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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2009-04-02

GOOOOOOOAL! A new team debuts in Seattle
Rod Mar asks us to give 'The Beautiful Game' a chance.

By Rod Mar

Photo by Rod Mar

Photo by Rod Mar

Drew Carey and his four-year old son Connor take part in a rally in Occidental Park before the inaugural match of Seattle Sounders F.C.
One door closes, another one opens.

One team leaves another one arrives.

The Seattle Supersonics left town after being sold by one rich-guy owner to another (well, maybe these days neither is quite as rich as before), and the tragedy in all of that is that it's the fans who are left suffering.

While Seattle fans mourn the loss of their NBA team, they certainly do not miss the morbid atmosphere that pervaded Key Arena in the team's final years. An ownership in question, arena leases that made more headlines than the sub par players and an overall distaste for the NBA's business model left fans searching for something more likeable.

Fans in the Emerald City have found something they can embrace again, as Seattle Sounders FC of Major League Soccer have stolen the sporting hearts of the fans.

Until the Beijing Olympics, I'd never shot a lot of soccer. Sure, I'd covered a high school championship or two, and I shot the two or three "friendlies" (international exhibition matches) that Qwest Field hosted while waiting for the Sounders to begin their play.

In the American sports world, the opinion of soccer usually takes two forms. It's either, "Wow, what a great sport - I love the action and the atmosphere and I understand why it's the most popular sport in the world", or, "I'd rather watch paint dry".

Understandable, as soccer is a fairly low scoring game. But really, is a 1-0 soccer game any less entertaining than a 1-0 baseball game? Or a 7-6 football game that amounts to a 60-minute exchange of punts? It's all about the knowledge and familiarity, isn't it?

Many of us who grew up with baseball can appreciate a 1-0 pitchers duel. We understand how a pitcher and catcher work together to have a game plan against an opposing hitter. NFL fans that grew up cheering for NFC Central teams love a defensive battle.

Knowledgeable soccer fans appreciate the intricacies of their sport, too.

I have really no idea what those intricacies are at this point, but I do appreciate the wonders of the game. A through-ball perfectly placed at the foot of an onrushing teammate that results in a goal is great example of how beautiful team sports can be.

Photo by Rod Mar

Photo by Rod Mar

Seattle's Nate Jaqua (green) gets tangled with New York's Kevin Goldthwaite during the match between the Seattle Sounders FC and the New York Red Bulls held at Qwest Field in Seattle, WA.
In Seattle, the fans have truly embraced the team and the sport. Over 32,000 fans packed the opener (a sellout with added seats), and they sold out the second game as well. A decidedly European feel permeates Qwest Field on game day. Fans stand all 90 minutes. Banners and flags are waved. Chants and songs fill the air. A band plays throughout the match. Confetti flies upon a goal scored by the home team.

The players are emotional, and fans can see their faces, unlike in football and basketball. I think this really helps with the connection from fans to players and vice-versa. After games, players run along the edge of the stands, thanking them, signing autographs and posing for pictures.

Covering soccer has been eye opening. It's a challenging sport to shoot as the action can happen anywhere on a 120 yard by 60-yard pitch, but the action usually is around the ball and that makes it easier.

Nikon's 200-400mmf/4.0 lens is the PERFECT lens for covering near-field soccer. Because faces are important but the ball is often at the foot of the players, being able to zoom in and out is incredible. I also keep a wide-angle around my neck for celebrations that come towards me (the players like to rush towards the stands to celebrate goals), and I use a 600mm for downfield action.

I am not sure that soccer will ever gain the foothold in American sports culture that the other "Big Three" (okay, we can make that "Big Four" with NASCAR), but it's an exciting sport to cover and to watch.

The Brazilians call it "The Beautiful Game". Give it a chance.


(Rod Mar is formerly a staff photographer with the Seattle Times. He recently made the transition to freelance. He will be part of the Sports Shooter Academy VI faculty. You can see his work on his SportsShooter.com member page: http://www.sportsshooter.com/rod and read his very informative writings on his personal website: http://www.rodmarphoto.com.)

Related Links:
Rod's member page

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