Friday, December 28, 2007

Things I'm Happy About

Lots of people spend the new few days looking back on the year that was, and spend a great deal of time thinking of resolutions and things they want to improve on for the upcoming new year. My last resolution was in 2002, when I said I would get more exercise. Well, in the past six years, I've actually done more than know where my gym is, so I suppose I can't beat myself up too badly. I've just never been much of a resolution person really.

I don't think I'm perfect by any stretch, but I've always thought that if you want to improve something or change something, you should be able to do it at any time. The new year provides an easy inspiration for change, but change has to start with you believing that the change is something you can do. Let's face it, if you made a resolution to be rich within 6 months, there's a chance you might be able to do this. However, if you made a resolution to meet and marry a supermodel, chances are that probably won't happen. The chances are better that lightning will strike near you or the Seattle Mariners will win the World Series.

What I've chosen to do instead of resolutions is to look at the things in my life and be happy for the gifts I have, and be hopeful for upcoming events or changes. I am very happy for the Timbers and Timbers Army, without whom I wouldn't have such great friends and girl, the love of my life. I am happy for the Trail Blazers, who are giving this town a reason to be proud of them again. I'm happy for this city, which never ceases to amaze me with it's wonder, character and charm. I'm happy for my job, which gives me a good challenge and allows me to do many of the things I like to do. I'm happy for my family, which will be growing next year with my upcoming wedding. I'm happy for my friends who are there when I need them, for either a good laugh, good food or just good conversation. I'm ecstatic to be getting married to such a wonderful woman, and be able to share our love with everybody. I'm happy about being an uncle.

I'm hopeful that 2008 will be an amazing year, but there are things that I hope change. I worry about the direction of our country, where people just seem to be more divided about how they feel about things. Instead of a more inclusive approach, it seems more and more that the government is a "what's it in for me?" institution. I worry about our environment, and hope that people understand that it's important to do what we can to recycle and leave the earth in as good of shape as possible for future generations. I worry about the world that our children now live in, dealing with things and ideas that I wouldn't have dreamed about having to address until I was much older. There are still parts of the world that are angry, bitter, and fighting, and it seems like it just gets worse and worse.

But I feel that despite everything, the world will be Ok because it's resilient and just when you think things are getting worse, you see something good. My ultimate hope is that we can all find a way to live peacefully in this amazing place, and we can all look forward to many years together as one. Oh, and we get MLS in Portland, cause that would be so cool. One people, all together, loving soccer. Yea, that would be cool...

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Bestest Christmas in a While..

Today has been a most amazing Christmas, and I'd have to rank it number two on my list of all time Christmases. The only one that would top it would be one back in 1988 where I got to see my grandmother during the holidays because my mom and step dad were living in Valentine, Nebraska and I went to see them over Christmas Break. Nice place, that Nebraska, but honestly, I was glad to be going back to Spokane. That might say something about the trip right there...

girl and I were up to 3 AM wrapping gifts last night, as we spent the afternoon and night with her dad's family. It was a load of fun to see all of them, and of course I ate too much, but we got home around 11 Pm and it was time to wrap the last bit of gifts. Most of them were easy to wrap, but the big challenge was to wrap the gift we got girl's mom, a portable fire pit. It was too big to wrap with just one thing of wrapping paper, and we had plenty of wrapping scraps lying about. If you remember the show Boohbah! (which is one of our absolute favorites), the gift the kids present to the story people is wrapped in all sorts of wrapping combinations, shiny paper and ribbons. Let's just say we did the fire pit wrapping Boohbah justice, with all sorts of random shards of paper glued and taped in crazy patterns. The look on her face when we brought it into the room in Boohbah style was truly a classic moment.

I also got Simpsons stuff, the movie and season 10 on DVD. I love the Simpsons, and the movie was one of my absolute favorites from this summer. I also got some very personal and fun gifts from girl, which was great. I also got a chance to talk with my dad and sister on the holiday as well. Dad loved the Portland Timbers kit I gave him, but thought it was a T-Shirt and I had to explain to him it was the actual shirt they wear on the field. My sister had just given birth to my first niece, and things between us have been strained over the past few months. But we talked like we had when we were younger, and it was a truly amazing talk to clear the air and just be each other's family again. It was very special to me, and I treasure it more now with my mom's passing. I love my family, crazy antics and all.

