When I started shopping for a second team, many folks suggested Arsenal. Ups and downs and dramatic turns, they told me. A team that would forever be looking for new and exciting ways to break my heart.
But no, I thought. I don’t want a big English club. Not yet, anyway. I want a club with, perhaps, a little more grit, a storied past, perhaps some controversy. And I wanted a club to which I felt some connection. Soccer is not always neat andd tidy. I didn’t want to go the easy route.
With the arrival of Kris Boyd in Portland, the choice became clear: my second club would be Rangers.
(Here’s where the Gers fans, the diehards, will yell at me that Gers deserve more than to be anyone’s second-place club. I will smile politely and point to the three Rangers who wear Ponderosa green – two players and a coach – and thank them for their passion.)
I’ve been hearing the rumblings about Rangers financial situation, but I set them aside in favor of a club with a vast history and a rivalry that outstrips even the Portland-Seattle rivalry. Aside from the political underpinnings and the violence of the past, the contempt Gers fans and Celtic fans have for one another is something that is, in essence, vaguely familiar to me, though it goes far beyond anything we’ve yet experienced with POR/SEA.
I watched my first Auld Firm match on a taped delay from a bar in Portland on a Sunday morning in March. Fifty thousand people were at Ibrox that day to watch Rangers win and Celtic’s Neil Lennon make a spectacle of himself. I fell in love with the style of play, with the passion of the fans, with the boys in blue. If I had doubted my choice to support Rangers, that doubt was erased before the end of the first half. I started to shop for some blue to supplement my mostly green wardrobe.
I listened to the Scottish Football Podcast from the BBC for updates and discussion of not just the team’s play, but its financial situation. Bids were made. Bids were withdrawn. Sanctions were meted out. Bids were restructured and resubmitted and, in the end, an American – a tow truck manufacturer from Tennesee – emerged as the preferred bidder.
An American from Tennessee.
This blew my mind. A club with the history of Rangers possibly being owned by an American? In my mind, this is akin to selling the Packers to France. It just didn’t make any sense to me.
But what do I know? I’m still considered relatively new to soccer as a passion. I’m lucky to have found that passion here in Portland, Oregon, Soccer City, USA. We have a team with about as much history as you can find in U.S. soccer. We have an owner, though his knowledge of soccer has occasionally been questioned, whose passion for his club, his city and the fans that is unmatched in North American soccer. We have a supporters group that is almost wholly responsible for Portland’s ascension to MLS.
Rangers deserve the same passion.
Bill Miller, the American bidder for Rangers, does not have that passion.
I know, I know. His decision to retract his bid after being named the preferred bidder by the club’s administrators was mostly due to the club’s financials, but his comments about the ire of the fans toward an American bidder are the only thing I see right now.
Soccer, despite the opinions of many American sports fans, is not for sissies. It has been called the Beautiful Game though it is often rough and physical and dangerous. I’m thinking of the Sanna Nyassi hit on Portland goaltender Troy Perkins two weeks ago in Montreal. I’m thinking of Perkins holding a towel to his bloodied face. And I’m thinking of the fire that was still in his eyes as he walked off the pitch.
I doubt Rangers would have ever seen the same fire from Bill Miller, a man who, in a statement released upon the retraction of his bid to buy the storied club, essentially blamed the club’s fans.
Yes. He blamed the fans.
I blame Miller’s sensitivity. If this is how he reacts to the unkind words of a few when the vast majority of Gers fans – including legendary Ranger Sandy Jardine – supported the bid, then he has no place in soccer and never did.
This isn’t baseball, Mr. Miller. This isn’t the NBA or the NFL or the NHL. A soccer club is not just a business proposition, it is a responsibility. We fans are not timid. We do not back down. We support our clubs to the very end and beyond. Anything less than that is unacceptable.
There are those who say this may be the end for Rangers. The one viable bid has been withdrawn and both time and money are running out. But I believe in miracles and, with any luck at all, but the time I post this online, another bidder – one with heart and passion and an understanding of what it means to own Rangers – will have already stepped forward.