Monthly Archives: October 2012

Lost in translation, part one

I carry two clubs in my heart.

One is arguably one of the most successful clubs ever to have played in the soccer world. A hundred and forty years of history, 54 league titles, 33 Scottish Cups, 27 Scottish League Cups. But that’s not why they’re my club. They’re my club because, despite being 4,500 miles away, they make sense to me.

The other club, my primary club, is here in my own city. And, despite the results on the pitch this year, they also make sense to me.

No. Wait. No, they don’t.

They make absolutely no sense to me whatsoever.

I love them, my Timbers. I love each and every single one of them. Even the idiots who bitch and moan on Twitter when we call them out for poor performances.

The ones I love the most are the ones who recognize when they’ve screwed up. The ones that come to us on Facebook and Twitter and in any other way they have available to them and apologize. Smith and Horst, and dear, dear Mosquera who has made a habit of telling us how pissed off he is after these ridiculous losses we’ve collectively experienced.

There has been much discussion since the beginning of the season about talent and fitness and whatever it is we think makes an athlete worthy to play for our badge and I’m still not sure what the right combination is. Whatever it is, we don’t have a lot of it.

We have a lot of really talented guys. We have a handful of guys who play with heart, even when they flat-out suck. We have guys who understand dedication to the badge and the expectation that comes with playing in front of the Timbers Army.

Stupidly, they’re not all the same guys. What we’ve got here is the Island of Misfit Toys. Mismatched, misused, broken, discouraged and sent off to fend for themselves with little-to-no appropriate guidance.

Now, if we had a coach that gave two shits, we might be in a much different place. But we don’t.

We had Spenny. Our beloved wee John Spencer. Something happened there I don’t understand. If Gavin is to be believed, we “overachieved” last season. If we did, the credit should go to John. He somehow managed to coach more from the players than Gavin, whose primary responsibility is to bring us the best possible players we can get, thought possible.

Let that sink in for a minute.

Gavin brought them here. Spenny coached them into overachievement mode. We fired Spenny.

Let’s go a little further, shall we?

The overachievement quote (yes, Gavin said it – it’s linked above) comes from the same set of quotes that includes such winners as:

“Players were a little bit complacent coming into their second year and they forgot what attributes it took for them to be successful…We’ve got technically gifted players. We’ve got young players with a lot of potential, but if you can’t work through adversity and if you can’t challenge yourself and raise your standard and set new goals week in and week out, we’re going to struggle.”

Set new goals? You have one goal: win.

And this:

“I would say that we lack some key characteristics to be successful right now.”

And, my personal favorite:

“As far as coaching, I coached as much as I can for right now.”

When Spenny was fired, we were four points out of playoff position. Four points. Yet we were close enough to the end of the world that we felt the need to remove the coach that made the previous season’s overachievement possible.

When Gavin issued the above I’m-done-coaching quote, he’d been at the helm for three matches.

Three. We’d lost all three. And then we lost a friendly. And then we lost another match. And then we drew. At home, in the fortress that is JWF.

I’m looking back over the schedule and the results and it barely even seems possible. We lost three before Gavin stopped coaching and then we didn’t win another match until the end of August. That’s nine games.

Obviously, Spenny was the problem.

Lost in the flurry of quotes in that article I linked a couple hundred words ago is the one where Gavin says he doesn’t think the playoffs are a possibility for this team this year. He said this, ladies and gentlemen, in July when there was plenty of time to put something together.

He’d given up. He’d given up and he dragged us all down with him in some sort of Kiwi death-spiral.

But then we won the Vancouver match. And a draw against Seattle at home kept us in the hunt for the only remaining piece of silverware we might be able to bring home.

All we had to do was go to Seattle and not screw up long enough to get a draw. But we didn’t. There’s no way we could have with the team Gavin fielded.

And here’s where the narrative starts to take divergent paths.

The first line out, before we were even back on the buses, was that Gavin had taken this match, a Cascadia Cup match in hostile territory in front of a traveling contingent of over 1,500 Timbers Army, as an opportunity to get a look at some players we don’t see play a lot.

What the holy hell. Then we should TOTALLY play Ricketts and Jewsbury. Because we have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what they’re capable of. Especially with Ricketts coming back from an injury.

The second line out, released just hours ago (presumably after the interim ginger has already left the country), is that something got “lost in translation.”

I beg your pardon?

After CalFC and Spenny and Perkins and our failed playoff hopes, the importance of the Cascadia Cup was somehow lost in translation?

This, my friends, is precisely why I do not have a press credential. Had I been there to personally witness that little gem, I would have come unglued.

