By Joel Pody
Joel Pody is a 39-year-old truck driver from Seattle who went to Garfield High School and the University of Washington. He is a lifelong Seattle sports fan whose closest brush with stardom was as a walk-on kicker for the Huskies. He never played in a real game, but got to kick in the spring game.
If you’re a Seattle sports fan who doesn’t follow soccer closely, let me explain why the Clint Dempsey signing not only is significant, but why it made me emotional to see him rip off his sweatshirt to unveil his Sounders uniform.
I’ve been a Seattle sports fan my entire life, and that’s not always easy. It’s rare that we sign the big-name players. The biggest stars usually end up in L.A. or New York, or even South Beach.
Sure, we’ve drafted big names, like Ken Griffey Jr., and even traded for a few, but how many of them stayed? I wasn’t around when the Seattle Metropolitans won the 1917 Stanley Cup, and I’m too young to remember when the Sonics won the 1979 NBA championship. I remember the Sonics letting Tom Chambers walk, trading Shawn Kemp after a trip to the NBA Finals and giving up on Ray Allen. And I remember losing the whole team to another city.
I followed the Mariners when they had Junior, Randy and A-Rod, guys known by one name who ended up playing somewhere else. We won 116 games in 2001 without winning it all. We went from a team of destiny to a team synonymous with losing.
The Seahawks are a much better team now than the mediocre NFL franchise I grew up with. They are a legitimate contender, and I’m thankful for that. But I still have a bad taste in my mouth after we were robbed of a Super Bowl win by the officials.
That game sums up what it’s like to be a Seattle sports fan. So close yet they won’t let us have it.
Getting Dempsey, one of the biggest stars in soccer, means Seattle fans finally had things go our way. Management stepped up and asked us, “Who’s your dream player? I don’t care what it costs. I don’t care how absurd it is. We want to win. Just making the playoffs isn’t good enough. We want to hold the MLS Cup.”
I’m not sure exactly how the stars aligned to make this happen, but I know Sounders ownership and management were amazing. I know the fans were a big part of it, too. If Dempsey hadn’t personally seen the amazing fan support when he played for the U.S. men’s national team this summer against Panama, he doesn’t make this move. If he doesn’t walk around the city that day and see people paying attention to soccer as if he were in Europe, he doesn’t come.
We Seattle fans actually helped get a player, and how often can we say that? For once Seattle has the perfect storm of events that work for us, not against us. This trade didn’t just make the Sounders better, it makes Major League Soccer better.
For fans who don’t follow soccer, here’s how big it is: We just signed LeBron James or Derek Jeter in his prime. I’m getting emotional again just thinking about it.
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