But to top off the evening, girl and I watched the Portland Trail Blazers win their eleventh game in a row over their Northwest rival Seattle Supersonics. Neither team played well overall, but as with the current streak, the team pulled it together when needed and Brandon Roy carried them at other times. It was fun to see the national audience get to see what we here see all the time, a unselfish, fun team that is playing with a lot of confidence and chemistry. The Trail Blazers are for real, and I think this year they will continue to surprise folks. And now, it's time to clean up our room and get ready for a full day of EPL matches tomorrow!! Whoo hoo. You really can't beat this time of year!!!

Monday, December 24, 2007

This Time of Year

I've been reading my blog posts lately, and as with anything that gets published, I'd probably do some things a lot differently. I tend to write in a conversational way, with very little editing done while I'm going as I don't want to interrupt the creative process. Sometimes, the results can be truly inspiring, while other times, you could use the story of a million monkeys with a million typewriters.

I tend to be a positive person by nature, although the world sometimes frustrates me. I understand that bad things happen, that's part of the whole equation but what bothers me is that people tend to contribute to this sometimes without realizing it. In the time of year that we should all be kind towards our fellow men and women, I've found that most people are too busy paying attention to the sales, specials and bling of the holiday than truly being cheerful. I've been yelled at while texting girl at a local Freddy's on Saturday cause I was in the way, I've had cars come at me from seeming every direction on the road, and nearly run over numerous times in stores just trying to maneuver around people as they try to figure out what they are doing. In being stressed about it, I've allowed them to take some of my holiday spirit and I'm going to take it back now.

I am spending tonight with girl's dad and his new family as he just got married earlier this year. On Christmas, I'm going to talk with my sister who just recently had her first child, my incredibly cute niece who I plan on spoiling as much as I can. I will also spend time with girl and her mom opening gifts, and then later visiting her grandparents before we head down to watch the Trail Blazers on Christmas Day play the SuperSonics. I've never actually done anything like this on a holiday, and I'm actually looking forward to it. I've also taken the week off from work, so my week will be filled with rest and relaxation because I'm remembering what this time of year is supposed to be about.

It's not about presents, it's not about toys, it's not about shiny things or stuff that makes noise, it's about the feeling you get when you share from yourself, and spend time with your family and friends and show them how much they matter to you. Sometimes, simple words and actions can be enough, but it's important to remember who you are, where you came from, and the many people that helped you get to that point. And for those folks that bugged me, I hope you have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and remember what the holidays are about.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Bowl Games Suck!!

I used to enjoy watching bowl games back in my child hood days when they were a bit simpler. Bowls started in mid-December, played through the New Year's holiday and then the polls decided who won the title based on who got more votes. It might not have been simpler, but the BCS and the current college bowl picture have made it more complicated to understand what's going on.

Now each bowl game has a corporate sponsor attached to their game, and conference tie-ins to ensure that some teams get picked for a bowl game. The process guarantees that a team from a specific conference will show up, unless that conference doesn't have a team available. Some bowls take specific teams, like the Poinsetta Bowl that says if Navy wins 6 games, they play there no matter what. And then the BCS ensures that bowl games will go on through the first week of January to decide a championship that is determined by polls and computers.

College football should have a playoff, and there's no compelling reason otherwise. Guys missing classes at school? Uh, every other division of the NCAA that plays football has a playoff system where they play games every week for up to 5 weeks. Tradition is important? Uh, the BCS hosed that with the play in game and the times that the Rose Bowl has teams other than the Pac 10 and Big 10 there. People don't want it? Believe me, the fans want it cause it could be an ultimate fan experience. It would cost too much money to set up? Not really, and the revenue generated now would pale in comparison to what a playoff would generate.

It's simply the greed of the NCAA, the corporate sponsors, TV and the schools that keep this from happening. This time of year, bowl games are all over the TV, and so TV might not want less games to broadcast. Corporate sponsors want essentially a 4 hour commercial for themselves, which is really what a bowl game is. I mean really, bowls like the Independence Bowl had some history behind then, but what history is associated with the Meineke Car Bowl? The schools and the NCAA get the funds from games now through their conference affiliations and TV, so there's no incentive to make a change there. As they've said, the fans like the system as is.

