As I look back on the last two weeks leading up to MLS First Kick, I'm left with one word repeating in my mind: overwhelming.
I was tasked with documenting the travels of Brian Dunseth and Drea Avent as they toured the West Coast, starting in Tucson, Ariz., and moving up and down I-5 from Los Angeles to Seattle and back again. The mileage was overwhelming -- more driving in two weeks' time than I'd done in the last several years combined (over 3500 miles).
With camera in hand, we set off in brand new VW's and I filmed as much as I could. The amount of footage I ended up with was a bit overwhelming. Sunrises and sunsets. Hard tackles and spectacular goals all flooding in through my lens. I did my best to cut together our memories and put them on the site so that other fans could see the sights and get excited along with us.
I got to meet many great and interesting people. Players, coaches, analysts, fans, restauranteurs, security guards and so on. Everybody was welcoming as we travelled through their territory. Everybody wanted to let us into their experience and share their passion for the game. I was overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of each person we spent time with.
As I sit here, decompressing from our journey, I have time to reflect on some of the many memories: watching team USA beat Italy in a pub in San Jose, almost getting stuck in the snow of Southern Oregon, jumping and singing with the Timbers Army, following AIK out of the tunnel and onto Jeld-Wen Field, getting goosebumps as the fans at CenturyLink field yelled, "Seattle!! ... Sounders!!", breakfast burritos at Hermosa beach with new friends that will last my whole life and cheering as the whistle finally blew to begin the first week of games this MLS season. I am overwhelmed by these experiences and will remember them forever.
Finally, I am overwhelmed by how far this great game has come in the US. Remember when beating Italy would have made you pass out with joy? Now, we just say, "Cool. Good game by the boys." Remember when we were so excited just to have a soccer game on TV? Now we need multiple screens all Saturday long. Now we complain when Seattle "only" has 23,433 fans show up mid-week for a non-league game, because we are spoiled by their regular league attendance. Now we complain about teams selling out their tickets too fast. Fans are beginning to hold coaches and players accountable. Team jerseys aren't just worn by players on gameday, but by fans on every day of the week. Remember when you had to convince your buddies to go to a game with you? Nobody needs to be convinced anymore.
Friendships and memories, games and goals. Now, as I put the camera away and look through my own eyes, it's overwhelming to see how much the game has changed me.