Friday, July 31, 2009

Random Notes for A Friday

I've heard of players being fined for all sorts of reasons, like missing a team flight, misconduct during practice, fighting, or other various reasons. But honestly, this is the first time I've ever heard of a player being fined for drinking a beer during the match. Ok, it's not like he was drinking on the bench, either, it was a situation where the player, Burnley's Steven Thompson, fell into PGE Park's Beer Garden trying to go after a ball and fell on a table that some folks were sitting at. The Beer Garden is at field level, and you are only about 10 feet from the pitch, so I'm surprised that we haven't heard more about players crashing into the area during games. But what got Thompson in trouble was the fact he drank from one of the pints on the table and then returned to the pitch. Well, it was a hot night and I'm sure that you get thirsty running about.
The Seahawks' news sources are abuzz with the fact that it's rumoured that the NFL team up north might be a destination for disgraced NFL quarterback Michael Vick. It's true that the new coach in Seachicken land, Jim Mora Jr, was the coach in Atlanta when Vick had his best seasons before the wheels came off as he was convicted of animal abuse and cruelty amongst other things. Vick was conditionally reinstated by the NFL this week, and the commissioner, Roger Goodell, is keeping an eye on the situation so his actual return date is up in the air. I only have interest in this story as much as if there was a team that might need talent like what Vick could do on the field, it's the Hawks. The problem is whether the firestorm of publicity and comments that would come from a signing is worth the trouble. Granted, Vick has served his sentence and paid restitution to the legal system for what he did, but I'm not sure that he's really repaid his full debt.
I own pets, and couldn't fathom doing to them what it is shown that Vick did with his animals as part of his dog fighting ring. I would hate to think that anyone would be capable of doing such cruelty, but at the same time, there's plenty of things that happen out there that boggle my mind. Playing in the NFL isn't a right, it's a privilege and one that I think Vick has to do a lot more to show he's worthy of this honor. He's got enough talent, and let's face it, there are organizations out there that will take a chance on it simply because the talent of what he has done in the past is too powerful to ignore. As much as we would like to think that character and integrity mean a lot in sports, ultimately, winning will triumph over most things and some team will take the chance that Vick would help them win without damaging the chemistry.
Somebody will give him a chance, and it will cause a ground swell for a time until the next great crisis comes along. Being in the front row to watch the Trail Blazers go through their problems from wonderfully talented and good guy team in the 90's to winning team but troublesome chemistry team in the early 00's to massive implosion of problems and train wreck and now a rebirth. Good teams need chemistry, talent and a lot of luck to win, and sometimes I feel you can take a chance on a guy with some blemishes in his past if you have a team with strong character that can help keep things in line. My problem with the Vick situation is that while he's paid his legal debt, I'm just not sure there's a team that could handle the baggage and distraction that he will bring. If there is one guy that can't afford to relapse or get into any sort of trouble, it's this guy, which is why I'm not sure he could find a home in the NFL, especially if you have a large group of media that will be watching every move, and scrutinize it at every level. I'm not sure anyone could live under that kind of microscope.

Randy Ready is now the former manager of the Portland Beavers, but it's because he got a new job, as he is the newest hitting instructor for the San Diego Padres. With the number of injuries and callups from Portland all year, Ready will actually end up reuniting with many of his former players in going to San Diego, so he might be able to help their anemic offense. But then again, after trading your ace pitcher away, offense might not be your only issue.
Granted, San Diego is a beautiful city and they do support their baseball team rather well. But with troubles in their ownership, as their owner needing to shed payroll and talent being traded away from time to time, I can imagine that being a Padre fan can be frustrating. And since Portland is the triple AAA team, we are affected by a lot of what they do, including watching talent be here one day and then gone the next. I'm hoping that at some point, the organization can stabilize to the point where you can provide some strength and build some teamwork. But as long as San Diego remains a smaller market trying to survive, this is probably the reality of what we will see with the Beavers over the next few years. Just remember when watching the game, you might need a scorecard just to know who's playing on the field.

Have a good weekend all, and enjoy the sun! It appears the heatwave that hit Portland is come and gone, as we suffered from over 100 degree heat for most of the week. I can't believe that I'm excited about it being 93 outside!!!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

I've Angered the Soccer World

Or at least a small part of it anyway. I find it rather interesting that they are getting so worked up over my opinion, but then again, we are dealing with a rivalry here and sometimes rational thought doesn't fit in the equation. I wanted to keep an open mind going up there, hoping that things might be different now versus previous trips up north. But I was proven wrong, and decided to share my thoughts. There wasn't anger or frustration or even jealousy in my words, I simply wanted to compare the experience to other football matches I've witnessed here and abroad. It didn't compare in the least, but at the same time, if that works for them, by all means keep it up.
The Timbers are close to hitting the home stretch, which doesn't seem possible as it feels the season just started a few weeks ago. But they have 12 games left, 7 at home and 5 on the road, starting with a game in Minnesota on Saturday. I'll have some thoughts on the game in my other blog home, but one thing I will say up front is play 90, Timbers, please play 90.
The baseball saga in Portland continues with an interesting article about Beaverton and their ability to pay for a ballpark. Ok, apparently, they could pay for one right now, according to Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle. They seem overly excited to have a team come to their town, and I think it's a win for them in the long run. Sports team can add quite a bit to how people feel about their town, and Beaverton has always wanted to be outside of the Portland shadow a bit. Plus, the Beavers need to be in a city that actually wants the team. Mind you, I think Portland wants them as well, but they just can't figure out a way to do it that doesn't require a huge amount of consensus, discussion, and posturing. Portland had the right idea for a ballpark, but lost their way in the middle innings, and now, the team will stay in the proper area. But I feel that the Beavers will thrive given the chance to really be supported and become an anchor for the area, which really it doesn't have here. Portland residents might like baseball, but their team of choice more often than not is somebody else than the Beavers. They deserve a better fate, and especially if the city and Merritt Paulson can work together to find a deal that works for everyone.
The Trail Blazers are very close to announcing their full schedule for 2009 - 2010, but they've announced their preseason games in a release yesterday. Two games of interest are the game in Vancouver, BC versus the Phoenix Suns and Vancouver's own Steve Nash, and a turn back the clock game on October 14th. On that date, the Suns and Trail Blazers will play at the Memorial Coliseum, the Trail Blazers' original home, and ironically, the teams playing were the last teams to ever play there before the Trail Blazers moved to their new home. This is either a genius move to rekindle some old time Blazermania, or it's a ploy to show the state of the MC to everyone to then gain traction to fix up the old building or tear it down. I still don't trust the team's motives in relation to their own home, as they have been responsible for up-keeping the MC and haven't been, and their desires for the long term are to put in some shops and pubs. So far, people have suggested a museum, velodrome, water park, or outdoor concert venue to go in that spot, but in my mind, baseball still made the most sense.
I haven't even gotten to talk about Andre Miller joining the Trail Blazers last week, as he signed a three year deal with the team. Granted, Miller is a winner, hardly gets injured, can drive to the basket and create his own shot, but this deal has effectively indicated that the team doesn't think Jarryd Bayless is ready to run the team, and that Steve Blake might not be in the team's long range plans. You've upgraded the position, and given yourself a great option if Blake gets injured, and Miller could thrive with a second unit of Webster, Outlaw, Oden and Fernandez. He's definitely a step up from Sergio Rodriguez, who I personally liked a lot, but he really never showed his skills here with any consistency. The team has made their 1 through 10 players stronger, though, but it's probably not the flashy move everyone has expected. But getting some help in being a leader and a distributor for Brandon Roy was a vital need, and this move addresses it. The franchise can't help but be happy about this, and I hope that we're only a few steps away from seeing his contract extended.
Enjoy the rest of your Thursday, and stay cool out there. The heat isn't quite as bad as it has been, but then again, I never thought I'd be happy to see the temperature at 95 degrees as a good thing. I'm actually happy thinking about the prospect of the rainy season coming. Guess I've really adopted this Oregon way of life.

Monday, July 27, 2009

I'm Still Worn Out

I'm worn out and my work week just got started. That's what you get when you try and cram two footy matches in two cities on one day, and then try and watch a third match on television on Sunday. Great for the soccer sensibilities, but tough on the sleep and sanity.

I spent my Saturday traveling to that place up north as a guest of the Chicago Fire from the MLS to support them while they played FC Puke Green on Saturday afternoon. We had chartered busses to make the trip up north, and make it back in time for a friendly match here in Portland between the Timbers and Burnley, a recently promoted to the Premiership English team. I've covered most of the highlights on my other blog, and have some photos that I took in both stadiums.

