Five years ago, Drew Carey first became smitten with soccer. Since then, in short order, the actor/comedian has grown to not only become quite knowledgeable about the sport, but arguably the game’s most visible fan in America. In addition to attending L.A. Galaxy matches on a regular basis, Carey follows the national team, home and away, as much as possible. Of course, his passion is now the Seattle Sounders FC, for which he is both an owner and chairman of the Members Association. More about those roles later. For now, take a few minutes and get to know Carey as a fellow fan, albeit one who hails from Hollywood and hosts a daily game show, The Price Is Right.
In Ryan Stiles (a former colleague on
The Drew Carey Show and Whose Line Is It Anyway?) you’ve got a friend who lives in the Bellingham area. So, did you convince him to buy some season tickets?
No, Ryan wants free tickets. Actually he’s a big Seahawks fan and he was mad when I raised the 12th Man flag. Not long after that he said, ‘Hey, I saw you on Monday Night Football, raising the flag. Thanks for the call.’
Any other cohorts interested in your soccer experiences?
I told [Glasgow native, former Drew Carey Show cast member and now host of The Late Late Show] Craig Ferguson I went to an Old Firm game with my friend from Australia. It’s like walking into the wrong neighborhood. So at the hotel, the bellman asked about our plans. He took us aside and gave us some advice, things to do and not to do. Wear gray or neutral colors. There was a certain way to walk to the stadium. You don’t stray from the main drag. Keep your eyes down. Stand when they stand. Clap when they clap. Cheer when they cheer. This game was at Celtic and we were in the top half of the stadium, surrounded by Celtic fans. We did what the dude said and we didn’t have any problems.
We see where the VIPs sit for, say, Lakers games. What about Galaxy games?
At Galaxy games I have my own box, like two down from the press box. The guy who has the box next to the press box is an agent for like half the players on the national team. At the Galaxy-New York game, they showed a shot of Tom Cruise on the JumboTron, and I was yelling out, ‘What am I, chopped liver?’ They never show me (laughs). Usually, the VIPs sit in the owners box, right below the press box. That’s where I sat at my first game. They also have $125-150 seats, right along the touchline behind the LED and across from the players, and you get to keep the chair. Personally, I like to sit up higher, see the whole field and see what’s going on.
Besides Galaxy games, where else do you catch a game? Any big trips on the calendar?
I’m flying to England for the England-USA game at Wembley Stadium. I saw us play England in Chicago. After the game, there were groups going around singing, ‘We beat you with our B team. We beat you with our B team.’ They were having fun, and that’s why I love the game, because of the fans. That last day of the English season, I watched Man U and Chelsea at a pub at 6:45am. It was packed. These guys were singing and chanting. It was really, really exciting, even at the pub. There’s a Browns backer place in L.A., and I like watching the games there. It’s sometimes better than the stadium. That’s because I usually get put in the rich guy section, where everybody’s behaved and they feel guilty if they cheer or scream out. With the regular guys, everybody’s into it.
Which stadium atmosphere is most memorable, and do you have any ideas for recreating it here in Seattle?
Oh, definitely Germany-Holland during the World Cup is the most memorable for me. But it could only be recreated here if we had a war with Portland, then played them afterward. There was a lot of emotion there in Germany, and what a great game. Those guys playing for national teams are as big as linemen. I was taking pictures, but I was so into the game that, at times, I missed the shot.
Have you collected anything since becoming part of the soccer tribe?
I’ve collected a couple balls, a signed picture from Pele and photo passes from the games. I can’t collect the orange vests because they take your driver’s license. C’mon, are the vests really that expensive?
As host of The Price is Right, if they brought out Shevchenko, Ronaldo and Henry, who would command the highest price among MLS owners, say, next spring?
It’s got to be Henry. He sells tickets, he scores goals and he’s in the Gillette commercials now.
Soccer is said to be the beautiful game, sometimes the simplest game?
Yeah, the Beautiful Game, and they call boxing the Sweet Science. Those nicknames really make sense. Boxing is a science and soccer is a beautiful game. It’s physical. One of the things I can see from the sidelines when the national team plays is how physical and brutal it is. These guys really go after each other. There’s nothing held back. It’s as physical as can be without tackling somebody. If all you know about soccer is watching your kids play, you’ve never seen a soccer game. Guys are hurt all the time: ankles broken, noses broken, concussions. Brian McBride is always one elbow away from it being the last game of his career. The beauty of it is the trickery and finding space and going somewhere your defender forgets about you. Then, all of a sudden, you’re alone ready to shoot. The game’s great, it flows really well. High-level soccer is nonstop, always something happening, always something moving. People are always trying to get position, the defense is trying to keep their form together, and the offense is trying to exploit that. When you know all that, it’s an exciting thing to watch. There are a million things going on. And if you don’t know anything about it, it’s 11 guys trying to kick a ball around.
You’ve become very educated in a relatively short period of time since coming to the game. How’s that?
I didn’t have a local team to root for in L.A. I can’t root for the Dodgers, the Lakers. I was looking for a team to support. It was exciting, that first Galaxy game. We started going regularly, and then I bought a box. I remember my second or third game, I was asking people in front of me about the offside flag. I also started buying books on soccer. Soccer for Dummies, history, videos. I was sort of retired then, and I saw the national team was starting qualifying for the World Cup. The first game was in Trinidad, so I flew down there and met Michael Kammarman, the PR guy, and Pam Perkins, the general manager for U.S. Soccer. They got me a field pass. I brought my camera and started talking to the other photographers. If I had any soccer questions, I’d ask those guys or I’d look it up. I just picked up everything from blogs, Riot Squad guys, everybody. It changes the game, learning about it. As I tell my friends, now I can heckle with authority.
And what about those people who have yet to understand it?
Look,people in Seattle are going to discover that you can complain about the same things in soccer as the other sports. Learn a few simple rules, principles of offense and defense. I tell you, it’s great to watch these guys, all trying to figure it out at the same time on the field. It’s so hard to score a goal. People complain, but that’s just it, it’s nearly impossible to score. That’s the point. That’s why when it works, it’s like a miracle.