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.