As a fan, I don't like it at all. A 16 game playoff makes sense, and since your BCS thing makes for a top 16 and the criteria is as objective as it can be, use it. The top 8 seeds host the bottom, and then you play down over a 4 to 6 week period starting in mid December. The bowls could be used as hosts for the later playoff games to ensure a neutral site, and other bowls could be used as rewards for teams that didn't make the top 16. Right now, there's 33 bowls so there is plenty of opportunity here. It's just if someone wants to make a change. Right now, the money is just too big to encourage a change.

But really, should money be the deciding factor here? Just because a team has money and can guarantee a number of tickets sold or fans there means it's a better option for a bowl than somebody else? I mean, I always thought that deciding a champion was done on the field, not in the pocket books. The potential of a meaningful playoff system would be amazing, but right now, the ears of the people in charge are listening to the jingle of money and the hum of TVs watching their product.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Upcoming Media War in the Rose City

Ok, I'm not trying to scare you with the title, especially with the Trail Blazers being one of the hottest teams in the NBA right now on an eight-game winning streak. Optimism is really high about the team, and it's translating into increased TV ratings, increased attention in the media, higher demand for tickets, and overall a better feeling about this team. But a recent media move has me a bit concerned, and it might affect the future of sports coverage in our fair city.

Flash back to the early 1990's in Trail Blazer land, and TV coverage of the team was basically handled by KOIN (CBS affiliate) and BlazerVision, a pay per view deal with Comcast where their cable customers could buy access to home games. BlazerVision had a few outlets that non cable folks could pay to watch games, but it paid during those days to know somebody who purchased the package. At the time, the Trail Blazers played in the Memorial Coliseum which seated about 12,700 folks, one of the smaller arenas in the NBA. When the team announced they were building a new arena, it led to optimism about getting tickets and perhaps opening up the TV coverage a bit.

The Rose Garden opened in 1995, and while it became a bit easier to get game day tickets, BlazerVision remained on the scene because of demand for the games. It was around this time that the team and Paul Allen made a decision to try and create an all sports cable channel in Portland called Action Sports Cable Network (ASCN). The Trail Blazers would be the main draw, but the channel would showcase lots of local sports, including colleges and other pro teams. The major competition for this endeavor was Fox Sports Northwest, originally called Prime Sports Northwest, who had the Pac-10 coverage and some other sports packages that they showed on their channel. Prime was based out of Seattle, and while they called themselves Northwest, the coverage was a bit biased towards Seattle based teams.

ASCN finally was born and did a good job of showing games. The problem was that nobody in Portland could see the games due to a conflict with the team, ASCN and AT&T Cable which was being acquired by Comcast. The sides kept trying to figure out a deal to get the channel on cable, but each side wouldn't budge on price, channel location, and other ammenities. Other cable companies did sign up and get ASCN, so basically if you lived outside of Portland, you could see games on TV but not within the city limits. The bars and restaurants that originally had BlazerVision were able to hook up with ASCN so there were Blazer Spots to watch games, but not in your own home. All sides blamed each other for the issues, saying they were doing everything they could to get the games available for fans.

Then, the free spending days of the team started to affect the team's bottom line, with ASCN being part of the issue. Owning a channel that few people in your own town could see was draining the team's bottom line. It didn't help that this coincided with the period of the Jail Blazers, where the team's attitude was very jaded and antics both on and off the court stained the once proud franchise. The solid hard working team of the 1990's had been replaced with a selfish, angry, combative team that effectively imploded before our eyes. ASCN finally went out of business during one of the team's off season, and the team began looking for a new home for games.

Up stepped Fox Sports Northwest, who had added the Mariners to their stable of teams. The Oregon Ducks had begun transitioning away from FSN to their own telecasts as the new Mariner heavy programming made the station more Seattle biased. But the Trail Blazers had a home, and you could finally see home games on cable. All was well until the following year the Supersonics moved their games to FSN, which was good for them but bad for the viewers. As the Sonics continued to get better and the Trail Blazers struggled with finding an identity, the coverage became more and more slanted towards up north.

The Trail Blazers began a renaissance a few years ago to reconnect with the fans, and build a team that everyone could be proud of. The pieces have been coming together, with Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Steve Blake, Martell Webster, Jarrett Jack and Travis Outlaw forming a solid nucleus of players. However, the process wasn't without bumps in the road, and the team got very aggressive in marketing the team as different and thing would improve.

