On the "controversy" over the Riveters chants vs. Seattle

Jeremiah Braeback

There has been some discussion over the propriety of the Rose City Riveters use of the "F-Seattle" chant on Saturday and directing chants at Hope Solo personally.

Here's what happened to the best of my recollection: when the teams took the pitch for the second half, and Solo moved to the North goal in front of the Riveters, we chanted "Hopeless, Hopeless, Hopeless..." and a fan in 107 held up a two-stick with an image of Solo captioned "Hopeless." Immediately thereafter, the chant transitioned to the "Dodgy Keeper" chant that nearly all visiting keepers get for both the Thorns and Timbers home games.

While there are certainly people in the North End who dislike Solo, I think most of us were just having a laugh. Solo, after all, is one of the few best women's keepers in the world, and we all know it. Calling her "dodgy" was for our amusement, and possibly her's as well.

Early in the second half, there was a Thorns corner sequence in which a shot got past Solo, but was cleared off the line. The chants of "dodgy Keeper" got really loud for that one, and maybe this time there was some hope on our parts that maybe she'd get rattled. Alas, she did not. But it was worth a try.

The F-Seattle chant was only used twice. The first was when the Thorns put a picture of a visiting famous Seattle fan on the big screen to "welcome" him to the stadium. Russel Wilson was greeted by a loud chorus of boos mixed with a loud ovation. It was both.

Portland's relationship to Seattle sports teams is complicated. We loathe the Sounders, and back when the Supersonics existed, they were the Blazers' biggest rival. However, in sports where we do not have a professional team (American football & baseball) many Portlanders cheer for Seattle's Seahawks and Mariners as they are geographically the closest. I'm not here to judge the propriety of those fans' choices to root for Seattle. I'm sure they have their reasons, but it persists as a peculiar element of Portland sports fandom.

So the Thorns put up a picture of the Seahawks QB, as if to say, "hey, isn't it cool that such a big star in men's sports showed up for our little game?" And half the Portland fans cheered. The other half saw a visiting Reign fan on the big board and boo'd.

The Riveters were there with a strong desire to respond to this provocation and uneasy with the mixed message that might be taken from the cheers and boo's for Wilson. This became apparent when the "F-Seattle" chant was suggested by a few fans, and it was quickly.and widely picked up by a critical mass of the group.

The "F-Seattle" chant differs from other chants in that it's used in anger. We were pissed. Here, our own club wanted us to be all thankful and giddy that an NFL player would lower himself to come to our game and give a royal wave for the big screen. This after I, and many others, spent the previous week salivating at the opportunity to be at the same game. Staying up the night before with chants in our heads preventing us from sleeping. It's actually hugely important to us. I'm happy to see a Seattle fan actually knows how to buy a ticket to a women's soccer game, but that's the extent of my being impressed by Russel Wilson.

So just in case the Thorns FO was confused on the matter, this is how we feel (especially in the midst of a rivalry game) about Seattle: "F-Seattle." And to any vising Seattle fans giggling over how puny little Portland really just looks up to the big city to the North, this is how we feel about Seattle: "F-Seattle." That chant was civic pride.

There were no other chants aimed toward Solo or containing the dreaded F-word until after the game. Seattle had just nicked a goal in the 89th minute to take all three points, and after the final whistle, Solo was understandably happy. She turned to us as she went to join her teammates to celebrate their big win and she waved. She then, if I remember everything correctly, put her index fingers to her lips to tell us to shut up, then waved again. She may have blown us a kiss as well. Given the crap we had given her and her home town during the second half, her response was justified and reasonable. Restrained, even.

We were stung and unhappy and had to respond with something. When the "F-Seattle" chant was started at that point, it was adopted again. There was no debate over the proper response and no vote was taken. At the time, it was as good an option that we had. It wasn't the perfect response or the most dignified response, but it was what we had at our disposal. I would have, in retrospect, preferred a "Go to hell, Seattle, go to hell" chant, but we're all undefeated as the manager of Hindsight FC, right?

In any case, the chant didn't last long, and the drum corps started up our post-game song where we all moved on to "We Root for the Thorns" and enthusiastically let our team know that despite the painful result, we had their backs. We stayed in our seats to let them know we appreciated them. As with 90%+ of the game, we Cheer For the Thorns.

Now in the wake of what seems to me to be pretty normal crowd behavior, there has been more than a little "won't somebody think of the children" pearls-clutching bandied about the internet, mostly on social media. Personally I feel that "F-Seattle" is a fantastic message for the youth of Portland, especially in the context of cheering at soccer games. I don't think those who are aghast at our barbaric behavior are really that upset about the message, so much as their children being exposed to a bad word. The kids, for their part, probably got a giggle out of it, and I don't think any of them are going to need to go to therapy over hearing it.

The other criticism frankly baffles me. We are apparently to feel deep shame over treating Hope Solo poorly because we directed "Hopeless" and "Dodgy Keeper" at her during the second half. (And to an extent, the "F-Seattle" in her general direction after the game.) I'd love to know what she thinks about her defenders on the internet concerned about her well-being after such "abuse." The idea that she lost a moment's sleep over a hostile crowd giving her the business is laughable. To the contrary, we hear repeatedly from visiting players how much they enjoy playing in Portland precisely because the games feel like major league games. I don't have first hand information about how she feels, but anyone who saw the look on her face when she attempted to shush us at the final whistle could tell you she had a fun time.

The women playing soccer in the NWSL deserve large, rowdy crowds. The shame that should be felt should be felt in Seattle, where despite having a first place team and a downtown stadium, the fans still won't go to Reign games. If you were Seattle's keeper, would you rather play in front of a golf-clapping 2,000 at home, or 14,000 in Portland that sing and chant the whole game and heckle you? Again, I can't speak for her, but we do what we do in large part because we're pretty sure they'd prefer the latter. I am loud because the women deserve a crowd that's loud. I'll chant "F-Seattle" because I want the women on the pitch to know explicitly that this is no friendly. We CARE like they do. We're partisan. The outcome matters to us.

I hope the fans and media who are clicking their tongues at least feel that what we bring to the games is net positive. I hope the players around the league are getting the message loud and clear that we appreciate what they do and that we're thrilled to watch them play. And I hope the [won't somebody think of the] children come join us in the North End for the jumping and clapping and singing and chanting, because it really is the superior way to enjoy the game.

Alright guys, I don't believe I have to say this but, just in case, please do not submit anything racist, homophobic, sexist or otherwise not appropriate for even the younger Timbers fans.

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