I’ve eschewed writing this post for some time–mostly because it it could come across in a misrepresented way–but with the absolutely terrific Steve Zakuani tribute on Saturday and positing the question to the audience, well, I’d say it’s about time.
And let me comment, that I hope “on-the-minute” soccer tributes live-on, regardless of nation or team or any qualifier.
For some odd reason, I remember the two day burst of the Charlie Davies accident and Salute quite vividly. I have a fairly typical photographic memory–if I’ve driven to someplace in my life once I can get back there without direction.
That said the morning of Tuesday, October 13th stands out quite vividly.
It actually started at about 2am PST with a cryptic tweet from Maurice Edu. Twitter has long since deleted the tweet–and if that memory serves me correctly so did Maurice Edu–but Edu’s twitter spun out a somewhat haunting and foreboding message, “Oh it’s terrible. It’s terrible.”
As fans new to twitter and with fewer athletes on at the time, Edu received a deluge of returning tweets with, “What is it Mo?” or “Everything, ok?”
No response. I went to sleep. But Maurice Edu would be a key figure, and the content would frame a difficult day for US soccer fans.
The following daybreak the news broke that US striker Charlie Davies had been involved in an incomprehensible auto accident that had left him in serious condition.
As TSG was not a true news source at the time–and we didn’t want to partake in conjecture–we put up a post directing our audience to follow Steve Goff, a locally based DC United beat reporter and Sports Illustrated soccer reporter Grant Wahl–on the story.
In the meantime, chatter began on Twitter and our web site after it was learned that Davies injuries were not life threatening about how a shaken fan base could honor Davies at the next night’s match, the final World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica on Wednesday evening at RFK.
Bandied about on Twitter, there was a fan–and his name has unfortunately since alluded me–who tweeted that he was going to light flares during the game at some point and wanted to know when he should do it.
My brother suggested that he do it during the 9th minute, a reference to Davies’ number on the USMNT. My brother turned around and glommed onto that idea as the appropriate fan tribute.
Though, one minor speed bump.
TSG was more of a medium rather than a fan supporter group. He had created a partnership to provide news to the American Outlaws Supporter Group and we reached out to them beyond Twitter–where they were already hard at work brainstorming on what they should do for Charlie Davies.
This is a copy of the text of that email:
Sad day for the USMNT.
My brother and I wanted to back a tribute for CD during tomorrow’s game, but only if you guys are in support as well.
The release and the idea are below. If you guys are game, TSG will throw some advertising dollars behind it and broadcast it as many places as possible.
If not, no worries whatsoever at all. Again, no worries.
Best and the release is below,
TITLE: GET UP! The 9th Minute Salute for Chuck Deezy
It feels closer.
Through technology of Twitter, a decidedly smaller but quite zealous fanbase, and landmark victory on Saturday where he pronounced the US fit beforehand to raise the World Cup, the world of Charlie Davies feels tangibly close to US fans.
TSG hopes for a speedy and full recovery for the striker whose 21′ minute strike put the U.S. back on the road to redemption in South Africa just a few months ago.
So in homage to our favorite team’s fallen teammate, TSG, along with the American Outlaws, is backing the effort for all the fans attending Wednesday’s RFK game to stand and cheer for the full 9th of minute of tomorrow’s USA v. Costa Rica clash.
CD, we hope and know you’ll be up doing the stanky leg in no time–regardless of what docs may or may not say.
Now everyone, STAND UP FOR CHARLIE!
There was a swift reply from the American Outlaws that they were game and already churning on what they could do as a group. This, fit the bill.
And in fact, despite an idea being hatched on the Internets, only because of their physical work would “the minute” have went off with the magnitude that it did.
TSG wordsmithed the message. We settled on the word “Salute” as we thought “Tribute” or “Memory Of” were words that implied passing and we didn’t want that to be the theme or for those who weren’t aware of what was happening to think Davies might have succumbed to his injuries.
