HBO’s Seattle experience

September 18, 2013
Clint Dempsey, captain of the U.S. National Soccer Team, greets fans after he was introduced as the newest member of the Seattle Sounders FC MLS soccer team, Saturday, Aug. 3, 2013, prior to a match between the Sounders and FC Dallas in Seattle. Dempsey previously played for Tottenham Hotspur in the English Premier League. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Sounders supporters have embraced Clint Dempsey. (Associated Press)

If you subscribe to HBO, don’t miss the “Real Sports” piece on MLS’s Seattle phenomenon. It debuted Tuesday night and will replay regularly over the next two weeks on the pay channel’s various platforms.

It’s darn good.

The intensity, passion and commitment, not to mention counter-culture quirkiness, of the Sounders’ masses are captured in all of its march-to-the-match revelry. The episode addresses the club’s Hollywood backing (Joe Roth and Drew Carey); the supporters’ voice in whether to retain the general manager; Clint Dempsey‘s wildly received arrival; and, of course, the record-shattering ticket sales.

Seattle has raised the MLS bar to Space Needle heights. To its credit, “Real Sports” was there recently to chronicle it. The show is mandatory monthly viewing for insight and investigation into a variety of topics that transcend fun and games.

For casual sports fans unaware of the Sounders’ success — or, for that matter, their existence — the episode enlightened, educated and entertained. It was also a fine advertisement for the league, particularly in the wake of HBO’s previous MLS story (Chivas USA’s personnel issues).

Reiterating here: It’s a terrific piece. The Emerald City should be beaming today.

That said …

The story lacked context and short-changed the rest of the league. It portrayed Seattle as the lone ship in tumultuous seas, carrying the precious cargo of American soccer’s hopes and dreams. Without it, “Real Sports” implied, MLS would capsize like its alphabet-soup predecessors.

Folks in Kansas City, Portland, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles and other prospering MLS markets would beg to differ.

No one is questioning Seattle’s impact on the league. MLS is a much better place with the Sounders aboard. But while Seattle’s in-market popularity is unmatched — average attendance is almost double the second-best draw, the Galaxy — several clubs have succeed in their own way.

K.C. executed the league’s greatest transformation, from a forgotten club toiling in temporary homes too big or too small to an model organization with a sterling venue. In its compact and intimate setting, Portland pulsates like no other. Real Salt Lake has gotten it right, on and off the field. By signing David Beckham, the Galaxy broadened MLS’s national and global exposure and appeal.

Founding clubs and expansion teams alike have contributed to the league’s growth — not to Seattle proportions, mind you, but in important ways. Long before the Emerald City Supporters blessed MLS, there was Barra Brava and Screaming Eagles and Section 8 Chicago and Hudson Street Hooligans and LA Riot Squad.

There was a dynasty in Washington and excellence in L.A., championships in San Jose and Chicago.

The Sounders are MLS’s stylish playmaker, the No. 10, the superstar. They’ve earned the position. But like the sport itself, the league is about the collective, not just the individual.

For a preview of the HBO episode …

Steven Goff is The Post’s soccer writer. His beats include D.C. United, MLS and the international game, as well as local college basketball.
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Steven Goff · September 17, 2013