During the most recent off season, the TrailBlazers TV deal was up, and while there were cursory discussions with FSN, both sides went their own way because of terms. Within a few weeks, the team announced a 10 year deal with Comcast to set up a Oregon based sports channel in time for the 2007 season. While the Trail Blazers would be the programming hub, other local teams would get coverage as well. Comcast Sports Northwest went on the air in October 2007, and so far, it's not a bad place to watch games. But there are still ongoing issues.

So far, only Verizon Cable in Hillsboro was able to add CSNW to their channel lineup. Fans who have other cable systems or satellite TV have been shut out of Trail Blazer games this year, mostly because all of the sides can't come to an agreement. With the season now 25 games in, there's hope that terms can be reached, but essentially each side is blaming each other for the issue. But the interesting development that happened a few days ago was that FSN agreed to broadcast 20 Portland Beavers games and 5 Portland Timbers games each season for the next few years. It's great for the teams to get the coverage, and should help with the gate and interest in the teams, but I believe this is probably the start of competition between FSN and CSNW.

The future of FSN's programming is up in the air with the status of the SuperSonics, now rumored to be moving to Oklahoma next season. The University of Oregon joined CSNW, and now you can see most Duck broadcasts locally. There's been talk that the Beavers might be looking to move their broadcasts as well, if the terms are right. And Seattle now has MLS coming to town in 2009, and would be looking for broadcast partners.

I'm not against competition at all if it benefits the customers and fans that want to see the games. But in the all mighty pursuit of dollars and exposure, my hope is that the teams and channels involved will not only think of the bottom line but think of the fans as well. Nobody wins when games are hard to find, especially if your cable system or satellite provider doesn't even have access to carry the games. I'm hoping history doesn't repeat itself here, but at this point, all I can do is find my remote and take my chances..

Saturday, December 15, 2007

When MLS Came to That Place Up North..

I've had many folks ask me how I feel about MLS soccer coming to Seattle in 2009. I smile, and say something polite like yea, it's good to see soccer come out to the Pacific Northwest in a rather sarcastic tone, and they wonder why I'm not happy about it. Granted, these folks don't really understand the relationship between Portland and Seattle.

I love the fact that MLS is expanding to the Northwest, as it's about time the league realized there are cities that have the means and ability to really support a soccer side well. But I'm saddened because they chose Seattle over us, because I know we could support the team better than they could any day of the week. I will admit that my bias as a Timbers Army supporter keeps me somewhat from seeing Seattle as anything more than our fierce rival to the north, but I've got friends that live up there and have had many fun trips to see the city. But after traveling up north for many years, and being treated like crap by the Seattle fans, security people, facility folks, I admit that even driving through the town gives me a cold chill down my spine.

I understand that's what rival cities are supposed to do to you, so I'm not surprised by my reaction there. I can even understand some of the rationale behind putting a team there, but what I fail to understand sometimes is why Portland didn't make a more aggressive run toward getting MLS here. It kills me to know that even though MLS will be there in 2009 under great fanfare and such, Portland could support it so much better.

Seattle got the MLS team simply because of having some millionaires step up and say that soccer was something they were interested in having there. The current ownership of their USL side knew it would take significant investment to make it happen, and so they went out and got money guys to do it. Need a face for the ownership, hey, let's recruit Drew Carey and have him be front and present. MLS says you need a soccer specific stadium or something that closely fits, hey Qwest Field isn't so bad and we can fix it up to make it feel more soccer like. And hey, the guy that owns it just happens to be another one of our money guys. The city and state governments simply needed to show up and provide lip support to this plan, simply because the pieces fell into place on their end, and MLS came calling.

MLS seriously looked at Portland, but let's face it, you have a stadium ready and guys with money ready to bankroll it up north, I don't blame MLS for one second to look up there. But they could have looked more at the potential support and future growth here, and said we want to take a chance with Portland, much like they did for Salt Lake City. But instead, the lure of easy money called them up north.

MLS Seattle may do fine the first year, and they might do OK for a few years due to the novelty of the sport and the fact that MLS does have a few calling cards (AKA Beckham) that will draw folks to want to watch. But the atmosphere will resemble an NBA or MLB game, with folks standing for free t-shirts and cheering only when prompted by the PA or the jumbotron. Corporate box holders will go for the social part of entertaining clients, and the atmosphere will be very generic, very corporate, very boring.

