Thursday, October 16, 2008

It's Thursday and I Finally Went to the Gym

It's funny having a crazy, busy schedule, because you never realize how much time you have to do things until you get a moment to relax and then it's either rehash the list and be overwhelmed or fall asleep at a moment's notice. I've managed to accomplish both feats this week, as girl and I do some moving of rooms in our house and we generally clean the place from top to bottom. You'd think having 3 people in a big house, it'd be easy to keep up, but then again, having 7 cats means the mess is done by creatures that talk back but you can't understand them. Some of the things that have suffered greatly during this busy time include sleep, eating right, and the gym. I love going, simply because it's a great way to de-stress and do something good for yourself. I've been playing soccer twice a week for the past few months, which has helped out my fitness a bit, but the stress is still there because I'm trying to learn how to do things in the right way. I'll get it, but it's still fun, and I'm already looking forward to Sunday.

The world of sports has had an entertaining week, which is nice considering all the craziness in the world right now with the financial crisis, presidential debates, and trying to keep tabs on everything. I try not to spend too much time on the internets, but it's hard with the back and forth political posturing. I'm rather looking forward to November 5th and the entire thing will be done for a couple of years. Not that I don't mind elections, but they've become a corrupt business all their own. Politicians don't talk about issues or helping anyone, it's more about palatable sound bites that are vague enough to stand for something yet not get them into any trouble with opposing viewpoints. Trying to fit in the middle and appease large groups of people is really hard I get that, but many campaigns have turned taking a position into pandering and throwing any bit of mud they can at opponents simply to make themselves look better in comparison. Politics is an ugly business, which is why I wish folks that want to run the best because they're better than me. I just couldn't stand the scrutiny, the single mindedness about certain issues, the pandering, all the things that you have to do to in order to convince people to vote your way.

The topic of sportsmanship came up after Oregon State crushed Washington State this past weekend 66 to 13, the same weekend that a couple of high school football games ended with extremely large margins of victory. Even the sports columnist in town got on the wagon, calling running up scores a part of the game. I can't blame players who come into blowouts late, and want to play hard and get the same chance as other more talented players to score. I know from my days of playing football, the only time I got into games was late, because while I gave a lot of effort in my game, I just didn't have the talent like other players. I understood the reality of things, but worked hard because I was there to play. And I learned a lot of lessons about winning and losing, being on both sides of blowouts. It's a great feeling to win big, but it can over inflate your confidence and put false expectations into your brain, while losing big, well, sometimes it's just better to forget a big loss. But in either event, it's about learning for the next time, and not getting too high with wins or too low in losses, and showing respect for your opponents. I think it's a disservice to take the throttle off in blowouts, it sends the message that you don't respect your opponent enough to play hard the whole game. I understand that you want to be sportsmanlike or show mercy a bit, but seriously, life doesn't take it easy on you at points when things happen just because there's too much going on. Taking a big loss in the chin taught me to work harder so that I never wanted to deal with that again, and when it happened again, I just worked harder. Losses happen, and I think the more people try to protect athletes from reality, the more issues it brings up.

You already have a class of people that is used to getting advantages for being good at sports, having people tell them they are great or could go professional, so now, let's cushion them from big losses because it will hurt their feelings. The best athletes want to play anytime and prove their talent in the arena, and play until someone wins. But playing also means respecting your opponent enough to play all the way, all the time. It means showing respect by not trash talking or belittling an opponent with disparaging remarks, but playing until the game is done and then shaking their hands and thanking them for competing. That's why sports keep score, it may not help any hurt feelings, but competition can be healthy if it's done in the right way. And honestly, it needs to be simplified. Young athletes shouldn't be ranked or scouted in eighth grade, but instead encouraged to find their sports and play better. Learn to win the right way by being respectful, and learn to lose respectfully by not blaming teammates, officials, or others. I know it's human nature to complain about losses, and so I'm not naive enough to be pollyana here, because I do that myself. But after some soul searching, it's time to shake off the loss or issue and get back to work to do it better the next time. If you aren't striving, you aren't getting better.