Honestly, the football experiences couldn't have been more night and day from each other. MLS at Qworst was very homogonized, bland, and controlled, while the Timbers was more of a fluid, dynamic experience. I felt that the Timbers and Burnley played a very competitive, aggressive game during a match that really didn't mean much of anything to either side. There was some chances taken, some mistakes made, but it appeared that both sides were playing to win. In the Fire - Flounder match, it seemed like both teams were content to take their shots at only a certain time, and it was very bunker like in the approach. Although, the controlled crowd environment didn't help my sensibilities either.

I've seen matches in England and throughout the United States, and I've never heard of a soccer stadium actually using sound effects and piped in noise to help accentuate the environment. The Shittle USL team used to use sounds like what you would hear at an NBA game to exhort the crowd to cheer, and this year, they use different techniques to make the game experience, well, not like anything I've ever experienced. But then again, most crowds that follow soccer know when to cheer, they sing with their fans, and the noise is rather spontaneous. That's a foreign concept for a lot of arenas in America, where our short attention span audience needs to have things happen all the time to keep their focus on the events at hand. I can see why some soccer teams have resorted to cheerleaders, mascots and other things, which makes me sad, but at the same point, some people need more of a hook than just the game itself.

Which really points me to a discussion from last week about marketing and the MLS, which really has gone away from its early days of marketing to soccer moms and kids and is now going after more of the edgy fans that appreciate things like cheap beer and being able to make noise. It's a delicate balance to market to both groups, but I think that's what teams need to do in order to survive. One of the things that FC Puke Green has done with tickets is ask fans what type of experience they want, and then put the fans in areas with fans that want to do the same thing, like stand for the match or sing songs. It's actually not a bad idea to put fans together in that type of experience, because I think it lessens the chance of someone getting upset about fan actions when they realize the section they are in. No surprises, just an experience that matches what they want.

And that's why I appreciate how hard the Timbers have worked to make the experience more palatable for everyone. There are sections on the west side for fans that want to sit, and families that don't want to hear the salty language that the TA often uses. For the hardcore fans, you have the north end and section 107. Sometimes, you can't make everyone happy with the overall stadium plan, but if I'm the guy in charge, I'm probably not going to upset my loyal fans that come every game and travel on the road to follow their team. While there are some families that do this, more often, it's the single fans with large disposable incomes that have that approach to their fandom, and many of them want a more animated, active approach to being a fan.

What gets in the way of some arguments is an approach taken by the Portland Sportsman, who tries to argue that Portland is a better overall fit for MLS than Shittle, but they take a rather long way about to prove their point. I'm always happy to hear from different perspectives on the fan experience and what people want, but the take needs to be something that works and it doesn't help when your major premise is filled with some rather simple errors. I wouldn't know anything about that, as one of my first posts on my new blog was filled with a couple of bad hiccups. Granted, I thought my research was top notch, until it got shot down with a few well timed comments. I can see the author here is trying to make the same point about a static, controlled environment is going to do well at first but will level out versus something more organic and fluid, but if that is the case, try and make it a bit more simply. For me, all I needed to do was see an MLS game up close as an away supporter and that was enough for me to understand.

Look, I could have went and sat in the regular seats and took it in, and I might have come away with a different take than I did. I might have thought that FC Puke Green isn't so bad and their fans are good at what they do, but then again, when you have a front office that controls every aspect of the environment and the experience is meant to be controlled to produce an expected result, what could you expect from that? Especially if you have a large group of fans that either don't know any better because soccer is new to them, or you have a block of largely disenfranchised sports fans whose team isn't in the area anymore. It just goes back to trust, and whether you trust the product to sell itself. And right now, I don't think that Shittle trusts the product to sell itself, so you have to sell the fan experience, but if that might not be enough, well then resort to making sure it is enough. Seriously, I've never been to a soccer match where a team got booed for earning a draw during a match.

I can't blame some teams for doing this, especially if there's significant investment like many owners are making. As a fan, though, you hope that at some point, the team wakes up and realizes their mistakes and allows the experience to really sell itself, or you find another diversion for your money. Thankfully, the Timbers have the best owner in the business, who gets what it should be about, and I can't wait until we get to show the MLS what we are all about. But we must be very respectful about what we do, because there's a tremendous amount of history that has occured, and it's important to honor that.

You can't talk about great soccer support in America and not talk about the Barra Brava, Section 8 (who are quite top notch fans), or the supporters in Houston who have really taken to their team. These groups have done quite a lot to show what it takes to be great supporters, and without them, you don't have groups like the ECS or Red Patch Boys with their abilities to show their fandom. You can't really see the future without looking towards the past, and I'm thankful that many of the Timbers fans are learning about our history and what we've done to set things up for our future.

But the most encouraging thing I saw on Saturday in our park was an incident that occured after our first goal versus Burnley. George Josten had slotted home a nice ball, and during the celebration after the goal, a guy who I hadn't seen in our section before takes a smoke bomb and throws it onto the pitch. This led to more than a few of us, myself included, to yell at the guy and point him out to security. Apparently, he was talked to later by some of the more seasoned members of the TA and told we don't do that and until you can follow those rules, stay away. What was rumoured to have happened after that was that the guy tried to turn himself into security and they told him that we'll let the Timbers Army deal with you.

This is a far different cry than the end of the 2006 season with the Flare Bears or the infamous exhibition match with Toronto FC with a few guest players that remain nameless. We talk with our front office, and they listen to what we have to say, and decisions are made with those thoughts in mind. I don't expect the team to do everything we suggest, but at the same time, they are listening to us. And we are doing our part by reaching out to the community and by taking care of issues like what happened on Saturday. MLS is going to be a huge success here, not just because we have the passion for it, but we have the forethought to make this something truly special.

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Dream Come True

It was the most unreal feeling I've had in a while, much like the feeling in my stomach when I got married. It was part exhilaration, part anxiety, part happiness, and part being overwhelmed at the moment, but I had achieved something I'd wanted to do for a very long time. In the second half of the Timbers - Puerto Rico match at home on Thursday night, I was on the pitch with my camera taking pictures. It had already been a momentus day when I got to this point, so I was happy to take a moment and take it all in.

The City Council had passed the financing bill for PGE Park to refurbish it to a soccer/football only facility, and the Timbers were playing for first place in the USL First Division against Puerto Rico. The vote on the financing took place about 5:30 pm, and by the time the final votes were done, girl and I were cutting it close to get to the stadium to get our seats in Row N. But it didn't matter, because we got the votes we needed. 4 affirmative, 1 negative, and MLS now has a future here, and I still believe in baseball's future here too, as long as a home can be found, and it looks like Beaverton is angling for the team and has the best chance now. As I listened to the testimony and speeches, I was struck about the fact this was a pipe dream just over a year ago, and now it's one step away from reality. There's a final vote in September once the final designs and financing are figured out, but Thursday's vote is really the point of no return. In two years time, MLS teams will be coming to Portland, seeing what the Puerto Rico Islanders were faced with.

A crowd of 14,000 fans, all excited, and ready to go. The game itself was fairly balanced and well paced, both teams took their shots to score but played within themselves, and in the end, it was a scoreless draw. Ok, that happens in soccer, but the enthusiasm wasn't dampened by this at all. The Timbers Army did a tifo display for Scot Thompson, who became the franchises' all time games played leader, and he had already earned the record for most minutes played, so the TA wanted to do something for the team's emotional leader. And his play on the pitch didn't disappoint, as he kept Puerto Rico's forwards at bay all night. Steve Cronin came up big as usual, and the defense played very well, as we saw two first place teams that really tried to do what they do best, but ended up being countered by another team that can match them. Puerto Rico may have speed in the mids and defense, but they can't match Portland's creativity and discipline, and both teams have top notch keeping, which means you're going to need to do something special to score.

But on this night, it didn't matter the score. It didn't matter that I had forgotten to do a match report for the big match, it didn't matter about anything more than just being part of something special. There was a lot of people that worked very hard to get MLS here, and these people continue to support the current USL team with all of their heart, mind, soul and wallets. It was a true honor to see a lot of people realize what many of us TA already know, this team and this sport are for real, and Thursday night, 14,000 people witnessed another rebirth of soccer in Portland. And for me, having a true dream to be a sportscaster and write and talk about my sports and teams, it was truly overwhelming to see that my dream had come true. I'm truly blessed to be part of such a great group of fans, and love a team that is so much more than just a bunch of guys playing soccer. It's nice to see some others start to get it.

