"We'd like to announce that Portland will become the 18th and newest franchise for Major League Soccer." And with that, the room erupts in a sea of cheers, hugs, chants, and pure bedlam. Of course for the folks of the Timbers Army, this was probably the worst kept secret ever, since it had been alluded to during the broadcast of the Flounders - Energy Drinks the previous evening, plus our boards and emails had been flooded with calls to get ready from Friday. The crowd was so big, they were turning people away at the door, and it was pure insanity inside.
The official MLS announcement is right here, and you can read more about the official press stuff in this link. And if you look really closely behind Don Garber in the first link, you'll see half of my face in a bit of a cheer. Yes, I was on the stage at the announcement, and it was a nice vantage point. It was completely hot and bright from the lights, but it was a great place to be. And honestly, when girl and I walked in a bit before 9:30AM, we were walking up the stairs when our friend Finnegan motioned girl over to the right and said to stand over here, and bring me with her. The next thing I know, a person from MLS is saying we are going on stage and to be polite and cheer, line up from shortest to tallest, and have a good time. I stood behind girl, found someone to watch my backpack (Thank you, Jerroid!!), and then we walked in and stood for about 15 minutes, chanting, cheering, and dancing a bit while we waited for the announcement. And folks kept filing in. And then more came, and then still more.
I got some pictures from the stage, and a couple of videos as well, and even captured a bit of the fun later at the pub and at the match later that day versus Red Bull New York. I also got a link to the pictures from the official Soccer City USA site, courtesy of Allison. We knew about the match for a few weeks, but I had no idea that it would then become a celebration of MLS. I know there's a lot of people that worked very hard to make this happen, and a lot of credit goes towards them within the Timbers Army. While Merritt has worked tirelessly to secure financing, appear on television, and do many of the media tasks that surround bringing the team here, there's been dozens of Timbers employees helping along the way. The City Council deserves a lot of credit as well for believing in Merritt and soccer in Portland, and realizing this has a chance to be something special. MLS also deserves some credit for realizing the potential of the Portland market, and seeing the opportunity to build from the rebirth of the Pacific Northwest rivalry and the Cascadia Cup. And that doesn't mention the hours of time the Timbers Army have devoted to helping, from attending task force meetings, creating artwork, spending time on news blogs promoting the team or smashing on douche nozzles that are clueless, wearing scarves about town to promote the team, or just generally be enthusiastic about soccer in Portland. It was certainly a team effort, and a chance for everyone to celebrate what was going on.
The match itself showed me that as a team, we have a long way to go. We have a great defense, and Steven Cronin has solidified our goalkeeping situation greatly. And we have some creative players, who are just learning now how to play the game with each other, learning tendencies and strengths. I saw the team take chances they wouldn't have last year, and while we only got 4 shots on goal, I thought we played well, against an MLS side in New York that has some talent, but it appears they are also trying to gel a bit. It was great to see a large TA group there, almost 500 folks, and while the rain was driving down, it didn't dampen our enthusiasm one bit. What more could you want, a new MLS team coming, celebration all day, and then your team taking the pitch that night. Seems like the recipe for a really great day.
Although admittedly, I was struggling to celebrate at times, as my emotions have been all over the place lately. I mentioned that I have been going to counseling a few weeks ago, and the process has been one of the most painful and rewarding things I've dealt with. I had always considered myself a low key, laid back person from my childhood, but I've come to find out that a big part of that was due to my mom really coddling me on many things and dealing with a sister who while I love very dearly, always needed to have her way and get the last word in. My mom didn't make smart choices in husbands either, and her last husband majored in intimidation and was an asshole. He never had many friends, mostly because he was too busy being a jerk or trying to show off what he had or had earned. And I spent many years trying to earn his respect, and tried to figure out why my life was so all over the place yet my mom kept telling me things would be OK. And then I lost her, and even my step dad admitted that he figured I'd be a wreck trying to figure out what to do.
Well, what happened was that I fell in with a group that gave me the unconditional love and support that you get from a family. They've propped me when I needed it, smiled when I was in pain, laughed at me or with me when I was doing something unusual, and they've shown me the love and friendship I so needed in my life. You may not be able to choose your family, but you can choose your friends, and I fell into this lot because of a love for soccer and due to Obi. Now, I have some of the best friends a guy could ask for, and a wife who I love more than anything. My old self would have told me I didn't deserve all of this, because you don't deserve to be happy. And that old self came popping out a few times yesterday, when I should have been celebrating and whooping it up.
But then, I saw the faces of the TA at the Bitter End, I heard Bickle talk about the triangle of the new TA, I spend time with Drumman, General Timber Howie, RC and Drumman's son after the match, and even talked with Gavin for a bit while he was buying girl and me pints. And Scot even came over and chatted with us for a bit, thanking us for coming out to the match, which really was a lot of fun even in the rain. It's Portland, and it's March so it rains, get used to it. And I realized that I'm part of something that is so much bigger than me, so much bigger than one person, and I've got a green and while family that shows me love because of the team I support, and because I choose to contribute something to the cause. It's one thing to come to the matches, but it's another to contribute time to help promote the team, money to travel or buy the latest merchandise, or just care and believe beyond reason. I saw Bickle's enthusiasm at explaining the team, town, and timbers army, and the desire to want to envelop the town in Timbers love, and I realized that I'm home and where I want to be.
And mind you, this process will continue to be hard, because it's hard to face the reality that you might just be messed up, and the things and beliefs you had growing up just don't fit anymore, or your sense of history isn't the true reality of what happened. I'm not talking about anything happening to me that was so terrible, but in the years of trying to figure out who I was, I became the things that people wanted me to be, not what I should have become. And the Timbers Army showed me that being who you should be is important, because it's important to love yourself, your team, and your city beyond anything. I never quite expected to learn this by simply wearing a green and white scarf, but I think that it's apparent that I've learned an important lesson about family and it being redefined for me. I used to think you couldn't really choose your family, but I've learned that a green and white scarf and some of the best people ever proves otherwise.