I worked on Wednesday, at my job which is on Bainbridge Island, a 35 minute ferry ride from Seattle. It was a beautiful Northwest autumn day – that is to say, it was about 40 degrees and raining. The sky hung low over Puget Sound, a dark gray slate of ugly, with a capital Ugh.
I boarded the Bainbridge-Seattle ferry at 5:25, destination: CenturyLink field for the 2nd leg of the Western Conference semi-final playoff between Real Salt Lake and the Seattle Sounders. The ferry traffic seemed to share my hopeful if not entirely optimistic attitude about the game. Conversations about the game began and ended with a shrug.
“It should be a fun game at least. We’ll be desperate, so there should be a lot of wide open play.”
“Well, it is Kasey Keller’s real last game ever, we had to come out to see him off.”
“Yeah, it’s been a good season. I just hope we don’t get embarrassed again tonight.”
We (my beloved Sounders) were down 0-3 on aggregate after a thorough and deserved drubbing just 4 days prior in Salt Lake City. I probably would have stayed home and watched the game in glorious High Definition if a) I had waited until AFTER the 1st leg loss to buy a $55 ticket or b) it weren’t likely to be the very last game of the year and, consequently, of the great Kasey Keller’s career. While on the ferry, I wondered how I would get home. I’d taken the bus to work that day, and the buses in Kitsap County stop running long before the game would be over.
I was cold. It was raining. I didn’t have a ride home. The Sounders were probably going to lose, maybe going to be humiliated. Not a recipe for a good night ahead.
On the bright side, there was always the chance that I might get to see one of the greatest comebacks in MLS history.
So I zipped up my powder blue jacket (embroidered with an otter that my Grandpa Dave must’ve got a great kick out of when he bought in Monterey, CA), and trudged off the ferry – into the city and its halos of neon reflecting off wet pavement.
I entered the stadium around 6:20. This is what it looked like at the time:
I was by myself, and for some reason that knowledge emboldened me to engage in some light heckling. RSL were warming up right in front of my section so I leaned over the field and shouted:
“Hey Kyle Beckerman! You are an UGLY ugly man! Do they even allow dreadlocks in Utah? Are those things even legal?”
“Hey Javy Morales! Te vamos a romper un tobillo!”
I felt pretty tough. There only seemed to be one other heckler, and his best line was: “See this?” *flips them off* “That’s the space needle RIGHT UP YOUR ASS!”
Which was pretty good, I have to admit. I argued on his behalf when he was escorted away by security, but to no avail.
The game was better than I could’ve expected, but not the dream comeback I’d hoped for. The Sounders pressed everyone forward, playing what looked to me to be a 3-3-4 formation most of the game. In response RSL brought everyone back and just tried to wall off the mouth of the goal. It made for frustrating but exciting play. The boys in rave green never gave up and fought like dogs to the end. It was a great battle and they kept the crowd engaged to the 93rd minute, when the final whistle blew. By the end, I really believed we were going to tie it up. When Eric Friberg collapsed on the field at the whistle, I wasn’t sure what had happened. It couldn’t actually be over, could it?
It had rained all night, and by the time the game ended I was soaked through. My fingers were all pruny, my socks were wet, my underwear could’ve used a good wringing out, even my as-played lineup sheets for the 1985 NY Mets that had been in my backpack were soaked. I trudged on back to the ferry, posted some last minute Twitter pleas for a ride, and relived the game in my brain.
Since no one responded to my Twitter-pleas, I figured I would have to take a cab. Luckily a nice, older, rich and smug couple let me share a cab with them and I only had to pay 20 of the normally $35 fare. Money well spent. The driver and I had a nice conversation about churches, his adventures in online dating (he’s having a hard time because he hasn’t figured out how to upload a picture of himself), and his dead sister, whom he misses dearly.
Got home with just enough time to massage my lovely wife’s feet before midnight. With 6 hours of sleep or so I was up again and headed back to Bainbridge Island for work on Thursday. The bus ride was warm and cozy.