2010-2011 Season was one of Major League Soccer. And by that, I mean I went to two games. Quite a leap up from the zero I had going before now. [I went to one Reál Salt Lake game a few years ago on a date, but I was honestly too distracted/unnerved by the pounding, screaming, clapping Go Big or Go Home cheer zone at the far end of the stadium that I only vaguely remember the game. I had a big crush on my date too, I remember that. Not so helpful now.]
The first game, marking my return to soccer was on the dime of the law firm representing the Sounders. The one semester I worked for BYU catering (and two football games I wasn't assigned to the dishroom), I worked in the white tents outside the stadium set up for the bigwig donors and sports fanatics. I thought that was fancy. At CenturyLink Field, Sounders Club fans get a full spread before the game, peach cobbler and hot dogs at half time, and more ginger ale than one could ever know what to do with.
Someone else's class shot of confetti!
Besides the pita sandwiches and shepherd's pie, and the action-packed 100 minutes (including more injury time than I think was really necessary) of play, my favorite part about the game was confetti. Every time the Sounders score (3 times this time), huge confetti machines shoot blue and silver through the air. It rained on the 36,070 people in the stadium 9no idea where I got that number) and what made it to the field left the tattered-looking turf sparkling in the afternoon sun. Who cares if you don't like sports, is there a person on earth who does not get excited by confetti?
I don't have to settle for just confetti, even though I would, because I do enjoy watching soccer. While I understand many Americans' complaints that soccer is like watching a really long, very expensive game of playground keep-away (especially when the ball gets stuck in no-mans land mid-field with wussy players who can't seem to kick long without turning the ball over), this is ultimately what makes it so accessible. Most pro soccer players do wear cleats, and have above average in sex appeal, but in the end, stinky, barefoot 10-year-olds in the streets of Brazil and Benin are playing the same game David Beckham gets paid millions to play, and that we (or someone else, rather) pay to watch. There are few complicated rules, you can almost always tell where the ball is, anyone with decent lung capacity can play (so I guess I'm ruled out). Worldwide fun. Just not enough time for commercials.
"You suck asshole!"
My second game of the season came at the tail end of a Food Lifeline fundraiser where we passed out Sounders bags to fans while soliciting donations and Kicking Down Hunger, or something like that. One of my favorite things about professional sports are sports junkies, and how they seem to believe that their lives rely on the outcome of this game, or this kick, or goal, or whatever the case may be. Suffice it to say, the pre-game bag hand-out was full of my favorite kind of super fans.
I don't know if it's common among all sports or even all pro soccer teams to have elevated crowd participation from just cheering for the good to cheering for the good and booing for the unpleasant, then taking it up a notch and going from booing at bad calls and poor sportsmanship to chanting, all 30,000+ people in the stadium feedback like: YOU SUCK ASSHOLE!
Seriously? You suck asshole? Did the accountant, and college student, and nerdy mom behind me just shout that? I'm all for speaking your mind but, let's keep it together here, people. I was particularly aware of the bizarre poor sportsmanship echoing throughout the stadium my second game because I was there with my 12-year-old cousin who I'm sure is no stranger to profanity, but who I feel some desire to protect from potty-mouths.
I don't suppose anyone else ever has the thought that perhaps old friends who you haven't seen for a while and you don't rarely talk to (because really, Facebook and blog stalking, as informative as they are, aren't actually talking) aren't really friends anymore. What is a friend, if not someone who you talk to on a regular basis? I had a thought like this last week, in preparation for old friends from college coming into town to visit. I was a bit worried for a moment, in all honesty, that I'd signed up for three days with some very nice people who were really just a notch above acquaintances but who held more expectation of connection and thus, a more awkward forcing of fun, contentment, and intimate conversation.
Boy, was I wrong, and thank heavens too, because a weekend with non-friends just isn't blog-worthy, and heaven knows I've been needing to kickstart myself back into blogland. And more important that that even, heaven knows that I need me some really great friends.
