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Yes, I know it’s early for this.

Last night was this:

(Credit to Brian Gjurgevich)

Soccer City, USA, hosted the national teams from Costa Rica, Cuba, Belize and our own Nats for a pair of Concacaf Gold Cup matches. And, in the process, we pissed off Texas.

And then this came out today:
(Credit to mls)

So, the 2014 MLS All-Star Game will be played at Jeld-Wen. Merritt and the mayor and our not-terribly-beloved MLS commissioner Don Garber made the official announcement this afternoon, months after MP let it slip on Twitter.

I’m not a fan of the ASG in its current format. It falls mid-season and is little more than a money-grab wherein our chosen (though exactly how they’re chosen is questionable) players take on an extra match in the dead of summer that is played against an arguably better-rested European side for no apparent reason other than the aforementioned money-grab. And I’m certain I’m not alone in my thinking.

But, when it comes down to it, with the game being played in Portland, I’ll most likely put up the cash and go. Because I’m a sucker. And I’ll probably buy an over-priced commemorative scarf. Because I’m a rube.

I wonder what our level of involvement will be. The clip above makes it pretty clear that the TA will be expected to raise a pretty significant tifo. Clive and Salt Girl (or whatever it is people call her) are pretty prominent. But to do something on that scale for a game that so many of us care so little about seems disingenuous at best.

But to not do something, something truly spectacular, would be a lost opportunity. I think. I don’t know.

Thankfully, we’ve got some time to think about it. Thoughts?

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Wishing.

Sometimes we forget.

We get caught up in the day to day drama, the Twitter squabbles, the trade rumors, the silliness, and we forget.

We forget the simple fact that, while we may have all come together to watch a few soccer games, what’s been created here is about much, much more than a game.

I’m going to steal a few words from my friend Matthew here: I spent part of my day today with 3,000 of my friends in what he endearingly likened to a cheesy ’80s sports movie. And it was amazing.

There’s a little boy in Portland named Atticus. He’s eight and was diagnosed with cancer some time back. But he’s a neat kid, a strong kid, and he’s fought back and, when Make-A-Wish offered to grant him a wish, he didn’t want something for himself. He wanted something for his soccer team.

And today, in Portland, the Portland Timbers and their Timbers Army delivered.

I’ve waxed poetic here before about my absolute love for this club and this Army, but this went above and beyond anything I’ve yet experienced with either.

In the middle of the day on a Wednesday, when most of us should have been at work, 3,000 people filled the North End of Jeld-Wen Field to see Atticus’ team, the Green Machine, take on the Timbers.

The scoreline didn’t match the effort on the field, with the Green Machine narrowly edging out the Timbers just before the final whistle. It was obvious to everyone, despite the Timbers fielding a side that included national team players and Olympians, that the Green Machine was the superior team. Heart, courage, teamwork. We could all take a few cues from Atticus and his teammates.

I’ve tried in the past to explain this community to people who see it from the outside and I’ve failed miserably. This is about more than being a sports fan, about more than keeping track of your team’s wins or losses. This is about…everything.

Again, I’m at a loss for words. So, in lieu of anything more from me, I’ll give you the links to the stuff that’s good.

Deadspin

The Timbers match recap.

Stumptown Footy’s ref report.

The only time I’ll ever link to a Cubbie story for a good reason.

A little thing our friend Wayne Garcia put together for Fox12.

And this. This will make you cry.


Thank you, Timbers. Thank you, Timbers Army.

I love you.

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2013 in Timbers 2013

 

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Differences: my support is bigger than your support

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This image (meme credit to Andrew Brawley) has been circulating since the Portland-Seattle derby match Saturday. For those unfamiliar, it’s a few fools from the Emerald City Supporters burning a Timbers Army No Pity scarf pre-match.

The scarf sells at the merch van for $10, though the one in the photo is a USL-era scarf that the burners either stole from someone, saved and cared for for years or paid a ridiculous amount of money for on eBay.

Regardless of where the scarf came from, it’s a despicable display. I say this knowing that there are folks in the TA that, should they find themselves in possession of an ECS scarf would set that sucker on fire immediately.