I also spent some time reading an opinion in today's Oregonian about MLS to Portland, and why public money shouldn't be used. I respect the author's position on this issue, but I think the points used in arguing his side are flawed, so I crafted a response to the O about it. The studys that say new stadiums don't bring economic impact to the area where they're built are many, but even the staunchest anti-public money economists admit that there are economic streams that aren't included in most studies that should be, including money spent due to civic pride in the team, or the "free-rider" impact. Free riders are folks that don't pay for tickets, but follow the team at home, in their local pubs, read about them in newspapers and are generally fans that don't go to games. It's also difficult to tag income figures of people attending games, knowing if the income used is really new income to them or a movement of discretionary funds from another purchase, which if that could be measure would make those figures more accurate. The best estimates are estimates at best, and there's studies showing benefits as well as studies that are critical.

The final point is that cities feel they are missing something if they don't have major sports, and so many of the economic benefits thrown about are in competition from cities trying to entice teams because there is a limited amount of them. Hey, having a monopoly on professional sports teams gives owners some control, and some use that control to their advantage, bleeding cities of monies until the next gravy train comes along. I get that some owners are like that, but I don't feel this is the case with Mr. Paulson. The deal to get MLS here is a partnership between the city and his group, with both sides submitting money, time and effort, and sharing risks on both sides. I think it's a great idea, and one that comes to fruition. So I'm talking about it to anyone that asks. Learn more at or, both are great sites that talk about the issues and address most major questions. And now with our bid submitted, it's a waiting game. But I'm not worried about having things to do until then...

Thursday, October 9, 2008

MLS to Portland Update

I got this in my email box today with updates about MLS to Portland. If you have interest in learning more, helping out, or knowing the status of MLS coming to Portland, read below...



October 7, 2008 - “Today, on behalf of the greatest soccer fans in America, we submitted our formal application to bring Major League Soccer to Portland. We expect to get a response to our application no later than March of next year. In the meantime, we will continue to work with MLS, city officials and the community to turn this exciting idea into reality for Portland and Oregon.” – Merritt Paulson

ESPN Soccer columnist Ives Galarcep ran an expansion poll consisting of 9 cities in the mix for MLS expansion. Likely due to the great fan atmosphere at Timbers games and the rivalry with Seattle, Portland was the runaway winner with roughly 40% of the vote.

Portland papers have also picked up the story of Paulson’s submission and readers have commented fervently to some of the online blogs. While there is broad public support for the plan, some commenters have responded with both anti-soccer sentiments that we know exist in this country, as well as knee-jerk reactions to public involvement in the plan.

Independent city auditors for the city and another group hired by Shortstop LLC have indicated that upgrading PGE Park bringing MLS to Portland represents substantial positive economic impacts for Portland. Also, auditors have noted that the initial revenue numbers provided to the city by Shortstop LLC are conservative and may even under represent the revenue that would repay city bonds issued for stadium construction. Paulson has already committed to funding the $40m expansion fee with private money.

We at MLStoPDX also believe that this public/private investment is fair for Portland. In exchange for leveraging the city’s credit which would be repaid with ticket revenues, the citizens of Portland gain economic and cultural benefits, while Shortstop LLC also earns a return on their $40m investment.

Publicly available city council communications have revealed that MLS boss Don Garber has promised Portland an MLS franchise in 2011 if the stadium upgrades are funded. The funding decision will come to a city council vote in early 2009.

We are almost there, but the public campaign continues up until the city council vote in January. So if you support bringing MLS to Portland please respond to as many of these reports with positive Letter to the Editors and comments if there is a blog posting

3 Key messages

1) We are Soccer City USA and this is an incredible opportunity to bring a second Major League franchise to Portland while simultaneously bring much needed investment to the Lents neighborhood.
2) The proposal is not asking for significant taxpayer dollars but instead for the City of Portland to help finance the construction and renovation of PGE Park and the new Beavers Ball Park. These bonds will be paid back through ticket sales and rent on both stadiums. This is a win-win situation.
3) The time is now. We have a owner who is putting his money where his mouth is to the tune of $40 million dollars to bring a MLS team to Portland. We have a jewel in the heart of a magnificent city in PGE Park. We have a rabid soccer fanbase in Potland. Portland can truly be Soccer City USA if we seize our opportunity.

