Note: This post isn't about Aston Villa. At least not directly. I promise we are not turning into a Sounders blog. SBN already has a fine one of those in Sounder At Heart. With that being said, there is absolutely nothing going on in regards to Aston Villa right now and this was the third happiest day of my life so there's no way I'm going to not write about it.
I don't usually stand directly in the supporters section at Sounders games. Qwest has three sections of general admission seating and while standing and being tolerant of somewhat salty language and raucous behavior is a must in all three, only in the most central are you expected to sing and jump and participate the entire way through. This isn't usually what I'm after; I'll sing a fair amount and I'll certainly take advantage of the liberal attitude stadium employees take towards swearing and obscene gestures. But in general I do like to devote most of my attention towards the action on the pitch. I like to be able to ignore the songs I don't much care for. I like to be able to stew quietly when things aren't going well. I like not having to pogo. I adore GA, but for as much as I love them full on ECS isn't my cup of tea most of the time.
For this game though, I cannot imagine being anywhere else. I woke up sick to my stomach, the nerves gnawing at my insides and my brain going a million miles a minute thinking of everything that could go wrong. I tried to work. It wasn't much use. The people on the bus into downtown most likely thought I was packing explosives I was so fidgety. Waiting for my friends to show up at the bar was an exercise in awkwardness, as it's tough to look the part of the cool loner when you're standing alone in a corner biting your nails and throwing back Black Butte. Once everyone showed up and there were distractions things got better, but as soon as we hit the stadium I went right back to being a nervous wreck. One of the people I went to the game with informed me he had put back five energy drinks in the ninety minutes before heading downtown; I appeared to be about twice as anxious as he was.
Being in ECS, given little choice but to sing and yell and become a part of the mob gave my nerves an out. I devoted that portion of my brain to remembering the words to all of the songs, to picking up the organic chants, to making sure I wasn't the idiot that messed up the tifo. The rest of my brain was free to concentrate on the game without my circulatory system resigning in protest.
I'd wager that most of you know how this ended up. The Sounders won, we refused to leave the stadium for a full hour after the game ended, Kasey Keller almost broke his neck climbing over the top of the goal and you could not look around you and see a face that wasn't grinning widely. I don't know if I have ever been around that many happy people at once. And by this time net week, plenty of those people will be back to being stressed out about work, or lonely, or struggling to make ends meet, or dealing with whatever struggles it is that we all face. But after that, at least all of us that were there and experienced it will have something else in the bank of filed-away happy memories to go back to when we need cheering up.
And that's why we do it. Even the happiest among us spend a large portion of their lives in a less than optimal state of mind. We need things to look forward to to get us through the work week. We need happy things to look back on when other things aren't going well. Anyone that wants to have a fulfilling life finds something to meet those needs and for many of us it's sports, at least in part. Today I was sitting at my desk, waiting for yet another process to finish running, longing to have a window to stare blankly through. As it is wont to do in those situations, my mind began to wander. And I replayed the whole game, the whole post-game celebration, the entire night right up to the point I went to bed far too late. And I realized that I was still on a high, nearly 48 hours later.
It can be frustrating, it can feel like a waste of time, it can feel like a waste of money. It can ruin an entire weekend. But when it pays off? Nothing compares. Nothing. You realize in that moment why it's all worth it. The Sounders gave me that on Tuesday, and I hope against hope that Villa can one day do the same. But even if they never do, it all will have been worth it, just for the possibility.