I’ve been a member of the Timber’s Army since 2008. I don’t know if I can be considered "old school" or not. I do know that a lot of things have changed in that time.
I’ve had to question myself lately as to why I’m a member of the Army? I am, after all, a middle-aged man. Normally, people of my age have retired to a nice, cushy reserved section where we can comfortably sit, drink the occasional cocktail, focus on the game, and then go home to our respective lives and families.
I’m a member because, like most members of the Timber’s Army, I’m a broken toy. Most of us come from dysfunctional, or highly dysfunctional, family backgrounds. Most of us were outcasts in school and, to a certain extent, by society. We’re the round peg trying to fit into the square hole. If we were a novel, it would be written by Bukowski. If we were a song, it would be written by Morrison. We’re not cool enough for Lou Reed.
We wear our dysfunction with vintage clothing, beards, patches, tattoos, piercings, and whatever other cliched artifact we can find and still convince ourselves we’re unique.
For the most part, we’re angry. We wake up angry. We go to sleep angry. We go through each day finding the tiniest things to be angry about. We’re angry at Donald Trump being president. We’re angry that they don’t serve cooler micro-brews at Providence Park. We’re angry at SUV’s, carnivores, designer watches, Starbucks, pilates, anyone that buys books off Amazon, bathrooms that aren’t unisex, people that say ‘native Americans’ and not ‘indigenous people’. We’re angry at well, pretty much everyone that isn’t in our little Tribe of Self Loathing. No, we’re angry at them as well, we just put up with each other because we need someone to drink with.
And if we can’t find something to be angry, then we’ll invent something.
The Iron Front Flag issue for instance.
The issue around the Iron Front Flag isn’t about anti-fascism. I know we say that’s what it represents. I know in our minds we’re fighting the good fight against the evil that is the Trump Administration. I know we bring up obscure facts about 1933 to show off our profound knowledge of history and something about history never repeating itself.
We conveniently forget that we now have more personal freedoms and liberties that at any time in our nation’s history. Never mind that we still live in a democracy that is a far, far cry from a Fascist regime.
No, the Iron Front Flag represents something much bigger.
It represents every parent, teacher, classmate, worker, and everyone else that has ridiculed us, beleaguered us, mocked us, disappointed us, and shamed us. It represents our collect self-hatred. Banning it is just one more example of an uncaring, crass society crapping on us.
I know, I know. The Timbers Army is supposed to be about inclusion and acceptance and community. We fly rainbow flags, after all. We claim to be about friendship and unity.
Don’t believe a word of any of it.
Morrissey is the perfect muse for us. He sings about shyness, and fitting it, and his voice is soft and melodonic. Behind it all he’s a raging, pissed off zealot who hates pretty much the entire world.
Most of us are racists and phobics as well. We wave our rainbow flags to make us feel morally superior. We’re not. We’re racist against other white people (mostly white, heterosexual males) and against straight people. Perhaps that should be called straightophobic? Yes, the Army is made up of 99% white people. But we’re, not, y’know, actual ‘white’ people. And we say, at the drop of a hat, how awful we feel about our ‘white entitlement’. We don’t, actually, but we can’t say otherwise.
We’re cannibals. We eat our own. If we were an insect, we’d be a black widow.
I know how childish this all is. I know I’m supposed to be more mature. And part of me, the adult part, realizes how silly it is and the league is right to ban anything political. I know that the vast majority of people just go to support their club and watch soccer. I know the saying goes ‘No Pity in the Rose City’, but there is ‘Self Pity in the TA’. I mean, if we really cared about Fascism, we’d have a sign that says ‘Anti-Fascism’ and not some obscure symbol that most people, including TA members, didn’t even understand prior to this season. That would be too easy and too logical. If it’s wasn’t the Iron Front flag, we’d find something else to be angry at.
Besides, we all feel cool and edgy now with our Iron Front shirts and patches and emojies. The Che Guavara stuff was starting to look dated and ‘Keep Portland Weird’ has become a cliché. We needed something to make us feel cool.
We need the Timber’s Army. I need the Army. The Army gives me an opportunity to associate with my own kind – the Other Broken Toys. We commiserate on our respective nasty and negative theories on existence like mold in a petri dish. The Army is the only thing I’ve got. I love the singing and chants and screaming at the refs and other team to purge myself of all the dysfunction and confusion in my heart. It’s the only thing, really, in my entire life that I belong to. It’s the most stable thing I’ve ever had. More stable than my parent’s marriage (or three of them). Most stable than any of my own broken relationships. More stable than any job or apartment. The Timber’s will be there… always.
Maybe our self-pity is deserved? You’ve probably got your life, your career, your family. You’re probably happy or fulfilled in some way. We’re not. I’m not. This is what we’ve got. It’s not just a game or a club, it’s our outlet against a cruel and heartless world. We’re the dog that has been kicked all its life and now barks and shows its teeth to anyone who comes to close.
I know this is a generalization. The truth is there are members who just want to root for the Timbers and enjoy soccer. I see them smiling and laughing and I despise them. They’re like Wham groupies who found themselves at a Joy Division concert (and those references should preface my age). But I do notice those members are dwindling. At the last game, I’d say the Army section was sixty percent full. Like the tourists they are, they probably stopped coming once we stopped making the games about soccer and about our collective personality disorders and the society that has rejected us.
I know we’ve screwed up the season and we’re probably the reason the Timbers will miss the playoffs. I know the vibe at the stadium is messed up because of us.
I’m not sure how I feel about that