Tomorrow, we have a big day in Shittle to help our friends from the Chicago Fire cheer on their boys versus FC Puke Green, and then the Timbers face Burnley in a friendly at PGE Park on Saturday night. I"ll have my take and attempted pictures from the whole thing up, and you can also view my writing about last night for the O-Live world.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Happy Thursday!!!

So today, two celebrities share a birthday, whose careers are going in vastly different directions. Daniel Radcliffe, the guy who plays Harry Potter turns 20 years old, while Monica Lewinsky, the person who was at one point the most famous alumni of Lewis and Clark College here in Portland, turns 36. One of them has the world at their hands, while the other has probably spent the last few years, hoping that they'll fade further into obscurity. Well, with the price of fame being what it is now, perhaps both of them might be asking that question?
The dance of the stadium continues in Beaverton, as now, the site being looked for baseball is one of a few out west. Negotiations like this go back and forth, and so I'm not surprised that it moved forward and now back a bit, as the city of Beaverton says it's looking at a few places to put the park. What's interesting in the article is that it's mentioned that 2 other communities are interested in having the baseball stadium, yet Hillsboro, Gresham, Wilsonville and Troutdate are all saying it's not them and they aren't pursuing it. So is this now a war between Maywood Park and Wood Village?
Listening to the City Council hearings as the vote for the MLS proposal is due in about a half an hour, and the business previous has been interesting to say the least. They've been talking about park lands being purchased for the city and friends of the park taking care of it, and the discussion now is about the study of the use of force by the Portland Police department. Apparently, the use of force is down, although if you watch the news, you'd think we lived in crime zone central here. Well, I suppose if you need to incite the viewers or push them to watch, go with what works to draw attention for most viewers - violence, sex or explosions. And right now, they are talking about what exactly constitutes a use of force by the police. Apparently, grabbing and bending someone's thumb may or may not be a show of force. God, I love discussions about legalese and what means what. And apparently, Gil Frey has some competition for craziest person to testify in front of the council. While I'm sure this woman had concerns, it didn't help her case when at the time she was told she'd have 3 minutes to talk, she argued about the time allowed, then kept going after being thanked for her testimony when she felt her question wasn't being answered. And apparently, it's a county question, not a city of Portland issue.
And at 3:39 PM, the discussion has begun, three separate amendments:
1031  Authorize financial terms and conditions between the City of Portland and Peregrine LLC for improvements necessary to accommodate Major League Soccer at PGE Park  (Resolution introduced by Mayor Adams and Commissioner Randy Leonard)

1032  Adopt findings and authorize an exemption to the competitive bidding process for development of a Major League Soccer Stadium, pursuant to ORS 279C.330 and City Code Sections 5.34.810 and 5.34.820  (Second Reading Agenda 987)

1033  Authorize sole source acquisition and execution of a contract with Peregrine Sports, LLC for a Predevelopment Agreement and Operating Agreement for a Major League Soccer Stadium  (Second Reading Agenda 988)
So far, the discussion has been very intelligently done, as they talk about worst case scenarios, which really means how is Portland protected if things go bad. And the answers so far, have been put forth to saying that the residents are not affected unless they are actually going to the matches. Both Mayor Adams and Commissioner Leonard have been pointing out how balanced this deal is, and the minimal amount of risk. Plus, topics like the MLS franchise fee that Paulson was discussed as a cost to him, and even Portland State and their dreams of potentially moving up to D-1 football is getting some attention. Since I'm getting close to my time for me to leave and get home for the match tonight, I'll wrap things up, but at this point, it looks very good for MLS and it being passed. Go Timbers, go MLS!!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Stadium Updates - Late Night

You know it's a big deal when Fark picks up the baseball stadium idea to move the Portland Beavers to Beaverton. is a website dedicated to the collection of odd and crazy news, all set up in one happy home. While this was going on and announced Tuesday night, about 50 people were touring the Memorial Coliseum to get a close up look at the building whose near death and now spared death sentence has potentially pushed baseball to Portland's suburbs. Some people appreciated the art, while it appears a big group sweltered in the heat and stuffiness of the MC. Gee, anyone who has been to an event there within the past few years could have told you about the stagnant air and warmth when it's full, but hey, it's a architectural treasure that needs to be saved.

At least one city gets it, and is trying to do something. Beaverton has been trying to forge an identity in the metro area for years, and so far, it's been the headquarters of the swoosh, and traffic. Beaverton has been one of the fastest growing suburbs of Portland for years, mostly because of their good schools, abundant land, and up until recently, available jobs. However, the density has caused a bit of sprawl, the schools are starting to struggle with extra kids in the classroom, and people can't seem to drive anywhere easily. Well, that's the perception anyway.

Beaverton is actually a nice town, proud of its area, and is full of people that are interested in improving their region. Many time, school measures have passed there simply because the taxpayers want to help their schools, or even general services when needed. I can imagine it's tough being a suburban city put in the shadow of Portland, which dominates the landscape and attention. Beaverton does a lot of good things for its residents, but I think often times, it gets lost in the static and not recognized for being a progressive, thoughtful city. Getting a baseball team to Beaverton might just get rid of some of the inferiority complex, and actually give people a reason from outside the area to visit.

But I will give them the biggest credit of all in this situation. They wanted baseball, and they had the courage to write to Merritt Paulson and ask, even promoting a few stadium ideas in the process. Considering how Paulson has been treated at a lot of meetings in the area around here, plus his now famous interaction with the Lents neighborhood, I can imagine it's a wonderful feeling to be wanted, and be treated positively. Sounds like it's a match made in baseball heaven.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Subtle, but Pointed Reminder

I couldn't have said it better myself. Portland has an identity crisis, and we can't seem to figure out what we want in terms of sports in our long term future. The author points to the city up north as the poster child of getting things done for their teams.

Well, I'd hate to point out what happened to their former NBA team, but I think the issue there was a combination of apathy, anti-government forces, a city that wasn't sure why an arena needed to be upgraded when it was done a few years prior, a hated owner, and the NBA secretly involved with the change. I can't imagine the league really wanting to lose a top 20 TV market for their team, but they approved the move and we are where we are at. But, the city and team ownership has stepped up to help the Mariners and Seahawks with their various stadiums, and the city has done some forward thinking, which doesn't seem to be in short supply here.

Granted, there are some factors that helped with this situation. The 1995 vote to provide tax funds for the Mariners new ballpark happened just after the magical 1995 playoff run, and the end vote was really close, even with the renewed baseball interest. Qwest Field, just like the Rose Garden, was mostly paid for by Paul Allen with some involvement from the city with tax benefits and infrastructure changes. That playoff run doesn't happen, the Mariners are actually playing elsewhere, and we miss the 2001 historical season, the train noises in Safeco, Ichiro, none of it. It's also likely that the Seahawks would still be playing in the Kingdome, which had all the charm of a cave and the smells of the forest all indoors for everyone to enjoy.

But the key point of Portland not having the moxie to make something like this happen couldn't be more true. The original plan to bring baseball to the Memorial Coliseum and refurbish PGE Park for soccer was visionary, and took care of a need for MLS and helped upgrade the Rose Quarter from the doldrums it currently suffers from. But some short sighted architects and the Trail Blazers threw a monkey wrench in the plan, and the City Council blinked. It does appear that at least one city commissioner, Randy Leonard, is still interested in putting baseball at the MC, and I think he's got the right idea. The baseball plan would solve the ghost town the RQ is now, give the veterans a more usable and vibrant memorial, and revitalize an area that simply put, should be doing more than it is now. But, instead of us talking about this plan and getting excited, we sit 6 months later with the MC still standing, and more talk about what to do with it. My hope is that the city can stop with the blue sky conversations, and come up with something useful and tangible. I'd love to see some of the moxie from up north here, as long as they keep that god awful green color to themselves.

