>Tacoma Stars

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While trying to randomly pick a logo to review tonight, the big wheel o’logos landed on the brand new Detroit Ignition of the Major Indoor Soccer League. Of course the first question that I asked myself was, “The MISL still exists?” Apparently it does. With teams in Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Philadelphia and Stockton (of all places) the MISL is still trying to make a go of it. In fact, the championship game will be played on ESPN2 Sunday afternoon, so set those Tivos now!

The new MISL got me thinking about the old MISL featuring my beloved, hometown heroes from my childhood, the Tacoma Stars. It was the 1986-87 season, I was all of 10 years-old and my best friend’s dad had season tickets, a lot of season tickets. He must have had at least five tickets to every game, because we always had a big group of us go (I doubt they cost any more than $8 a ticket. Plus, looking back, I think they were from his company).

The MISL in the 80’s was a really big deal, all of the best players who couldn’t cut it in Europe played in the MISL. The Stars had the incredible Preki, Steve Zungul, Godfrey Ingraham, Gary Heale and Ricky Davis. The hated Dallas Sidekicks had, to us, the Michael Jordan of soccer, Tatu. ESPN broadcast quite a few games live, including a couple from Tacoma. This was the big time, especially for a bunch of kids from Olympia.

That season had really strong rivalries with the Sidekicks and the San Diego Sockers, great, flashy players with fun names (Preki and Tatu), a really chintzy LASER show before every game that we thought was the greatest thing ever, the stuff a Volkswagen contest at halftime that was hilarious, and our first freedom from the parents to walk around the arena and act stupid. What more could you ask for from a sport as a 10 year-old? Oh yeah, don’t forget the awesome jerseys and the warm glow of the Dome’s tacky neon art (see above).

Apparently everybody in Tacoma was just as excited about the Stars as we were. The championship game against the Sidekicks drew an all-time indoor soccer record 21,728 fans to the Dome and we were right there with them. The “foot thunder” in the building that night was deafening (no arena anywhere has louder “foot thunder” than the Tacoma Dome). It was a barnburner of a game, riveting throughout. I think we actually sat and watched the whole thing (quite the feat for 10 year-olds). The game went to overtime but the Stars were eventually defeated 4-3. It was my first taste of Northwest sports disappointment that still plagues me to this day.

The Stars would never be the same. The following season attendance slipped. My friend’s dad was laid off and he lost his tickets. My dad had no interest in soccer, so we only went once or twice that season. Thus, my interest waned and by the 1988-89 season, they were barely an afterthought. It didn’t help that they folded and a new ownership group was awarded a team that played some games in the itty bitty soccer arena down the road while they fought for use of the Dome. They became a big joke in Tacoma and they eventually faded into obscurity.

I hadn’t really thought too much about how great the Stars were during that season until tonight, although it always seems to come up when talking to anybody about the same age that grew up in the area. It was a magical season that left a big impression on everybody that went to a game and Tacoma hasn’t seen anything like it since.

God bless you Preki and all of the 86-87 Stars. Thanks for the memories!

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