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.