EDIT - At least one suburb has already stepped up to lure the Beavers there. Can you guess which one?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Weekend Update - July 20th

It's another long weekend, and I have to say that this summer is the summer of concerts for girl and I. Last summer, it was the season of travel, as we went all over the place last year, but this year, it's been concerts. First, Duran Duran, and this weekend, it was Death Cab For Cutie at Edgefield here in town. I've been to Edgefield dozens of time, and know the place very well, especially Blackberry Hall. I've never seen a show there, so I was curious to see how the venue would work for a show, especially one for a bank like DCFC. They are a very good band, but their music can be rather mellow, so you need to have the right venue to make things interesting. Crystal Ballroom works for them, Memorial Coliseum, not so much, and thankfully, Edgefield was very good to them. It was a very good show, and they played various songs from their catalog, including a few old gems for fans like myself that have been there since the very beginnings. Even the really warm day near 90 degrees didn't deter the surroundings, as the show went off without a hitch. The only thing that was disappointing was that concerts there stop at dark, and so Death Cab only played a really short set and one encore. And August is full of more shows, including a trip to Vegas.
The Timbers had a good weekend, too, getting a draw in Miami at 1 - all on Friday and a 3 to nil win on Sunday down there. Friday's game, the Timbers really were bothered by the speed of Miami, as they ran circles around the Timbers early, and the Timbers got a late goal from a free kick by David Hayes. Sunday was a completely different scenario, as the Timbers were the more aggressive, quicker team, and they put Miami on their heels in the first half, and then buried them with two early goals in the second half. The Timbers now own the longest unbeaten streak in USL First Division history with 16 straight games without a loss, and they have a first place battle with Puerto Rico Thursday night at PGE Park. Also in Timbers news, Scot Thompson became the record holder for most minutes played as a Timber over the weekend, and I can't think of a more deserving player to hold that record. Scot has been a true Timber through and through, and it's great to see him get this deserving honor. We'll have more about Thursday's match later on.
The issue of the Memorial Coliseum continues to boil around, as the city sets up a task force to try and decide what to do with the MC in the long run. The arts community has weighed in on their choice, wanting to turn the MC into a theater and arts complex, or at least preserve the artistic integrity of the building for future generations. Even the cyclists have weighed in, wanting to turn the MC into a velodrome. I wouldn't have believed it had I not seen it, but apparently, everyone has an idea for the building, and none of them seem to be geared towards the entertainment complex idea the Trail Blazers have put forth. 
I can appreciate the ideas put forth, because they are thinking outside the box and fit within the idea of Portland doing things differently. As a city, we tend to march to our own music, not following conventional wisdom in some cases, but simply going with what we think keeps Portland unique, even if it means swimming against the current. But the more I think we try to keep things weird around here to borrow a phrase that some residents here live by, we miss opportunities to do some real forward thinking. While the ideas for the arts and cycling are interesting, neither of them have even mentioned how to pay for their idea, much less the time frame to make it happen. It's blue sky thinking at its best, which might be good for some, but at the same, doesn't do much for reality. At least the baseball idea put out some actual figures and costs to pay for it, which while the numbers gave the opponents fodder to blog or write about, it did put forth some real concepts to what they wanted to do. Even the Trail Blazers haven't really explained their full idea of an entertainment complex, much less how the thing will be paid for. Yet at the end of the day, baseball is a bad idea for the area, even though a price tag has been associated with the project.
But a thought had been put forth today on Sports Radio 95.5 The Game about Portland and the way things are. For a city that likes to think we are progressive and forward thinking, we really fail at making decisions at key moments. In our desire to make sure everyone has buy-in on something, we tend to gather input so much that it almost makes our process seem slow and clunky by nature. And given the chance to really make a legacy for the city for years to come, we end up being tied up by the desire to make sure everything is exactly perfect and quirky. The Rose Garden doesn't get built unless Paul Allen pays for almost all of it out of his own pocket, and there was a huge amount of frustration about the $36 million dollars the city spent to help. We've managed to build transit with help, we've managed to have a good reputation for the city for people to visit or move here, we love our pets, the homeless do very well with panhandling and services, but sports fans are a neglected and misunderstood group, and not represented by most of the people in charge around here. We simply want our teams to be taken care of, now and in the future, and if the city wants to be part of owning facilities or assisting with things, they need to make some realistic and tough decisions and not cave when things get rough, or a small but vocal minority decides that the MC is an architectural treasure. Baseball, and really, sports in Portland deserve a whole lot better.


Friday, July 17, 2009

It's The Weekend, and there's still a baseball buzz, but it's game day!!

I've never been so happy for the weekend to be here, because it's been a rather crazy week. With trying to clean up from the Row N movie fest, keep up with work, baseball games this week and my other blogging job, I've been crazy busy. And tonight, girl and I are heading to see Death Cab For Cutie at Edgefield. For me, this is my fifth time seeing them, and at least for me, I either see an incredible band with some great musical performances OR an incredibly distracted bunch of musicians that aren't sure what's going on. My hope is that tonight, it's more of the former, because they do play some incredibly complex and beautiful songs. I've spent a lot of time at Edgefield, but never seen a show there, so I'm looking forward to it.
Baseball is still in the wheelhouse of some local sports fans, including one guy that can't understand why baseball is being moved from PGE Park. The author can't figure out the numbers, and can't figure out why we are shunning baseball. Well, I could go through all of the trouble to refute the article, but somebody has already done it for me. Baseball has a wonderful history here, and deserves a park that works for Triple AAA baseball, but right now, PGE Park is too big for baseball, and lacks some important things that would help baseball.
The Timbers are in Miami this weekend for two games, which is the first time we've seen the Blues this year. This is one of two trips the Timbers are making (or have made) to play teams back east, and we play Miami tonight and Sunday on the road trip. The Blues are sitting in the middle of the pack with 6 wins, 6 losses and 2 draws, playing just 14 games this year. So far this year, they've either been blown out or blow out other teams, which is characteristic of their operation. They play fast with lots of flair, and initiate a lot of contact and fall down quite a bit if they are bumped, essentially like most South American and Latin teams. The Timbers have done pretty well down in Miami, it should be a matter of how they deal with the heat.
You can watch the game on USL Live, listen to broadcast at the Portland Timbers site, or visit the Soccer City USA website for information about various viewings around town. Go to the Game Day Chat thread, and then check out the Away Game Viewing - Pub Guide thread. There are at least 4 locations in town showing the match and some of them are all ages friendly. It might be a good way to avoid the heat coming to town this weekend.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Baseball Puts Its Best Foot Forward in the Rose City

For one night anyway, baseball was the top game in town last night, as the Triple AAA Pacific Coast League and International League put their best talent on display at PGE Park. And PGE Park was filled to the brim, as over 16,600 joined the event, which included myself and girl. We're baseball fans, although soccer in this town is much more of a pleasurable fan experience for us. For a crowd this large, it was mostly quiet at time, politely clapping and cheering when prompted, and the only loud cheers were for local player Chad Huffman and the Chicken, making one of his last appearances in costume. There was an attempt to start the wave, which finally worked around the eight inning, and the Rainiers' first baseman got some polite cheers from Mariner fans in the crowd, but for the most part, it was quiet for being this big of a crowd.

The Trail Blazers spent so much time pumping music and distractions out there, it's loud at most points, but it's artificial as they don't want any idle time at all during the game. The Timbers are loud and boisterous, but that has a lot to do with the antics of the Army, chanting, singing, and generally having a good time. Baseball hearkens back to a different age, where the clock doesn't matter and things move at their own pace. While this might work for many baseball fans who have grown up around the game, there were plenty of fans that decided texting or surfing on their phones was a better use of time. Plus, there were plenty of people that just couldn't sit for more than an inning, moving from getting food to walking around to going to the loo to whatever. For some, baseball is the death of the short attention spanned world, because it can drag at points. Granted, there are some nuances that are fun to watch, the chess game between pitcher and batter, the strategy on the bases, and the outguessing that goes on, but honestly, if you didn't catch it or understand it, it would be lost on you. Much like the subtle part of soccer that most detractors point to as reasons to hate soccer, if you missed the strategy of the game, it can be boring.

