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Category Archives: World stage

A secondary obsession – believing beyond reason

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 Bids were withdrawn.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.

 

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A new day dawning…

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art (write or draw or build or sing) and I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself. – Neil Gaiman

This has been a whirlwind of a year.

Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do today? Lament how quickly this past year has left us? Then we’ll talk about all the wondrous things that await us in the new year.

We’re creatures of habit so here goes:

2011, we hardly knew ye. 2012, I am looking forward to meeting you.

For me, 2011 started off sideways. I lost my job of seven years immediately after the new year dawned. It was a job, looking back, that pretty much sucked the life out of me. My workplace defined my identity, became the center of my world. This might have been okay if I’d been doing something I was passionate about, but I wasn’t. I wasn’t saving the world or curing cancer or creating something beautiful. I was being passed over for promotions and not getting a raise for four years.

I had some truly, truly phenomenal coworkers over my years there, many of whom I count among my friends. And, I might add, many of whom escaped following my departure. Chapter closed.

And then I had my wisdom teeth pulled. Because being suddenly unemployed didn’t quite suck enough. Did I mention that I was fired by my Secret Santa? Worst. Secret Santa. Ever.

So, lost job and lost wisdom teeth. Happy January. The year was shaping up to be a bust already.

But I’m blessed by an abundance of good friends who reached out, offering encouragement and support and words of wisdom. I reconnected with many I hadn’t seen for a very, very long time.

I spent mornings in coffee shops with Layn, also unemployed at the time, talking books and movies and music and zombies. I spent afternoons with Sean, discussing writing and world affairs.

I wrote. A lot. Sean sponsored my entry into the NYCMidnight short story contest and I came in fourth in my group in the first round, a pretty good finish for someone who writes as slowly as I do and has never entered such a competition before. But where I placed seems inconsequential to me when I remember that someone who knows my writing was willing to step up and say,”Hey, I believe strongly enough in your ability to string words together that I’m willing to put money on it.”

Sean will be on the acknowledgments page if this book ever gets published. He won’t be the only one. So many of you have encouraged me this year: Heather and Laura, Dora and Jennifer, Patrick and Jeanette and Richard. That sweetheart bartender at the Horse Brass who remembers I like cider and rye toast with my breakfast. Aaron and Stacy and all those who offered me space to write (or didn’t fuss when I showed up, disheveled and crazy, looking for a quiet space in which to put the words together). I sincerely offer thanks to each and every one of you.

As a news junkie, I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention some of the big stories of the year: Gabby Giffords, the Japan and New Zealand earthquakes, the Joplin tornado, the royal wedding and the uprisings in Egypt, in Syria, in Libya. The downfall of several world leaders, the deaths of terrorists and dictators. That crazy World Series game. The Occupy movement.

I watched them all happen, from the comfort of my home, and was grateful for all that I have.

I saw a few shows (opened the year with Social Distortion and closed with Shed Culture Live) and more than a few movies. I read a few books, though fewer than I would have liked. I sent out hundreds of resumes. I spent a couple hours in the presence of Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer who inspired me and reminded me that it is possible to find love in the unlikeliest of places with the unlikeliest of people.

I volunteered with the Bus Project, at Sock Summit and at the Oregon Food Bank. I spent an October day in Oregon’s wine country making wine and spent Halloween night in a graveyard as a guide for the Tour of Untimely Departures. I performed two weddings. I completed NaNoWriMo, 50,000 more words for the novel, all written in November.

I joined the Timbers Army. This turns out to be the best decision I’ve made in the past year.

At a time when it would have been easy to curl up into a ball and cry myself to sleep, the Portland Timbers’ first MLS season began and I found myself caught up in the current of green and gold love flowing through the City of Roses and through the world’s soccer community.

I’d put down my season ticket deposit years ago when the idea of MLS coming to Portland was little more than a dream for a faraway future. I went to matches occasionally but wasn’t a true supporter. I usually knew if they were winning or losing, but that was about it.

But MLS did decide to come to Portland and the time came a year and a half ago to fully commit: I bought two season tickets, not knowing if I would go, or if anyone would go with me, or if I would just sell those tickets later if I decided I wasn’t into it.

As it turns out, I was into it.

I bought in wholeheartedly. I got caught up in the excitement of the game and the love of the Timbers Army for their club, their city and all of Cascadia (minus the rave green encampment to the north).

