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Monthly Archives: February 2016

Unpopular opinions

I wrote this three months ago as news of the Morgan-to-Orlando trade broke, but I didn’t post it. Today, we got the announcement that the Thorns will host Orlando in Portland’s home opener in April and all the crazy came out of the woodwork again. Yesterday was much more fun. The eye-rolling I’ve done today has given me *such* a headache.

I sometimes have unpopular opinions. Sometimes I utter them out loud, in front of people, occasionally in public places. Sometimes I post words to the internet. Often, I just keep them to myself. I’m wondering if I should keep whatever follows here to myself. Probably.

My most recent foray into unpopular opinions comes on the heels of the Thorns-Pride-Reign mega-trade that ended with USWNT star Alex Morgan leaving the Thorns for the sunnier climes of Florida. And, as I apparently have not articulated this enough times, I wish her the best.

Sadly, because I have not thrown myself upon the ground to worship her, I’ve been accused of not being a fan, of not respecting her, of flat-out being an embarrassment to Portland.

Okay. Let’s go over this so it’s all out in the open.

I was surprised in 2013 when she was allocated to the Thorns. It made little sense to me. She had been playing as a member of the Sounders Women but some sort of weird ownership blip with NWSL and the SW owner and US Soccer meant she would be allocated in the new league and here we are. Everyone I know expected she would stay in Seattle and Pinoe would come to Portland. In hindsight, I’m glad it was Morgan that came here.

Seriously. Read that last sentence again. Here, I’ll put it in bold for you: I’m glad it was Morgan who came here.

She did well here in the inaugural season of NWSL, despite mid-season injury. She scored goals, she tallied assists, she fought back from injury because that’s who she is: a competitor. A fierce competitor.

But, as fierce as she was on the field, we as supporters had little chance to connect with her as a person. Let’s remember how she was used in the marketing of virtually every other team. “Alex Morgan’s Portland Thorns.” She became less of a person and more of a selling point, inaccessible in a city where supporters deeply value their connections to their clubs and players. People would show up en masse at away matches to get her autograph and then complain when she couldn’t get to everyone.

My issue, despite what many will read into these words, is not with her. It’s with the marketing of the league and it’s continued reliance on national team members to sell tickets. You know what will sell tickets in the long run? A good product. You know what else helps? A beer garden, but that’s another post. A third thing that will sell tickets? A thriving supporters culture.

By the time we reached 2014, Morgan was injured again. She struggled with fitness and pushed herself to make a return to the field. Please do not tell me I do not respect that. After her first game back in 2014, I sat in the presser afterward and saw the tears in her eyes as she told us how disappointed she was with her performance, how she’d wanted to be able to do more but just wasn’t quite there yet. Again: fierce competitor, amazing drive to win. I have nothing but respect for that.

It just didn’t come together for her in Portland. Back-to-back injuries, absences for national team duty and – dare I say this? – a general disconnect from Thorns supporters made for an unfortunate situation. Being told she wouldn’t travel to Chicago for a match early this season because of the turf there turned me a bit more. Thierry Henry she ain’t.

So, yes, I respect her as an athlete, but I wanted to love her as a Thorn. I don’t think I’m alone in this.

Instead, my imagination was captured by Mana Shim who showed up at an open tryout and won a spot on the team though hard work and determination. It was captured by Vero Boquete who made me cry more than once when she spoke about how her only desire was to win games because the Portland fans deserved it. It was captured by Sinead Farrelly and Kat Williamson who wore Riveters bandanas in their official team mug shots. It was captured by Kaylyn Kyle who was the first of the World Cup players to return to Portland and, though she was given the opportunity to rest after Canada’s WC campaign ended, insisted on playing for the Thorns almost immediately upon her return.

I think I said it earlier today somewhere on Twitter: I feel sorry for Alex. My wish for her is that she somehow finds a way to connect with supporters in Orlando in ways she was unable to here. I think we saw momentary glimpses of who she can be, but they often were overshadowed by her duty to country over club.

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Technology

A weird thing happened today. On the other side of the world, my little Scottish team played another little Scottish team in the second leg* of a cup tie. It wasn’t televised.

Due to some weird scheduling, the game went up against a Champions League match (or maybe it was two, I don’t know), and because of the tv rights or some such nonsense, no one could air it.

It’s rare that I see Rangers play. It’s even more rare that I see them in real-time. I catch clips here or there, mostly from Rangers TV or whatever bits and pieces are posted to YouTube, but it’s not ideal. There’s no way to capture the feeling of being in the stadium, of being surrounded by supporters.

As the game drew closer, Twitter was buzzing. An estimated 8,000 Rangers supporters travelled to Rugby Park. Ingress was difficult; away supporters were still outside, trying to get in, with ten minutes on the clock. Those that were inside found the away sections cramped, leaving spectators standing in the aisles.

And we know this because of Twitter.

And, because of Twitter, we were able to find a few people with the good sense (I know: this is debatable) to hold their cell phones aloft and broadcast bits of the game via Periscope.

Under normal circumstances, this is not something I would advocate. There are rights and regulations and copyrights and trademarks and things in play. This is me literally saying to you,”Don’t do this. DO NOT DO THIS. Put your phone away, you idiot.”

But today, people did this. And I clicked the links. And I watched a bit on my lunch hour at work. When I clocked back in to work, I listened.

There was a special kind of magic there, in just listening to the ambient sounds of a soccer match being played on the other side of the world. I can’t tell you what plays were made, or if fouls were correctly called, or if the Killie goal was well-taken. I can tell you that I was caught up in the sounds of the crowd, the ups and downs, the frustration of a near miss, the polite applause following, the absolute pandemonium after Rangers’ second goal. It was as if I was there, in the stadium, shoulder to shoulder with other supporters. It was amazing.

The whistle blew. Rangers 2-1 over Killie. The stadium erupted. Or, rather, the space around the Periscoper I was listening to at the time erupted.

And I’m back in Columbus, watching my friends dance at the final whistle of MLS Cup. And I’m in the lawyers’ living room watching the final minutes in Dallas on tv. And I’m in the press box in Vancouver watching Diego Chara put the ball into the back of the net.

This was the shortest offseason we’ve known as Timbers supporters. In a few days, we’ll be back in our stadium. Until today, I didn’t think I was ready. I needed more time.

Listening to a game played half a world a way changed that. I’m ready.

 

 

*I’m told it was a replay, not a second leg. I know nothing about soccer. I knew even less about the mysterious ways of the SFA.

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2016 in Rangers, Timbers