As usual with these things, I apologize for the relative lack of updates recently. Since I got back from vacation a couple of weeks ago work has been keeping me fairly busy between making a switch to a new team and making sure that the person taking over the stuff I used to be working on is up to speed. As such, I haven’t had a whole lot of time to do much Blogging lately. That said, here are a couple of random thoughts from the last few weeks that don’t quite seem to be enough to get a full post out of.
As I was growing up, the two big sports in the house were baseball and auto racing. Soccer was generally reserved for kids who played in the local youth soccer league, which I was never inclined to participate in. It wasn’t until the 1994 World Cup came around that I really learned much about the global popularity of the game, and even then, I’ve never been a particularly big fan of the game. It is mostly for this reason that until this past week, I had never been to a professional soccer game before. I have occasionally found myself watching a random game on TV while either bored or sitting in a Mexican restaurant, but less as a fan than as a disinterested observer.
Last Tuesday, that all changed as a couple of my friends ended up with several tickets to the US Open Cup final between the Seattle Sounders and the Chicago Fire at Phone Company of Indeterminate Name Field, and I accompanied them to the game. Not only that, but they were in the good seats too, which meant that I got to watch the game from the front row near midfield. If this was an (American) football game, these particular seats would reserved for season ticket holders, and would go for $116 apiece for a single game. I’ve heard quite a bit about the Sounders and their fans, but this was the first time I’ve experienced it firsthand. One thing you learn quickly is that virtually the entire stadium remains standing for the entire game, and spends most of that time engaged in one chant or another (in retrospect, I probably should have done some reading beforehand so I knew some of the words.) In particular, the giant tifo displayed in the Emerald City Supporters section at the south end of the field before the start of play was particularly impressive. As for the game itself, the Sounders won 2-o and claimed their third consecutive US Open Cup, the first team to do that since 1967-69.
Most of my experience with watching live professional sports has been in the form of Mariners games, and although baseball is enjoyable to watch in its own way, I do have to say that there might be something to this whole soccer thing. For one thing, stoppages during the game are minimal, and even when play does stop, the clock just keeps running. Even with stoppage time added to the end of each half and a 14-minute halftime break, a soccer game easily fits into 2 hours, where baseball games these days can easily be dragged out for three hours or more, and an NFL game with all its stoppages and commercial breaks is in roughly the same ballpark. It’s clear that Soccer still has a long way to go before it really makes it into the American mainstream (coverage of MLS on the main ESPN website is basically nonexistent, with just about anything besides the MLS Cup final being relegated to their Soccernet site in so they have more space for random NFL offseason stuff, NASCAR or preliminary rounds of some random golf tournament,) but if there’s anywhere that soccer is catching on in America, it’s in Seattle.
Following the cruise down the coast a couple of weeks ago, I had allotted myself a couple of additional days to spend down in California before returning home. Although I’ve been down to California a number of times over the years, I really haven’t had much chance to just go explore and wander around, as most of my trips down that way either end up being a manic march through Disney or just passing through. So when I made this particular trip, I made it a point to rent a car (which is something you really don’t need if all you’re doing is Disneyland) and spend some time wandering around the area. This mostly took the form of a drive down the Pacific Coast Highway to see some of the beaches and towns along the way. The photo above came from Crystal Cove State Park, where some large bluffs overlook a large sandy beach below. It wasn’t exactly the best weather for beachgoing that day, but it’s still the kind of thing you don’t find much of around here.
In addition to the drive down Highway 1, I also found myself driving on California freeways for the first time, which also turned out to be a rather interesting experience. Given the fact that most of my previous experience with California highways comes from old CHiPs reruns I was half expecting to find myself dodging spectacular car crashes (which may or may not explode in spectacular fashion) every half mile or so. Sadly, this doesn’t seem to be the case, but one thing I did quickly learn is that people sure like to drive fast down there. When I found myself on the roughly 15 mile stretch of the I-5 (yeah, all the freeways have to have a “the” in front of their name down there for some odd reason) that goes through Camp Pendleton, the posted speed limit was 65 miles per hour, but it quickly became clear that the flow of traffic was much closer to 80. Now if I had been driving my own car at the time it might have been kind of fun to go that fast, but given the fact that I was in a rented Kia of unknown maintenance history it got just a bit dicey. And even when I was matching the nominal speed of the traffic at 80 miles per hour in order to make sure I wouldn’t get run over by some Little Old Lady from Pasadena, I was still getting passed on the right by pickup trucks full of furniture. The whole thing was kind of like that old arcade game Out Run (right down to the scenery,) only except for being the guy driving the cool car, I was in one of the random traffic cars that you’re normally trying to dodge while drifting around a corner at 150 miles per hour.
Oh, and incidentally, this song has been stuck in my head since I got back from California. It’s really quite a nice place down there, and if it weren’t for the messed-up economy, dysfunctional politics and still ridiculous housing prices I could actually see myself living there if the circumstances warranted it. Not sure that’s ever going to happen, but it’s still a nice place to visit.