The marketing whizs will also try to market MLS Seattle as a regional franchise, and entice fans from Portland to brave the trip up north to take in a game. It works for MLB and NFL, because Portland doesn't have competing teams and the TV programmers make the assumption that most NW fans love Seattle, and all things up there. Some of us actually could care less about the Hawks and the Mariners, to be honest, and I prefer the environment here of fans in Portland who for the most part don't act as corporate and cheer more often rather than wait for the canned prompts and such.

If you've been to a Portland Timbers match, you know what the atmosphere is like here. But if not, I invite you to go to and type Portland Timbers in the search box. You'll see 90 minutes of chanting, singing, streamers flying, jumping up and down, and energy and passion that you may not believe. That's probably the part about MLS going there that kills me, is that based on passion, we could show the MLS something. If you read our board, we get compliments worldwide from supporters who have seen our games or observed our videos that we understand how to support a side.

Part of my frustration may also be that based on the current environment in Portland, I don't expect MLS to be an easy sell here. Merritt Paulson owns the Timbers and Portland Beavers Triple A baseball team, but the city owns PGE Park, the facility that both teams share. To get an MLS stadium here, you would need to either build a new soccer only facility or build a baseball stadium and move the Beavers. The location of PGE just west of downtown Portland makes the game experience amazing, with many restaurants and pubs within walking distance. And with public transit just a block away, you can park anywhere and take it to the park.

But the city isn't wild about pitching in funds for a new sports facility, and wants both teams to honor the lease. And so far, Paulson is the only money man that has stepped up to express interest in MLS. MLS is saying it will take $30 million just in fees to be considered, and then you need to have a stadium deal ready to go. Based on costs for either soccer or baseball stadiums, that would involve another $20 to 30 million for that, so right now you'd need $60 million just to get the initial plans going. That doesn't cover costs of setting up the team, either.

If you listen to the mayor and other city officials, they all say that the city is dealing with other issues with paying for schools and jails, and sports are not a priority unless someone else pays for it. We are thinking of the future here. But just like investments in the future for schools and jails, building a stadium gives people the chance to see world class entertainment now and in the future, and gives them a venue to see other events as well. When I was single, I never complained about my tax money going to schools because I saw it as an investment in the future that I hoped I'd have. Stadiums can be the same thing if given the chance, but right now, the city of Portland can't even figure out the right way to honor Cesar Chavez without making people around town upset.

I'd like to be optimistic about MLS coming here, and even with everything I've outlined as challenges, I still consider this place ready to make the plunge. Anyone who has witnessed the Timbers or Trail Blazer games knows this city rallies around its teams and supports them like no other. I'm hopeful that someone with a huge wad of cash and a dream sees that, and realizes the bright future instead of dwelling on the hurdles..


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Sad Day In Sports

I follow sports very religiously, as noted in the title of this blog. I try not to make fun of sports I don't follow too much, and try to be as passion filled as I can for the things I love. I grew up a football and baseball guy, but in moving to Portland, I discovered a love for basketball that called itself Blazermania, and over the past few years, I've found a love for soccer. I love my teams very much, and get happy when they win, and sad if they lose but it never changes how I feel about the team itself. But every once in a while, things happen that make me look in the mirror and wonder if it's time to rethink the passion..

The Rose Garden today announced that they will begin the bidding process next year to select a corporate sponsor to name the arena. The arena, now 12 years old, has been one of six that currently bears no corporate sponsorship, and when it was first built, the team was adamant that it would remain a non corporate named entity. But between then and today, we've had the run of the Jail Blazers, near death of the fan base, a complete roster turnover, new leadership for the team, and the team being put up for sale then pulled off the market. And let's not forget the PAM debacle that was recently cleared up. The arena was put in bankruptcy to get the team better rates, but the bankruptcy court ended up not liking the holding company Paul Allen put together to buy the arena for a lesser amount, and so the arena decided to try and run itself. Allen ended up buying the arena back, and making good on the amount owed, but the move smacked of corporate greed and maneuvering. Yea, it happens a lot in the business world and more now in the sports arena world, but in Portland, we've always done things differently. The team is now on the rise, playing well, and has a bright future. And now, suddenly, the time is right to have our arena be just like everywhere else in getting a cold static corporate name. I wasn't a huge fan of the Rose Garden name when it was first proposed, but I grew to like it as a symbol for the Rose City and our sports team. And now, just like so many other things, the past is thrown out the window at the pursuit of more cash flows.

