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Monthly Archives: May 2012

No, I’m not going to talk about Pong

I spent the day trying to put words together to express this feeling. I’ve failed miserably.

Everything is scattered. My attention span is running an average of eight seconds. I feel…hungover.

I’m not. I’m just…I don’t know what I am.

It’s just a game, right?

It was a game for which I had extra tickets. There are four in my group, but I was the only one who could go last night. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. But there I was with these three extra tickets.

I could have invited friends who were new to the Timbers or new to the game, folks who might not have otherwise gotten a chance to see the first team. But I didn’t.

One of my tickets went to a 107ist board member, the other two to a capo and her wife. I’m glad they did.

Because I wouldn’t have wanted anyone new to have been with me there last night.

There are those better suited to breaking down the game minute by minute, explaining what went wrong, where to find fault. That’s admittedly not my strong suit. What I saw was a $1 million starting XI playing not for the badge, not for glory, but for…something else. I don’t know what that something else was.

A lot of people are talking about whether the team played with heart. What was the final tally? Forty-three shots on goal. Sure, some of them soft. Sure, some of them insanely misplaced. But 43? In our last MLS match – 14. The one before that? Nine. But did they play with heart?

I don’t know. Maybe. Not as a whole, perhaps, but as individuals. One or two were all in. Others, not so much.

This weird, dysfunctional family fun-time vacation is over. It has been for a while but we’re at the point when it feels like we’ve been in the station wagon a very, very long time. In Death Valley. With no air conditioning.

The kids are crying. Mom and Dad are frustrated. Nobody got to ride the log flume.

We’re all frustrated. We’re all hurt. We’re finding new and exciting ways to bitch at each other. Everyone has an opinion. And, strangely enough, none of us are wrong.

That’s right. None of us are wrong.

Two and a half weeks from now, our club, our boys in green, our beloved Timbers will travel to Los Angeles. The week after that, Seattle comes to us.

In the coming days, we all have some work to do. Get out the frustration. Rant on Twitter and message boards. Write songs. Break things. Whatever you have to do, do it.

When we come back, when we gather again, we come to play. On the pitch and off.

In the meantime, here’s Chris Cooper. His words, in the heat of the moment, come together far better than mine have with 24 hours to recover.

http://youtu.be/5Kr-siNKO9g

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Posted by on May 31, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

I just don’t like soccer fans.

Yeah. Someone actually said this to me today. “Yeah, I know I give you a hard time, but I just don’t like soccer fans.”

I’ve been to four Timbers matches in the last five days: an international friendly, a U23, a reserves match and an MLS derby. I’m tired. My throat is sore from singing and yelling. I have a huge bruise on my knee that I’m pretty sure is from the match on Wednesday. I’ve got a sunburn from this afternoon’s game. In short: everything hurts.

I say this so you understand my mood. My nerves are, perhaps, the tiniest bit raw where all things soccer are concerned.

I can understand folks not liking soccer. They don’t get it. That’s fine. They have other things they understand and enjoy.

Last Saturday, I walked with a team at the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Great Strides event here in Portland, a team that included several other soccer fans and Timbers keeper Joe Bendik. When we were done there, a fair few of us made our way to the St. Baldrick’s event where a bunch of other soccer fans, members of the Timbers Army and a handful of past and present Timbers players had their heads shaved to raise money to fight childhood cancer.

Timber Jim, a legend in the Portland soccer community and beyond and a man I’m proud to call a friend, will host an art and memorabilia auction next Sunday benefitting the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (tickets available here). The Timbers Army, in addition to all the other charity work they do (Friends of Trees, Oregon Food Bank, American Red Cross) recently committed to raising another $40,000 to fund Harper’s Playground, a playground meant to be inclusive of children with disabilities who might not otherwise have a safe place to play (more info here).

This is just a fraction of the stuff fans in Portland are participating in. There are nineteen MLS clubs, each with a pretty hearty following doing some pretty amazing stuff. (Well, most of them. I don’t know what they do in Seattle other than complain about Portland but that’s for another post.)

So, sunshine, what is it that you don’t like about soccer fans?

Is it that we’ve found something that unites us like nothing else could? That we’ve found a passion you envy? That you’re jealous of our flag-waving, scarf-twirling, clever chant-writing abilities? What? What is it?

Here’s where I get all sentimental and repeat things I’ve said before.

Though I’ve attended occasional soccer games for half a decade, it was just a year ago, at a time when I’d lost the identity afforded me by long-term employment or by my status as a student, that I was adopted by an Army. With open arms, I was welcomed. “Here,” the Army said to me. “Come, stand with us. Watch this game. Break bread with us. Become one of us.”

And I did. I bought in wholly and completely. Headlong into the deep end of the pool. I am grateful for every minute of the ride, even the more painful ones.

What is there about soccer fans that pissed this guy off?