Not my style. I don’t think I should have to pull these kinds of stunts to prove how hard I am, how ultra I am. I’m not ultra. Neither are the bandana-covered fools in the picture. Not ultra, just stupid.

I’d like to believe we support differently in Portland. We choose to build up our team, our town and each other rather than focus on bringing the other team down. Where Seattle and San Jose tifo has taken shots at us, we honor our club, our city and the legends who brought us all together. While our northern counterparts are pre-gaming by burning things in the streets, we’re planting trees and volunteering at the Oregon Food Bank and shelving books in elementary schools and holding blood drives.

(But then we take to Twitter to call each other n00bs for using cell phones at Jeld-Wen. Whatever. When you get a handle on the drunken fools starting fights in the 100s, you can come yell at me and my rogue cell phone usage in the 200s.)

Wait. What was I talking about again?

Oh, right. Support in Portland is different than support in Seattle. This will always be the case. This will always be an argument between supporters groups. And we will always be on the right side of history. If Jeld-Wen Field is our cathedral, our trinity is this: Team, Town, TA.

A tweet went out today with a link to a post on the 107ist message boards. A member of our board of directors (rather, a former member now) has been diagnosed with cancer. She’s stepped back from her board duties in order to (for perhaps the first time ever) put her health and well-being first.

As is our custom, when word got out about Joanne’s diagnosis, people immediately wanted to create a scarf to raise money for her. She refused. I’m sure she said something like,”Oh, don’t be silly” and when she said it, whoever was there to hear it thought it was adorable because, well, accents are adorable.

So, instead of a scarf, Kyle (who leads us in ’80s television theme song-based chants at reserves matches) has suggested we donate to the Gisele Currier Memorial Fund. You can read about Gisele and the scholarship fund that honors her here. If you do donate, and I hope you will, please note “For Joanne” in the comment section of your donation.

***

While I was writing this, word broke on Twitter that the Southsiders, the Vancouver Whitecaps supporters group, has lost one of their own. Leighanne loved her Whitecaps and her Canucks and was a breast cancer survivor. You can read the Southsiders news flash here and you can donate to the BC Breast Cancer Foundation in her honor here.

We offer prayers of comfort and healing to Leighanne’s husband Mark and to their Southsider brethren.

***

Apologies for this being a mess of a post. The next one will be better, I swear.

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2013 in Timbers 2013

 

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Know your history

Someone on Twitter yesterday offered to buy me a beer if I’d come sit and talk Timbers history with him. As much as I’d like to take him up on the offer, and as much as I tend to be the historian wherever I go, the history here, the history surrounding the Timbers and the TA, this history is not yet mine.

I’m learning as I go, a piece at a time. There are things I remember from afar, some of the events of MLStoPDX for example, but did not take part in. But I’m still one of the new kids and I probably will be seen as such for years to come.

I’ve been lucky in the acquaintances that I’ve made along the way. At one point in June, I looked up and realized I was surrounded by legends: the guy who brought the chainsaw, the first player signed by the Timbers, men who’d played for the national teams of Northern Ireland and the United States as well as Scotland’s U18 and U21 teams. Who am I?

I’m someone who’s trying to put the pieces of our shared history together.

We opened Fanladen a while back. It’s a pretty significant step in a long line of pretty significant steps. A physical space for the Timbers Army to call its own outside of Jeld-Wen Field. The opening was a celebration not just of the space, or of the Cascadia Cup so recently won, or of our survival of such a ridiculously dismal season, it was the opportunity to begin the next chapter in our collective history.

And the beauty of this, and of the piece of that history that was gently placed in my hands that day, is not lost on me.

A lot of us walked out of there that day with prints of Mike Russell’s Culture Pulp piece from April of 2005. If you weren’t there or didn’t get one, you can find it online here.

I’m told it’s a pitch-perfect snapshot of who we were at the time. Shoot, it’s a pretty good look at who we are now. A lot of those characters are still here. We stand shoulder to shoulder with them in the North End, and we owe them a debt for this thing they’ve built, this thing I have a hard time explaining to people who haven’t experienced it as I have.

Lucky. Grateful. Curious.

