Re-Post: The Moment: Genesis Of A Salute

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.
9
October 2009

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:

Hey guys:

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,

Matthew

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!

The 9th Minute Salute for Charlie Davies

The 9th Minute Salute for Charlie Davies

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.

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20 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by DR on 2011/05/02 at 8:06 PM

    This kind of self promoting stuff turns me off from the website.

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/05/02 at 8:22 PM

      Dave:

      I’ll take umbrage with your comment. If you frequent this web site–which it appears you don’t–then you know TSG, out of any US soccer media, is the least self promoting. Pity you have this uneducated opinion.

      Thousands of articles and commentary has come out in the more than 1.5 years since that moment. We received numerous requests to talk about this and we are finally doing it now. If self-promotional we would have written something a long time ago.

      Matthew

      Reply

    • Posted by kaya on 2011/05/02 at 10:51 PM

      There will always be a few folks out there who don’t get it despite the impressive contribution this site has made to a community that is finally reaching real visibility.
      Of course there are many, many knowledgeable contributors here that give TSG its wonderful breadth of coverage, but Matt has always conveyed a real sense of humility in his writing.
      I think it’s a pretty awesome team you put together, Matt. Despite DR being way off-base, you should take a bow!

      Reply

    • Posted by Crow on 2011/05/03 at 5:57 AM

      What a ridiculous comment. TSG should be taking MORE credit than they are! Thank you very much for your contributions to this truly emotional moment. It was my favorite fan moment that I have ever experienced in my life.

      It was amazing to see all the fans uniting together. I can’t remember how many of those #9′s I printed out on my DeskJet printer (went through multiple toners), and pasted on cardboard backs (due to the rain). I still go back and watch the video I took from the epicenter of the smoke and cheering.

      What almost made me proud was how this tribute grabbed the attention of football fans in Europe.

      Reply

    • Posted by Crow on 2011/05/03 at 6:02 AM

      How is this for self-promoting? My head is directly to the right of the blue horn. I can also post video from the ESPN broadcast showing myself in the crowd.

      Sorry, I just can’t get over that comment. In my opinion, TSG has always gone out of their way to NOT be self-promoting!

      Reply

      • Posted by John on 2011/05/03 at 8:18 AM

        Er, there have been two comments on two different threads in the last few days which strike the chord of “I don’t read this publication but you are popular so I am going to hate anyway”

        Unfortunately this can come with the rise and expanding popularity of a website, combined with the rise and expanding idiocy of many of the youth.

        As the sage “Jay Z” would say “brush your shoulders off”, there is work to be done here.

        Reply

    • Posted by maxq on 2011/05/03 at 1:08 PM

      Haters gonna hate.

      Reply

    • Posted by Andy_4Lakes on 2011/06/17 at 7:55 AM

      Buh-Bye then DR. May I suggest Soccer by Ives or ESPN for something more fitting for you. As someone who has been visiting TSG from it’s very early days, this is THE BEST soccer site on the web. I visit multiple times a day and have become a much more educated soccer fan for it.

      Reply

  2. I remember I was new to twitter but had been reading Goff for some time and learned about it through him. I printed a few for my brother and I and anyone else around us that maybe didn’t know in the complimentary office of the DC Doubletree day of the game. An experience and minute I’ll never forget.

    Reply

  3. I’m somewhere in one of those “salute” pictures. That moment was a defining one for me as a US soccer fan. I had attended US games before, sat in the AO section before, but that game, that minute, I finally understood what it meant to be a part of the community of US soccer fans that we’ve all hand in building.

    A few months after this game I pulled out the jacket I wore that night and a bunch of confetti from this moment came out of the pocket… I got goosebumps all over again.

    The FBM is all about building up American soccer and every newbie I meet I tell them about this moment as a testament to the greatness of this sport and its supporters.

    Thank you, Matt for bringing back this wonderful night.

    Reply

  4. well i have full body chills again. #CD9 will always stand for that morning.

    Reply

  5. Posted by jwrandolph on 2011/05/03 at 8:03 AM

    Thanks guys.

    Reply

  6. Posted by aquietamerican on 2011/05/03 at 9:17 AM

    Thank you both. I was lucky enough to attend that match, and it turned out to be one of my greatest experiences in sport.

    I nearly skipped the game. It was a cold, rainy night in DC and my wife had already backed out since it was going to be on TV anyway. The draw of warm couch, HD TV, good beer, and a home cooked meal on a rainy night was tough to turn down.

    But, there was going to be this tribute to Charlie in the 9th minute and I needed to be there. I needed to be there for the guy who helped renew my belief in US Soccer in the summer of that year. I went to the game by myself but was far from alone. It was an amazing experience that you helped create not only for the team and those of us lucky to be there, but for anyone watching on TV.

    It was an incredibly bittersweet day – a powerful moment that was born of tragedy that will be impossible to forget. The game ended in a spectacular, stoppage time tie that felt like an incredible win. Yet, in retrospect, October 13th was the day that determined our World Cup fortunes. We lost both Charlie and, for intents and purposes, Gooch that day.

    Reply

  7. Excellent stuff. And I’m sorry that it was at all perceived as self-promotional by the first commenter. It was an awful day and a terrible week for USMNT fans. For the family of Ashley Roberta, it is an accident that took a life and changed lives forever. What you all managed to do with the help of other critical and good people made it a bit more bearable for all of us who do think of these players as extended family or at least as friends. Thanks for finally sharing this story.

    I know as a writer and editor myself, I and my other writers admire you all greatly, and appreciate everything you do to promote the game (nearly always selflessly, it should be added). Thanks again for sharing.

    Reply

  8. For many people in the US Soccer community, myself included, it was the first time that a true tragedy had occurred for their team/sport.

    It was not a tragedy of sport, it was a tragedy of life. The scramble to find information and the anxiety for possible circumstances unified an entire fan base. At the chance of someone overreacting and taking it out of context, this was U.S. Soccer’s “9/11.”

    ANY person in the entire world that was involved with American soccer was brought together by that accident. Multiple people’s lives were in danger and one was lost. It was about more than just soccer, but that night at RFK, soccer became a rallying point.

    Never before had a draw felt like such a win, for reasons that reached beyond the pitch. Anyone that had any involvement in that event should be recognized and TSG deserves its own “salute” for what ended up being such a major event in US Soccer history.

    Reply

  9. Posted by Colin on 2011/05/04 at 5:04 AM

    Does anyone know of a clip from ESPN showing the salute? I searched youtube and only found clips from the stands…which dont really show whole picture.

    Reply

  10. Matt, love your work! I visit your site most days, and especially like your objectivity and the breadth of your US soccer coverage.

    Reply

  11. Posted by Mike on 2011/06/16 at 4:31 PM

    Gentlemen, I read you posts daily and find the writing funny, educational and often inspirational. Thank you for all you do for the sport and it’s fans. Let the clown from the 1st post visit other sites in his search for ignorance.

    Reply

  12. Posted by RussellC on 2011/06/16 at 10:56 PM

    TSG is my homepage. What up.

    Reply

  13. [...] “Confederation Cup” moment. It was a play of beauty. That play just narrowly edged the Charlie Davies Salute at [...]

    Reply

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