The Mitchell report was also released today, implicated dozens of players in the steroids mess that baseball is in. It's pretty obvious to anyone following the sport the last 10 years that players are getting bigger and stronger, and in some cases, unnaturally big. We've also seen increases in rotator cuff injuries, torn knee ligaments, and other assorted injuries as the rush to be bigger and faster seems to put more and more strain on bodies. I could see where a guy not using steroids might think he needs to do to keep up with the other guys, but that smacks of taking the short cut. Baseball has always portrayed itself as America's game, with a rich past of great history, apple pie, small town games, and embracing the new age while paying attention to its past. But in doing that, the game needs to live with itself and keep its integrity in place, because if the fan can't believe in the game and the people that play it and run it, it runs the risk of becoming irrelevant. The NBA is dealing with referees and gambling, the NFL can't fund pensions yet can build new stadiums all over, and MLB has its drug cloud that it can't seem to get past.

Mitchell's report essentially blames everyone involved, from the commissioner to the teams to the players to the agents in this mess, as many folks looked the other way while guys took shortcuts to make themselves stronger and faster in the pursuit of money and glory. It seems empty now to look at these players and think was it natural talent that let them do what they did or was it the drugs? Baseball has survived many scandals over the years, but at what point do the fans just walk away and say I've had enough. If you don't have integrity to show the fans that you are there to play hard, play by the rules, and do things the right way, then you have nothing. Winning may be nice, but if it's done above everything else and without regard to consequence, can you really say that it's worth it. I for one say no, it's not, and while I may still follow the game, it probably won't be as close as it has been. Quite frankly, I've got better things to do with my time..


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Row N Holiday

The other half of my Thanksgiving holiday was spent at McMenanims Edgefield hanging out with my friends from Row N. Before I talk about the events of the weekend, perhaps I should start with a little background.

The Timbers Army stands near section 107 of PGE Park in supporting the USL First Division Portland Timbers soccer club. In 2004, the section wasn't even a quarter filled, but it was loud and boisterous. Folks started catching onto the fun of standing in the section and chanting the songs. It was at that time that my friend Obi and I stood in the back of section 107 and then joined a road trip north to watch the Timbers take on our fiercest rival, the Seattle Sounders, in a playoff game. We lost the game unfortunately, but we were both hooked. We ended up meeting some of the TA at a few events in the offseason, and eventually became members that stood in the back of the group. Sometimes, it was Row N, sometimes row L, but always towards the back. Girl (my fiancee) had returned from teaching in England, and posted on the board she wanted to watch soccer here and she stood in Row N. On July 2, 2005, girl met Obi and GK, and Row N was born on that day.

Along the way, we've had some folks join the happy group, and they are able to come to games now and then schedules permitting. Obi now spends much of his game time on the field, but will wave at us from there. Harrison and Firestarter joined us soon afterwards, and Firestarter stuck around showing off his talent for drinking multiple beers at the same time. Harrison was able to stay around for a few games, but he and his lovely wife just had their first child, and so they have been back a few times. NBorders and Daveknows have come to many a match, old school supporters from the back when and they found our row inviting. We were joined by steeplechase3K this past year as he left his seat up front to sit with us, and our good friend Hoss stops in now and then to say hi and watch a match. We've now had greensailor and her boyfriend join our happy collective this year as well.

What started as folks sitting near us simply in random seating turned into something more in the course of talking, as we found out that we had a lot of stuff in common. We all loved soccer, obvious with our being there, but we all loved pie more than cake. We also found in many conversations that we all hate clowns. This became a common thread through many of our stories to the amusement of many of the other TA. We have also discovered other things, like most of us hate spiders, love the Trail Blazers, love this town a lot, and drink a lot of alcohol. Games became our times to meet up, share stories, and generally get to know each other better. I've heard stories of folks that bond as family during sporting events, and it happened in Row N because of footy, a love of pastry and a hate for clowns.

