Road Trip to Thermopylae

Drenched in sweat and beer, we stood in a daze of fanatic euphoria. Whitecaps striker Eric Hassli had just managed to fire an absolutely spectacular shot, launched from mid-air, into the Seattle Sounder’s net. The stadium reverberated in a low moan as all 35,000 Sounders fans jammed into Q-West field (normally the home of the Seattle Seahawks) watched their 2-1 lead evaporate.

We didn’t hear much of the moan because we’d been busy chanting, singing, flag waving and generally celebrating the merits of our team. We were part of a small group of hardcore fans who’d been allowed to purchase tickets in the fan section for the historic rivalry. 500 of our white and blue clad, Bell-emblazoned, troops (200 more than the Spartans had!) stood for the past two hours attempting to beat back the chants of the Sounders’s “X-Box”-labelled fans. At first it had been easy. When we were first marshaled into the stadium by security, there was hardly a person in the seat. The drum guys set up and within no-time we were chanting our battle cries (including such delightful ditties as “We’re blue, we’re white, we’re fucking dynamite”) in a vacant stadium. We figured we’d done pretty well, though perhaps that was just the beer talking.

Ten minutes into the first half, the lower bowl of the stadium was filled to capacity. The energy in the stadium was electric. We were hoping against hope for a tie. Against a top flight team (who’d set the standard for the Whitecaps when it came to fan culture) and shortly after our team had axed their coach for the number of losses, this would be a minor miracle. Indeed, the bus ride down had been good natured revelry mixed with a healthy does of realism. There was no expectance and no one was chanting do or die (unlike the fans of another big sporting event that was coming up back home).

When we arrived in Seattle we piled out of the bus and then headed into a local pub for a pint. We had little come back for the query/chant of pub-going Sounders about how we could possibly cheer for a “1 win team”.

By 5:30 we had rallied around the Whitecaps flags. Our posse looked formidable and many of our team were already a mess (even before the game began). But it’s messy, boisterous fans that can often inspire the greatest things and we were ready to “represent”.

Once the game got underway, there was lots to cheer for. The size and scope of the stadium was humbling. The soccer played by our team was smooth and creative. When we scored on a penalty jumping ahead by one, our crowd went wild. Blue flags were wildly a flutter. The drum guys led us in chant after chant after chant. We never sat from the moment we arrived at our seats and would not throughout the game. To their credit, Seattle fans seemed equally predisposed to ignore their seats.

When the final minutes were up, our crew of revelers stood by our seats for another half hour of boisterous song and cheers. My voice by this time was starting to fade. Still jacked up on adrenaline, our crowd flocked down the empty hallways chanting for the Caps. A Sounders tie was a Whitecaps victory and our community of loyal fans was all the better for it. Next stop would be a three hour bus ride home through the darkness, past incredulous border guards and a drop off at the River Rock Casino where we’d started the trip. Amazing times and amazing community of soccer enthusiasts.