But what last night proved more than anything is that Portlanders love an event, and last night certainly was one. From the anthem done by Storm Large who did an amazing, understated job in her rendition, to the flag display in center field, to the Chicken's antics, it was a large scale undertaking, and for a game that was played for little more than pride and entertainment, the players and the PGE Park staff didn't disappoint. We were greeted by our server right as we walked to our club seats, and Nick did a great job of taking care of us all night. I got some great pictures that I will share later tonight after downloading them, but overall, here are my memories and thoughts about the night:
  • The game itself ended 6 to 5 for the International League, but it was a true back and forth affair, as noted in the Oregonian. The PCL fell behind, but rallied with two runs late, and got things close. Both managers used their benches extensively, as I believe everyone got to play for both sides.
  • Chad Huffman played very well, and represented Portland and the Beavers well. He was smiling, laughing, and just having a good time playing in his home park, and it was great to see the team represented so well. Scott Patterson also pitched well in relief, representing the Beavers as well.
  • Girl and I had a crappy day in our jobs, and so we tried to put forth some positive karma for the evening. After striking out on parking near the Mission Theater, we moved closer to PGE Park, and drove up 17th. As we got stuck in a traffic line, someone was leaving and gave up a parking spot near the Cheerful Bullpen, and we were able to swoop on it before anyone noticed. Then during the game, Girl was the lucky recipient of the first foul ball of the night in the first inning, as a ball was hit foul and tossed into the crowd. It glanced off her shoulder, bounced off her margarita drink in the cup holder, and then plopped into her laugh. And it's a special ball, carrying the Triple AAA All-Star logo on it, it was a rather pleasant surprise. Karma is pretty cool.
  • The Chicken's shtick was predictable, but it played really well for the crowd. Even after all these years, he brings it and the crowd was mesmerized by his act. Mascots could learn a thing or two from him, he's still got something special.
  • I still think the Albuquerque Isotopes is the coolest team name in baseball.
  • Girl, S3K and I spent a great deal of time talking about the stadium, the Timbers, MLS and why baseball would be great in a slightly different environment. The stadium photographs very well (Tight Jeans said this, and I agree with him for once), but it's cramped in parts, the concourses are still too small once the crowd tops 10,000, and there are some rather bad seats in parts of the stadium including some obstructed seats. The Beavers could really do well with a slightly smaller, but more baseball appropriate venue.
  • At least some people felt that PGE Park was good enough last night, just like heaven. I'm not sure I would go that far, but it was good to see.
  • I'm glad to see that Rick Burk got his chance to show off his skills, calling the game. He's a passionate, knowledgeable baseball guy, and he's very good at his craft. He deserves a shot at the big time, but I'm happy to see him stay with the small fish here for a while. We're lucky to have him.
  • The most interesting comments I read after the game was from PCL president Branch Rickey, who indicated that Portland was an important market for the PCL, but the stadium location isn't so much of a concern. Rickey realizes the issues with PGE Park being too large and cavernous at points, and seems very aware of the MLS efforts, but still supports this town for baseball. I can imagine that Merritt Paulson is keeping him looped in on everything going on.

I'll post my pictures later tonight, and I'm also working on my next piece for Oregon Live, which will be posted there later today. So far, I'm enjoying my work for the Timbers Blog, and hopefully, I'll be able to provide some insight on the team and the history of things from my own warped perspective. Give it a read, and let me know your thoughts.

And finally, I'll have a big announcement coming soon about something at PGE Park, which could be extremely epic!!! I'm hoping to get it done by this weekend!!

EDIT - I've added the Flick link for pictures, noted below

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Going to the All Star Game, but the Baseball Buzz is Growing

It seems that more opinions about baseball and its future here are appearing, and on the day that Portland shows off the best baseball talent that the Triple AAA leagues have to offer. I'm happy that the subject is finally coming to fruition, because I think that baseball deserves a chance to stay here in Portland. For the most part, it has a rich history here, and it's been supported enough to deserve a chance to stay.
The Oregonian Editorial Board says the biggest issue with baseball's future is indifference. And I couldn't agree more with that statement. PGE Park's original refurbishment was originally intended to improve baseball and give the city a shot at luring MLB, and we were considered for getting the Expos, but instead they went to the nation's capital. Since then, there's been very little discussion about baseball until MLS came around and was looking to expand, and discussions centered around making PGE Park soccer specific. Instead of baseball fans joining the conversation, they kept silent while discussions centered around putting a baseball park at the Memorial Coliseum. The Trail Blazers have been indifferent about developing the Rose Quarter area until baseball threatened to come into town, and they came up with a entertainment complex idea, architects were indifferent until they realized the Memorial Coliseum had some value to them, even with the building falling into disrepair. And now, we have a big mess on our hands because everyone can look around and realize that we've ignored baseball for too long, and it's time to change that. Jim Siverson provides a piece similar to the article about the rich history of baseball, and his point echoes the long standing traditions of Portland and baseball.
Fine, I get there is history here for baseball and I've actually seen parts of it. Then, baseball fans, do something about it. Get your voices out there and let the City Council know that you want baseball in Portland, and it's important to find a home in the city proper. It's great to show up tonight to the Triple AAA game, but go to other games and not just the weekend tilts. Show your support at the box office, because really, that is what the Timbers Army have done. We've been worried about the long term future of our team and the league, and so we've worked tirelessly to get new people to come to Timbers games, help with banners, get involved with the community as Timbers fans, and generally get the word out about the team. I know there are baseball fans out there, and it's time to be heard rather than remain silently on the sidelines.
And if that's bringing baseball to the Rose Quarter, like Alan Willis suggests, so be it. I still think it's the best option of anything that has been discussed for baseball in terms of location and amenities, and it would bring more people to an area that is really dead outside of Trail Blazer games or concerts. Even other opinions are being shared, like Stephan Burklin, who is convinced the whole stadium idea is a mess because it will hurt city services. While I disagree with his opinion because it has serious flaws, I'm happy the topic is being discussed in lots of different channels. Having the Triple AAA baseball game here is a big coup for the city, and now that the MLS deal is all but done, it's time to get baseball taken care of. I'm asking the City Council to use this momentum and work towards making this happen to keep baseball in the Rose City.
An on-line petition has been started to save the Beavers, and I think that's a great start. The link is noted below:
The petition to help keep the Beavers in Portland:
Look, I'm a soccer fan and see the benefit of MLS here, but I also feel that baseball deserves the right to remain here too, which is why the original stadium idea in the MC for baseball was such a great idea in my mind. Both sports get stadiums that work for them in areas of town that have good transit, other services around, easy to get to, and will provide destinations for people to visit. I was upset the City Council walked away from the deal, and I think this discussion is important because the idea didn't deserve to die. It's time to get this right, Portland, and bring baseball to the Rose Quarter.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Baseball's Future and Watching the Long Ball

Portland is hosting the 2009 Triple AAA All Star Game this week at PGE Park, and it's really started a lot of discussion about the current stadium issue facing the Portland Beavers. With MLS coming to town in 2011, the Beavers are looking for a new home in the Portland area, one that works better for them than the cavernous stadium that is PGE Park. And while the stadium looked good last night with a crowd of 9,200 watching the events, the crowd looked a bit sparse in the nearly 19,000 seat stadium. As I looked about to the crowd, I did see a couple of Beavers jerseys and more than a few caps, but I saw more Red Sox, Yankees, Astros, Cubs, and Mariners gear than anything else.

In an editorial piece in today's Oregonian, Ralph Nelson talks about the Beavers and their history and who is standing up for them in this whole stadium issue. He talks a lot about the old Beavers and Vaughn Stadium, and the old days when baseball was more of an event in town, and now baseball struggles with becoming irrelevant. And in today's busy sports world with more choices out there, it seems like baseball struggles to keep an audience with some of the younger fans. I remember spending a lot of days in my childhood playing baseball with neighborhood kids for hours, and it was played because it was fun. Now in the current world, it seems that youth sports is more of an outlet to filter the better talented kids into other programs so that they can follow the path to success. You see less and less chances for kids to play sports because they want to have fun, everything is more about competition and tournaments, and parents paying a lot of costs. There's a lot of lessons to be learned about changing youth sports away from being fun, but for the purposes here, what also is apparent is that Portland is a baseball town, but not a Beavers town.

I recall following this team back in the 1980s and early 1990 when they were affiliated with the Twins, and the crowds came out about the same as they do now. But I also recall seeing some players stay with the team for quite a while, like Chip Hale and Bernardo Brito, and the media coverage was pretty good as you could read about the team, see box scores, and see highlights on the sports reports. The team was run on a shoestring budget, but it was still somewhat successful until Salt Lake lured the Beavers away with promises of a new stadium. The Rockies came to town, bringing Single A ball to town, and the city ate it up, as Jack Cain really marketed the team and players well. And when the Beavers finally returned in 2001, it seemed like things might be different with a refurbished stadium and a commitment to winning. But in being affiliated with San Diego, the Beavers have seen players come and go quite a bit, and the crowds, while they still come, only show up on big event nights, like opening night, fireworks nights, and the All-Star Game. Baseball is struggling to remain relevant here, and I can say that it's tough to market baseball here.

