I bought tickets to the August 25th Sounders game against the Portland Timbers.  I had heard at work that it would be a good game because apparently there’s a rivalry between Seattle and Portland.  What I didn’t hear, however, was that Clint Dempsey, apparently a star soccer player, just joined the Sounders about two weeks ago and this was his first home game.  The resulting combination of Clint Dempsey’s home debut, the Seattle and Portland rivalry, and the huge Seattle base of soccer fans combined to make the 67,385 people attending Sunday’s game:

  • The largest attendance EVER for a soccer game in Seattle
  • The second-largest attendance in Major League Soccer history for a standalone match
  • The third-largest attendance WORLDWIDE

Needless to say, it was a pretty crazy first soccer game for Mike and me to attend!

Mike and I didn’t realize we were going to be part of the largest group of spectators for a soccer game EVER in Seattle, so we just had a quiet, uneventful, and fairly unexciting weekend leading up to the soccer game.  On Saturday morning Mike got a burst of excitement about the game that prompted him to want to get us both Sounders shirts so we could be better “fans”.  (I use the word “fans” loosely since neither of us really understand the rules of the game beyond the obvious “if you get it in the net, that’s a goal”.)

I made reservations at a really nice steakhouse before the game for Mike’s birthday meal.  We had only been there once before because it was expensive, but it was close to the stadium and one of Mike’s favorite places.  The food was really good, and our waiter was so nice.  He didn’t make me feel weird for not ordering a steak even though it’s a steak restaurant which was great.  🙂  Additionally, when our waiter found out it was Mike’s birthday he brought Mike a free creme brulee.

Mike with his birthday creme brulee!

Mike with his birthday creme brulee!  And a Sounders shirt.  🙂

Mike, normally not a creme brulee fan, said it was really good.  The creme brulee had a candle on top (which is why it looks so fiery in the picture above) and I told Mike he had to make a wish and blow out the candle, but of course Mike, not into wishes, just blew out the candle.  🙂

We walked from the Grill to the stadium, and as we got closer to the stadium the air started to get hazy, we saw policemen everywhere and the ground thrummed with loud booms.  Also, nine out of every ten people were wearing Sounders shirts/scarves/face paint.  Um???  Were we attending a soccer game or a riot??  We followed the loud chanting sounds and detoured a couple blocks away from the stadium to see what was going on.  We found a HUGE group of Sounders fans… thousands.  All chanting “SE-A-TTLE SOUND-ERS! SE-A-TTLE SOUND-ERS!”  They appeared to be lighting off fireworks and generally making a ton of noise.  Wow.  Mike and I tried to elbow a little way into the crowd so Mike could get a few iPhone pictures, but it was literally so packed with people there was no way to penetrate the crowd so Mike snapped a couple shots from the sidelines.  It was apparently a pre-game party in Occidental Park that culminated in a march to the stadium.

TONS of Sounders fans

TONS of Sounders fans

We headed back towards the stadium.

The craziest, most striking thing about being inside Century Link stadium was how similar it was to the Colosseum.  There were giant numbers above every entrance to guide you to where you should go based on your seat location exactly the way there were in the Colosseum.  Also, it was huge and many-leveled, just like the Colosseum.  Also, all of the sets of stairs that just kept winding up and up and up were just like the Colosseum’s.  Except for the 2000 year-difference in architectural style, the buildings were remarkably similar.  It was a very weird feeling attending Century Link as a spectator mere months after attending the Colosseum as an ancient historical ruin.  Will people ever tour Century Link stadium as an architectural ruin long after we’re dead?  I doubt it… I don’t think modern buildings are built to last as long as the Colosseum was.  Still, an interesting thought.

Mike and I climbed and climbed and climbed until we got to our seats.  We had seats near the middle of the field, which was nice, but they were definitely nosebleed seats.  However, since we could still easily see the players moving around on the field below, that wasn’t an issue.

The stadium and a hard-core crowd-held banner

The stadium and a hard-core crowd-held banner

The stairs that led up to our seats were so narrow and steep that I couldn’t help wondering if there had been any accidents with people climbing up to get to their seats.  I saw multiple chances for accidents just in the two hours we were there.  The craziest was a man who was PUSHING A BABY STROLLER WITH A BABY IN IT up the stairs!!  This is a steep, narrow, concrete  staircase at least a hundred steps high… I was a little nervous climbing the stairs myself!  Watching the baby get half pushed/half carried  up those stairs in a baby stroller was TERRIFYING.  Fortunately I didn’t have to watch it for too long, because it turned out that the baby stroller guy was in our row, and the baby stroller ended up being Mike’s neighbor to the right.  I couldn’t believe they had bought a seat for the baby stroller, but as big as that thing was there wouldn’t have been anywhere else to put it besides in front of a seat.