I met some fantastic people through the TA: writers and artists and winemakers and more IT guys than you can shake a stick at. I marched in a parade alongside them, packaged food for the hungry with them by my side and, yes, managed to find myself in an episode of Portlandia. I watched home matches from my perch high in 221, the prefect vantage point to witness the Timbers Army in their native habitat, the North End of Jeld-Wen Field. Sharese, who had the good sense to buy my second ticket, and I had our pictures taken for the We Are Timbers campaign and, in addition to having said pictures hanging on the concourse, our likenesses are also sold in the team store. We’re all in.

We’re moving to the North End with the coming season where we will be yelled at by Pong and where Barnacle Brian will spill beer on us and where we will jump and sing our way into the playoffs surrounded by the greatest soccer supporters group the world has ever seen.

So, that’s my year in a nutshell: I lost my job and joined the Timbers Army. Lots of other stuff happened, but those are the two events that will forever define 2011 for me.

What’s on the horizon for 2012? More time with friends. More opportunities for creativity. Perhaps a little more financial stability.

I’m not one to make resolutions. Resolutions are nice, but they set you up for failure. Me, I’m just going to wait and see what happens next.

As for you, I offer you the above wish from Neil Gaiman and add my own:

May you know love and laughter and joy this coming year. May you see a place you’ve never before seen, may you meet someone who makes you laugh, if even for a moment, and may you raise a glass and toast to your past as you look to the future. Your past is what brought you this far, but your future is where you will shine.

Much love to you all.

 
 

life and death.

Osama bin Laden is dead. I feel obligated to write about it but I’m having a hard time organizing my thoughts.

I’ve been admonished by friends for taking a swipe at the “Mission Accomplished” banner. It was eight years ago that it was hoisted and we were told to celebrate. But we were not done then.

And many are referencing that ill-timed speech and silly banner tonight, though I doubt that they realize this mission is still not over. One man is dead. An evil man who caused the deaths of thousands of people and changed our lives forever, to be sure. But he is still just one man. Evil resides in the hearts of more than just him.

People are gathering across the country, at the White House, at Ground Zero. I imagine these gatherings will pop up daily for the next week. People will cheer and wave flags and light candles and sing songs. But we are still not done. We. Are. Not. Done. And we are not safe, no safer than we were a week ago, a year ago, ten years ago. And the death of one man will not bring back the thousands he killed or who were killed trying to root him out.

Instinct should have told us that, when the White House announces a Presidential address at 10:30 p.m. on a Sunday night, there’s something big coming. And then it broke on Twitter: bin Laden was dead and U.S. forces were in possession of his body. Twitter blew up. Facebook followed closely. The Big Three networks, as well as CNN, went into scramble mode.

I felt a little sick. And a little joy. And a little apprehension. And a little anger. And I remembered where I was nearly ten years ago when the Twin Towers fell and the Pentagon was on fire. I remembered the shock and the fear of that day, that week, the year that followed.

Over the course of the evening, I’ve accumulated a number of quotes from a variety of people. Admittedly, most are stolen from Twitter and Facebook feeds, but they’ve touched me nonetheless.

Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles.”Proverbs 24:17

I will not cheer for death, but instead I will mourn the death grip violence has on our world and put my hope in the Prince of Peace. Nate Paquette

I’ve never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure. Mark Twain

There is some good in the worst of us & some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies. MLK, Jr.

I am not so wise to think, that I can point my finger at someone and say, that without a doubt, the world is a better place without them. William York

bin Ladin is dead. We as a nation can celebrate; and we as people of faith can mourn that we find it necessary to kill one another. Matthew Bolz-Weber

I fear what we face in the coming days. I fear not the retaliation of our enemies. Instead, I fear our disappointment upon realizing that we are not done. Our soldiers are not immediately coming home. This was one man. We are not done.

There were two men who played significant parts in my life that week of September 11, 2001. One called me the morning of the attacks, but I was too stunned to answer the phone. His message was simple, calling to check on me, to make sure I was okay though we were both thousands of miles from the tragedies and violence of the day. I worked night audit at the hotel that night and, just after midnight, he arrived and stayed in the lobby with me until daybreak. He read his paper and I read my book and watched the news on the internet. Very few words passed between us.

His presence was a comfort to me then. It settled me and quieted me and I’ve never forgotten. Every year, on the anniversary of 9/11, I make sure to thank him again.

The second reached out to me with a tenderness I hadn’t known he possessed. He simply put his arms around me and said softly into my ear, “Be safe.” I doubt he remembers it now or recognizes himself when I write this about him but that gesture was (and still is) greatly appreciated.

These are now the words I say to you. Be safe.

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2011 in World stage

 

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