Triple AAA baseball by virtue is fill of players that are either on the career decline and still want to play baseball and have talent, or young kids with a wish to be playing in San Diego. If you really had a choice as a baseball player, nobody is really wanting to play in Portland and make it a long term career here. We also have the Mariners and their marketing influence that have gained them a lot of fans willing to travel 3 hours to watch games. We also watch a lot of baseball, having some of the best television ratings for baseball where there isn't an MLB team. Part of that is people moving here that keep their allegiance to an MLB team they've followed in a previous location, another part is Mariner fans, but another part is people that remain convinced that Portland could support MLB and want to watch to help the cause. As has been noted here, Portland lacks the corporate support necessary to support MLB, and I think the price tag of an MLB stadium would make opponents of the MLS stadium deal completely go nuts if the city even thought of spending that much to bring baseball here. MLB came calling a while back when the Expos were looking for a home, but honestly, I'm not sure we were ever being seriously considered. It was a ploy to get Washington DC to step up and get a stadium, which they did.

I get that people want MLB baseball here badly, and it's never been proven that support from a Triple AAA team correlates to successfully support MLB, but what I'm frustrated by in terms of baseball fans is not even remotely supporting what we do have here. Instead of actually going to games or investing time in learning about players, it appears that some baseball fans would prefer to show up only when there is an event. Instead of investing in what we have, we pine for something that may or may not come. I understand that it's tough to follow a team where guys move around all the time, but the experience is very similar, the ticket prices are a bit less than MLB, and you can actually get up close and personal with these guys if you want to. And usually, the Beavers have some other entertainment or promotion if you have kids or other people that need more than baseball to just show up. I wished that baseball was enough for people to come and support this team, but it seems like it's not enough. Last night was a good crowd, and it was great to see the park full of people, but the crowds should be appearing more often.

And now baseball fans feel railroaded by the MLS efforts, as if it's a tragedy that baseball is being forced out over soccer. I wish their voices would have been part of the conversations about PGE Park, but instead, most baseball fans remained silent while a lot of MLS fans voiced their thoughts. And with PGE Park's set up with an L shape, it made more sense to complete the horseshoe and find baseball a new home. Now with the decoupling of the efforts, baseball has been left to flounder on its own while MLS moves forward. For someone like myself who loves soccer and has always been a baseball fan, it's tough for me to watch this because I feel that baseball deserves a stadium that works for the team in Portland. I know that baseball has a market here, but I wished that baseball fans stood up and let the City Council know that baseball matters here.

What is interesting is with the stadium talks, some different ideas are being bantered around while one idea that was on the table but pulled off is getting some attention back. Steve Duin is stating today that the Memorial Coliseum is the right place to put a baseball stadium, and of the ideas that have been thrown out there, this one has always made the most sense. The Trail Blazers and some architectural folks cried foul about the MC being pulled down, and soon after, we watched the Lents Park fiasco play out in the media. If the building is going to lie there and not be refurbished or the limitations addressed of the MC, it makes sense to explore other uses. And the last thing this city needs is an entertainment complex near the RG that may or may not draw people there with shops and restaurants that are available at a lot of other places around town. Now that the talk is looking that it might cost a whole lot of money to get the MC upgraded to stay relevant or even more money to build a mall complex there, it makes sense to explore the idea of putting the baseball park there. It just makes sense, and what I'm often remembering about this place is that sometimes the more things change, the things stay the same and ideas have a way of reappearing when you least expect it.

And it also seems like some of the more vocal opponents of the stadium deal are being shown for the flaws in their argument. One of the more vocal opponents, Jack Bog, has been found to have some faulty parts to his arguments against the MLS deal. Bog has also been talking about crowd sizes in the USL (which can be scary), weather issues in Portland affecting baseball (What? You just moved here), and why MLB will work, yet MLS won't. Being someone that has watched the facts from the beginning, it's nice to see a lot of the facts of the case being fleshed out, and shown to the public. Granted, if you aren't a sports fan, I don't think there's anything that could be said to convince you that investing in MLS would work for the city except for one. Sports are one of the things that help make a larger city more livable by providing entertainment options, and as long as cities own facilities, they will be asked to help invest in those buildings. And if I'm going to have a big project to refurbish stadiums, I'm going to pull in as many experts as I can to help the cause, especially if they have experience in a project like this. And while I can find fault in the arguments presented, a unexpected consequence of this is causing more talk about baseball, and making sure it has a future here. It's a welcome discussion, and one that I hope provides fruitful results to keep baseball in the Rose City. And nice work, Chad Huffman, not only did you represent Portland well, but it was good to see you win the home run derby in your own home park.

Post script - the Room is getting more attention. Be afraid, be very afraid.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Movie Weekend with Row N!

