As the season drags on, with every minute of every miserable match, I get just a little closer to having my Chris Cooper Moment.
Don’t know what I’m talking about?
Check this out.
I was there for that match. I wasn’t sitting very far from where Chris had his moment of clarity. I didn’t know it at the time, but it’s shaped a lot of how I’ve viewed this season.
Despite what you may think if you only know me from my online persona, I’m not a super-emotional person. I don’t get crazy-excited about many things. I’m not incredibly demonstrative. I’m shy, I tend to keep to myself. For the most part, if I can possibly avoid the spotlight, I do everything in my power to do so.
And yet, here I am, pouring out words and emotion onto the internet for the world to see.
I watched the game tonight from a bar in SE Portland, a bar I’ve never been to when there wasn’t a soccer game on the big screen over the dining room. I sat at a table with people I didn’t know two years ago and I shouted at the tv more than once. In a bar. With strangers.
At my table were two other writers, a winemaker and an elementary school teacher. In various corners of the room were a 107ist board member, the founder of the Timbers Army, a girl I used to work with, and a guy who said some ridiculous things about me elsewhere on the internet.
We unite to support this team. We suffer as one.
I’ve been asked by non-Timbers friends why I put myself through all of this.
I can’t remember what my life was like before I found myself in the midst of all of this, this whirling, churning tornado of hopes and dreams and frustration and insanity.
“The thing about football – the important thing about football – is that it is not just about football.”
― Terry Pratchett
That’s the thing. Terry Pratchett, who I do not in any way associate with soccer, hit the nail on the head. It’s not just about the game. It’s about everything surrounding the game. It’s about the relationships formed, friendships created through mutual celebration or mutual frustration.
And this. This is where a lot of us have spent most of the season:
“Yes, yes, I know all the jokes…But I went to Chelsea and to Tottenham and to Rangers, and saw the same thing: that the natural state of a football fan is bitter disappointment, no matter what the score.” – Nick Hornby
And, to be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t trade a minute of that bitter disappointment for a minute of peaceful, blissful unawareness.
I just got a message from an internet friend in a city to the north, a city I’ve come to think of as a stronghold of the enemy, asking if I’m okay.
“I’ll be okay,” I tell him. “I’m an emotional creature. Rather, this miserable game has made me an emotional creature. It has changed me. For the better.”
September 9, 2012 at 7:52 pm
I’ve always been able to understand how three generations of supporters in little English and Scottish towns turn up every Saturday to sing and chant for their dire little sides, standing on the miserable terraces in the pouring cold rain. It’s not sport, or even love; it’s part of the fabric of your life. You could no more not turn up for the match than you could stop getting up in the morning.
That said, the recent Colorado match made me think again about what sort of person is likely to do well as a soccer manager/coach versus who we’ve had in charge.
If there is anything characteristic of Gavin Wilkinson (and Spenser before him) I would call it “unreflectiveness”. And this season is making painfully obvious that there really IS such a thing as “soccer intelligence”, and this Timbers team conspicuously lacks it much of the time.
If we were good enough to overwhelm our opponents with pure awesomeness it wouldn’t matter; we aren’t and we won’t – we don’t have the budget to be Barca.
Since we aren’t, we need to work hard; we need to out-think as well as outplay the rest of MLS, and instead our coaches just don’t seem to bother thinking too much about their sport; not about the team, not about the team’s opponents.
Here was a perfect case; two games with the same opponent within a week, with the first a hard-eked-out win, in which we used certain of our strengths – such as Zizzo’s speed down the wing, Dike’s havoc-making in the box, and Nagbe’s vision and passing out of central midfield to beat them.
Any coach who thought ten minutes about that should have figured out that Colorado was going to figure out how to adjust to those problems and shut those players, doing those things, down. Any coach who thought another two minutes would have figured out that we don’t have the sort of players who can execute their game regardless of the adjustments against them.
Instead we turned up at the Dick with no Plan B and it was so painfully obvious. Yes, the defense was disastrous. But even worse – to my way of thinking – was the mindset that had the team just wandering in assuming that doing the same thing the same way against the same team in less than a week would work out the same way.
That’s this season; it’s a wash, and we know that.
But next season we’re going to have a man on the touchline who is know as a “student of the game”. Caleb Porter is supposed to be the very opposite of Gavin (and Spenser) – a man who actually analyzes the team, the opponents, the match, and learns from his analysis and adjusts the tactics and the XI.
But…sitting upstairs he’s gonna have Mister “Don’t-Bother-Me-With-Details” himself, the same guy whose “soccer ignorance” has been so badly exposed this season.
How is that going to work? I have no idea.