NASL Memories

(Originally posted in the Sounders FC  Fan Blog)

I had the privilege of working in the NASL for part of the 1976 season while in college, and then for three years as the head athletic trainer for the San Diego Sockers. (1980-1983) In 76, the San Diego Jaws played in the open air toilet known as the Aztec Bowl. It was an ancient stadium, built in 1936, that held in the neighborhood of 12,000. It was narrow, bumpy, and only half covered with grass. It was located on the campus of San Diego State University.

The average attendance for the league that year was 7,642. Pele was in the league,

Pele and George Best in the mid Seventies

Pele and George Best in the mid Seventies

so we can only imagine what the average was, not counting the games he played. Speaking of Pele, the Jaws moved their game with the Cosmos to the larger Balboa Stadium, downtown. What a circus it was. The kick-off was delayed 30 minutes or so as we waited for the helicopter that was carrying the game ball to arrive. At the end of each game, Pele would honor a player from the opposing team by swapping jerseys with him. That night the Pele MOTM was goalkeeper Alan Mayer following a nil nil draw.

By the outdoor season of 81, the league average attendance was 14,084.Fourteen thou for an average! Consider that the Cosmos drew 34,835, Tampa Bay Rowdies drew 22,532, and up the road, the Whitecaps averaged 23236.
The Los Angeles Aztecs Drew 5,814 a game while playing in the Coliseum. One Sunday afternoon we were at the coliseum. You could hear Ron Newman’s voice echoing off the approximately 84,000 empty seats. The announced attendance was 6,000. I think they counted the Vendors, ushers, and players.

Television coverage was a fantasy back then. There was scattered local coverage for some franchises, but no national identity. For that matter, we had to watch the spanish language station to catch a World Cup match. Guys had to call overseas to get scores. Whenever a match was shown for novelty value, they ran commercials as if it were NFL or MLB.

While I don’t want to come across like some old geezer talking about how bad we had it back in our day…okay so that’s exactly what I’m doing. Just consider how special this franchise in Seattle is, even by today’s standards. The league is healthier than what existed back then. We’ve got local TV coverage for Every game. The league is covered by FSN, as well as ESPN2. So there isn’t the support that there is in Europe. Probably never will be. So What? Let’s enjoy what we’ve got. Can it get better? Of Course. Let’s enjoy the ride.