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...