You look to the South on matchday and see a couple thousand people raising their hands in unison and leading the entire stadium in a tradition that became stadium wide – the Boom-Boom Clap. It welcomes the players to the field. In 2012 the participation is tens of thousands strong.
Still to the South you also see the massive tifo displays. Work starts months ahead of time with many hours and dollars donated to the cause of the Sounders. Pregame, to the North, there is the March to the Match (an hour prior to every MLS match). Leading the March is the largest of the Seattle Sounders FC’s supporters groups – the Emerald City Supports.
If you get a chance to spend time with their leadership you learn that they are passionate about the club as any fans, in any sport, for any club in the world. Spend an hour with the four co-presidents – Greg Mockos, Keith Hodo, McKenzie Clark and Sean McConnell – and the conversation will drift through the ways that ECS and the Sounders FC get along, butt heads and in the end have a relationship that will last because the two sides are not one sided.
Mockos likens the partnership to a kind of marriage, "In any relationship where there's just giving in one direction, it doesn't work. Instead when there's a partnership working the relationship works."
That give and give includes things from the club like voting for the name, a name that would maintain a decades long identity, to having a general admission section in the Brougham End to the March to the Match, allowing the use of official logos in some capacities to the Sounders GM Vote and Sunday’s Fan Appreciation Day.
The fans give to the club. They give their voices, their bodies and their souls. They give effort outside of gameday. “It didn't just naturally happen,” McConnell points out. “People didn't show up on that March 2009 day and say '122,121,120 this is how we're going to behave.'”
The same is true for the songs, the tifos both in the Brougham End and throughout CenturyLink Field.
It is an odd relationship that fans have with this team. They belong to each other. A Sounder isn’t just a soccer player clad in Rave Green. It is a person from this region. It is both.
Hodo spoke about a time when leading the ECS in cheers and Eddie Johnson scored the game winner against Chivas USA, as he describes that moment you start to feel what he means about what it is to be a Sounder.
“There were neighbors that don't even know that they live next to each other hugging one another in the Brougham End. You have the people from all the 'burbs of Seattle. Not only that, but the club is so big it attracts people from Bellingham to Centralia to Spokane and Idaho. This isn't just Seattle's club, as much as the club does embody Seattle. When you're in that building it doesn't matter where you are from when you are participating with the Sounders family.”
The players and coaches consistently speak about how proud they are of the fans. How the voices of the fans help inspire their play on the field. Sigi Schmid calls the match day experience “heaven.” There’s a reason that the fans act this way.
They are Sounders. We are Sounders. From our voting for the name of the team, voting on the GM, membership in the Alliance Council.
McKenzie Clark (no relation) sums it up the best when he’s asked what it means to be a Sounder. After talking about the importance of passion in people’s lives, the way the club helped unlock his love of Seattle (he is not from Seattle proper) and recognizes that it isn’t necessarily unique to the Sounders, but it is his connection. He basically wrapped up an hour long discussion between the co-presidents and myself with 24 words said in just a few seconds.
All the empowerment, the give and give, the partnership and relationships developed are pretty simple.
“What it means to be a Sounder is to be passionate about my club, my city, this region; to be in love with Seattle.”