So, here’s my call to the TA OGs. Tell me your stories. Tell me your stories and let me retell them here. You who tell us n00bs that we should know our history, I call upon you to teach it to us.

Who wants to go first?

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2012 in Timbers

 

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It all comes down to this.

This is a cross-post with SlideRulePass.

I think we can all agree that this has not been the easiest of seasons. In fact, when we get right down to it, it’s been pretty ridiculous.

Inexplicable things have happened. Things we’d like to forget. Things we wish had never happened.

Through it all, we keep coming back. Despite our minor disagreements, we still stand united.

And now, with the Cascadia Cup on the line, an Army is gathering.

Eighteen buses at last count. Fifteen hundred tickets in the official allotment.

I’ve spent some time over the last couple weeks listening to the last half dozen or so episodes of Heart and Hand, a Rangers podcast. Bless them. If we could extract the accents, half the time, it would seem they were talking about the Timbers. Poor road form, unexpected and ridiculous losses snatched from the jaws of victory (including one recently that bounced Rangers from the Ramsden Cup) and a host of other similarities, not the least of which is a derby opponent whose fans seem more obsessed with Rangers than with their own club, despite the fact that probably won’t even face each other this year.

Gers are struggling, now in the third division of Scottish football, and as we saw when our Timbers began to struggle in the spring, people are calling for the manager’s head. I’m more than a little stunned by this. Without Ally McCoist, there might be no Rangers. Regardless, it was this quote from the pod that sent me off on this tangent:

“One of the frames from them was that there’s no room for sentiment in football. And that, I have to say, is the most stupid thing I think I’ve ever heard. Football is entirely, intrinsically built on sentiment. If it wasn’t, you would change every year and support the most successful club. The reason you stay loyal is sentiment…it’s entirely sentiment.”

Entirely sentiment.

Sentiment is why we continue. Sentiment is why, on a Sunday afternoon in October, over 1500 Timbers faithful will travel 180 miles into enemy territory knowing that our boys are underdogs.

“It means more,” one of my TA elders tells me,”because we do it together.” Sentiment.

We have survived this season because we’ve done it together. We’ve celebrated, we’ve mourned. We’re within a point of bringing home the Cascadia Cup and salvaging the season. And this we will do together.

For those unable to make the trip, our triumph will be broadcast Sunday on ESPN.

The soundtrack to our weekend, our Cascadia Cup derby weekend, can be found here. Be warned: it is not safe for sensitive ears.

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2012 in Timbers

 

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One city, one club, one love.

We get so caught up in the everyday business of soccer and complaining about soccer and celebrating soccer and bemoaning players who aren’t playing to their potential and coaches who seemingly refuse to coach that we forget that there’s so much more to this whole thing we’ve got going on here.

Our boys will play Sunday afternoon in this ridiculous heat. We’ll show up, we’ll stand in line, we’ll sing and shout and wave our flags. Perhaps our boys will win us three points. Perhaps not.

Right now, at this very moment, it matters little to me. Something else happened this weekend. Something we, and they, can be proud of.

This weekend, the Timbers Army raised $27,000 to benefit Harper’s Playground.

Twenty-seven thousand dollars.

In one day.

I am stunned. I am amazed. I am so proud to be in any way associated with these folks.

Harper’s broke ground recently at Arbor Lodge Park here in Portland and will be the first inclusive playground here, a playground without the barriers that kids (and adults) with disabilities find elsewhere. The Timbers Army/107ist has made it a core mission to improve access to soccer facilities in the Portland metro area, but this transcends soccer.

Today, thirty artists put their art up for sale and somewhere in the neighborhood of 900 prints were sold. IN ONE DAY.

Did you miss your chance to help? No, of course not.

The TA/Harper’s “Everyone Plays” scarf is still available here.

Harper’s Playground and the list of things still needed to complete the project are here.

You can join the Timbers Army and be a part of whatever the next big project is here.

Thank you to every single person involved in this. You make me proud.

Quick update: the remaining prints from yesterday’s event will be up on the Timbers Army website for purchase sometime soon. Go get ’em.

