I’ve spent a long time thinking about what to write about this team in this article as a ‘guest spot’ for Diane’s Analysis of the National Women’s Soccer League; yet the words I try and write fail to convey the feeling of family and togetherness that the Seattle Reign provides for their fans.
It looked fairly bleak for the Reign when allocations were dealt to all the teams and the dust seemed to settle after all of the drafts ended. Seattle received Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe and Amy Rodriguez. Amazing players in their own rights, right?! Right. Well, not so much in this case. Megan was on loan to France until middle of the season. Hope had surgery on her wrist and would be out for the first few weeks. And to top off the allocation troubles, Amy announced she wouldn’t be playing this season because she was pregnant. Trifecta in horrible starts to put it nicely.
During the drafts, I wasn’t all that impressed with whom the teams chose as their college draftee – Seattle was no different. I had no particular feelings toward any of the players or colleges from whence they came. In fact, I feel there could have been better players to choose that weren’t (why yes, I am quite bitter my only old college’s draftee wasn’t drafted to any team, but regardless…). This also holds true to for the supplemental draft. It was at this point that many of the players were stating that they would not be playing for the NWSL – one of Reign’s draftees also made this apparent after her pick up.
What turned me into a Reign fan was one single player on the Reign team. It probably wouldn’t have been the first person you would think of when the league was first starting and teams were being built. It wasn’t a national team allocated player, it wasn’t a college player, and it wasn’t someone from the supplemental draft. It was someone I followed throughout the Australian W-League who played for the Melbourne Victory – the one and only Jessica Fishlock. It was at that moment that I started to question my loyalty to the Portland Thorns (yes, I know, we all make mistakes).
Being a fan from across the state, four and a half hours away to be precise, I could only make a handful of games at the chosen Starfire Stadium. The streams I watched, however, were amazing. I loved the pitch, I loved seeing only one set of lines – it was a true soccer pitch, the most beautiful thing. The commentators were quality, even if they included some University of Washington persons. I appreciated how much they enjoyed the sport, you could tell just by hearing them speak about the players and play on the field.
But being at Starfire Stadium is one of the best experiences I’ve had. I’ve met an amazing group of people whom I am happy to call my friends. The crowd, though sometimes lacked the vibrancy, was amazing.
The play on the field was spectacular, and it only improved throughout the season. At the beginning of the season, it seemed as if Seattle couldn’t catch a break. Game after game, they kept losing. Some games by three points, others by only one. But with each passing game, I fell more in love with the team. I didn’t care about National Team allocations; I cared about what I saw on the field. I saw heart and determination that I hadn’t seen on any of the other teams. Every other team had at least one National Team allocated player who was readily available to play, with maybe the exception of Chicago Red Stars who only had Shannon Boxx that played only two games all season. But Seattle kept playing with their heart.
The play was infectious. I cheered loudly each game with the Royal Guard supporters. I cheered loudly when the Reign won and I cheered louder when they lost. It was at Starfire Stadium that I left part of my heart.
Though some players have been waived, they are still part of the Reign family. They will forever be noble in the eyes of the Royal Guard support group, that won’t ever change. We’ve lost one of our Canadians, Kaylyn Kyle, to Boston, but she’ll always be part of the Blonde Ambition (Fishlock, Rapinoe and Kyle) in our eyes !
I can’t fully explain what it is to be a Reign fan. I can’t tell you how infectious the atmosphere around the Reign is. I can’t tell you just how much it’ll change you once you step foot into the stadium. The only analogy I can properly use is to compare the Reign to the Washington State University Cougars. To be a Coug is a way of life. It seeps into your soul and slowly changes you. Not everyone is meant to be a Coug, nor are they meant to be a Reign supporter. It doesn’t just happen by watching a game, anyone can watch a game. But when you’re infected with the Reign spirit, anything can happen.
To completely capture what I want to say, I have to use someone else’s words. This person is a fellow Coug alum, he sums it up perfectly in the WSU alumni journal. Greg Witter writes, “It means we love an underdog, particularly one that delivers now and again. We are walking paradoxes – harsh critics, yet staunch defenders of our team. We are both optimists and pessimists, playing Pollyanna before one game, Sisyphus the next. The fight song gives us goose bumps.”
– Matthew Long-Rhyne