It was starting to get dark at 7pm when the game started, so giant floodlights came on in the stadium.  It was a dazzling effect.

The stadium through Mike's fish-eye lens that makes everything look like an easter egg.  :)

The stadium through Mike’s fish-eye lens that makes everything look like an easter egg. 🙂

Mike and I didn’t know much at all about soccer rules, but Mike had done a little googling that morning to learn some of the basic rules and I had a few hazy memories from talking to soccer-loving friends about the game many years ago.  Also, we could pretty much tell from the highly-Sounders-based spectators whether things were going well for the Sounders.  Giant roars from the crowd indicated that the call from the ref was in favor of Seattle.  Long, sustained boo’s from the crowd indicated the call was in Portland’s favor.  It also helped tremendously that the guy sitting directly behind Mike seemed to think he was doubling as the Sounders coach and called out directions to all of the players by name throughout the course of the game, typically shouting each instruction twice (to make sure the players heard him?  Unlikely since we were so far up in the nosebleed section that despite his booming voice there’s no way it could have carried all the way down to the field below).  “C’mon Eddie… turn the ball!  Turn the ball!  Dempsey, get in range, get in range!  Come on, ref!  That was clearly a hand ball!  Use the space!  Use the space!”  (I wasn’t sure what ‘use the space’ meant, but it seemed to be one of his favorite mantras.  Maybe something like ‘go somewhere where there aren’t any Timbers players and shoot for the goal’?  Sounds like good advice…)

There were some things I immediately noticed about soccer that made it a cut above all other sports in my opinion.

  • Nothing stops the clock.  And I mean nothing.  Players got substituted in and out.  The clock continued.  The ball went out of bounds.  The clock continued.  Refs ran in, waving their arms around.  The clock continued.  Basically you can COUNT on a soccer game being made up of two 45 minute halves with a 15 minute break in the middle.  For someone like me who goes crazy during a football game with the clock stopping every 2 seconds, this was like a breath of fresh air.
  • Something was happening every second.  Portland has the ball!  No, Seattle has the ball!  No, Portland got it back again!  Wait, Seattle intercepted and is trying for a goal!  For someone with my multitasking brain, sitting through something boring for two hours is so hard!  Fortunately things were changing in the game so quickly that despite the shortage of actual scoring, it held my interest well.
  • Scarves are part of the soccer culture.  There were actually parts where large signs flashed around the edges of the stadium saying “SCARVES UP!” and you were supposed to hold your scarf above your head between your hands.  I love scarves, so any sport that considers them an integral part of their culture is just fine by me.

Mike and I left ninety seconds before the clock ran out simply because we wanted a mini head start on the thousands of people who were going to be exiting the stadium.  We walked up to 3rd avenue and caught a bus that would take us to another bus stop where we could catch a bus directly to our front door.  Catching the first bus was easy.  However, the second bus was very late.  When it finally showed up, it looked like a Sounders party had erupted inside because it was packed wall-to-wall with people, all of them sporting lime green Sounders jerseys.  Mike and I wedged ourselves in against one of the corner walls.  Fortunately the ride home from there was only about seven minutes.  We exited into soft Seattle rain right in front of our apartment and headed in to meet up with Piper who had not so much as changed sleeping positions in the entire time we’d been gone.

Anyway, it was a fun adventure to have on Mike’s birthday!  🙂

In other awesome news, my passport photo looks enough unlike me that they’re allowing me to send in a different photo and get a passport correction.  Yay!  No more oompa-loompa skin, and hopefully no hassle going through customs!

As another fun fact, Mike and I are planning a re-do of my blog header and he’s been snapping some pictures for that, so look forward to that sometime in the next month or so!  The current header is nice, but it’s out-dated.  It’s a very South Lake Union-oriented header, and we’re in Wallingford/Fremont now, so it should be updated.  Plus, I’m ready for a change!  Mike’s got some good ideas.  🙂

Another post coming soon for those who aren’t soccer fans… I didn’t mean for this one to be all about the Sounders, but somehow it just happened.  🙂

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Filed under Birthdays, Passport, Soccer, Sounders

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