Monday, May 07, 2012

On the march with the Timbers Army

Jeld-Wen Field
Historian Gwynne Dyer holds that large public sporting events serve a useful sociological function.  Mock battles.  Armies gather; a battle is fought; one side exults in victory, the other agonizes in defeat.  Nobody gets killed and everyone gets to do it again the following week.  An infinitely preferable alternative to the Real ThingTM.

Having attended the Portland Timbers soccer match on Saturday evening, I'm fairly well convinced that Dr. Dyer has it just right.

A gang of old friends, season ticket holders and Timbers Army soldiers all, had me along on a General Admission pass to join the rowdy and ribald mob that occupies the stadium seats at the North End of Jeld-Wen Field.  The Timbers Army Football Club, according to its web site is a fan-organized support organization that is funded by "The 107 Independent Supporters’ Trust."  You can read about it here.

The match started at 6:30pm, but we had our place on queue staked out several hours before game time.  General Admission is general admission, eh?  Early bird gets the worm.

The opponent of the day was the Columbus Crew, out of Ohio, which drew abuse from the crowd outside Jeld-Wen Field even as they drove past the stadium to the locker room.  At the sight of the traveling coach with its impenetrable tinted windows, Timbers fans jeered, hooted, and produced jangling sets of keys which they held high and rattled.  (Not unlike aboriginal warriors brandishing ghastly trophies of teeth plucked from the jaws of the vanquished.  Fierce! thought I.)

90 minute mock battle
When the gates opened, all were gripped by an urgency.  Get your claim staked.  Not so fast as to be rude (this is Portland, after all), but no time for pleasantries either.  We got seated about 10 rows up.  Good seats. 

The match was fun.  These are 2nd or 3rd tier athletes as far as professional football players go, but their footwork dazzles, nonetheless.  And the english they can put on the ball...  The game ended in a 0-0 draw.  No one was happy, but considering the Timbers lack of success thus far in the season, nobody complained too loudly.  The Timbers were on the offensive most of the game.  They just couldn't finish.

But as least as much fun as watching the match was enjoying the rowdy atmosphere among the Timbers Army.  There were more than a few tipsy folks in the stands before the match started.  At the end of the match there might have been 2 or 3 left sober.  People waved flags, raged at the officials, cursed their luck, and belted out profane, mocking cheers directed at the visiting team and its supporters.  The fans were egged on by a cadre of fan cheerleaders who led them in verses that they all knew by heart.  (One of them was in Spanish!)

Timbers Army, progressively louder and less coherent
All in all, a fantastically fun time.  This was my first ever Timbers game.  I dig the "Rose City pride" and the semi-militant Republic of Cascadia sentiments.  And I like that the Portland Timber's roster is full of West Africans and Latin Americans, as well as US men.  I'm always encouraged by multinational teams.  It seems such a hopeful omen for the future.  

Hope to go back soon.

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