Like so many, I follow many of the players through social media (stalker!) and have been lucky enough to interact with a handful of them. I see what they have to say, I see what my friends and others are saying to them. It did not appear to me that the importance of that Cup was lost on ANY of them.

The only person the importance of the Cup seems to be lost on is Gavin.

From the players, I saw fire and passion and the desire to bring home that Cup not for themselves, but for us.

I wrote months ago that I look forward to a day when we will gather on a rainy day in December in Pioneer Courthouse Square to see our club raise the MLS Cup. I want this for them, not for myself.

I hadn’t considered the possibility that the players would want the opposite: to win this Cup for us and not for themselves. This realization was stunning to me in the days and hours before the Seattle match.

There is zero possibility that this was “lost in translation.”

More in a few hours after I’ve slept a bit….


Posted by on October 20, 2012 in Timbers


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October 19, 2012: The writing’s on the wall

Don’t walk under a ladder.

Turn back if a black cat crosses your path.

Breaking a mirror will earn you seven years of bad luck.

Don’t open umbrellas in the house.

Don’t throw your hat on the bed or put your shoes on the table.

Avoid anything relating to the number thirteen (unless you’re in Asia where you should avoid the number four).

Now, I know that not all superstition comes from or is inspired by October. But it just fits, doesn’t it?

Something about the darkness of oncoming winter, the howl of the werewolf, the constant barrage of images of witches and seances and other occult figures and events brings out the superstition in me.

You know where this is going, don’t you?

Sarah Winchester.

Ahh, Sarah. You haunt me. You probably don’t mean to, but you do. As you have around this time every year since I was eight.

Sarah was, perhaps, the most superstitious person ever to have inhabited North America. She suffered great tragedy in her early years and, following the deaths of her daughter, her husband and her father-in-law, she began to believe her family to be cursed.

She sought counsel from a medium in Boston who confirmed her fears.

Sarah, upon the deaths of her husband and father-in-law inherited 50% of the Winchester firearms empire and, the psychic told her, she was being haunted by the spirits of those killed by the rifles that bore her family’s name.

Move west, she was told. Move west and begin construction on a house. Don’t. Ever. Stop.

And that’s precisely what she did.

The house, in San Jose, Calif., still stands, a testament to Sarah’s belief in the occult and her extreme superstitious nature. Staircases leading nowhere, secret passageways and hiding places, chandeliers with thirteen arms, doors that when opened will drop you from the third floor directly into the garden below, the house is a labyrinth meant to confuse and, perhaps, trap the spirits that sought to harm our dear Sarah.

Construction finally halted when Sarah died. It had been 38 years.

Tours are available everyday except Christmas. Tickets, directions, etc., can be found here.

We all have our weird little quirks and superstitions, whether we’re willing to admit to them or not. Sarah’s quirks caused her to build a house and a legend that have outlived her by nearly a hundred years. What are your quirks building for you?

Happy October.

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Posted by on October 19, 2012 in October 2012


October 18, 2012: The boys of summer

When I was a kid, maybe seven or eight, my friend Paula had a California Angels baseball cap. It was blue with the red A and the halo. There was something about it that caught my eye. I wanted one just like it.

About the same time, while still living in southern California, it seemed that the center of the known universe might be Fernando Valenzuela. The 1981 World Series was the first major sporting event that I have even the vaguest memory of. You could even buy a Dodgers windbreaker at McDonald’s.

When we moved north, I lost touch with my California teams. Baseball wasn’t that big of a deal in Portland. There was a minor league team, but I don’t think I went to any games until the late ’80s when I caught a couple when they were packaged with Beach Boys concerts.

It wasn’t until 2001, when Civic Stadium reopened as PGE Park after some extensive renovations, that I set foot back in the park.

It’s a beautiful park, right at the edge of downtown, steeped in the history and the flavor of Portland, both new and old.

I went to dozens of Beavers games over the last decade, spending afternoons and evenings either up in the cheap seats in the 200s along the third base line or down low in the club seats along the first base line. I loved those days.

I know. You’re all confused. Isn’t she a Timbers fan? What about soccer?

You’re right. I’m guilty: season ticket holder, Axe Society, member of the Timbers Army.

But it was baseball that brought me to what is now Jeld-Wen Field first.

With the run-up to the Timbers move to Major League Soccer, changes needed to be made and our local baseball team, the Pacific Coast League Portland Beavers, were left without a home.

Baseball has struggled in Portland, despite the calls for a major league team. There are great gaps in Portland’s baseball history and, with the departure of the Beavers two years ago, we’re in another one of those lulls. Hopefully, still-greiving Beavers fans will be placated a bit by the new team moving into Hillsboro, the Hillsboro Hops.

