Remember the name on the front and we'll remember the name on the back.
It is one of those quotes that shows up over and over again with slight tweaks and changes ("Play for...", "Fight for...", "Bleed for...") each time. It seems impossible to attribute to one person, but that is because it so perfectly captures the link that fans want with their team.
They are not the Portland Timbers, we are the Portland Timbers.
For Portlanders, as Garrett Dittfurth pointed out in in his essay "Passion" on the Timbers Army site at the start of the year (which is also where this particular permutation of the above phrase comes from), the goal is not just to see a winning team, but to support that team no matter what.
So why is it that we don't want our players to be All-Stars again?
As of Monday, the Timbers had two players in the fan voting for the All-Star Game line-up: Michael Harrington, listed as seventh among the defenders, and Will Johnson, fourth among the midfielders. Donovan Ricketts, Diego Chara, Diego Valeri, and Darlington Nagbe, the Timbers other potential nominees (never mind the strange omission of Rodney Wallace), are nowhere to be seen.
Doing the rounds among Timbers fans there is a bit of logic that goes like this: the ASG is not a league game, therefore we do not want our starters playing in it, and therefore we will vote for the players from other teams. Why tire out our players for something that does not benefit us? We don't gain anything from this game. A more nuanced version of the argument can be found here, as put forth by Kevin Alexander of Slide Rule Pass.
Of course, this is not the same we that pops up in we are the Portland Timbers. This we is the fans. The players? They want to play.
Since his arrival in Portland during the off-season, it is hard to argue that anyone has remembered/played for/fought for/bled for the name on the front of the shirt more than Will Johnson.
Yesterday Johnson, not normally a high volume twitter user, retweeted three things: his wife's tweet urging people to vote for him, Michael Harrington's girlfriend's tweet urging people to vote for Harrington, and a tweet from MLS with a link to the ASG fan voting page.
Those retweets were not he first time that Johnson has addressed the issue on twitter. After the Timbers' game against the Chicago Fire two weeks ago, a fan asked him about the All-Star Game.
@RealCascadiaCup Would be an honor and privilege for any of our players to represent our club on that elite stage. Just my opinion.— Will Johnson (@WillJohnson04) June 10, 2013
@RealCascadiaCup The club employs some very intelligent people to make sure we are always well rested. ASG would be no different.— Will Johnson (@WillJohnson04) June 10, 2013
There was no practice today, no opportunity to ask Will Johnson or any of the other Timbers if they want to go to the All-Star Game and why.
There are plenty of reasons that we can surmise, however.
In every American sport, players get paid when they do well and making the All-Star team is a part of that. The MLS collective bargaining agreement guarantees that 32 players will be named all-stars and makes reference to potential bonuses or salary hikes as a result of being named to the ASG.
It is more than just getting paid, however. It is, as Will Johnson tweeted, an honor. Nobody aspires to mediocrity and in the particularly fickle world of professional sports you should grab whatever plaudits come your way. Players should be recognized for their play and this year the Timbers are playing well.
In 2011 Jack Jewsbury became the Timbers' only All-Star since joining MLS. The Oregonian talked to Jack before the game about what it meant to him to be named to the All-Star squad.
I haven't seen the whole list, but just to be amongst those guys, for the first time in my career, especially here in Portland, it means a lot.
So, maybe the All-Star Game is an entirely American conceit; maybe it is a poorly timed, poorly conceived, mess of an event; maybe it is a risk to send a player into such a match.
Despite all that, the players want to play.
Remember the name on the front and we will remember the name on the back. Isn't that the deal?
I am voting for the Timbers to play. Are you? Agree or disagree, let us know in the comments and vote in the poll.