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2012 in Timbers

 

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Spinning the story

So, the Timbers played yesterday. It wasn’t the worst game ever played but, left to our own devices, the internet-savvy masses that comprise a large percentage of Timbers support would have spent the whole day making it a much bigger loss than it actually was.

We should have spent the day discussing the disarray our back line is in. We should have wondered out loud (or onscreen, as it were) why our bazillion-dollar striker spent so much time in the midfield or why, at one point, it appeared that he was trying out for a gig at left back. We should have been talking about why our bazillion-dollar striker-midfielder-left back looked more like a captain than the guy wearing the armband. And what was that armband, anyway? Some generic black band with white block lettering? Where’s our armband?

If nothing else, we should have spent some time extolling the virtues of dropping Eric Alexander into the middle to see what he can do there.

But we didn’t.

Because we weren’t angry enough before, what with the fired coach and controversial interim coach/gm and the wristbands and the seat-savers and the effing spiced IPA that just. won’t. go. away. Because of all these things added together and multiplied by a masterful PR stroke by the Timbers front office this morning, we lost the plot.

The email went out from the FO a little before 10 this morning, closely followed by a call to arms from the 107ist. For those out of the area (or just out of the loop), the 107ist is the organizational arm of the Timbers Army, supporters of the Portland Timbers and widely regarded as a model for supporters groups everywhere. You wanna be Timbers Army? You already are. But if you want something done, you go to the 107ist.

The Timbers front office, it appears, is gauging interest in changing the North End of Jeld-Wen Field, currently filled almost entirely by general admission seating, to some sort of reserved-GA hybrid with the possibility of a price differential between the upper and lower bowls. This comes not quite a year after they expanded general admission seating in the North End to accommodate the growing desire for tickets.

I don’t get it.

I understand that folks have complained about the long lines and the land-grab when the gates first open. I still don’t get it.

What I do get is this: without general admission in the North End, the Timbers Army wouldn’t have grown into what it is today. With 2,300+ paid members of the 107ist, 5,500 scarf-swinging crazies in the North End and, by my estimate, with more than 19,000 Timbers Army No Pity scarves sold over the years (and many of us in possession of more than one), there may be as many as 8-10,000 people who identify as Timbers Army. Let’s keep in mind that Jeld-Wen Field currently sells out at a touch above 21,000.

Hmm. Perhaps instead of talking about changing general admission seating into more reserved seating, we should be talking about further expanding GA.

No, actually, we shouldn’t. We should be talking about the team.

I don’t often stand up and yell about things the front office does. It was, after all, a partnership between the Army and the FO that got us to this place. And it should be that partnership that carries us through when the on-field product is lacking.

I see things like what’s happened with The Fort or Teddy Montoya’s lifetime ban in Colorado and I’m grateful for what we have. But with the fight over general admission seating heating up here, I’m reminded that the lack of GA has been stifling for Vancouver.

I had reserved seats last season in a faraway land called 221. The weather was lovely there though some of the neighbors were sketchy (case in point: Asshat McDoucheypants in 220, but that’s a story for another time). When the time came, we moved into the North End to take our places among our own. While I’ve considered moving out of the North End to accommodate a lingering back injury, the thought of leaving my TA family is much more painful than anything even the best health insurance would cover. And the idea that my beloved Del Boca Vista might be split if we’re prioritized by STH number is, simply, unbearable.

So, I’ve filled out the survey the FO sent me this morning. I’ve emailed my ticket rep who, bless him, is probably being bombarded by people like me. I’m writing this thing, this uneven, poorly thought out thing, that I will toss out into the inter-world. I’m doing my best to be part of the discussion without escalating the problem.

What happens now?

As of this moment, we’ve had twelve hours of the Timbers Army on high alert. The story as I know it, as told through Twitter posts from both sides, is this: the FO is looking for a change. The 107ist didn’t want the survey to go out as this is a non-negotiable piece of the TA’s identity and, if the FO isn’t intending to change the status quo, the survey would be unnecessary. The survey (incredibly biased toward making this change happen, by the way) went out and the TA is shooting back.

From accounts I’ve heard, the FO has been surprised by the pushback they’ve received thus far. They’ve spoken to the 107ist board. They were warned. Perhaps they’ve forgotten MLS2PDX. The TA is adept at mobilizing when necessary.

