History, politics, people of Oly WA

Category: Sounders (Page 1 of 2)

Summer archive post: Aunt Sally and the Sounders naming contest

This piece ran in GoalWa just about two years ago now. I really like it. People disagreed with me, but I think the name was going to be Sounders all along. It worked better if we owned it.

My main takeaway from the recent Forbes blog series on the Sounders (E Pluribus Sounders)
was how well-considered the move from the minors to MLS was. At every
point, it seemed like the current Sounders ownership group made the
right decisions, from marketing, to branding to player personnel.

Forgive me if I’m off base, but the blog series rang true to me. I
really do remember things going pretty smoothly from the USL to kick-off
in the MLS. Which, made me think hard about the one time it seemed like
the Sounders owners were about to make a mistake: when they were
deciding on the team.

In spring 2008, the club announced a web-based vote on the name of
team, and that “Sounders” would not be among the choices. But, when the
actual vote took place, there was a chance for fans to write in a vote.
Most people wrote in “Sounders” or something close, and the rest is
history.

But, why does it seem strange to me that an ownership group that
seems to have done practically everything else right, might have gotten
something so basic so so so wrong? I mean, Seattle Republic? Really?

Is it possible that the Sounders proposed purposefully bad names like
Alliance and Republic to raise the interest (and ire) of the fan base
to force the issue on the Sounders name?

This sort of proposal has some relations in the real business and real estate planning world. This sort of thing is called a straw man proposal (not straw man argument) or an Aunt Sally.

A straw man proposal is used in business settings as a rough document
to kick off a discussion. Everyone is in the loop, so no one thinks the
original proposal is a possible end to the discussion.

On the other hand, an Aunt Sally is disguised as a serious proposal
(we want to Build a 20 story building!) when a much more reasonable goal
(no really, just a 10 story building) is desired. So, you’re able to
walk back the large building for a not so quite large building. A 10
story building may have been equally opposed as a 20, but its much
easier to swallow than a 20.

So, in our case, the ownership really didn’t try to pull a straw man
proposal (since we obviously weren’t in on it) or an Aunt Sally (since
we would’ve gone for the Sounders in the first place.)

So, the real end of the false dilemma was probably to further engage
and connect the fan-base in the name and the overall brand. It worked on
me, I certainly remember feeling a sense of massive relief and pride
when the result of the vote was announced.

The original context of the naming process seems particularly out of sync:

“The three naming options will be announced Tuesday, March 25,
and were chosen through fan focus groups, internal committees and fan
suggestions, but will not include Sounders.”

“I have great respect for the Sounders and the club’s history,”
said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. “While we should celebrate the past,
we believe the MLS Seattle team should be about where we are headed
tomorrow and help position the club globally.”

For one, I’m not sure how they could have conducted real focus groups
on naming the team and avoided finding Sounders at the top of the heap.
The end result of the process was 49 percent of all voters writing in
“Sounders.”

Also, while the MLS has a bad reputation for respecting its NASL
roots, it had been ten years since the San Jose club had first rebranded
to its NASL-original Earthquakes. Also, by the time the Sounders
started ramping up in 2008, the MLS Earthquakes 2.0 had already hit the
field.

Also, since the Quakes and Sounders, both the Whitecaps and Timbers have come back with their NASL names with no discussion.

Lastly, two of the proposed names — Alliance and Republic — seem to
indicate that it was more about the voting process and the fans actually
choosing than anything else.

Any serious person would know that Sounders was a powerful name
locally, it was unlikely to carry any bad feelings from the NASL days
because the Sounders had been so well supported in those days. To me,
the point of the vote was to give the fans the chance to put their own
stamp on the team when the first game was still over a year away.

David Beckham made me love the U.S. Open Cup

If there two opposite poles of American soccer, they are the media circus in 2007 over David Beckham (and this year’s) and an early round US Open Cup game between a PDL team and a USL team, neither of whom you actually follow.

But, if David Beckham had not come to the L.A. Galaxy two years ago, I doubt I would have gone up to Bremerton a month or so back to watch the Kitsap Pumas host the Portland Timbers in the first round of the Open Cup.

I’d played soccer and had tried to follow soccer though high school, but the MLS in its early years gave me really nothing to follow. I remember owning a Metrostars t-shirt, but I can’t really remember rooting for any particular team. My favorite American player (Alexi Lalas( was on the Revolution, and I thought that team name in particular was pretty contrived. So, aside from the World Cup and whenever I ran across something, I ignored soccer.

And, that continued until Beckham was signed. And then with the help of some internet, and especially a deep online community following the then USL Sounders, I was neck deep in it, and I loved it. It also helped that I got a DVR and an iPod about the same time. I was able to record and watch whatever soccer actually came on my limited dish package and the iPod helped me quickly bone up on what I’d missed over ten years.

I especially gained an appreciation for the U.S. Open Cup. I liked that the Sounders made deep runs their last two years in USL and that is separates soccer from the other major sports in America, making it the most sporting and democratic. Its my hope to attend at least one Open Cup game (or MLS qualifier) a year.