We hadn't looped out of the airport before giggles, 'Remember When's, high voices, and 'What if's filled the car. I'm still recovering from Friday night's sleepover-style 3am bedtime and a full weekend of Seattle fun, Diet Coke runs, and catching up. These are friends who I can laugh with, and cry with (thanks a lot The Help), and who it's worth filling in the blanks of events and goings-on between the last time we all got together and now, even though it means lots of talking.
Rest assured, I have some really wonderful friends. Planning on keeping them at least til we look like these classy ladies:
Soundtrack: Fallin and Flyin by Colin Farell and Jeff Bridges
My year for air travel was 2004. I was home for the summer and was dating this dream-boat of a guy who still to this day I think of whenever I see Michael Vartan. Katie Teddy came with us, which cracks me up because I think people forget sometimes that she's adventurous because she so delicate. We suited up in proper skydive gear, not because it made us safe but rather because it made us look ridiculous.
Skydiving isn't scary, not that I remember at least. The scariest part was when we reached 8000 feet and the one stranger on board the little plane we were riding up to the 13000 ft drop height FELL OUT THE DOOR. My tandem instructor and I sat closest to the pilot (furthest from the door) and I just about peed my pants when this kid literally dropped out the side of the plane, not realizing that he was actually training to be certified and part of that training required a jump at 8000 feet where the plane pulls the cord for you. Thanks for the heads up SkyDive Kapowsin.
By the time we made it to our altitude, the rest of us waddled to the door as if there was nothing to it and jumped out the door without time to think about it. 90 seconds of free fall goes pretty fast and doesn't leave much of a memory, surprisingly enough, so most of what I remember is sitting in the lap of my tandem for the five minute glide to the earth, him pointing out Mt. Rainier and his brother's house, me trying to not pass out as my equilibrium tried to catch up with my body. I had a pounding headache for a good couple hours after our hour plus ride home from Sumner making leftover lasagna at home all the more delicious.
Much more random (and exciting) was my turn hang gliding. Two days into the fall after I went skydiving, I had just moved into my first apartment outside the dorms and was playing solitaire on my computer in the middle of the empty living room when my sister called and casually asked if I wanted to go hang gliding. Easy answer. "Well alright. I'll be there in 30 minutes."
An hour later we were at the point of the mountain in Draper, UT with one of her Itex clients. Kelsie went up first and I sat a chatted with a homeless looking man who briefed me on the beauty of flying, that hang gliding marathons can last up to five ours, and how awesome it feels to go through a cloud. I mentally added "fly through a cloud" to my bucket list and watched Kelsie and her tandem make an easy landing.
Training was simple and repetitive. "Step, step step, jump. Got it? One Two Three jump. Let's practice, step step step jump." And don't flail about. Inching up to the edge, I drilled myself on my instructions, distracted by the fact that the entire glider was flapping furiously in the wind and that didn't seem like a very safe way for fabric to move on the edge of a cliff. My partner prompted me to get into Go Mode and we counted One Two There.... and my brain went blank, my body went limp (extra points for no flailing!), and wait, what? We're FALLING. DOWN. DOWN!!!!! GOING TO CRASH INTO THE HOUSES BELOOOO Ooohhh, wait, nevermind, he did mention something about how it took a minute for the glider to catch the wind and now we're safe up high (oxymoron?) and FLYING!
On a glider, you can simply glide along in the wind, steering loosely with the triangle frame you're strapped into, or spice things up. Pulling the bar towards the body, the bird immediately points down and plummets to the ground. With extended arms, we head back up, high into the sky. Out and in, up and down. Homemade roller coaster. Homemade FLYING roller coaster. You can also manipulate the bar to spin around in circles (not fun for brain or body). After thirty minutes of life as a bird, we inched back to earth and touched ground. I would go hang gliding again in a heartbeat, maybe even certify to do it on my own someday if time and money allowed.