Today is a Cascadia Cup Matchday. Portland travels to Seattle. 67,000+ screaming fans, Clint Dempsey’s home debut, Rave Green and Capital Blue, a Tifo to end all Tifo, and one of the single best sporting environment in the United States will be unleashed onto the pitch in 5400 seconds of awesome. And that all barely scratches the surface of what things like “Eternal Blue, Forever Green” mean to me.
Being in Iowa, one of the big questions I get (often with a SLIGHT hint of a condescending tone) is “Why are you a fan of XYZ?” Football fans want to know why I’m a Chargers fan, soccer fans want to know why I’m a Sounder. The easy answers are: “Well, I became a Chargers fan because of Nate Kaeding and I’m not really big on jumping ships” and “The fanbase for Seattle is amazing and I just feel something special with regards to the Sounders and the community surrounding them.” As far as the latter goes, that’s not the whole answer though. The whole answer is something I’ve been trying to hammer down for the past little while. There’s more than just “the fans and environment” at play when I root for a team from a city I’ve never visited and who had no players I really knew until I started following the team.
I’ve had this challenge going with myself for the better part of a year to always look at the big picture rather than focusing on certain specific things. I used to get so bogged down in being upset about things or so caught up in excitement and that meant that I’d miss everything else around me – the good company, the books, the adventures, etc… all of that would happen and I’d miss it. It felt more like I was getting ripped from the skin of the Earth by a tempest that would either dash me upon the ground hundreds of miles away and shatter every bone in my body or sling me into orbit for one of the most breathtaking views ever. For a while, that worked for me. The constant chance of an amazing adventure was worth the risk of broken bones (metaphorically)… until the damage started piling up.
Any type of wound takes time to heal though and soon, even the fun stuff stopped being fun because everything else still needed to heal. So I decided to stop seeing life as a big, scary tempest. To stop letting my emotions go on rollercoaster rides that relived themselves in an instant from just seeing an individual. And to start looking around at what I had been missing. And it’s good… really, really good.
But I always liked the idea of rain as a metaphor.
I think better when it’s raining because it relaxes me. I find that I enjoy things such as music or reading more completely when it is raining. The grass always seems greener after a rainstorm, cars always seem cleaner and more vibrant, and life seems to just pause and take a moment to heal and let go of muck and grime. Hell, my first night in college, I remember sliding down the hill behind the Old Capitol with two of my friends during a downpour. As I was thinking of all of this, I came to the realization that I have been trying my hardest to stop fighting the storm and just enjoy the rain.
The tailgate for my first Sounders game was held in the muggiest and most disgustingly hot conditions. It was gross and I was roasting. A little over an hour before kick off and the scarves begin swinging and we begin singing and something miraculous happened – the skies opened up and cut loose. I was with 200-250 other Sounders fans in Kansas City and every single one of us had a collective feeling of “This is who we are!” The chants turned from “Take ’em all!” and “Sounders ’til I die!” to a very simple “SEATTLE SUNSHINE!” as we marched and jumped our way towards the stadium. Things stopped being just about the game and started being this enormous unifying force that was represented in the droplets pelting down from above.
We were held outside of the gate for 15 minutes during the hardest rain (I think there might have even been pebble sized hail at this point). We just sang louder. The ink on our e-tickets was running and they wouldn’t scan but it didn’t matter, we just sang louder. Even the home KC fans started giving us some crap but it didn’t matter because we just sang louder. And rather than singing anything specific to the game or the Sporting fans/players, we sang two words over an over: “Seattle Sunshine.”
Kickoff rolls around and the rain’s cleared by this point. Seattle went on to lose the game and the Open Cup on penalties but it was an amazing experience and it all truly started in the rain – in the Seattle Sunshine that we called down from the Pacific Northwest.
In the spirit of Cascadia, I can honestly say that THIS is why I’m a Sounder. The fans, the team, the miraculous moments, and then environment are all great… but my heart and my soul are there because of the rain. I deck myself out in Rave and swing my scarf and shout obscenities at TV and computer screens because the whole of my life – all its colorful moments (both pleasing and painful) and wonderful people who are a part of it – are all drenched in Seattle Sunshine. They glisten and grow and become more vibrant because of it.
It’s not in the forecast for Iowa City tomorrow but I hope it rains.