Brian Schmetzer may not have known what he was getting himself into.
The Sounders FC assistant coach was so moved by being included in the Emerald City Supporters’ end-zone display before the Sounders-Timbers game Saturday that he said this:
“It was awesome, unbelievable, great, fantastic, emotional, happy, touching – it was a lot of different things. I’d like to buy every single one of the Emerald City Supporters a beer. Everyone that worked on that, I’ll make it up to them at some point in my life.”
Good luck with that, Brian, because ESC membership stands at about 2,600. And ECS co-president Greg Mockos estimates that 200 or more folks had a hand in producing the stadium display – called “tifo” – that spotlighted current and former Sounders Jimmy Gabriel, Preston Burpo, Fredy Montero, Marcus Hahnemann and Schmetzer beneath upper-deck banners reading “Decades of Dominance.”
Other numbers are equally impressive: 300 bolts of fabric, about 21/2 miles of sewing, 65-70 gallons of paint, all coming together to create a half-acre time capsule of Sounders history unfolded with amazing scope and stagecraft.
“There’s an escalation, because we revealed one banner at a time,” Mockos said. “... People go, ‘Oh, cool.’ Then No. 2 comes up, and they go, ‘Yeah, that’s about right.’ Then the other ones come up, and it’s like ‘Wow.’ And then, when the other ones drop down, people just go ballistic.”
The presentation capped what Mockos said was several months of planning, reaching back to when the MLS schedule came out.
Wanting to do something that would reassert ECS’ position as the top supporters in the country, leadership took specific suggestions from up and down its membership through their online forum.
The goal was threefold.
“One, you want to inspire our own team. In this case we wanted to inspire them to live up to our history, which is a long and rich history,” Mockos said. “Secondly, we wanted to inspire our fellow fans in the stadium. And thirdly, you have to (disrespect) the enemy.”
Once the planners had their concept, the proposal was budgeted and presented to the board of directors. Their green light allowed the project to shift from concept into the beginnings of a physical reality.
“We gave the kind ladies at the Jo-Ann’s in Ballard a heart attack when they heard how much fabric we wanted,” Mockos said. “It’s just an old tablecloth-like cloth. ... You draw this image on the cloth, and then you paint it.
“The thing about it is it’s all made by ECS members, it’s all paid for by us. And, obviously, we had to execute this inside Qwest Field, so we coordinated this with the front office, and I thought that they did a very good job to help us enable it. On game day there were about 80 people that helped in displaying it, but overall it’s probably around 200-210 people that at one time or another touched the display.”
Finally, the teams were on the pitch, the national anthem concluded, and it was show time – with only one chance to get it right. For the most part, the choreography was flawless, except for a few seconds when part of the “Dominance” section failed to unfurl properly. Then, finally, that section dropped into place.
But after those few minutes of glory, the game began and the fans’ attention turned back to the pitch. The tifo – although immortalized in photos, video and memory – will be archived and never displayed again.
“You might say, ‘Oh it’s a pity you only used it for three minutes,’ but that’s the beauty of it, that’s why it’s so intense,” Mockos said. “People will always remember that.”
Among those who will surely remember are the Timbers Army: the Portland supporters group, which now faces the considerable task of trying to match or even surpass the display when the Sounders travel to Portland on July 10.
“I don’t know how they’re going to one-up it because they don’t have that kind of square footage in their stadium,” Mockos said. “But that was also kind of a variable in our decision-making on the size of the thing. We wanted to make sure it would be something very difficult to top – at least in size. So now it probably comes down to creating more poignancy or a more creative way. They’re a very creative bunch down there, too.”