Our group has become sort of the destination for souls that look for goofiness in celebrating the game. We have our own banner depicting Bob Ross, the Happy Trees painting guy, and there's also silly string, streamers, and other assorted things being thrown from our area. We also have a green toy chainsaw that I carry for every home game, plus we also have some crazy banners depicting our love of pie and beer. The most famous Row N banner is Got Wood? in the Got Milk font, and we display that when Timber Jim cuts the log after a score. We've also brought in an inflatable whale for a prop, and fed part of the section with homemade pie that was brought into the park. Yea, not gonna tell you how we did that.

What's funny about this experience is that meeting up for soccer had led me to meet some of the most amazing people and the love of my life, and as silly as it sounds, it started over soccer and hating clowns. Since soccer runs through the summer and fall, we've started meeting up during the offseason to gather, share stories, and have fun. Our first Row N gathering really wasn't a true official group thing, but it was a party for my 40th birthday that lead to a late drinking night at Edgefield. We met up there again in May for a weekend of fun, golf, drinking, and being up too late, and our third official gathering was during Thanksgiving weekend. Our next gathering will be in April during my wedding to girl, and we'd like to continue doing this for as long as we can.

Along the way, we've met graceless and fenrus, who don't stand in Row N, but bowl with us each Tuesday and share our loves. We also have honorary members like Hornman, KC, and Nic that have shown up to games, and occassionally meet up to share pie stories. The love of footy has led to now lifelong friends who share a common bond, and it's amazing.

Our weekend was filled with drinking, laughing, and generally relaxing as we forgot about the trials of work and the world, forgot about the Timbers postseason loss, and looking with optimism towards the 2008 season. Can't think of better folks to hang with, actually.

Anyway, my point in this rambling is that finding your place is something everyone of us needs to do. Sometimes it's as simple as finding a group of folks that are as crazy as you are about the things you love, sometimes it's more difficult than that. But we all keep trying because at the core, we all want a place to be happy, be loved, and accepted for who you are. And it can happen in the most unlikely of places, but when it does, cherish it for all it is worth because being part of something bigger than yourself and sharing in a group experience like this is one of the greatest gifts life has to offer. Until next time...


Saturday, December 1, 2007

Last Weekend in Full Contact Shopping Mode

Ok, a few housekeeping notes on this, which I should point out. First of all, I won't be posting on any sort of regular schedule, so I may end up posting every day for a week then go two weeks with nothing. I write when the inspiration shows up, and at points, it overflows the senses. And on other times, it's lost in a sea of distraction.

Secondly, unless I specifically use somebody's real name, all the names I use in this blog will be either nicknames or names that I have made up. Not that I really feel I need to protect the innocent here or alter evidence, but I'm used to using aliases in my life as a member of the Timbers Army. Many of us post on our central board,, and for most of us, we use aliases for posting. There's folks I know in the army simply by their nickname, which was unusual at first but then I realized that these people are truly amazing folks, and being able to connect on such an indepth level without knowing a name was a truly unusual but fascinating situation.

Much like trying to shop on Black Friday. Mind you, Thanksgiving hasn't always been the biggest holiday for my family, especially after I went to college and spent many of the short holidays at school or with friends. Plus, when I went to work in the corporate world, I usually worked the day after Thanksgiving every year due to vacation in our world is always based on seniority. And for many of the groups I worked it, many of my coworkers had worked with the team since the time of rocks and fire. When I moved up to more management positions, I found that working that day wasn't a bad thing because you could get stuff done and not have your phone going off every 5 minutes with something blowing up. But since I've become part of girl's family (girl is my fiancee, her board name on SCUSA), they love the holiday of massive consumption and the day afterwords known as full contact shopping.

For a guy, I don't mind shopping or malls, mostly because if I go, I don't mind looking at the things to buy and I can entertain myself with people watching, which happens at every suburban shoppery. So after massive consuming food and sitting on the couch under a triptophan high, girl and I looked at various brochures to see if there was anything we wanted to venture out for. I was finally able to take the day after Thanksgiving off, and figured this might be a good time to see what all the fuss is about.

First item we decided to shop for was socks. Ok, if you've lived in Portland for any time frame, you know the Fred Meyer sock sale after thanksgiving, where socks are very cheap. Plus as a guy, I sometimes subscribe to the theory my (article of clothing name inserted here, could be socks, underwear, t-shirt)* isn't so bad that it can't be worn. Girl follows the female mindset of this (those are full of holes/there's one good string left/holes in socks are bad) and so I have to watch what I wear here. Most guys will admit to having one bad pair of socks or underwear that's comfortable to wear when single but would cause the wrath of your significant other if you wore it, much less in public. Yes, some of my socks resembled swiss cheese, so I agreed to partake on this. Yes, the holes seem stupid, but when it comes to this, comfort rules out over fashion. Although, it probably shouldn't.