I would have likely followed soccer anyway since the Sounders entered MLS this year. But, my depth of knowledge and appreciation for the entire sport wouldn’t have been there without the head start of Beckham.

So, while I hope Beckham leaves MLS for good once the season is over, he did respark my insterest in the sport. And MLS made a lot of money, which is good too.

What I wish would change with Sounders FC (and soccer in general) media coverage around here

I was a bit too harsh in the comment threads of the TNT just now, but generally, I think I’m spot on. Something needs to improve in soccer coverage around here. The problem generally lies with reporters that are coming to the game now that MLS has entered the fray locally.

There are some exceptions. Don Ruiz at the TNT (I wasn’t picking on him) and Jose Romero at the Seattle Times have been at this longer than a few months, and now their stuff shows that. Other than that, I depend on bloggers and twitter updates for my Sounders commentary.

But, here are a few things that could help things out.

1. Post game talk.
I felt lost a few weeks ago driving home from my first Sounders game with no review on the radio. Even just one hour would be something.

2. Round table discussion on Sounders FC Weekly. There are enough reporters and bloggers that get it (see above) where you could replace the puffery that dominates the central news broadcast that covers the Sounders with actual discussion of the game.

Couple more subpoints about the Sounders FC Weekly. Why do they refer to Toronto FC as the “Reds?” Do they just need to have a nickname for every team? TFC is just as official a nickname for Toronto FC as they Reds is. And to that end, FC Dallas is nicknamed the Hoops, but I guess the producers haven’t caught up with that one yet.

Also, the quality of the rest of the league game highlights is horrible.

3. I don’t know how the rest of the reporters could carry this off, but please stop treating this like the first time you’ve ever covered soccer. It shows and its bad. John McGrath’s reference to “soccer purists” rather than people who just understand the game implies that if you actually know something soccer, then you’re outside the mainstream.

Would McGrath ever refer to someone who understands and accepts the infield fly rule as a baseball “purist?” Do only gridiron football purists understand rules regarding the forward pass, or are they just better informed?

And, if McGrath puts himself with “the rest of us” (you know, the normal folk) who don’t understand why a rule exists, then should he be covering soccer?

Adendum: My explanation about why ties work:

1. The game is two 45 minute halvess, so the result is whatever happens at the end of that.

2. The season is a collection of points, not a winning percentage. The Sounders have 14 points, behind Chivas USA with 22. How they accumulated those points doesn’t matter to the standings.

3. Also, the”season” is not a single competition like every other North American sport. In addition to the MLS leauge play, the Sounders may also qualify for the US Open Cup this year. Next year they could be in both Superliga or the Champions League. With so many competitions to possible consider, not playing overtime beyond 90 minutes is a good thing.

Sounders game day experience (why ECS left early)

From GoalSeattle boards:

Yesterday, why did the ECS leave the march to the match before everyone else (i.e. the rest of the fans and the band)? Aren’t we all in this together? I’ve been hearing that the ECS has an elitist attitude but didn’t really buy it until I saw them ditch the rest of the march to the match yesterday. Why don’t you guys want to march with everyone else?

And a response:

I’ve talked with some of the leaders of the ECS, and apparently the guy who is in charge of the band is very resistant to working with ECS, and very into trying to bend them to his will. It’s a source of contention between the FO and ECS, and a source of contention within ECS (as in how do they respond to it?).

There seem to be a lot of stories of stress between ECS and the band, so read the entire thread.

If it is true that the band is deliberately leaving late, well that’s the bands fault. I did notice that the band didn’t leave at 6p, so if ECS members are worried about their general admission seats, the band should oblige.

From my point of view, the march needs to be one thing and both sides need to accommodate the other. If the organization wants to encourage fan support, they have to support the fan groups.

Sounders (vs. Earthquakes) gameday experience

I took in my first game of the (MLS) Soudners (FC) this weekend, and thought before hand I should shoot some video from the phone to illustrate my thoughts on the whole gameday experience.

I left Olympia at just around 2p for the 730p game, so that gave me absolutely plenty of time. I found an insanely close free spot on Occidental just south of Safeco.

My buddy (Dan), who is a Tyee member and a Seahawk season ticket holder (game day experience expert), caught up with me a few minutes later. The first item on the agenda was getting him some Sounders gear. He had a bit of heartburn about wearing something with essentially an ad on it, but realized that in the long run, it is something he’d have to get over. He settled on a scarf, but every store around Qwest was sold out.

At the Seattle Team Store they said they were sold out until the middle of May. Dan reflected that someone at Adidas should be fired for not being able to keep up with demand.

Our first stop was McCoys, one of two Emerald City Supporter Bars (Fuel, the other). We got there pretty early (about 430p) and place wasn’t yet crowded. Some singing would break out every once in awhile.

After a couple of beers and burgers, we walked to get one of Dan’s pre-game ritual foods, a cookie from that cookie place (forget the name) in Pioneer Square. On the way we caught a glimpse of the Soundwave Band.

Coming back to hear the band before the March to the Match, we saw a guy in a Luche Libre mask, Drew Carey (who seemed like an honestly nice guy from ten feet away) and the ECS apparently organizing separately from the people who would eventually march with the band.

