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Six Degrees: If I Owned the Team – T2

Kris Lattimore

1) This is the sixth column of a series that might make Merritt Paulson angry, but will more likely make him howl with laughter. In this series, I tell you what I’d do if, one, I owned the Timbers/Thorns, and two, I was absurdly rich. Not Jeff Bezos-rich, but richer than Merritt Paulson. Rich enough that the team wasn’t my main source of income, but was more of a hobby. Rich enough that I didn’t need the team to make a profit, I just needed them to break even.

First week, we talked about TriMet. Second week, we talked about food. Third week, we talked about drinks. Fourth week, we talked about open practices. Fifth week, we talked about youth soccer. This week, we’ll talk about T2.

2) This week’s idea. A complete re-brand for T2. We’re moving them to Salem, changing their name, their crest, their unis, everything.

Now, to be clear, T2 is very much in flux right now. In October 2019, it was announced that the team was moving to Hillsboro, at which point I started a campaign to rename them the Hillsboro HomestarRunners. Then, one year later, in October 2020, it was announced that the team was taking a year’s hiatus. I’m not entirely clear why they’re doing this, but it seems there will be no T2 in 2021.

But those are all real-world facts, none of which matter here. Here, we deal in fantasies, so let’s get to it.

3) The details. I love minor league sports. I grew up near a minor league baseball team, my dad took us to 5-10 games every summer, and I loved everything about it. Yes, I knew our team was part of the Atlanta Braves system, but I didn’t care. They were still our team. They had their own name, their own uniforms, their own history, and perhaps most importantly, they had their own ballpark, 400 miles away from Atlanta.

T2 has none of that. The uniforms and crest are too much like the Timbers, they play in the same stadium as their parent club, only in front of less people, and hell, their name might as well be the Portland TimbersOnlyNotAsGood. Who the fuck wants to go see the Portland TimbersOnlyNotAsGood? Might as well just watch the Timbers.

So when you, the people, finally rise up and make me owner of the Timbers, I’m gonna make T2 something more like that minor league baseball team I grew up watching. Will I move them 400 miles away? No. Salem’s far enough. I still want them practicing every day with the first team, over at the Beaverton practice facility. They’d only go down to Salem on game days. Probably on a bus.

But everything else? Brand new.

I put out a Twitter poll yesterday with four options. I was hoping one option could be the Salem Psychotic Cephalopods, but Twitter wouldn’t allow that many characters. It’s an awesome name, though, since two of the three words don’t start with an S but we’d call them the Triple S’s anyway, just to piss people off.

Anyway, here are the results.

To be honest, that was closer than I expected. Anyway, we’re the Salem StrongBads. That’s our team name.

Team colors? Team uniforms? Team crest? I’m gonna let the fans decide all of this. But not Portland fans, only fans who live in Salem. This entire re-brand is about giving Salem their own team, so I want them to feel like it’s theirs. Just like you, I’m hoping the team will wear luchador masks and boxing gloves, but in the end, the people of Salem will decide.

The stadium? Well, Salem’s already got McCulloch Stadium. I’ve never been there, but here’s what it looks like on Google.

Nah. Don’t like it. Don’t like the big-ass track around it. Don’t like the football lines. We can do better.

I suppose I could build something brand new, since, in this fantasy world I’ve created, I’m hella rich.

But wait... maybe there’s another option. Check out this field on the Willamette University campus.

Color me intrigued. A soccer-only field? With parking on one side and an Amtrak station on the other? And neighborhoods close by so people can walk to the game? Fuck yeah! This is our site! I’ll just use some of my fantasy riches to put down a new playing surface and maybe bribe some Willamette U officials and we’re in!

I’ll need to put in seats, of course, but how many will we need? In 2019, T2 averaged 1,899 fans per game, but I think the Salem StrongBads can do better. How does 3,000 seats sound? Think I can squeeze them around our new field?

Or am I underestimating how popular this team would be? The three USL teams with the highest attendance in 2019 were New Mexico United, Indy Eleven, and Sacramento Republic, each of whom averaged over 10,000 fans a game. Could the people of Salem match that? Would they love going to minor league soccer games the same way I loved going to minor league baseball games when I was a kid?

4) The positives. The Timbers would still have a minor league team, but under my plan, it wouldn’t be so fucking lame. It would have its own personality, its own culture, its own fans, and eventually, its own history. Minor league teams are fun, and I think the good people of Salem are ready for one.

I also think the players would enjoy it. They’d train every day with the first-team players in Beaverton, but then on Saturday nights, they’d hop on a bus, drive an hour south, and play for their fans in Salem. Their own fans, not Timbers fans. And those fans would probably come up with some fun new songs to sing to them, StrongBad-specific songs that the Timbers don’t get to hear. (Like, oh I don’t know, Come On Fhqwhgads.)

Rooting for the Portland TimbersOnlyNotAsGood is lame. Rooting for the Salem StrongBads would be awesome.

5) The potential negatives. The cost up upgrading the stadium. The cost of new uniforms. The cost of renting a bus every week or two. The discomfort for the players, sitting on that bus for an hour before the game and an hour after it.

Some of these costs might be covered by whoever’s running the team in Salem. They’d deal with food and drinks and souvenirs and stuff. Maybe even uniforms. But still, my plan would cost money.

6) In the real world, where Merritt Paulson still owns the team, could this actually happen? Well, it’s kinda sorta halfway happening already, what with the team moving to Hillsboro. But in my mind, that’s not far enough, both in mileage and in culture. I want this to be a team of its own. The Hillsboro TimbersOnlyNotAsGood ain’t that. Sadly, for now, it’s probably about the best we’re going to get. Sorry, Salem. I tried.

What do you think? Bad idea? Good idea, but slightly flawed? What flaws do you spot? Gimme some ideas to fix them. Let’s see if we can make this happen – in our imaginary world, at least.