It's a long holiday weekend, and I'm really happy about it. Memorial Day always starts the summer holiday season, as the cookouts and camping trips start up, and people talk about their planned trips out of town. Girl and I aren't going out of town, but we'll be plenty busy as is usually the case...
http://www.oregonlive.com/timbers/index.ssf/2009/05/portland_timbers_at_puerto_ric.html - Match Preview
The Portland Timbers make their annual trip to Puerto Rico to play the Islanders, and this year, it's a bit of a different traveling agenda. Like with Carolina here a few weeks ago, the Timbers are playing their two games in Puerto Rico this weekend on Friday at 5 PM PT and Sunday at 4 PM PT, then they are done with traveling there. It's a cost saving measure not having to travel there twice, especially since the Timbers have struggled a bit playing there. But the team is coming off an impressive late win last week against Rochester, and everyone is healthy at this point, so I would expect a good effort and for us to get some points from the weekend. Puerto Rico is usually a solid team, attacking from the midfield with flash and creativity, and they usually have steady goalkeeping, and this year's group seem to follow that trend. They've also been busy playing as one of the USL representatives in the CONCACAF Championship League, and winning matches, so they've got talent. And Puerto Rico does have a pretty crazy home crowd apparently, which keys up the home team. They are viewing parties this weekend all about town for the matches (Beulahland in SE Portland, Rogue Pub in the Pearl, Cheerful Bullpen near the Park, St. Johns Pub for Sunday's game), so if you are up for some Timbers come on out. Check the SCUSA site, http://www.soccercityusa.com/, for more details about viewings.
I understand the significance of this holiday, and have a great deal of respect for those in the military that choose to sacrifice for their country so that many of us can enjoy our freedoms at home. While I still don't agree with our decisions in the Middle East made before our current President was elected, I understand that we have a job to do and I'm glad that there are those that choose to hear the call. It's important to remember those that have served, either in the past, currently, or in the future, because it truly is honorable. I took one ROTC class in college, mostly because some friends had signed up and it seemed like fun, and part of me wanted to understand the whole military mindset. While some of the skills were interesting and I enjoyed myself in learning new things, I just couldn't get or understand the military vibe, so I decided to take my talents elsewhere. I'm glad I have that choice, and understand that veterans have had influence in allowing me that right.
Update from Last Post:
Finally, I was listening to Strong at Night on 95.5 the Game, and John spent a great deal of time talking about the subject of my last post, our friends from Wilsonville who were upset about language. He had a great take about exactly who should the team market towards, families with limited disposable income and potentially many competing interests or single people without those influences. Soccer has tried to market itself under the family banner for years, as the common convention was that kids that played soccer would become soccer fans. Suffice to say that hasn't happened, as soccer has remained relatively obscure in television ratings although attendance figures are up this year for the MLS.
Part of that phenomenon is Toronto, who has continued to sell out like crazy with its passionate fan base, and Seattle, who is riding the new team factor to record crowds and attention. I have issues with the team up north for them not supporting their old USL team very well, but it's hard to ignore what's happening up there now. I expect crowds to level out a bit, but both teams have done a good job successfully marketing to a lot of different groups to get them in the park. Toronto went after the soccer fans that had disposable income and marketed the chance to sing, chant, and have an authentic football experience, while Seattle used their website to help fans pick which section fans wanted to sit in based upon their fan preferences of standing, singing, chanting, or the like. It's a smart move.
The TA does distribute chant sheets for each match in the PG version without swear words, and many members alter words based on their own preferences. And the team and the TA meet regularly to discuss things, and we've even killed off one of the more offensive chants that the team specifically said they didn't like. It's not like we can't be reasonable about the situation, but all the TA ask is that it's important that the team respect everyone's fan experience and we'll try and do the same thing. I get that families should feel welcome to come to PGE Park and watch the Timbers, but if they are expecting a Disneyfied, homogenized, bland fan experience where you'll be prompted to make noise and show support, it's not going to happen. I'm not anti-family, I want to have one, but I also don't feel that every experience has to be family inclusive. It's OK for Dad to hang out with the boys and play golf, or Mom to visit her friends and go dancing without the kids now and then, and if you go out as a family, not everything is going to be family friendly. That's why teaching kids about correct behavior and expectations is so important, especially if you want them to behave.
My expectation is that the Timbers will find a way for everyone to co-exist in the park and everyone will be able to enjoy their fan experience. The fan sign marking section 107 as supporters is a great start, and the park employees also do a great job of laying out what to expect if you sit near 107, and the TA will do our part to help in that cause. But as much as we want to help, we also want the ability to cheer and chant and do what we do, and the fact that MLS management was in the stands for the Rochester game and loved what we did and want it to grow to other teams means that football culture is growing, and people understand what we have here. It's special, it's unique, and it's definitely Portland.