So this past weekend, the Row N folks within the Timbers Army held our latest gathering of the troops, the Row N Movie weekend. Girl and I hosted the festivities at our house, which meant us spending a lot of times cleaning, organizing, cleaning, moving stuff about, cleaning, and getting the room of cats ready to go for them to spend the weekend away from the guests. We love our cats greatly, but some of them don't deal well with strangers, so putting them in a room helps them out as much as it helps a few of our friends that are allergic to felines. We wanted this weekend to follow the trend of events for Row N, which started with gatherings at Edgefield, the Row N Wedding, Row N Camping at Cape Lookout, and our last trip, the Row N Road Trip to Bend. I'll provide some highlights from the weekend by day:
Friday - The festivities started up at 7 pm, or so, as folks began to gather around at our place. We had locked up the cats early that morning, and they had been screaming to get out, until they started hearing voices they didn't recognize. We had the bar stocked, the snack foods ready, and we had also prepared rooms around the house for people to stay if they wanted. By the time everyone had gathered, we had about 15 folks ready for the first movie of the weekend, the Room. Girl and I had heard about the Room, and how it had inspired viewings around the Los Angeles area, and how some of the viewings were as spirited as old Rocky Horror Picture Show, and then finally got to see parts of the movie on Adult Swim on April 1st this year while also seeing the director on Tim and Eric, Awesome Show. After seeing this, we had to see what the fuss was about, and so this was the first choice of the weekend.
The best way to describe the Room is simply that this is a movie to watch to learn about what not to do when making a movie. The script is nonsense, the acting is terrible, the camera work is horrible, the music trite, and the pacing is all over the place, but it's so terrible that it's hysterical to watch. As the movie went out, the quotes of bad lines kept popping up, and by the end of this train wreck, well, we can say we've seen what some people are calling the newest cult classic. Apparently, the interviews and deleted scenes are even more hysterical, and so we'll have to sit down and watch them at some point.
For the second movie, we watched Delicatessen, a French movie set in an apocalyptic world where people eat other people. It's an extremely quirky, dark, black comedy, but it's visually stunning and extremely interesting to watch. Even the smallest details on screen translate into other things later, and it wraps up into a rather satisfying ending. I wasn't sure what to expect from a movie like this, but I rather enjoyed it in a quirky way, and even with some of the more gruesome subjects of the film, it was done in an interesting and fun way. I have to say I enjoyed having my mind opened a bit. After this, everyone was fairly tired, so we closed up the theatre for the night, ready to resume things in the morning.
Saturday - We woke up and had breakfast of eggs and bacon, and some rather tasty bacon supplied by S3K. The first movie on Saturday was Beerfest, which isn't the most challenging movie to watch, but it had some rather funny moments and was a lot better that I would have expected. The whole concept of the film is beer drinking competition, so it brought back some memories of bad drinking games from my college days. And since I'd had a bit to drink the previous night, the first beers of the day on Saturday were bringing back flashbacks of college days. And yes, Cloris Leachman is really hysterical in the movie.
We also watched the documentary, Once in a Lifetime, about the old New York Cosmos. Being a youngster during many of the days of the North American Soccer League and not living in the area, it was great to see pictures of the old Civic Stadium and the huge crowds that were present during the old days of the Timbers. The documentary really showed the true love one guy had for soccer in America, Steve Ross, and the lengths he went to in order to turn New York into a soccer hotbed. The Cosmos were huge, and they were outdrawing other more established teams in the area through the 1970s, and it was fascinating to see the excesses that it took to keep them on top. Ross spent money hand over foot to bring talent in, much like another team owner in the area of a certain baseball team, and the crowds followed. But, the NASL collapsed around the same time the Warner Brothers communication giant was struggling, and so the Cosmos are now nothing more than history.
The Timbers played in Austin that night, so we were able to set up a viewing on the big screen. We needed to follow our team, and this fit to within our schedule. Nelson Field is a football stadium, and the fact that gridball lines were all over basically showed that while it might be a nice stadium, you know what rules down there. The telecast of the game was rather odd, considering the camera angle chosen for the telecast was very, very, high over the stadium and so there were some vertigo inducing moments. The sound was pretty crappy, and there were dead spots where the camera couldn't follow the ball because of angles, but hey, it's a free broadcast, and at least when it was on screen, it looked impressive in HD.
As far as the game itself, the Timbers looked good early, getting a goal by Mandjou Keita in the first half to take the lead, and then they went into defensive mode in the second half while Austin began attacking and getting some chances. Perhaps it was the heat, but I think it was more of the strategy that the Timbers have been following all year, get ahead early and then hold them off. Sometimes it works if you get up big early, but in other times like the past game in Minnesota, it bites you in the butt when you can't get the big lead and you are only up a goal and the other team gets a late equalizer. And sure enough, even after playing well in stretches and dealing with the heat and humidity, the Timbers gave up a late goal to allow the Aztex to pull the game level in stoppage time. However, tonight would be different, as Tony McManus made an aggressive play for the ball in midfield, hit Johan Claesson with a nicely threaded pass, and Claesson buried the ball in the net past current Aztex and former Timbers goalkeeper Sam Reynolds, giving the Timbers a 2 to 1 lead, which is how the game ended.
After the match, it was time to cook barbeque and set up the dance party. The food was great, and the desserts were tasty, although it took a bit to get folks to eat some foods. I mean, Ok, it was a creepy dead clown cake, but it was very tasty and lacked gluten but had plenty of goodness. The dance party got off to a bit of a slow start, until it was gradually turned into karaoke and video time for a bit. I felt a bit bad, because girl really wanted to boogie down, but it appeared the energy level was a bit waning after the match and massive foods. We did put in some short films later inspired by H.P. Lovecraft later on, which I found interesting. I don't know much about Lovecraft and his work, but apparently, he's quite revered in some circles with some unusual takes on life and death, and is considered a horror mastermind. I'm looking forward to seeing more of his work at some point. We did finally get to bed later, and it was time to move to day 3.
Sunday - As I woke up, Hornman and dublinx had already started cooking french toast and bacon for the folks staying, which was appreciated, and we did watch a bit of the Soup and some infotainment for a bit. The crackens, er the cats, were released about 11 AM, and they got a chance to meet the guests that were remaining. Some of them were happy to see the fuss, while some of our more scaredy cats decided it was better to hide until the house was clear.
We did throw in Robin Hood - Men in Tights as sort of a wind-down, and it's one of Mel Brooks' really good films from his late period. Like Space Balls, it maintains some fun and corny jokes while not taking itself too seriously, and it's easily watchable. It's fun to watch a movie that the actors are enjoying themselves in, and so it capped off the weekend quite well. By 2 PM, the house was clear, and the movie fest was complete.
Overall, it was great to see everyone, and I think overall, it was a great success. There are some things that I think I'd do differently for the next time we gather for movies, but at the same point, it was a good time and I'm glad that those attending seemed to have fun. And we'll always remember the epicness of Friday night, watching four guys throw a football around. You are tearing us apart!!!!!!
Other random thoughts -
There is a task group that is reexamining the uses for the Memorial Coliseum and see what can be done to revitalize the area. Since the Rose Quarter was built, not much has happened while restaurants have come and gone until the idea of putting baseball there was brought up. Although Sam Adams has said the idea of bringing baseball is dead there, some people are still wanting to consider putting a ballpark there. It should be an interesting discussion over the next few months as this process continues.
My newest hero in sports is Dustin Pedroia, who is taking off the All Star Break to be with his pregnant wife. She is dealing with a potentially complicated pregnancy, and so Pedroia is making the choice to be with her during this time, instead of playing in the midseason classic. I understand these guys are professionals and it's an honor to be chosen to play, but a player's family is the foundation of getting these guys to the next level, and I admire someone who chooses to support his family when he can. I know some guys can't understand why he would make this choice, but at the same time, it's important to be there for your wife which can't always be the case in a job like a professional athlete with all the travel and obligations. The Red Sox are a team that I enjoy watching, and now I have another good reason to support these guys.
Finally, girl and I will be taking in the Triple AAA All-Star Game from PGE Park over the next few days. We'll be going to the home run contest tonight, and the game itself on Wednesday night. I'm actually looking forward to seeing some of the best baseball talent around up close. While I'm extremely supportive of the MLS effort, I understand why some people might view this game as a reason why baseball should stay in PGE Park. Yes, it will be a big crowd, and yes, it will be good to see Portland in the spotlight, and I'm happy to see folks support Merritt Paulson in this, but the best long term thing that can be done to help baseball in Portland is get it a stadium that works for now and the future. That means a 10 to 12 thousand seat stadium with seats along both baselines, and a more intimate feel with closer seats to the action. PGE Park is a decent ballpark, but baseball here deserves better.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Long Week of Randomness

I love my wife a lot, and don't mean to drive her nuts, but it seems like when I'm trying my best not to bug her, I do my best job of driving her insane. It seems to happen a lot right before big events or vacations, as both of us are trying to scramble and get last minute things done, I often get a little scatterbrained trying to remember all of the details and ever changing priorities. And while I do drive her nuts, I've never loved anyone quite as much as I love her. She'll probably gag reading that, but at the same point, it's now on the Interwebs for permanence.


I'm a somewhat recovering fantasy geek, which is difficult to say when I'm still participating in two baseball leagues and a soccer league while waiting for football, English soccer and basketball to show up. I first played in a football league back in 1992 ran by my good friend Obi, and although I broke every drafting rule in the book by drafting players from my hometown teams, I won the league in my first year. This led to me being rather cocky when I joined a basketball league that he also ran in 1993, which followed an auction style draft and a salary cap. And needless to say, it was a train wreck. Whatever strategy I had in place fell apart early, and I made some rather dumb mistakes, and ended up with a team that probably couldn't have won a high school game. Although I've stayed with football over the years, I'm less apt to follow my old strategy of watching hours and hours of games non stop and turn my Sunday into a 100 percent non productive day.


I think the reason for my recovery is that simply I'm getting to the point of informational overload and I'm trying to remember why playing fantasy sports was fun. We've all had the discussions of seeing our favorite team sign this guy or that other guy and watching it implode, all the while saying we could do better. Fantasy sports gave people a window into that world, being able to create a team of whomever you wanted for competition, and you could put your strategy to use. However, fantasy sports are nothing like the real world, because in fantasy sports, you only have to be concerned with injuries and bad play. You don't have to worry so much about locker room chemistry, agents and a player's posse, salary issues, and other distractions that real GMs have to deal with. Plus, when I first started playing, you had a limited amount of magazines and sites for information, but now, well, you have information explosion with numerous sites and magazines that talk about fantasy sports. You can even sign up for fantasy golf and NASCAR.


If people want to know about fantasy sports, I will tell them that it's enjoyable, and if you have a good league with great people, that really helps as well. But at the same point, it's important to keep the game in perspective, because you can be obsessed with stats and information, and it can be consuming. I can honestly say that last football season, I watched parts of maybe 6 regular season games all year, and the Super Bowl was the only game I watched from kickoff to the final gun. Sure, I check the sites and make sure that my guys aren't broken or mired in the land of terribleness, but at the same point, it's a game and my passions are moving towards more reality. However, it's still nice to dream sometimes, and so it will always remain something I'm interested in. Who doesn't dream about having millions of dollars to do with what they want? For me, it's simple, I'd buy the Trail Blazers, West Ham United and the Timbers, and create dominant teams in footy and basketball. Well, and that traveling thing.


In the land of MLS updates, the City Council heard the new framework for the MLS piece of renovating PGE Park, and got some different numbers and a rather different plan. Per the Oregonian, KGW News Channel Ocho, and the Portland Mercury, a 31 million dollar upgrade plan has been tentatively approved. The plan has the following financing options in place: 


  • $31mil total financing plan (down from $38mil):
    • $19.1mil from Merritt Paulson:
      • $11.1 mil for prepaid rent for the years 2008 thru 2025
      • $8mil upfront cash
    • $11.9mil from CoP
      • $11.2mil from SFF
      • $0.7mil soft contributions
  • Merritt covers all cost overruns over the first $1 million
  • Merritt covers SFF bond repayment should MLS underperform attendance or money wise

It's creative, it's using some of the existing revenue streams, and it's not tapping any urban renewal funds, which was a sore spot for some. Granted, fixing up a ballpark can be a trigger for urban development, but that's an argument that doesn't have to be dealt with here.  The taxpayer risk is negligible, as the Spectator Fund, which already has $6 million in reserves and is continually growing as events come to town, backs the bonds and is one of the more stable funds Portland has.  You have a private investor, who is giving you an amazing deal to bring soccer to town, the city is making the right choice here.  The official vote is in two weeks after a few of the commissioners review the final details, but it appears that the final vote is a foregone conclusion.