Article Links:

Paulson pushes for Major League Soccer franchise (Portland Business Journal launches campaign to lure MLS (Associated Press via SI Pushes for Major League Soccer (KOIN [url=]launched to lure major league soccer to Portland (KATU[/url])Portland talking about $75 million deal to attract Major League Soccer (The Oregonian Expansion Miscellany (The Offside Rules, hello (USA Today push for major league soccer in Portland (KEX! (From the Beer Garden talking pro sports stadium again (Jack Bog’s Blog MLS edition (Oregon Live

Seriously, MLS to Portland would be an amazing thing. Learn more about it at (unofficial site) or (official site). I highly recommend getting behind this wonderful effort to get Portland another major league team.

I know funds are tight, the credit market is tough, and there's plenty of competition for funds, but this idea not only builds something for now but in the future as well in bringing the top level of American soccer to Portland. MLS to Portland now!!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Lessons in Sports Are Everywhere

It was late in the game on Sunday afternoon, our team clinging to a one goal lead and I had just wandered in for my third shift on defense. The game itself had been a crazy mix of weather alternating between drizzle, showers, sun breaks and a bit of wind, but it started on time despite the conditions. Our opponents only fielded 7 guys at kickoff, and we were at a list of 20 guys ready to go, so we had the number stacked in our favor. But our opponents, whom we'd played before and lost to 7 to 1, had some skill and had played together for years, so even being short players, they were able to break us down and our offense wasn't as organized as it has been. But here it was, us with a late lead and we were hoping to escape with points.

But our opponents had another breakaway on the left side opposite me, as I was playing on the right as a 3 person defense. Our middle defender, Pete, and left defender, Eric, went for the ball on the breakaway and I tracked back on the right. Up until this point, I'd been marking guys well, knocked out a couple of passes out of bounds, and generally played a strong game. One of the opposing strikers got a little past Pete and fired the ball in towards our keeper, who committed to block the shot, and the ball sailed to the right and glanced off the right post and it shot out toward the field. I immediately ran over to knock it out of bounds, but suddenly the other striker had pounced on the ball and knocked it in for the tying goal. I was absolutely devastated, as a guy that I should have marked I lost track of and he notched a goal. The game ended a few minutes later after a couple of furious runs for us towards goal, but in the end, it was a draw. Mind you, our team is win less and had been beaten pretty handily in the first three weeks, so a draw is a bit of a victory in that respect.

But I can't help but think about what might have happened if I'd have marked my man when the shot was taken. Granted, I could have knocked the ball away and it would have gotten rid of that threat, but there could have been more coming. I could have also knocked the guy down and given up a penalty to the other side, which I didn't do. It was a matter of a lesson learned, that marking guys is vital and I know that better for next time. My footy experience has mostly been on the pick up games in college and during P.E. back in school, but I've watched enough games to understand basic rules and strategy. It's putting it into practice that is important.
And it's also important to get back out and play and keep trying hard.

What I want to avoid is an effort like the Oregon Ducks this weekend, who folded up in the second quarter versus USC and gave them the win without too much effort, as USC took it to Oregon and they never responded. This team showed a lot of grit in beating Purdue on the road in two overtimes, but yet thought they could beat a Boise State team on talent alone, and BSU took them to the house. Oregon got the early lead, but when USC started pouring it on, Oregon made mistakes and the rest is a blowout. Plenty of Oregon players even said they felt they were the better team, despite the score, but the score is what people remember regardless. That might not be fair, but it's part of the game and part of why they keep score. You have to show up each week, ready to play, and if you make mistakes, that's part of the game. And it's OK to be confident of your talents, but you also need to be humble in victory and respectful in defeat. It's a matter of learning from the lessons, and my hope is that Oregon learns from the mistakes on Saturday and gets the ship righted.

