We’ve come a long way, baby!Posted: June 15, 2013
Leading up to the USA-Panama World Cup qualification match much was written about Seattle as a venue for the USA. At first Centurylink Field was hailed as the greatest place possible for the national team because of the support the Sounders get there and for its reputation as the noisiest stadium ever in the NFL. (Not true to my ears, RFK, ex-home of the Redskins, in its day, was louder. And I’m not biased……..much.) The permit to build Centurylink put a limit on the number of tickets to be sold when two events are at the same time in Seattle. The Mariners were playing next door and the city’s transportation capacity would be strained. So tickets were limited to 42,000 and soccer people screamed “foul!” and some other ( but unprintable) exclamations. THEN the game failed to sell out by 1200 tickets and THEN people screamed,” why Seattle”? But at the game the crowd was the loudest, most boisterous and constant noisiest ( you know, the chanting and singing that continues during the match) ever at a USA match and the question was answered.
But to me, all the discussion about 42,000 vs 63,000 (Centurylink capacity) vs 40,800 ( actual attendance) was very, very, very small potatoes. I go back far enough to appreciate what is happening with soccer in this country, especially in respect to the World Cup and it’s process here in the US.
July 30, 1966 was a Saturday. I was in Wildwood,NJ that summer, playing in a folk music group at a coffee house, having graduated from college, enjoying my last days before becoming a bona fide member of the work force when I began teaching that fall. I had fallen in love with soccer, played two years of left wing at Frostburg St College in Maryland. I knew that the World Cup final was on TV and wanted to watch. So, that morning I walked down the street to an open bar (there were no televisions at the rooming house I was staying at). When I entered the bar, there were about 5 guys in the place and a bartender who had a tv behind him.I asked about the soccer game. He says,” well, that’s two of you,I guess I’ll put it on.” About 3 stools down there was a slightly inebriated fellow who smiled at me and said, ” thanks, chap…didn’t know if he was going put it on the telly.” So my new English friend and I watched one of the all-time great World Cup finals in which England won it’s only WC championship over West Germany in extra-time on a goal that is still debated to this day.
In the late 1970’s I took my u-10 boys into Baltimore to watch the USA battle Canada. I built up the match as a chance to see the finest our country had to offer. “Watch and learn, boys”! There were about 3,000 in attendance in a stadium that held 53,000 and what we saw was two teams who couldn’t string 3 passes together. I felt like telling the boys this was example of how NOT to play soccer. Between the empty stadium and the poor play ,the whole experience was demoralizing, The result was a fitting 0-0 draw.
In 1985, I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning, watching the USA play Costa Rica for a place in the next round of qualifying for the World Cup finals, to be held the next summer in Mexico. The US needed but a draw to advance. The game was played in Torrence, Ca. in the middle of a Costa Rican community ,marketed to the locals, the halftime show was a display of native Costa Rican dances and the Americans lost 1-0. I might have been the only person on the East Coast to stay up and watch the game and it represented another World Cup without the USA who hadn’t qualified since 1950.
BUT, last Tuesday night I went with members of my family, to a local Vegas pub, went to our “USA only ” room, joined the American Outlaws as a member and as fellow USA fans, listened to our group (which numbered about 100) chant and sing and beat drums and in general raise hell. I saw 40,800 crazy Seattle soccer fans cheer their guts out and watched (as previously discussed on this blog) our USA national team play like a real top level national team.
For this socceryoda, it was an experience to be savored. It was full of fun, excitement, and most of all, pride. Pride in knowing how far we have come, both on and off the field. USA, USA, USA!