Schadenfreude and Legends: The Zombie Sonics and the Cascadia Cup

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by Nate Jensen


I won’t lie to you: right now, it is hard for me to write about soccer.

I actually was thinking about writing about a different sport, like how Seattle and Vancouver are better off without the NBA, or maybe a small blip about how a guy that played for the Everett Silvertips got drafted 2nd overall in the NHL draft.

I even thought about compiling a Cascadian baseball team. In fact, I even made a lineup complete with a pitching rotation and depth chart.

In the end, I couldn’t do any of those things without feeling like I was avoiding a topic. By all rights I would be avoiding the most relevant topic pertaining to Cascadian sports currently: the Seattle-Portland derby.

I don’t really believe in Karma, but I do believe that the people’s actions have a tendency to lead towards humbling moments. Usually we only notice those moments when they are most poignant. They reach out and they slap you hard right across the face. This weekend was one of those times.

All week Seattle had been celebrating. Not celebrating a victory. Celebrating a defeat. The defeat of the Oklahoma City Thunder. That’s right, I said the name. I called them the “Zombie Sonics” for a long time.

I have to admit that, despite not really caring about the NBA, I had that schadenfreude itch scratched when the Thunder lost to Miami. That sort of satisfaction was quickly taken away on Sunday the 24th of June, 2012.

I was in my living room happily watching ESPN getting ready to broadcast the Portland-Seattle match. England and Italy were dueling away on my screen and not getting much done to be honest.

I wanted them to wrap it up. Get a goal! The Sounders and Timbers are on next! I found myself getting irritated. Irritated that England and Italy had the audacity to run over time with no resolution.

When I had to switch to ESPN2, I sighed. Fortunately the game was not scheduled to start for a few minutes. A couple of very serious looking billiards players finished up their round.

And then it was time. ESPN had a few commercials and then they showed the crowd in Portland. I could feel the electric atmosphere through my screen. Something big was going to happen.

And something big did happen. The Timbers Army put up an amazing display. ESPN did not show it live and didn’t show it long, so I raced to my computer to look up the full picture.

The Portland flag merged seamlessly with the Doug. In the middle, an image of Portland. A simple message: “Legends are born when the previous are surpassed.”

And a picture of a previous Portland legend, Clive Charles. This was all juxtaposed with the adidas Commercial in which the Doug waves prominently.  The first phrase in that commercial is, “Revolutions are born from simple ideas.”

It was breath-taking. A slap in the face. An awakening moment. Clarity. A legend being born does not mean a previous legend has died. It adds to the history. It builds up. Too often in sports, we are excited to see the other team lose. We are excited by the failures of others. The joy of winning is also about the joy of seeing the other team have that win taken from them. Schadenfreude.

The message that was seared into my brain was pretty simple. Build up. It isn’t worth it to wait for another team to lose. It isn’t worth it to point and laugh at someone when they are down. It isn’t enough to wait around for someone else to fail. A legend is born. A legend isn’t an accident.

The only thing we have if we cheer for another team to lose is a negation. Being born is an addition to the world, and so is supporting a team for a win

Portland had the better team on Sunday. They won 2-1, and now lead the Cascadia Cup race with 4 points. I’m still not happy that the Sounders lost and are currently slumping. But I won’t begrudge the Timbers their victory.

The whole time after the match was over I kept thinking. Cascadia is new. Cascadia is awakening. Cascadia is being born. Let’s all make sure it becomes a legend.

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