If you haven’t made your voice heard, now is the time to do it. Keep up the pressure. Be civil, but let them know that this is the exact wrong point at which to pick a fight with the Timbers Army.

(503) 553-5400
ticketservices@portlandtimbers.com

I was going to end here by calling on the FO to let this thing go. Tell us it was a silly idea and there really isn’t any sort of plan in the works to assign us seats and charge us more to sit in the 100s than in the 200s in the North End.

But then Merritt started posting on Twitter again. Dammit, Merritt. I’m tired.

More tomorrow. Probably.

Or maybe we’ll go back to talking about the Timbers.

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2012 in Timbers

 

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Wait. What?

I have absolutely no idea what just happened.

The numbers keep playing in my head: 81% pass completion, 61% possession, 200 more passes than the opposing team. Three goals at home, including a brace from Boyd (I’m totally claiming credit for that, by the way).

And we still lost. Isn’t that something?

There were some fine performances on the pitch tonight. And there were some real stinkers. But I’ll leave that to the experts to break down for you.

Here’s what I saw:

I saw Kosuke Kimura. I saw him come to Jeld-Wen, ready to play. I saw, through misty eyes, his salute to team and TA when he came to the North End pre-match, pounding the badge on his chest. I will never, ever forget that.

I saw a changed team. I saw a team that dominated and took an early lead. I saw a team who let that lead slip away but, instead of giving up, dug in and did everything within their power to get it back.

In the end, their efforts were not rewarded. It was just a weird, weird game.

People are, as expected, having a pretty good go at Gavin. I get it. But I’m not there yet.

If the changes I saw take hold – stronger offense, more heart, perseverance in the face of great adversity – then we’re in for a really fun ride, indeed. And then there’s this: Gavin was a defender. I can’t imagine he’ll let what happened tonight slide.

So, I came out of a 5-3 home defeat not upset, not disappointed (as I just told someone on Twitter, I think this week has sucked all the disappoint out of me), but hopeful.

Hopeful and ready for what’s to come.

Except Kenny Miller to Vancouver. I wasn’t ready for that at all.

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2012 in Timbers

 

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Requiem for a dream.

There was what I, at the time, considered a minor Twit-splosion last night just before 10:30.

A press release. Normal, I’m told. Run of the mill. Nothing terribly unusual. Notice of a closed training session.

Like many others, I blew it off. The team just suffered a pretty spectacular meltdown in Salt Lake. If it were up to me, I’d close practice, too. I was more irritated that I’d tried to get to bed before the inevitable 11 p.m. Rangers Twitter news dump and had been thwarted by a weekly news release that people were trying to make into a bigger deal than it was.

Turns out, it was a pretty frickin’ big deal.

By 9 a.m., rumors were swirling. By 10, a full four and a half hours before the scheduled press conference, the story broke.

John Spencer. Wee John Spencer. Former Ranger John Spencer. Coach John Spencer.

Today he became former Timbers coach John Spencer.

I get it. I accept it. I’m disappointed by it.

There is no other person in this world I would have rather had as coach of the Timbers in their first MLS season. His fire, his passion, his wit were the perfect fit for this city. I don’t know that I can say anything here that hasn’t already been said.

I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch footage of the presser yet. I listened to Merritt’s statements via an audio link posted on Twitter while I was on a break at work. Poor choice on my part. The emotion in Merritt’s voice was enough to make me a wreck for the rest of the day. Maybe there’s no crying in baseball, but there sure is in soccer.

So, what now?

I have absolutely no idea.

Gavin Wilkinson has been named interim coach and will lead the squad for the remainder of the season. I’ve seen a lot of negativity leveled toward Gavin but, at the very least, he knows the players. He brought them here, let him take a shot at coaching them. If it turns out that he’s as awful as so many people believe, well, here’s the opportunity for that to come to a head. It’s not the end of the world. It’s been made clear that he will not be in the running for a permanent placement as manager. However, if he manages to get some points on the road…

I’ll reserve judgement. Admittedly, I wasn’t around for Gavin’s greatest transgressions, but wasn’t there a season with him as coach when the Timbers had a 24-game unbeaten streak? He can’t be all bad, can he?