I tried to film ECS leaving early. You can also hear Dan comparing this to the experience before Husky Games (I close my eyes, it could almost be October).

I still can’t figure out why the ECS left the area towards the stadium before everyone else and the band did. Seems like a dick thing to do. If I was being really critical, I could imply they were doing it because we (with the band) were the newer folks and they as the real soccer fans wanted to show us up. I doubt that, but still would have been way better if we all marched together.

Speaking of the march:

Dan again: “Its like the Rose Parade!” His comparisons to college football were really on point.

For me, walking down the ramp into the stadium for the first time is an important moment.

Before the game:

After the game:

Yeah, it got a lot louder. To the point, that if I had the same seats (section 118, a few over from the ECS) I wouldn’t bring my three and one year old. Just too loud. Which, on my own was awesome, but someplace a little less loud for the kids, you know?

Just some random thoughts:

1. $20 for Section 118 is a freaking steal. Best value in sports in my experience. Better than minor league baseball or anything.

2. College football is the only comparison. The fever in the stands, the before game events, the feeling between fans (there were some Earthquake fans who were joshed with along the way), the only thing to compare it too is college football. Especially the interaction between Sounder and Earthquake fans. I have never spoken to a fan of an opposing team at a Mariners game, but you had to almost say something to the people in Quakes gear walking around. Nothing mean, just to let them know where they are.

3. Media fog. Driving home, I automatically turned to AM radio, on instict listening for a post game show. I listened to the Mariners post game, and waited on other stations for the Sounders post game, which never came. That is the weirdest part of the day, having gone to a major league event, and not being able to digest it on the way home with a real deal post game discussion on AM radio.

Re: Mariners vs. Sounders

I’m a bit late reflecting on this as requested, but better late than never.

I’m not 100 percent sure of the impacts the Sounders FC is going to have on the Mariners in terms of fan support or health of either franchise. But, if there ever was an opportunity to start a new franchise in Seattle (or reintroduce an old one) now is the time.

I’ve written a lot in the past how
a nearby MLB team would hurt the Mariners, mostly because the Mariners t.v. contract (plus really good local ratings) make them a money-making team. If you carve off a good chunk of that t.v. market, then the Mariners make less. Two mediocre baseball teams instead of one good one. Three years later, not even one good one.

I’m not sure if the same argument applies to a soccer team vs. a baseball team though.

I’m not even sure if an MLS team in Portland would even threaten the Sounders market, but rather since soccer is relatively new to many markets, a close rival would probably do more to increase interest.

Another reason isn’t necessarily a reason, but a sort of sign post. If baseball executives aren’t worried about a nearby MLS franchise, why should fans be? The owners of the Oakland Athetics are so not worried about a soccer team with a congruent schedule that they bought one. The New York Mets’ owners were also said to be interested in a summer soccer team, despite the crowded New York sports market.

In a historic note that doesn’t really address the question, baseball’s connection with soccer goes way back. In the early days of professional North American soccer (I mean the early days, not the 1960s, but the 1920s) baseball owners saw soccer as a way to extend the profitability of their stadiums. By playing soccer during the baseball off-season (when North American soccer still adhered to the world soccer calendar), they could make money year round. (see page 55)

Ever hear of Fall River FC or Bethlaham Steel? That effort did not work out.

Just a last few thoughts on schedules. Soccer in North America doesn’t exactly have the same schedule as baseball right now and might not in the future in a much larger sense. While the MLS and MLB schedules overlap, MLS teams play in several other competitions. These include the US Open Cup (still summer), Superliga (summer again, my argument is losing steam) and the CONCACAF Champions League (summer to spring, certainly not baseball type schedule).

There is also talk of MLS going to a two competition league system sometime in the future. This system is popular in our hemisphere and would allow the continuation of a playoff system and allow a summer break.

Fan owned Seattle MLS?

Goal Seattle:

Details were not made clear, but Carey was sold on the idea when Roth told him Seattle MLS would like to use ‘the Barcelona model’ of letting fans own part of the club and have voting shares. I am sure we’ll hear more about that soon.

Seattle PI:

And here’s another radical idea: Fans will be able to buy membership in the team, which will give them the power to vote out the general manager. That, too, came from Carey

Greg Roth on BigSoccer:

One of his stipuations is that the fans will own a small piece of the team very much like the current FC Barcelona model. The fans will have the opportunity to become members of the club. Fans can pay in (an mount to be detrmined). In return, fans would get T Shirts, discounts on tickets, special events etc. Every 4 years the fans or club members will have a vote on who should be the team chairman.

The Sounders would be the only major league team, outside of the famed Green Bay Packers, that have turned over any portion of the team to the fans.

List of Fan Owned Teams

In some ways, the way this entire thing is turning out, with the MLS coming to Seattle, with the announcement that the team will, in part, be fan owned, seems strange to me. While on one hand we have this caustic drama with the Sonics that is sapping the souls of any basketball fan in Seattle.

On the other hand, we have this hope-filled world opening up. Feels good.

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