I feel very good for the fans of soccer, who have worked really hard to bring their sport to town, and provided a lot of support to the initiative through emails, attending meetings, letter writing, canvassing, and other public rallies.  MLS is excited to come to town, and I think after seeing the Timbers – Flounders match last week, I know why.  Soccer will be a success here.  And I appreciate the city council, for negotiating a deal that everyone could live with, putting most of the risk of the project on the people using the facility.  It's not easy to please everyone, but this is a project that I think most people can live with.  Sure, there are naysayers abound that hate any public expenditure like this, but at the same time, they would hate almost anything you would put in front of them that spends city money for anything they would conceive as frivolous.


But I urge the council to now turn your attention on finding a home for baseball.  Granted, the fans of this sport haven't been as organized or vocal, but Portland is a great baseball city, and it's important that the history and legacy of the Beavers is kept here in the Portland area.  I don't believe PGE Park is a great baseball park, and the Beavers would do so much better in a park that is smaller, more intimate, and more designed for baseball specifically.  And I don't want the Beavers to be pushed out of the city, because I feel the market for this is here, and it's not the generic baseball fan that only goes to events like Fourth of July or cheap beer night.  There are baseball fans that are as passionate about their sports as Timbers fans are, but they are more concerned about the sport and not necessarily the team, as visions of MLB jump in their head.  The sooner those visions go away, the more quickly I think you can see the realism in what Portland has for baseball fans, and you can tailor the park to best fit their needs.  And it's going to be a tough selling job, as the Mariners cast a huge shadow over baseball here.  It's important to reach out to them to sell this as your local team, and something to support over the long term.


Finally, I know what I want for Christmas.  May the force be with you, lightly browned on both sides.


Monday, July 6, 2009

Random Thoughts for a Monday

There's plenty of stuff going on to talk about from the past weekend, after celebrating our country's birthday by blowing up small portions of it.
Hedo Turkoglu was slated to join the Portland Trail Blazers late on Friday afternoon, and then suddenly as the deal was rumored to be a done deal, it was done and now he's heading to Toronto. Even his agent said that he would understand if the Trail Blazers would feel a bit upset about being left out in the cold, and it seemed like this was a handshake deal that went south rather quickly. And columnists are jumping on the fact that Portland might not be the prime free agent destination, not because of the talent here but the town and what we have to offer here. John Hollinger from ESPN tried to talk a bit about not involving Hedo's wife in the discussions, which I think was a mistake from the getgo, while John Canzano did bring up the fact about whether Portland is too white or too uncomfortable for those people that are in the public eye.
What I think after reading all about this and understand what is going on was simply that Turkoglu meshed well with Nate McMillan and he got sold on the Trail Blazers after talking with him, but after walking around the city, Turkoglu looked at the comfort that Toronto would be offering and took the deal. Granted, Toronto has a Turkish neighborhood, it has international areas to it, and very diverse, but it's not cosmopolitan enough for some guys. If you want to have a more low key way of life or have a good area for raising families, Portland would be an amazing place for anyone. But if you are looking for a buzzing night life every night of the week, or needing to find the big party all the time, well, you are probably looking for another place to be. It's important to sell free agents on what we are as a NBA team, a very talented, young team with great amount of talent, and the town itself is a very good place to be but it's unique in some respects.
We let our famous people be for the most part, we rather see them in public and treat them with kid gloves in the respect that we let them do their own thing. Famous people can really blend into the environment, and for the most part, we let them do their own thing. But if this really was a top free agent wine and dine party, I would have invited Turkoglu's wife and brought in the top current players of the Trail Blazers and put on the show for him to sell it. The fact that they didn't do either thing really tells me that they thought the money and talent was enough, and for some players, that might be the case, just not in this situation.
Meanwhile, the Oregonian published an article about the MLS and it's marketing challenges. In the early days of the MLS, the league was marketed to kids and families as a fun event to take the kids who grew up playing soccer. And while the marketing worked for some, the fact that the attendance for most teams struggled emphasizes the problem with marketing to families. Most families have a limited amount of entertainment dollars, and will tend to pick whatever events are the flavor of the moment, and both soccer and baseball have seen problems with attracting young fans that used to play each sport to become season ticket holders of soccer or baseball. The fact that kids play the sports hasn't translated to true success at the gates.
And now you have two teams, Toronto and Seattle, that have changed their marketing to attract more of the younger, urban fans who have more disposable income to have them come out to soccer, using things like cheaper beer, chanting and singing, and generally having a crazy time. Seattle has even used their website to help fans pick the section they want for season tickets by asking about what type of fan experience they want, whether they want singing and chanting about, standing in seats, and other things. For young types who have seen how Europeans support soccer, it has translated into a big jump in attendance, but it is a rather tough line to walk, as noted in the article. What group do you market to - families, who want wholesome entertainment but have lots of choices and limited income, or young people, who want something a bit more edgy and have more disposable income, but may not understand what this soccer thing is all about.
Really, what the whole thing has shown is that marketing is all about speaking to different audiences, and it's important for teams to cater to different groups to help them see what the benefit is to coming to watch their sport. For some fans of the Timbers, they love the atmosphere of the Timbers Army with the chanting, swearing and TIFO, for others, it's cheap beer, for others, it's being able to watch top level soccer for a lower price, and for others, it's family time and good entertainment. And the Timbers need to market it that way, but do more to help fans understand what the experience is for them, and what part of the park works for them. You have to market the Timbers Army, but help fans understand that the section might not be for them, while it's also important to have a family section that people feel they can bring their kids to and feel like there's not going to be an issue. And finally, you have to have an away supporters section that is away from the home fans. In England, away supporters are kept away from the home side, and it keeps a lot of trouble from happening, and soccer fans travel a bit, so it's important that you have a place where away fans feel comfortable in coming to visit, yet not cause issues.
Girl and I went to see Duran Duran in Redmond last night, and for a bunch of guys nearing or over 50, they can still bring it. Ok, I'm not the biggest fan of their music, but two very important women in my life love them greatly, my wife and my sister, and I must say I enjoyed the show a lot more that I thought. Granted, I've heard their music enough so I knew most of the songs they played, and I can appreciate them as talented people, even if I wouldn't run out and buy one of their albums for myself. But being able to see them play for a few hours and sound very much like listening to an album with great sound and energy, it was a good time, and a great way to end our long holiday weekend.
Finally, the city council has another discussion relating to MLS on Thursday afternoon. From an email that I got today:
Important Final Hurdle for MLS to PDX

What:  Portland City Council Vote for MLS
When: 2:00 p.m.
         Thursday July 9 2009
Where: Portland City Hall
           Council Chambers

What a week for soccer in PDX!

If there was any doubt that MLS would be a runaway hit in Portland, those doubts were laid to rest with 17,000 people selling out PGE Park on Wednesday night that showed the world why we are called Soccer City USA.  

But we are not done yet.  We have a final hurdle to clear.  

As you are probably aware we took an important step several weeks ago when the City Council voted to decouple baseball and soccer and move forward on finalizing the deal to bring MLS to PDX.

This coming Thursday City Council is slated to take up three important final votes that are key hurdles in finalizing the deal between Merritt Paulson and the City:

1) Bidding Exemption
2) Pre-Development Agreement
3) Financing Package

The bidding exemption and pre-development agreement are important legal requirements that allow Paulson to start retaining contractors and turning dirt over at PGE.  They will also likely be voting on the financing package that will pay for the PGE park remodel.  At this time we have not seen the final package but it is our understanding that it retains all of the protections for taxpayers, the general fund and essential services that the earlier proposed agreement had while still providing the funding necessary to bring MLS to PDX.
So we have more work to do this week, so please make sure and email your commissioners about this. What they will be discussing is the companies that will be doing the work to PGE Park for MLS, getting the agreement determined with the firms that will do the work (and more than likely already have been working with Paulson about construction plans) and how we are going to pay for it all. It's vital that you make your voices heard, and make sure that the powers that be understand how important it is to bring MLS to Portland. Get this done, and then we can do work to ensure that baseball remains in Portland, because that is important as well to keep our entertainment options available and keep other sports in town. You all know how I feel about the MLS, I want it badly, and I will be doing my part to email to tell my elected officials what I would like them to know. If you email, remember to keep the points simple, but show passion in your argument and keep it positive. You cannot stop us, we are the Rose City.