ClayKavalier's recent fanpost "Reflecting on Timbers vs. Ajax" got me thinking it would be great to share our stories of how we got into the Timbers and what it all means to us. So here goes.
Summer 2004. I was a moderate sports fan and I went to see the minor league baseball team at Civic Stadium a few times a year. I enjoyed watching on occasional soccer match but knew next to nothing about the sport. I may have been dimly aware there was a lower division team in Portland. My friend from work, Dan, invited me to a weeknight game with him and his son. We sat in the first row of 111. I had a blast, but it would be a long, long time until I was hooked. My memory of that era is pretty fuzzy. I think I went to 5-10 games a year through 2008. Sometimes with Dan, sometimes with another friend. Often, I went alone and usually sat centerline on the west side. Once my friend James and I sat with the TA. That was a bit much for me at the time. I especially loved weeknight games. Come home from work frazzled, check the paper--hey, Timbers are playing tonight!--walk over, pay my $10 (!) and just sit and watch. I was very ignorant about the sport and the team--I just enjoyed going. I could name exactly two players from that era--Byron Alvarez and Hugo Alcarez-Cuellar. During an exhibition game against an MLS team (I think it was San Jose), one dreadlocked Earthquake caught my attention as being the best player on the pitch, some guy named DeRosario. So I didn't "follow" the team at all, but I really liked going to games. I loved the atmosphere, LOVED Timber Jim, loved watching the game.
One funny memory. During halftime, they had this soccer ball cannon. Poor idea. They had it in center field (near the SE corner of the pitch) pointed NW. Holy moly. The first ball dipped down, flew into the crowd, and almost decapitated some woman in 117. The next one air-bounced over the roof and probably caused an accident on 18th and Burnside.
2008 I moved to Boulder, Colorado for grad school. Very busy, new life, and I pretty much forgot about the Timbers. I had a vague notion there was talk of going to MLS. One day I was looking for a sports event to veg out to, and found the Timbers MLS home opener. The crowd was amazing--way bigger than anything I had experienced. I felt strangely....proud. Still not hooked. The next game I caught was the great 3-0 victory at home over LA in 2011. Now something happened, and I was hooked. I caught almost every game online, started reading up on the team, the league, the sport. I started spending time on SCUSA and looking at Slide Rule Pass. I've caught three Timbers games here in Colorado. Sometime last year, getting sick of SCUSA, I discovered this site. I think it's safe to say that I'm addicted. If there is a terminal around, I'm on here a few times every day. Last year, I visited Portland and sat in the TA section for the Chicago game. I could not believe how fun it was. I plan on standing in the TA section whenever I get a chance to get to a game there. (My STH friend let me use his seats for the Valencia exhibition game a few days later.)
After one of our horrible losses at Colorado last year, the stadium was deserted except for the Timbers section. Most of the players were off the field already (just behind the north goal, unlike this year, where they have to exit right in front of the visitor's section). Mike Chabala, who didn't play, and who was on his way out because he hadn't been playing very well, walks all the way over to the corner to applaud us, and we give him a standing ovation. Not common. Is that admiration I see on the faces of the security guards? Probably just a projection of my pride.
For me, a big part of it is that it is a Portland thing. I miss Portland a lot--it is painful sometimes how much I miss it. After growing up in Chicago, I lived in Eugene for three years and Portland for 15. For several reasons, I'm going to be in Colorado for a while, at least, and I may never live in Portland again. So connecting with the Timbers is a way of connecting with what I still think of as my hometown. And, of course, the Timbers fans are something unique, and the whole Timbers phenomena is special. I can't help but genuinely like our players, and this was true even in the darkest weeks of 2012. of course, it helps when we are playing beautiful football and winning.