2012 – Around the World and Close to Home
Armed gunmen in Benghazi, Libya, kill U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other embassy officials Michael Phelps wins a record 19th medal at the Summer Olympics in London and a fight between rival soccer fans in Port Said, Egypt leaves 73 dead. Barrack Obama is re-elected President, defeating Mitt Romney, and Democrats retain majority in the Senate a gunman in Newtown, Conn., kills 20 children and six staff at Sandy Hook Elementary and Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy kills 132 along the east coast and damages total 82 billion. Washington becomes the seventh state to legalize same-sex marriage and second to legalize recreational adult use of marijuana, and liquor is now available for sale in grocery and drug stores U.S. representative Jay Inslee defeats Attorney General Rob McKenna for governor the Seattle Great Wheel begins spinning on the waterfront and Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) opens its new location on Lake Union.
ECS: Creating a Spectacle
In a state long known for its boisterous, rabid sports fandom, the return of professional soccer to the top flight provided the impetus for an all-new form of organization and expression: the supporters’ group. And one group seized the moment.
The Emerald City Supporters introduced themselves to the Sounders FC front office, sold them on the vision of a swath of stands laying down a soundtrack and theatric visuals for what would become the most voluminous crowds North American soccer had experienced in more than a generation.
There had been booster clubs for the original Sounders and Stars and hero-worshipping clusters dating back to (Tony) Chursky’s Chicks. Wider exposure to fan culture in Europe and South America spawned start-ups around MLS and USL who would create signage and song sheets, albeit on a relatively small scale. In the latter seasons of the Sounders’ USL era, The Pod was formed as a family-friendly group in Section 113 of Qwest Field. By 2005, The Pod morphed into ECS, still relatively tame, but with face paint, flags and banners. When it was announced Seattle was joining MLS for 2009, the potential grew exponentially.
Some new ECS leaders sought to go big, to surpass anything previously seen in America. Keith Hodo, Sean McConnell and Greg Mockos envisioned a match day scene that could only be rivaled in cathedrals abroad. They managed to convince Sounders management that, with their cooperation, they would create a true vibe, a pulse that would make the stadium come alive.
“They let us do organized chaos,” said Mockos, an ECS co-president along with Hodo. They foresaw a Brougham End filled with waving flags and banners, songs and chants to start, then calls and repeats. It would be blue-collar, urban and appeal to twentysomethings. It would be loud. Seattle would have a supporters’ section that appeals and attracts and that distinguishes itself from anywhere else in the world. “The club embraced us,” he said, “but then we had to keep them at a distance.”
Early on, it was ECS leadership making personal invitations and appeals to join them in this energetic, raucous, edgy enclave in sections 121, 122 and 123. It was in-person and mostly in-pub, with members circulating amongst Pioneer Square bars such as Fuel and Temple Billiards. Membership swelled, with 500 to start the first year and 1,400 by year end. In 2010, they surpassed 2,000. Membership would double again by 2012. And they needed large numbers to pull-off their most audacious projects, the tifos.
It required several thousand dollars and over 3,000 man-hours to design, sew and paint a display of almost 26,000 square-feet that would unfurl for the first MLS meeting with Portland in 2011. It was the largest tifo to date in MLS, with its theme of Decades of Dominance detailing historic Sounders heroes, while sending a not-so-subtle message to the traveling Timbers Army. It is, after all, more than just art.
One, you want to inspire our own team,” noted Mockos. “In this case we wanted to inspire them to live up to our history, which is a long and rich history. Secondly, we wanted to inspire our fellow fans in the stadium. And thirdly, you have to discredit the enemy and their fans.”
It was a spectacle seen on national and international broadcasts. It might’ve been Rome or Madrid or Buenos Aires, but ECS had made this match day atmosphere uniquely Seattle.