If anything, they should take heart from the Oregon State Beavers, who played a very good game versus Utah to only see the Utes clip them with a late field goal. The Beavers had the game won, but they struggled late with some defense and came out on the short end of a pass interference call on the first two point conversion try Utah attempted to tie the score. The Beavers had upset USC the previous week, and had been basking in the glory of knocking off the number 1 ranked Trojans, and now were in a dogfight with the Utes in Salt Lake. The Utes have a lot of talent, and made some plays despite what the Beavers tried to do. It ended up a loss, but shouldn't be the end of their season. The Beavers show up to play hard every week, even outclassed like in Penn State earlier this year, but their coaches get them fired up to play each and every week, and let the chips fall where they make. Because as we've often seen, sometimes the chips fall in the right way to cause special things to happen.

You are only as good as your last week's performance. That's not meant to be overly critical, but what it shows is that it matters what you do now on the field at the point in time. Wins are great, but losses are part of the game as well, and you can't get too high from one or down on the other and expect to be able to snap back each week. It's human nature to glorify good performances, but sports has a humbling quality that pops up now and again, and it can put you in your place from time to time.

And it's also important to be there to support your friends and family when they are out there playing. It really helped me a lot to see girl on the sidelines, getting wet from the rain, but there providing support and distraction as needed. I spent a lot of time playing sports in high school, and I would have loved seeing my family there to cheer me on, win or lose. But there were other things to do, supposedly, and the one meet they did watch me, I came in dead last and heard about it all the way home. Moral victories and effort may not show up in the scoreboard, but it's important to acknowledge getting out there and trying, even in the sense of teamwork. It's a fine line here, though, as I don't advocate things like "trophy day for everyone" in sports, because I think it's important to learn the lesson that sports, like life, isn't fair. But if you work hard, try your best every week, learn from your mistakes, and don't beat yourself up or slap your back too much, sports can be a rewarding experience just the same.

So for me, it's time to get back to practice this week, and we have another game next Sunday. And I'm looking forward to it, because I've learned some valuable lessons. Hopefully Mother Nature won't make the whole experience happen under water...

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Everyone Needs to Take a Chill Pill...Except for Our Friends Up North

I have rather been enjoying the new sports station in town, 95.5 The Game. It's nice to have sports on the FM dial, and they've actually started to talk about more interesting stuff than 9 straight days of "What would you do if you were the Trail Blazers GM?" as the main topic. I get that we have a rather tough sports market, with one major sports team (NBA's Trail Blazers), a professional team in a lower division (USL's Timbers), two minor league teams (WHL's Winterhawks and PCL's Beavers), two state schools within two hours of Portland (U of O, OSU) and two colleges within town that draw some attention (Portland State, Univ of Portland) as your choices of teams to follow and talk about. The Trail Blazers dominate the airwaves and talk, simply because they are the big game in town. And the team is actually expected to do well this year, with new players coming on board, so the expectations are higher than they've been for a while.

But it's these expectations that are really becoming a source of frustation for myself. I get that this town loves this team, and we have some great new players coming in (Oden, Fernandez, Bayliss) to the mix of guys that finished 41 and 41 last year, and everyone at this point is relatively healthy with only a few minor injuries that are keeping some players from camp. Greg Oden has the potential to be a dominating center in the NBA for years to come, but so far, he's trying to recover from his micro fracture knee surgery and he's dealing with a tender ankle from an injury the past few days. When he rolled his ankle in practice, Coach McMillan, Oden and Kevin Pritchard, the GM of the team, all said, "He's fine, stop worrying", but yet we all are wondering what's going on and will this guy stay healthy. When you're the top game in town, everything about you becomes that much more exaggerated, and even things like a simple rolled ankle become the topic of conversation for hours and hours.

