The wonder that is Sounders FC will be profiled at 7 p.m. Tuesday by HBO in the latest episode of “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.”
We, of course, know the story very well here, with the crowd support and potential to vote out the general manager, but this is pretty impressive national exposure.
Here is a preview from HBO:
When the NBA’s Seattle Supersonics left the Pacific Northwest for Oklahoma City following the 2007-08 season, there was a void on the Seattle sports scene. Recognizing an opportunity, Hollywood mega-mogul Joe Roth and comedian Drew Carey helped deliver an MLS franchise to the sports-hungry city. Now in their fifth season, the Seattle Sounders are among the league’s elite teams, and recently signed Clint Dempsey, one of the best American soccer players in history. As the one U.S. soccer team consistently packing its stadium with tens of thousands of fans, they engage their passionate followers in a way unlike any other American sports franchise. In this REAL SPORTS/Sports Illustrated collaboration, correspondent Jon Frankel travels to Seattle to witness the spectacle of a Sounders’ game and to Los Angeles to talk to the Hollywood heavyweights who made it possible.
After the jump are some excerpts provided by HBO’s media relations:
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Following the departure of the Seattle Supersonics, Hollywood film executive, producer and director Joe Roth thought he would be able lure some fans to a new sport in the market – hopefully enough to break even.
JOE ROTH: “We made a business plan that said we’d average 12,000 people a game.”
JON FRANKEL: “Your business plan said there would only be, on average, 12,000?”
JOE ROTH: “Yeah. I wouldn’t use the word only. I would say that’s what we thought.”
VOICEOVER: They thought wrong. Five years and 82 games later, the Seattle Sounders have sold every ticket they’ve ever printed and are averaging more than 42,000 fans per game. That’s more than the Yankees draw in New York.
Drew Carey is one of the more successful comedians on television and host of “The Price is Right.” Growing up, he wasn’t much of a soccer fan at all and is now co-owner of the Seattle Sounders.
JON FRANKEL: “You’re from Cleveland, Ohio.”
DREW CAREY: “Yes.”
JON FRANKEL: “I’m guessing you’d be the first guy to be making fun of the guys who were cheering for soccer.”
DREW CAREY: “I used to make fun of soccer. It’s not that I hated it or thought it was, like, a total waste. I understood it was popular but it was just a bunch a guys kickin’ a ball around.”
After spending time in Europe and developing a passion for the game of soccer, Drew Carey became fascinated by how some of the great European teams were run – by their fans. Ticket-holders there are actually given the right to vote in – or out– their team’s management.
JON FRANKEL: “What made you wanna be an owner?
DREW CAREY: “I wanted to bring this idea of the vote to the United States. That’s the only reason.”
JON FRANKEL: “That was your motivation to be…”
DREW CAREY: “That was the only reason.”
JOE ROTH: “He said he wanted to bring these Barcelona rules, which is you can vote out the general manager every four years. I said, ‘Well, that’s good. That keeps everybody on their toes.’ Then he said, ‘And– and once you get the general manager out they can vote their own in.’ And I went, ‘Wait a minute. Wait a minute. No, that’s taking it too far.’ I mean some guy comes out of a bar with 40 people behind him and that’s where I’ve invested my money?”
It didn’t hurt that the Sounders had made the playoffs four years running. More than thirteen thousand fans voted. The verdict: four more years…
SOUNDERS’ GENERAL MANAGER ADRIAN HANAUER: “This whole idea of voting for my job is part of a broader message, which is democracy in sports, ah, which is engaging our fans.”
DREW CAREY: “Otherwise, the only way you’re gonna know the fans are unhappy is if you have to listen to sports radio, you have to read letters to the editor. You know, you have to notice that your sales are down and nobody’s renewing their tickets.”
JON FRANKEL: “See empty seats.”
DREW CAREY: “Yeah, that’s what you don’t want. it’s like a marriage. You wanna keep talking all the time. You wanna keep the conversation alive, ’cause as soon as you stop talking, then next thing you know you’re—”
JON FRANKEL: “You’re in separate bedrooms.”
It’s a kick for the Seattle fans too… who have earned the respect of some of the most hardcore soccer fans worldwide.
DREW CAREY: “I can’t explain it. It must be a hipster thing. Or maybe it’s ’cause they have legalized pot. I don’t know what it is. (LAUGH)”
Drew Carey addresses the enormity of the Sounders’ acquisition of Clint Dempsey.
JON FRANKEL: “Put it in perspective for people. To get Clint Dempsey to Seattle after he’s played in Europe?”
DREW CAREY: “It would be, like a Canadian football team getting Tom Brady. You knowall of the sudden Tom Brady was like you know I always loved Alberta, they have great fans there, I want to finish my career there, like, people in Alberta would be outta their minds.”