I was lucky enough to find myself across the table from a long-time, fairly level-headed member of the Timbers Army tonight at the Bitter End. I didn’t ask him if I could quote him as I didn’t really think I’d be writing this, but here we are.

“I’ve been around a long time,” he told me. “I’ve been around a long time and I don’t know what to think.”

Well, brother, you’re not alone.

Emotions will run high this week. I think I’ve been through at least three dozen emotions so far today. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

We, collectively,team and TA, have about ten minutes to pull ourselves together and start preparing for the next match.

I listened to Popinski 23 on my way home from BE tonight. Fangirl here has burned a cd of it to play in the car. I look to the Popinksi popcasts as the standard, the most perfect reflection of the mood of the TA available. Popinski 23 was released into the wild in the week leading up to this year’s home opener against Philly. It is both raw and polished, filled with expectation and anticipation and hope. Punctuated with pride and bravado, it encapsulated everything I felt at the time. I hope I never forget any of those feelings.

We’re halfway through the season. I stand by my previous statement: I think we have the right team to make the playoffs. We’ve hit a major bump in the road, but the road is still there.

Let’s go.

Onward, Rose City.

 
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Posted by on July 9, 2012 in Timbers

 

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I just don’t like soccer fans.

Yeah. Someone actually said this to me today. “Yeah, I know I give you a hard time, but I just don’t like soccer fans.”

I’ve been to four Timbers matches in the last five days: an international friendly, a U23, a reserves match and an MLS derby. I’m tired. My throat is sore from singing and yelling. I have a huge bruise on my knee that I’m pretty sure is from the match on Wednesday. I’ve got a sunburn from this afternoon’s game. In short: everything hurts.

I say this so you understand my mood. My nerves are, perhaps, the tiniest bit raw where all things soccer are concerned.

I can understand folks not liking soccer. They don’t get it. That’s fine. They have other things they understand and enjoy.

Last Saturday, I walked with a team at the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Great Strides event here in Portland, a team that included several other soccer fans and Timbers keeper Joe Bendik. When we were done there, a fair few of us made our way to the St. Baldrick’s event where a bunch of other soccer fans, members of the Timbers Army and a handful of past and present Timbers players had their heads shaved to raise money to fight childhood cancer.

Timber Jim, a legend in the Portland soccer community and beyond and a man I’m proud to call a friend, will host an art and memorabilia auction next Sunday benefitting the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (tickets available here). The Timbers Army, in addition to all the other charity work they do (Friends of Trees, Oregon Food Bank, American Red Cross) recently committed to raising another $40,000 to fund Harper’s Playground, a playground meant to be inclusive of children with disabilities who might not otherwise have a safe place to play (more info here).

This is just a fraction of the stuff fans in Portland are participating in. There are nineteen MLS clubs, each with a pretty hearty following doing some pretty amazing stuff. (Well, most of them. I don’t know what they do in Seattle other than complain about Portland but that’s for another post.)

So, sunshine, what is it that you don’t like about soccer fans?

Is it that we’ve found something that unites us like nothing else could? That we’ve found a passion you envy? That you’re jealous of our flag-waving, scarf-twirling, clever chant-writing abilities? What? What is it?

Here’s where I get all sentimental and repeat things I’ve said before.

Though I’ve attended occasional soccer games for half a decade, it was just a year ago, at a time when I’d lost the identity afforded me by long-term employment or by my status as a student, that I was adopted by an Army. With open arms, I was welcomed. “Here,” the Army said to me. “Come, stand with us. Watch this game. Break bread with us. Become one of us.”

And I did. I bought in wholly and completely. Headlong into the deep end of the pool. I am grateful for every minute of the ride, even the more painful ones.

What is there about soccer fans that pissed this guy off?

I’m not saying we don’t have your fair share of idiots. We do. But for every idiot I’ve encountered, there’s been a dozen really phenomenal folks. The kinds of folks I want to know for a very long time.

The guy who says he doesn’t like soccer fans? Well, let’s just say I don’t feel the same way about him.

Image

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2012 in Timbers

 

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