We all remember these former general managers in Seattle: From Bill Bavasi to Jack Zduriencik, to Tim Ruskell and Rick Sund. Men who often drew the ire of local fans – not that those fans could do anything about it.
Which brings me to another reminder of how unique the Sounders are. The fans actually have a voice.
This fall, the Sounders Alliance – made up of season ticket holders - will vote on the fate of their general manager and president of soccer, Garth Lagerwey. According to the rules which were modified a few years ago, it would take 67 percent of the votes to fire him. Frankly, the thought of a two-thirds majority voting to rid itself of a GM just a year and a half removed from a league title seems pretty extreme, especially when the team has been hit by an overwhelming number of unexpected injuries since the start of the year.
But I bring it up tonight because this continues to be a fascinating topic: Season ticket holders wielding the ultimate power every four years – an authority you don’t see in professional sports in America.
And the fact that it’s happening this year, in the midst of a down season, makes it even more compelling.
Now, I don’t think Lagerwey will be voted out. After all, the Sounders have been to two consecutive MLS Cups and won a championship just 18 months ago… the talent within their academy has become some of the best in the country, and they’ve made a successful transition to playing S2 home games in Tacoma.
But I know some would still argue: “They are what they are.” And what they are – right now, at least – is a team that sits close to the bottom of the league and ten points out of a playoff spot.
And fans, not surprisingly, are frustrated.
Fortunately, the secondary transfer window is upon us in a couple weeks, and there’s a strong possibility that Seattle will make a pretty good splash before the window closes in early August. Combine that with Lagerwey’s clarification that the Sounders WILL continue to be competitive in spending and plans to make an “eight-figure investment” in a player this summer, and I imagine most fans will give him the benefit of the doubt and not vote him out.
Then again, as we know with any vote, anything can happen. And given that you won’t find a vote like this anywhere else in professional sports, I find the current storylines leading up to a fan vote, especially in a down season, extra compelling.
Imagine if some of the worst perennial franchises, like the Cleveland Browns, gave their season ticket holders this kind of responsibility. It would make national headlines! I don’t think it would make things anything worse than they’ve already been!
But the Sounders are hardly the Browns. They’ve made the playoffs every single year. And there seems to be too much success within the last few years and too many big-picture positives to outweigh their current position in the standings.
Still, Garth: The fans will make their statement by voting on your fate this fall. And I know that you’re very aware of that fact.