I write all of this as a prelude to this statement: as much as I am a soccer fan now, with as much time as I spend obsessing over my beloved Timbers, there’s still a little bit of me that perks up when the World Series comes around. By my count, and I may be misreading the tables, we may have our match-up defined Friday night. And then, for a week or so, I will become an unabashed baseball fan.

Happy October.

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Posted by on October 18, 2012 in October 2012


October 17, 2012: Homecoming

October is Homecoming.

It is the high school football field with the pep band in the stands playing “Tequila” over and over, mercilessly.

It is a return to a simpler time, a gathering of old friends, a remembrance of the past.

It is a Norman Rockwell painting we can all live in, breathe deeply of, smell and taste and embrace for thirty-one days in the fall.

Homecoming at my high school is, I’m told, this Friday. Some of my fondest high school memories were those Friday night football games. The band, the game, the cool autumn nights. It all combined to become something permanently etched in my memory. One of my greatest regrets is that I never bothered to get a letterman’s jacket at the time.

Take a minute or two today and look back at that time in your life, a time before mortgages or car payments or any of the other Big Adult Things found you and took hold. Remember seeing your friends everyday, laughing too loud, being more spontaneous because you just didn’t know any better.

And, when you do, I hope what you remember makes you smile.

Happy October.

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Posted by on October 17, 2012 in October 2012


October 16, 2012: Perfection

I think part of my struggle for October words this season has been the weather. It’s been warm. And dry. And not October-y at all.

And then today, when I was leaving work, there was a moment of near-prefect October.

The light was perfect. The sky was grey, both dark and light. It was just about to rain but the drops hadn’t yet begun to fall. The wind whipped through the trees that line the parking lot. The pavement was still wet and dark from a shower that had just passed. The leaves from the trees, mostly a deep brick red, were everywhere.

And that, my friends, was when October hit me. Full-force.

Now my mind is whirling with all the stuff I need to write about by the end of the month. So much October to fit into what’s left of, well, October.

Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be rapid-fire starting tomorrow. Suggestions welcome.

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Posted by on October 16, 2012 in October 2012


October 15, 2012: The Portal

There’s a place in Northeast Portland, an overpass that crosses I-84, that I have long believed might be something more than just an overpass.

I’m fairly certain that it is, in fact, a portal into hell.

There’s something about this time of year, halfway through October specifically, when the darkness of winter is just beginning its advance. Something happens and I start seeing things I’m sure are not really there. I’m pretty sure I saw a werewolf on Broadway downtown today. Just a couple blocks from where Trader Vic’s used to be and in broad daylight, he looked lost, confused. I’ll stipulate to the fact that I may be crazy and he may have actually just been a homeless guy but, this far into October, let’s just assume he was a werewolf.

So, anyway, this overpass in Northeast Portland. On more than one occasion over the years, I’ve seen…creatures there that could not possibly have been human. Rather, they were the kinds of creatures who looked to be turning, but hadn’t quite settled into their human forms. Or they’d settled into their human forms, but hadn’t quite gotten the nuances down. Something akin to this:

I guess, in a way, we all have those moments, when we just don’t feel comfortable in our own skin. If you’re having one of those moments, do me a favor: stay off that overpass. Y’all just freak me out.

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Posted by on October 15, 2012 in October 2012


October 14: More words

In case it hasn’t been obvious, I’ve been kind of stumbling through these. My mind has been elsewhere. My days are filled with numbers; mind-numbing to a person so based in words. My soccer team is in shambles. My Facebook and Twitter feeds are full of politics.

Part of the problem I’m having with October lies in the fact that I just don’t think I can ever surpass last year’s full-immersion October. Pumpkin patches and corn mazes and a day in wine country for fall crush, there’s simply no way I can ever duplicate it.

I ate an apple today. That’s about as Octoberific as I’ve been able to muster. Thankfully, we’re not quite at the halfway point so there’s plenty of time to catch up.

I’ll do better. We’ll get this thing done.

Today, October friends, I give you candy corn.

First created in the 1880s, candy corn has become a staple of the October diet. You may not like it but, if someone offers it to you, you eat it. You can’t help yourselves. There’s no shame in it. Years ago, I found a quote online that referred to candy corn as the crack cocaine of the confectionary world. I just went looking for the source of said quote and, stupidly, found a link to last year’s blog post about fancy corn. Stupid internet.

It’s Sunday. You’re all lazing around. Make your own.

And here’s a horrible idea that I know you all are just DYING to try: fancy corn martinis.

ZOMG Cancy corn vodka. Please note: this post was made in March. March, people.

One more. Now, you can bathe in the scent of candy corn. I’m not sure why.

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Posted by on October 14, 2012 in October 2012