A few months ago, I went to my very first Seattle Sounders game. I was about to tell you that it was my first ever soccer game, but that wouldn't have been entirely true. I have vague recollections of being somewhat interested in the outcome of a World Cup a few years ago, but that memory is also twisted up with memories of drinking copious amounts of beer in a sports bar and yelling at a TV screen, so who knows what I was really interested in? (Hint: rhymes with "deer".)
As Mr. Burdy will tell you, I am a strange breed of sports fan. I didn't grow up playing sports in school (unless you count being the editor of the literary magazine a "sport". Because, if you do, then I totally would have been MVP of writing bad poetry). Naturally, given my moodier tendencies, I wasn't much interested in camaraderie or good sportsmanship or any of that sort of team-building crap. I would have won an Olympic Medal if there was a category for scowling and bookreading and scribbling social commentary into a journal, but, alas, the ancient Greeks had a thing for throwing stuff and running and the like. Also, ours was not a particularly sporty family. My dad didn't watch football. My mom did not drive us around in a minivan to practice soccer. How I managed to wind up engaged to a man with an active athletic life, I'll never know.
My interactions with sporting events are few and far between. I sometimes forget that sports even exist. I've been stuck in miserable traffic in the south of Seattle and have asked aloud if the pope was in town, because why the hell else would everyone be jamming the sidewalks around the bowl-shaped buildings? When I actually do attend sports events, I need to pack distractions like you would for a toddler at a wedding. Here's the indication that my attention span rivals that of a two year old: I brought my knitting to the last Superbowl I was dragged to.
I'm not a very good sports fan, either.
Instead of getting worked up into a scream-y lather over the hometeam, I'm blubbering through the national anthem. I then crumble into a full-on emotional wreck when the players stoically take the lucky dozen or so kids by the hand and walk them out onto field for the opening ceremony. I'm slapping an open palm on my sternum and wailing, "Oh, the humanity!" and looking for the other criers in the room, but most people have their noses tipped into their beers by then and are avoiding eye contact with me.
Inevitably, though, something strange happens to me while I'm watching any sports event. For the first half of any game, I'm generally bored. My brain is taking in all the noise and the fanfare, the amount of corporate sponsorship and advertising, the nutbags with their faces painted, and the general mania that is game-watching.
By the second half, though, I am looking up from my book or my needlework every few minutes or so. The action has picked up and I'm actually paying a little bit of attention. There have been a few near goals, some footwork has been fancy, someone has been subbed in, and the clock is running out. In other words, things are happening. Drama is happening. And that's when I get into it. I start holding my breath during yardage gained. I start gnawing on my knuckles. I start making those disappointed "awwwwww" noises when the team I'm supposed to be rooting for has a near miss.
That's kind of what happened with this game In Vancouver. The first half was a real snoozer and I wound up drinking an absurd amount of hot tea and making multiple trips to the ladies room. Only in British Columbia would you not get disapproving looks for drinking hot tea at a sporting event. Thank goodness for that. I didn't want to drink the stadium beer because a) eight dollars for a baby-sized beer is nuanced and charming for about ten seconds when you're 21 and never afterward, and b) the beer cups had sippy tops on them and nothing kills a good buzz like SAFETY FIRST, EVERYONE! Besides which, every dude in the place looked like he was drinking his own urine out of a cup designed for a toddler. Remember when you could drink beer out of a plastic cup that wasn't approved by OSHA? (Oh, man. See what just happened there? Social commentary. I just won a silver medal in the "Jaded Stadium Attendee" event).
In Vancouver, the Seattle fans- the people from the most literate city in the US, the city with the most sensible shoes worn per capita, the epicenter of earth-toned fleece-lined clothes, where everyone looks like he's going camping every time he leaves the house, where the Almighty Salmon is the subject of every single reusable tote bag and bumper sticker- these fans were a bunch of ANIMALS. They turned their backs to the Vancouver team during the opening ceremonies and flipped them double birds. Double. Birds. My fellow co-op shopping, recycled-rubber-shoe-wearing egalitarians flipped CANADIANS the double bird. Canadians! The nicest people in the world. I was so confused. Watching Seattle behave like that was like watching a bunch of librarians take a dump on a kindly senior citizen's front lawn. It was just bizarre.
Then it was time to raise the flags and sing the national anthems. And, true to USA form, The Seattle fans belted it out with all the Roseanne Barr they could muster. Of course, instead of registering that the singing of the anthems indicated that action was mere seconds away, this sensitive little flower was imagining Francis Scott Key huddled on the deck of a wooden war ship, composing his song while under enemy fire, feeling the concussive explosions overhead and the walls of the ship reverberating with each blast, the sky lighting up, his heart aching for his fallen countrymen... And just as the tears are threatening to spill down my cheeks, the Seattle fans cut in at the end and replaced "the home of the braaaaave", with the collective dog bark of "SOUN! DERS!".
The Canadians sang their national anthem with eyes closed and their hands on their hearts. They looked downright angelic. World peace was achieved for three minutes and thirty seconds while the strains of "Oh Canada" reached the heavens. If you need more proof that Canadians may have figured out a thing or two about how to get along with their fellow human beings, watch them sing a song about their country. Next to the warm glass of milk that is the Canadian national anthem, ours is a rusty cup of whiskey and gunpowder, chased with a dram of whale fat and a lit match.
The other reason I don't really do sports watching is because they usually involve stadiums. And anything that takes place in stadiums these days is littered with a lowest common denominator feel to it that usually leaves me disappointed in humanity. Within minutes of arriving at the stadium in Vancouver, I'd gone to the restroom and sat down in another woman's urine. There appears to be an inverse correlation between the size of a place and the care with which people aim their excrement. It's like everyone's common decency just goes away in stadiums, at big box stores, and outdoor concerts. A woman pees all over a toilet seat and thinks, "Meh, someone else will clean this up. I'm gonna go fill up on a sippy cup of beer now." This is why I stopped going to stadium events years ago. That and the smell of ketchup. Can a smell more embody the fluffy-middled, sweaty enthusiasm of America more than the warm must of vinegar and tomatoes? I think not.
I wound up standing next to a guy who, for the second half of the game, directed a stream of LOUD profanity-laced commentary to the umpires. Interpreting my leaning towards him as interest in what was happening down below (I was actually just trying to get a better signal on my phone so I could check Facebook) he asked me what I thought of the game so far. Hopped up on black tea and the idea that this would all be over soon, I told him, giddily, that I didn't really care for soccer and that I was just there because my fiance had brought me. I didn't even understand what the hell was going on, I admitted, and wasn't that just HYSTERICAL? Dude looked at me like I'd just asked him to sit down on a pee-streaked toilet seat. I DIDN'T UNDERSTAND soccer? What the hell was I doing here, then? Um, I don't know, sir. Looking up the definition of "conciliatory" on my phone?