Robert Jonas is a writer for CenterLineSoccer.com and SJEarthquakes.com. Send him feedback on Twitter: @RobertJonas
While surviving the Great Deluge of 2011 that descended upon the resilient Earthquakes fans in the home opener — testing their waterproof clothing to the extreme — will always be a badge of honor, those same supporters missed out on some pretty cool additions to the match day experience. If you were brave enough to unzip your jacket and pull down your snood to gulp down a cup of hot chocolate, you were not alone, as that tasty beverage was in great demand that night. What you probably didn’t get to try — and I don’t blame you for waiting on this one — was the new array of gourmet food trucks that rolled into Buck Shaw Stadium on that cold and rainy night.
Fast forward to the Seattle game last Saturday, when a pleasant evening awaited the fans that collected at the Buck for a night of Earthquakes soccer. This time out I didn’t see groups of fans seeking refuge in their cars as they hoped the storm would pass prior to kickoff. Instead, the bustling pregame crowd was coursing through the stadium while soaking it all in — for all the right reasons. I was one of those early arrivals at the stadium, and upon entering the George Best gate off of El Camino Real, I headed straight for the Epicenter pregame zone to check out the scene and, most importantly, to sample some of the offerings from the gourmet food trucks.
The area was already full of activity with a group of guys juggling a soccer ball in one corner, kids of all ages getting Earthquakes face paint applied in another and a stage set up in the center for a new tradition that I think fans will really learn to embrace — a pregame Q&A with Quakes players and personalities led by the venerable TV announcer John Shrader. Full disclosure — I was a guest on last week’s show, and perhaps will get the opportunity to participate again in the future, as soon as I learn how to properly hold a microphone. The experience was a blast for me and I thank you all for your questions and comments during my appearance.
While the pregame show was fun, what I couldn’t wait for was to order a spicy lamb naan-wich and potato samosas from the Tikka Bytes Indian food truck that was just to the side of the stage. I could already smell the garlic and masala sauces from the time my appearance started, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to having to keep down a strand of drool or two. Fortunately for me, the line at the truck was very short — I’m guessing the rest of you just hadn’t realized where the trucks were located — and I was soon digging into my meal. My family was also there and we all partook in an Indian dinner followed by a half-dozen cupcakes from Kara’s Cupcakes in the hour before kick-off. While still wiping away the chocolate velvet frosting from my chin, I even had time to hang out with other fans and talk about soccer and the season ahead.
Soccer games are unlike other professional sporting events in this country in that you don’t always have the socializing time with fellow fans that comes with the incessant breaks in play. Instead, for two 45-minute halves your attention is riveted on the action taking place in front of you, and the chance to catch up with friends and share a tale or two is relegated to a brief halftime break where more time is taken getting from and to your seat than in actual conversation. Instead, I’ve always seen soccer as being the perfect sport for pregame activities and the Epicenter proved to be a great spot for that on Saturday night.
Being a season ticket holder since the return of the Earthquakes to MLS in 2008, I have become friendly with many of the fans that come out to Buck Shaw Stadium on a regular basis. Some like to get there early to enjoy a tasty adult beverage or two, while others just like the chance to walk the grounds and watch the players perform their pregame warm-ups. In the past I’d taken to moving through the stands and surrounding areas to talk with many of these new soccer friends; however, I think from now on they’re going to have to look for me over in the fan zone. And more likely than not, our conversations will have to be conducted through my noshing on a naan-wich or a chocolate velvet cupcake. Perhaps you can help temper my rudeness by sidling up with your own gourmet food truck delectable — I’ll be sure to share my napkins.