I’m not saying we don’t have your fair share of idiots. We do. But for every idiot I’ve encountered, there’s been a dozen really phenomenal folks. The kinds of folks I want to know for a very long time.

The guy who says he doesn’t like soccer fans? Well, let’s just say I don’t feel the same way about him.

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Posted by on May 28, 2012 in Timbers

 

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Counting down – We Are The People, even those of us on the other side of the world

The Rangers family is waiting. Still waiting.

Time and money are running out. There are bids on the table, but it’s anybody’s guess as to whether any of them will keep the club from liquidation. 

I cannot begin to imagine. I just can’t.

Thursday, they said. We should know something Thursday. Well, as I write this, Friday is dawning in Glasgow. Will we know something today? Or do we go into the weekend wondering if Sunday’s match will be the last for Gers?

I know, I know. I’m all doom and gloom. Rangers will go on. They will go on because they always have. 

Believe beyond reason.

We do a lot of that here in Portland. When it looks like there’s no possible way, when we start to freak out (as we are apt to do), one of us will stop, take a deep breath, and say the words. Believe beyond reason.

These are your marching orders, Rangers family, given to you from a member of the Timbers Army. Believe beyond reason.

 

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

A secondary obsession – believing beyond reason

When I started shopping for a second team, many folks suggested Arsenal. Ups and downs and dramatic turns, they told me. A team that would forever be looking for new and exciting ways to break my heart.

But no, I thought. I don’t want a big English club. Not yet, anyway. I want a club with, perhaps, a little more grit, a storied past, perhaps some controversy. And I wanted a club to which I felt some connection. Soccer is not always neat andd tidy. I didn’t want to go the easy route.

With the arrival of Kris Boyd in Portland, the choice became clear: my second club would be Rangers.

(Here’s where the Gers fans, the diehards, will yell at me that Gers deserve more than to be anyone’s second-place club. I will smile politely and point to the three Rangers who wear Ponderosa green – two players and a coach – and thank them for their passion.)

I’ve been hearing the rumblings about Rangers financial situation, but I set them aside in favor of a club with a vast history and a rivalry that outstrips even the Portland-Seattle rivalry. Aside from the political underpinnings and the violence of the past, the contempt Gers fans and Celtic fans have for one another is something that is, in essence, vaguely familiar to me, though it goes far beyond anything we’ve yet experienced with POR/SEA.

I watched my first Auld Firm match on a taped delay from a bar in Portland on a Sunday morning in March. Fifty thousand people were at Ibrox that day to watch Rangers win and Celtic’s Neil Lennon make a spectacle of himself. I fell in love with the style of play, with the passion of the fans, with the boys in blue. If I had doubted my choice to support Rangers, that doubt was erased before the end of the first half. I started to shop for some blue to supplement my mostly green wardrobe.

I listened to the Scottish Football Podcast from the BBC for updates and discussion of not just the team’s play, but its financial situation. Bids were made. Bids were withdrawn. Sanctions were meted out. Bids were restructured and resubmitted and, in the end, an American – a tow truck manufacturer from Tennesee – emerged as the preferred bidder.

An American from Tennessee.

This blew my mind. A club with the history of Rangers possibly being owned by an American? In my mind, this is akin to selling the Packers to France. It just didn’t make any sense to me.

But what do I know? I’m still considered relatively new to soccer as a passion. I’m lucky to have found that passion here in Portland, Oregon, Soccer City, USA. We have a team with about as much history as you can find in U.S. soccer. We have an owner, though his knowledge of soccer has occasionally been questioned, whose passion for his club, his city and the fans that is unmatched in North American soccer. We have a supporters group that is almost wholly responsible for Portland’s ascension to MLS.

Rangers deserve the same passion.

Bill Miller, the American bidder for Rangers, does not have that passion.

I know, I know. His decision to retract his bid after being named the preferred bidder by the club’s administrators was mostly due to the club’s financials, but his comments about the ire of the fans toward an American bidder are the only thing I see right now.

Soccer, despite the opinions of many American sports fans, is not for sissies. It has been called the Beautiful Game though it is often rough and physical and dangerous. I’m thinking of the Sanna Nyassi hit on Portland goaltender Troy Perkins two weeks ago in Montreal. I’m thinking of Perkins holding a towel to his bloodied face. And I’m thinking of the fire that was still in his eyes as he walked off the pitch.

I doubt Rangers would have ever seen the same fire from Bill Miller, a man who, in a statement released upon the retraction of his bid to buy the storied club, essentially blamed the club’s fans.

Yes. He blamed the fans.

I blame Miller’s sensitivity. If this is how he reacts to the unkind words of a few when the vast majority of Gers fans – including legendary Ranger Sandy Jardine – supported the bid, then he has no place in soccer and never did.