I get the team is important, and we all want them to do well. It's easy to sit here and think the team is still a bit snake bit, especially after getting the number one pick in 2007 only to see Oden get injured, but really the situation is what it is. Guys get banged up all the time, and the surgery that Oden has takes about a year just to get back to playing and moving more fluidly. I understand the team wanting to be cautious, but I think that the Trail Blazer fans need to exercise the same caution as well. It's not the end of the world if Oden is slow in rejoining the team, we still have a talented core that will get better with more experience and a deeper bench. We'll be in the hunt for the playoffs, and Oden just makes us that much more dangerous, but right now, it's the preseason and last time I checked, noboby wins a title simply because of what they did in the preseason.

The other recent topic is the problems that the Seattle sports market have been having, with the NBA Sonics leaving town for Oklahoma, the Mariners having the second worst record in MLB, the Seahawks struggling early, the Huskies and Cougars being collectively terrible, and MLS still a year away from town. There's nothing really positive of note, with the exception of the WNBA Storm that recently made a playoff run, and so there's the question of what happens to a town's sport reputation when the teams there collectively are terrible? I have looked back on my most recent notes and I can't recall any city experiencing anything like this, where you have no real distraction in sports. And let's face it, in our world of sound bite politics, economic woes, wars in the world, global warming about, and bad things happening around, sports can provide a true diversion from the real problems of the world.

The question is really should we in Portland care about these problems, especially since the Pacific Northwest is thought of as a region and the problems there might make folks think sports here is collectively bad. It doesn't help matters when two Seattle teams aggressively market their teams down here due to no close competition (Mariners, Seahawks), and television spends lots of time feeding their games here all the time, so they are thought of as regional teams. The new MLS team is also trying this approach to persuade soccer fans to travel up north. The thought from sports radio is that we should be concerned because of association and reputation of the Pacific Northwest matters, so we should worry.

Honestly, I couldn't disagree more with that thought. While the Trail Blazers were the laughing stock of the NBA, I didn't see a lot of Sonics fans worried about association, but rather glad their team wasn't this embarrassing. I get frustrated at sports fans from other areas assuming that just because I live near Seattle, I follow their teams out of loyalty. I have a different love for my NFL fix, and it's because of my grandmother that I follow the Broncos to this day. I follow the Mariners out of my general interest of baseball, but I'm more inclined to follow the Padres or Giants because of their farm teams around. People in Seattle don't think twice about whether their town's reputation reflects on Portland or any of their neighbors, as a matter of fact, many NBA fans that are sad at losing the Sonics have purposely said they won't follow the Trail Blazers even though the team is close by out of principle because the team is in Portland.

I get that sports fans out of the region tend to lump our cities together, and don't realize there has been quite a bit of rivalry between Seattle and Portland over the years, which carries over to matches with Winterhawks - Thunderbird, Timbers - Sounders, Ducks - Huskies, Beavers - Huskies, etc. Fans may be cordial to each other in some respects, but there is some dislike between cities. Seattle thinks of themselves as the grand jewel of the Northwest, center of commerce, trade and a large focal point, and because of it's somewhat trendy nature, Seattlites tend to think highly of their town. And of course, Portland wants to copy us in every way, because secretly they want to be just like us. Portland, on the other hand, wants so badly to be taken seriously on it's own, we try to do weird and quirky things to stand out, yet secretly we want to be accepted as a big city with things to be proud of in as normal of a way as possible. Portland wants to be hip and trendy, but do it on its own terms. And some of the trendiness might filter down from up north.

I think it's great that we have a bit of a rivalry between our cities, and quite frankly because of that rivalry, I don't really care what happens up north. I didn't want to see the Sonics leave, but honestly, none of the key players in the situation really tried hard to keep them there. If anything, I'm more upset that my Trail Blazers have to travel more because of not having a close rival anymore because of the situation, but we'll make the best of this situation and of any situation where we compare ourselves to Seattle. Because as much as Seattle wants to be trendy and hip and cosmopolitan, they want to be those things plus friendly and engaging, which is what Portland has already. I've never been in such a welcoming and friendly city, vibrant and full of energy, and willing to do things here on our own terms. I think our reputation will continue to grow and prosper, and whatever problems are happening up north will eventually cycle out or people will just stop caring about it and it won't be one of the great diversions. Just keep doing what you do, Portland, we're just fine the way we are.