We found some specials on an MP3 player, which we wanted for our wedding. We also found that most mall jewerly stores were putting their stuff on sale for 50 percent off, so we thought it would be a good time to check on rings. Everything else either didn't have appeal, and we wanted to get into the mall and out unscathed. And so the story begins...

6:00 AM - the alarm goes off and we are now officially operating on 4 hours of sleep. Between overeating and being distracted by TV, we were up really late. Watching scare you to death TV (that's what I call Fox 12 news - if we aren't scaring you about something, we aren't doing our jobs), they had showed malls filled with people shopping since 5 Am. Ok, this could be crazier than I thought, but we dress warm and head out towards Freddy's.
7:15 AM - The wood village Freddy's is semi packed, but we get a parking spot close to the front, which surprises me. As I enter the store with girl, the madness has already begun with people 3 deep grabbing and pulling at socks. There's boxes and boxes of them, but apparently this one pair of white ones had 4 people wanting it. People, socks are socks, I think but then I get distracted by Nike socks on sale and someone grabs the pair I was looking at from me. It's time to regroup a bit and we notice pillows are on sale, so we wander over there and there's nobody in that section. A few pillow shots to the head for each of us to the amusement of some other shoppers, we grab pillows and head up to get different socks. A nice employee gives me some large shopping bags to hold pillows, and then within 5 minutes upstairs, I have my socks without anyone stealing them, and we now wander to find girl some socks. We find some great green ones, socks with monkeys and cats, and other fun colors, and then go to stand in line to pay. The same employee that gave me a bag told us to wander downstairs for no waiting, and sure enough, we checked out in 20 minutes. The longest line at the store was for people wanting to take carts upstairs in the elevator.
7:45 AM - We get to Best Buy in gresham for the MP3 player, and it's somewhat crowded but not too bad. After getting turned around a few times in the store, we get to the MP3 area and of course, everyone is distracted by the cheap one on sale. I start looking at a 4 GB model, which then causes someone to grab the same model and stare at it for 5 minutes. Apparently, what I was buying was fascinating to this guy, because everything I looked at, he picked up and looked at after me. I finally ditched him, grabbed the MP3 player and a charger, and did a victory dance as we checked out. Only 15 minutes in the store, and a close parking spot here. Not bad.
8:10 AM - Clackamas Town Center is crazy. Seriously, I didn't think there could be this many cars anywhere, and I've been to Trail Blazer games. We were heading to Sears to look at rings to start, and it took us 10 minutes in the parking lot just to find a spot. Ok, we had to walk forever, but at least we found parking. The jewelry section was crazy busy, and we had to pick a number just to get serviced. However, we waited just 5 minutes and a guy called our number. We found a couple of wedding bands within minutes that we liked, and they were both reduced in price. Very sparkly, and the guy even was trying to find the least expensive but nice ring that we could have. I appreciated someone looking out for us, especially in the craziness. Next thing, we know, 15 minutes in the store, $450 and we have rings. It's now 8:55 AM and we are done with the things we set out to shop for.

Ok, we tried to follow the rules of shopping for things we needed and that were on sale, so that's why our list was pillows, socks, rings and an MP3 player. Everyone was so nice and friendly, and the experience was quick and painless, but I think it helped that we knew what we were doing, we knew where we needed to go, and we weren't in a huge hurry to get anywhere. The result was less than 2 hours of shopping with travel time, everything was done by 9 AM, and we could spend the rest of the day napping in front of bad TV.

I learned that girl and I make a great team, because we complement each other very well. We think alike, and we anticipate what each other is thinking. And we also talk about everything, and come up with a concensus plan of attack. And I can say that any experience like this where I can keep my sanity in tact and not kill my pocketbook too much is a great one. Ok, nothing fancy in the shopping cart, but honestly, how many extra shiny things do we all need.

We've agreed that we are trying a simpler approach to Christmas, and I think this was a good start to it as we focused on things we need. We can worry about the crazy purchases later, oh, wait, that's on the schedule for April.

Talk to you all soon..