This isn’t baseball, Mr. Miller. This isn’t the NBA or the NFL or the NHL. A soccer club is not just a business proposition, it is a responsibility. We fans are not timid. We do not back down. We support our clubs to the very end and beyond. Anything less than that is unacceptable.

There are those who say this may be the end for Rangers. The one viable bid has been withdrawn and both time and money are running out. But I believe in miracles and, with any luck at all, but the time I post this online, another bidder – one with heart and passion and an understanding of what it means to own Rangers – will have already stepped forward.

 

 

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Stumbling into an obsession: RCTID, May 2012

Something happened a while back. I didn’t see it coming. I can’t pinpoint exactly when it happened. I just know that it did.

 

My world became one divided. Two camps. Two sides, not necessarily opposed, but wary of each other. Unsure.

 

On one side, friends I’ve known for years, decades. People who knew me growing up, saw me through the awkwardness of high school, my seemingly never-ending college career and beyond. People who’ve seen me though touch times and epic adventures. People who truly, truly knew me.

 

On the other side, the Timbers Army. A ragtag patchwork of people from every walk of life. Artists and doctors and winemakers. Accountants and lawyers and kids not old enough to buy beer. Young families and retired folks and me.

 

Sure, there are a few from the first group who’ve crossed over to the second but, for the most part, they keep themselves separate. It seems to those closest to me the longest that the second group is completely out of character for me. And they’re right.

 

I’m not a joiner. I’m more likely to watch things from a distance than I am to jump in with both feet and get really excited about things. But there’s something about the Timbers and the TA and the links between the two and their extension out into the community that has drawn me in. I struggle to explain it to people who don’t get it.

 

Because I don’t get it, either. Honestly. I have no idea how this happened. 

 

I think I can track back to my first Timbers match in 2006. But it might have been 2007. I don’t know who we played. I don’t know what the score was. I know I had a good time. I know I was entertained (is bemused a better word) by the Army. But, at the time, I just didn’t get it. 

 

I went to a couple matches each year after that, usually knowing when the team had a winning or losing record, but little more than that. I watched from a distance as the first MLS rumors began. I watched from that same distance as the MLS to PDX movement grew. I got a forwarded email asking me to write to the Portland city council about funding the renovation of then PGE Park and I did.  I considered marching on City Hall when the votes were held (for which we still have not forgiven Amanda Fritz and probably never will), but, as previously stated, I’m not a joiner.

 

Joiner or not, I put down a deposit for MLS season tickets the first day they took them.
 

Even then, I didn’t get it. I recognized that this team, this club, had come to mean so much to that core group of people who stood in the North End and sang and danced long before each match started and long after the players had left the pitch. That? That I could appreciate: the ability of the Timbers to bring people together was magical.

 

With the move to MLS, the magic is still here. I think that’s what people who haven’t given the Timbers a shot are missing. They don’t see the magic. They see a team with a losing record. They gleefully ignore the team’s move to MLS and still refer to them as a “minor league” team. They sometimes go out of their way to get under my skin when I talk about my boys in green (which is often). Perhaps they’re still cranky about the loss of Beavers baseball. Well, you know what? I’m not apologizing for that anymore. You want to bring baseball back to Portland? March on city hall. See if you can get Amanda Fritz to vote for you. Best of luck.

 

I told someone the other day that I don’t often get super excited about stuff because, when I do, I seem like I’m completely manic. That’s how the Timbers make me seem to all my old friends. They think I’ve gone completely bat-shit-crazy. Maybe they’re right. But I’m not apologizing for that, either. 

I feel lucky to be where I am. I’m a Timbers season ticket holder at a time when Timbers tickets are the hottest ticket in town. I’m a member of the Timbers Army, an organization that donated over $40,000 to different charities in Portland over the last year and donated thousands of hours to the Oregon Food Bank, ACPortland and Friends of Trees, among others. 

 

It’s 1 a.m. Hours ago, I was at Jeld-Wen Field, part of the 22nd consecutive sold out crowd since the jump to MLS. My voice is shot, I’m still cold and my shoulders are going to hurt for days from waving my giant Scotland flag like a maniac.

 

My club played well, but the game ended in a scoreless draw. That’s right, non-soccer folks, a scoreless draw. A few years ago, I would have left disappointed. Tonight, I left happy. Happy that my team played well. Happy to have spent a few hours with my beloved Timbers Army. Happy to have stumbled into an obsession that I don’t ever want to give up. 

 

So, if you don’t get it, and I certainly don’t expect you to, I urge you to take a chance. Keep an open mind, come to a match if you can get a ticket. If you can’t, come join us in one of the many (MANY) local bars that show the games. Heck, I’ll even buy you a beer. 

And if you can’t keep an open mind or refuse to take a chance, well, shut up and get off my lawn.  

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 6, 2012 in Uncategorized