Let me make this simple for you: the Timbers, a Major League Soccer franchise located here in the City of Roses, are here to stay.
You can bitch, you can moan, you can become whiny and cranky and stomp your feet and shake your fists at the clouds above and kick puppies but the fact remains, the Timbers and their Army are not going anywhere.
That said, I think it’s high time you started to learn a thing or two about the Timbers and the culture that surrounds them. When you’re ready, I’ll be happy to point you to folks that can give you insight into our history, our passion, our commitment to this team and this town.
In the meantime, I’ll offer a few words about the Cascadia Cup.
Established in 2004 by the supporters groups of the three Cascadia teams – the Timbers, the Seattle Sounders and the Vancouver Whitecaps – the cup is awarded to club that takes the most points from the other two Cascadian teams. It’s not hard to understand. The not-terribly-complicated rules can be found, spelled out in their simplest form, at http://www.thecascadiacup.com/. You’re professionals, you should be able to Google this stuff.
What might be harder to understand is the importance of the Cup. Especially to Timbers fans. Especially after this mess of a season.
See, we started our season with the highest of expectations. The arrival of Kris Boyd. An exciting pre-season tournament. A win for the home opener. “Playoffs in the second year,” Merritt told us. And many of us believed him.
But it wasn’t long before things started to unravel and before the halfway point in the season, we’d lost to an amateur team and our coach had been fired. We had a nine-game stretch during the summer when we didn’t win a match. There were three games in a row during that stretch when we didn’t score a single goal.
What I mean to say is this: it hasn’t been the easiest of seasons. But we’re still here. We still line up hours before every match and sing until every player is off the field. We travelled en masse to Seattle to face an arguably stronger, playoff-bound team in their home stadium. Over 1,500 of us, Steve, on eighteen buses, on trains, in dozens of cars. People flew in from all over the country. This girl came from Wisconsin to see a team she listens to on the radio but never gets to see in person.
So, Steve, when you say stuff like this, it isn’t entirely accurate:
The lonely corner of the planet where you can never hope to attract unique coaches, talent or brands. The moss-backed abyss where no one dares to dream big or loud or fast or …
We did dream big. We still dream big. We’re just occasionally disappointed. It doesn’t mean we stop dreaming. It means we have more time to dream bigger.
In those two weeks between the ridiculous loss in Seattle and the Cascadia Cup win in Vancouver, we had plenty of time to dream. And lament. And rage. And laugh. And recharge.
We got tossed unceremoniously from the US Open Cup in May. We saw the team crumble mid-summer. We’re saddled with an interim coach who doesn’t seem to get that the season didn’t end in July. The Cascadia Cup was the last thing within reach.
We could have taken it during the Sounders’ visit to Portland in September, but we didn’t.
We could have taken it during our trip north to the Emerald City two weeks ago, but we didn’t.
We were forced to go into Vancouver, to play against a team fighting for a playoff spot. In order to secure the Cup, we needed to win on the road, something we hadn’t been able to do all season.
And, when it came right down to it, the importance of the Cup is what pushed our boys forward, what inspired them to perform at the level necessary to get those three points. They wanted it not for themselves, but for us.
And now we have it. It doesn’t erase the stupidity of this season, but it gives us much-needed a reason to celebrate.
So, Dwight, you can scoff if you like. It doesn’t change the fact that this Cup means something to us. It’s more than a trophy. It’s a covenant between the players and the fans, the acknowledgement that this season has been difficult for all parties involved and a promise that things will get better.
I have to wonder, in your years of writing sports professionally, if you’ve become so jaded that you don’t remember what it’s like to be completely committed to your team. Beyond that, I wonder if you ever had a team to which you were fully committed.
I have to admit, the experience is relatively new to me and has been, at times, alarming. How did I find myself so in love?
And then I look around me and realize that I’m surrounded by others – thousands of others – who are just as enamored, just as in love as I am.
And then you, Steve and Dwight and John (whom I haven’t previously mentioned, but seems to fit in perfectly here), just seem sad and lonely and desperate when you lash out at things you obviously don’t understand and are unwilling to learn about.
We don’t need your approval, gentlemen. And your derision is unwelcome.