The Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel documentary on the rise of the Sounders will screen tomorrow on HBO.
It will throw out some surprise revelations.
Jon Frankel traveled to Seattle and LA and spoke to the heavyweights involved including Sounders FC majority owner, Joe Roth.
Roth reveals that the club made a business plan that assumed an average crowd of just 12,000 people.
“We made a business plan that said we’d average 12,000 people a game. I would say that’s what we thought,” he told Frankel.
The club are now averaging more than 42,000 fans per game and the documentary adds that’s more than the Yankees draw in New York.
A voiceover adds that the Sounders sold every ticket they ever printed which may be explained though by Sounders FC’s own policy made in an email to us by Senior VP of Operations Gary Wright in 2011 that ‘sold’ and ‘distributed’ are synonyms.
In the run up to the San Jose game, the final of the regular season, the two words were used interchangeably in club press releases charting the increasing ticket sales.
The press release does not divulge whether Frankel followed this up or accepted it.
That however is nitpicking among a sea of an overwhelmingly positive success story for the club who are the most successful expansion franchise in the history of American sport, and if the Sounders slipped it by Frankel, it’s hardly their fault if he didn’t ask any further.
Drew Carey is one of the more successful comedians on television and host of “The Price is Right.” He admits that in growing up in Ohio, he wasn’t much of a soccer fan at all.
Minority owner Drew Carey admits that he once ridiculed soccer:
“I used to make fun of soccer. It’s not that I hated it or thought it was, like, a total waste. I understood it was popular but it was just a bunch a guys kickin’ a ball around.”
However, like many other Americans, time spent in Europe developed a passion for the game of soccer. The host of the Price is Right became fascinated by how some of the great European teams were run – by their fans according to the HBO Press release.
Wanting a fan vote for GM, Carey says, is the sole reason for wanting to be an owner.
“I wanted to bring this idea of the vote to the United States. That’s the only reason.”
Roth confirms this adding:
“He said he wanted to bring these Barcelona rules, which is you can vote out the general manager every four years. I said, ‘Well, that’s good. That keeps everybody on their toes.’ Then he said, ‘And– and once you get the general manager out they can vote their own in.’
And I went, ‘Wait a minute. Wait a minute. No, that’s taking it too far.’ I mean some guy comes out of a bar with 40 people behind him and that’s where I’ve invested my money?”
In reality, General Manager Adrian Hanauer is very popular with the Sounders fanbase and was easily returned in the first vote. For this who may consider that a formality, it is not difficult to imagine a few other clubs where this would not have been the case.
Carey explains the broader philosophy behind it:
“Otherwise, the only way you’re gonna know the fans are unhappy is if you have to listen to sports radio, you have to read letters to the editor. You know, you have to notice that your sales are down and nobody’s renewing their tickets.”
The HBO Press release adds:
“It’s a kick for the Seattle fans too… who have earned the respect of some of the most hardcore soccer fans worldwide.”
The press release does not provide any back up for this assertion, and one can assume those interviews are in the show.
Drew Carey also addresses the enormity of the Sounders’ acquisition of Clint Dempsey whose signing he compares to Tom Brady returning to Canada.
“It would be, like a Canadian football team getting Tom Brady. You knowall of the sudden Tom Brady was like you know I always loved Alberta, they have great fans there, I want to finish my career there, like, people in Alberta would be outta their minds.”
The show debuts TUESDAY, SEPT. 17 (10:00-11:00 p.m. ET/PT), exclusively on HBO.
Jason Samuels is the producer.