A year ago this week, Seattle Sounders fan and Emerald City Supporter Matt Oak found himself, yet again, on his tattoo artist’s table. And as his tattoo artist, Melissa Senesac, got to work, she off-handedly commented that a shape she was drawing on him looked a little like Celine Dion.
But Oak couldn’t let that throwaway remark go, heading deep down a Google rabbit-hole of Dion tattoos. Almost immediately after, he made a proclamation online that quickly became the stuff of infamous legend among Seattle soccer fans. If the Sounders won a trophy in 2016, he promised, he’d get a Celine Dion tattoo on his posterior.
Wait, wait – let’s stop and think about how far away that possibility seemed for a good chunk of 2016. At the season’s halfway point, the Sounders had sunk, at times, as low as ninth place in the Western Conference. In fact, after a particularly disappointing July away match, Oak wrote a rousing call to fans on his Facebook page that SB Nation blog Sounder at Heart reproduced.
“’Maybe this year’s lost, but let’s support ’em,’” Oak recalls thinking as he wrote the post, “and show them we’re in for next year and keep them working hard.” Perhaps coincidentally, the post’s spread also marked a turning point for Seattle. Several Sounders — including new head coach Brian Schmetzer, the now-retired Herculez Gomez, and Brad Evans — responded positively on Twitter to his rallying cry.
Still, that Celine Dion ink promise lingered. Several days later, a friend reminded Oak about it. Should the team sneak into the playoffs and go on a run, he might have to “pay up” and get the tattoo, after all, his friend said — which is the first time Oak had thought about that tweet in months.
And of course, the rest is 2016 MLS lore, as the Sounders pulled off an epic comeback and then, on a freezing night in Toronto, a Cup victory. So. What about that promise?
Oak had recently been laid off, but in his glee over the win, he didn’t want to go back on the bet, after all. So he put up an online tattoo-funding campaign on a whim — and raised the nearly $600 total in just hours. Herculez Gomez even served up one of the contributions to get him to the monetary finishing line.
On Feb. 10, Oak returned to Senesac for this fateful tattoo session. The final product includes blue and green laurels, “SSFC 2016” in a suitable sports-team-ish font, as well as the words “My Heart Will Go On,” of course for Dion’s best-known song. Finishing it all off? Dion’s head emerging, improbably, from the MLS Cup.
The artwork isn’t small, covering most of the real estate on Oak’s right buttock. And he’s definitely proud of that, taking to Twitter to show it off almost immediately after Senesac turned off her tattoo gun. He also took it out in public a few days after for a fan event, where he talked the Sounders’ trophy-minder into allowing him to get a picture of his tattooed embodiment of the Cup next to the actual MLS Cup. The only disappointment so far, Oak says, is that despite his tagging her Twitter handle, Dion herself has not commented on the tribute.
“It was hard to sit down or sleep normal for the first few days,” Oak admits. Though as he’s experienced with his already 100-plus hours of work, the pain eventually subsides and the glorious occasion for the tattoo remains the best memory.
“It’s going to make for a good date story,” Oak says, before considering for a moment and clarifying. “A good third date story.”