Additionally, we agreed that the 9th minute tribute would actually start in the “true” 9th minute at 8:01. This would make it at least two minutes long of pandemonium and fan support.
From that point, it was into full distribution mode with just a hair more than 24 hours until the match as the American Outlaws and TSG posted identical directions on our Web sites for what fans should do.
Both TSG and AO relentlessly emailed, tweeted and facebooked people.
Beyond this, TSG drove the media distribution and consumption component. I purchased Facebook ads targeted to anyone who had any keywords from “US Soccer” to “MLS” to “Landon Donovan” on their profile–who said personalized marketing was inappropriate.
Through a contact, we reached out to ESPN and let them know what was going on and then we literally just kept tweeting and emailing people all….day…long.
However, the moment that spawned critical mass was a simple “re-tweet” from Maurice Edu. If you are looking for one critical person or distribution point to reaching a mass audience, that person, unequivocably, is the aforementioned Edu.
TSG didn’t have the brand currency we somewhat have now and we had tweeted at a number of USMNT players (Twitter was not as widely accepted in 2009 as it is now) and most had not responded–and understandably so given the grief that clearly was being felt.
Edu not only RT’d it, but asked what he could do to help further and proceeded to tweet and retweet multiple times on Tuesday.
From his lone validation, nearly every other USMNT player with a Twitter picked it up. Jozy Altidore was next and then DaMarcus Beasley and then SNOWBALL!
When the athletes validated it, then it was reporters in Grant Wahl and Steve Goff who picked it up next.
From there, Goal.com got on board and eventually ESPN Soccernet picked it up and finally the AP.
It was pretty amazing from a speed of broadcast standpoint. All of the aforementioned happening in a few racing hours.
Meanwhile, AO had been doing the harder task. “AO” drove participation at the ground level and that work became dualfold after the Baltimore Brigade of the American Outlaws suggested holding up a #9 digit during the Salute. Of course, as history shows that was the perfect completion of the salute.
Here’s how American Outlaws founder Justin Brunken tells it.
I was literally posting all this stuff from a hotel room, and it blew up over night. Everyone was talking about printing a ton of the number 9 flyers and hand them out at the American Outlaws Tailgate, and bringing tons of smoke bombs to make it visually insane.
Pretty much every person that was going to the game from American Outlaws and anyone that was in the section found a flyer. These members of ours, made sure of it. It was spearheaded by a few, with participation of around a thousand plus.
Why? This team and the players mean a ton to all of us passionate fans. They are like family almost. When something bad happens to them, we show how much their effort as a player and a person means to us. Everything we do in the stands is for the players and the team. When we can do something that could mean a lot to a player to boost their play, their effort or their recovery to the next level, we jump at the chance to do it. The players show us respect, we need to do likewise!
Along with Justin, and the DC American Outlaws president Justin Coughlan, the entire American Outlaws got the salute moving.
Flyers were beyond printed in droves and everybody seemed to have one in their hand whether at the game or not.
To round it out and in a twist of fate, just days earlier my brother had the pleasure of, by happenstance, watching the USA-Honduras game with Kofi Davies, Charlie’s dad, in a bar in San Diego.
Given that my brother wrote on the team here at TSG and was a regular patron, he struck up a conversation with Davies’ dad who ironically lamented his son’s form for the entire first half. I continued to receive text messages up in San Francisco of the back-and-forth.
Upon returning with #9′s in hand just a few short days later, for my brother, the lump-in-the-throat juxtaposition was palatable.
However upon that #9 minute, as I in Northern California, my brother in Southern and the true great assembly of Washington support stood in the stadium–and despite a near miss of a goal from Conor Casey that would have brought the entire stadium down–the moment became at once a positive one. A whole collection of fans, united in support of a team and a player most had never met, resonating and deafening.
A true great moment in US Soccer fan history phoenixing out of the dreariest of circumstances the day before.
*Note, many, many more were involved here. This is just our best recollection.