Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Obligatory Thankful For Column

Thanksgiving is the most forgotten of the major holidays in my opinion. New Year's gets attention because we are either obsessed with getting our year off to a good start or trying to blow off the stink of a crummy year, and it's a great excuse to dress up and drink your problems away for a night. Memorial Day is the first major summer holiday, and there's plenty of camping opportunities and blockbuster movies that open that weekend. Oh, and there's that other reason to remember the day, which is extremely important yet often overlooked depending on how you feel about the military. The Fourth of July celebrates patriotism by blowing up small portions of real estate, while Labor Day celebrates working by giving you a day off work.
We then cruise into Halloween, which has become a major player with parties and costumes, and then afterwards the malls go into hyper mode for Christmas and shopping. I get why they do it, as most retailers make up to half their business during the last months of the year during holiday sales, but Thanksgiving ends up being trampled in the process. We don't have a lot of thanksgiving songs to sing, there's really only one good Thanksgiving special (Charlie Brown making toast still makes me laugh), and the day becomes about eating massive quantities while passing out in front of the television.
Granted, I think part of my issue is that Thanksgiving for me was never a big holiday in my family. We often spent the day with my stepdad's family, which was always an interesting sight. They hated pointyball, would play odd card games and the kids hardly got included, and it's about the only time the entire family would get together, which surprised me. When I left for college, I wasn't able to travel home, so often times, I was stuck at college hanging out with others who didn't have a place to go, and honestly, Dominos Pizza has never tasted so good on a holiday when you couldn't get the turkey to cook right. As I moved to Portland, Thanksgiving turned into a day from work, and I floated between friend's home as a guest, which while is good to have a place to go, I always felt a bit odd infringing on family celebrations where I wasn't part of the family. Things changed when I met girl and I gained a whole new family. They are super folks, and I see them a lot, which took a bit of time to get used to.
Granted, a lot of families work like that, but outside of my mom, stepdad and sister, I rarely saw my other family members more than maybe once a year, or sometimes longer. It does give you a sense at times of being by yourself, but at the same point, I always knew that if I asked for anything, my family would step up. It just always felt unusual to have that sense of family when you just don't see folks that often, but as the saying goes, "You pick your friends, you don't pick your family." I think for a lot of us, we see our family as people we need to relate to because that's what they do, and so you put up with a lot more than you would from your friends in an attempt to keep things together. Some of the things my family has done to each other would cause me to disown friends, but with family, the tolerance is a bit more.
I don't know why that is, but for some of us, it's hard to say the things we need to our family because we're afraid of what they might think or how they might react, and to keep the peace, you just let things slide. It's been my mode of operation for years, and I'm very good at it. Which is really bad for those around me when I really need to say things, because I'm used to trying to keep the peace. It was what I was always thankful for, a quiet, nice gathering of family that didn't end up with one of us pissed off at somebody else for some stupid reason which would then cause chaos for the day.
Now that I'm trying to work on being more aware of how I react to things, I realize that Thanksgiving has a more important purpose to remember what we should be thankful for. And as predictably cheesy as it is to say we should always remember that every day, we just don't. The world has lots of shiny distractions, pressures and stressors, diversions and widgets, and bamboozles and blitzches, and so we don't often think of how important certain people are. I've learned that not only do I need to say how much I appreciate certain folks in my life, but show them as much as I can how much I care. Sometimes, it's the little things that matter the most, and I admit that sometimes the big picture has been more distracting.
But having this realization makes me really appreciate the things and people I have around me. I couldn't do what I do without girl's unwavering love and support, even though I drive her completely nuts most of the time. She gives me so much, and I am so grateful she is in my life. I'm also thankful that I fell into a collection of football fans like the Timbers Army, who have been some of the most accepting, wonderful, irritating, and best people that I could ever count as friends. Finding a home in a place like Row N with my friends has really helped me find myself, and I won't forget what those fine folks have given to me. We always have a celebration of friends Thanksgiving weekend, and I'm really looking forward to spending time with this bunch, because I not only view it as a time to gather, but for me now, it's a chance to celebrate the wonderful gift of friendship amongst these great folks. Well, and celebrate our hatred of clowns.
I'm thankful for being able to read some great writers like Bill Simmons, who consistently make me laugh and I hope to one day emulate in my writing if I can only get my wit and charm down well. Seriously, I've never laughed so hard at the repeated mentions of Zombie Sonics than I have with his latest column, and Simmons also avoids some of the preachiness and overzealous approach of other columnists I know. I'm also thankful for my CD player and MP3 player, because my wonderful city has become a wasteland of crappy commercial radio that has really stopped caring about listeners. I used to think well of some stations in town, but right now, I can't listen to the music I want to because I'm tired of the over the top self promotion and countless ads about concerts or other things as distraction. If I had to listen to this stuff full time, I think I would lose whatever is left of my sanity.
I'm also thankful of the wonderful city I live in, which is an amazing place despite itself at times. Portland seems to be so intent on being weird and unique that I think some folks don't realize that we've already got that character. I've never lived in a place that worships its institutions, rallies around causes, and loves its pets like people around here, and while we may not fundamentally agree on everything, we all agree that this is a very special place and we want to keep it that way. And we will use our money, voices and talents to make sure Portland remains a gem in the Pacific Northwest.
I'm also thankful that I can recognize things about myself that I don't like, and work on improving those things so that I can be a better husband, brother and person. Because of my quiet tendancies, I think some people believe that I couldn't possibly be selfish, thoughtless, or inconsiderate, but I can say as a human being, I'm guilty of those things more often than I'd like. We tend to take it out on the ones closest to us, and so I'm working on recognizing that. I also want to make sure that I'm telling people what they should hear from me, instead of keeping quiet and thinking I'll have time to tell them later. What I might say may not be what they want to hear, but at the same time, they deserve to hear my perspective, good or bad.
Being a human being is a wonderful gift, and something that we should always appreciate. We have the capacity to do so many things, but we also have the capability to recognize our faults and work on fixing them for the greater good. It's an amazing thing if you can do it, because many of us resist change or think things are good the way they are. But if we aren't looking at ourselves and asking questions about who we are and why we are here, we run the risk of being complacent and we stop growing. And not that I would support a complete and total change for anyone, I would say that it's important to examine yourself from time to time. It's the most compassionate thing we can do for ourselves, and the rewards are priceless.
(Sorry for the cheesy marketing ending, but I've been watching too many &(*%*% Black Friday ads. I realized Christmas was for sale, but not this much. Seriously!!)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Happy Thoughts For A Monday

You'd never see an American side do anything like this. Have to admit it's a class move, especially after the result. A lot of sports fans hate soccer because of a lack of scoring, but 9 goals would change some minds rather quickly. Unless it was in the situation that happened Saturday, where Wigan gave up 9 while only scoring 1. The players stepped up to pay for the tickets of those fans brave enough to watch this debacle. It's putting your mouth is, and I'm proud of the players to own up for what happened, whether it was crappy luck, lack of form, or simply the planets aligning in the wrong way. It shows they care, and as a fan who is dealing with a miserable season, sometimes that's enough to buy more time before the bandwagon loses any more fans.
The MLS Cup happened yesterday, and Real Salt Lake won in penalties 5 to 4 after drawing at 1 in the regular match and 30 minutes of overtime. I personally hate penalties deciding any match, but I also understand that soccer matches could end up like cricket in terms of time if you actually had to play until a winner was decided. The drama was compelling, though, as both sides had chances to put it away until Robbie Russell finally won it for Real Salt Lake.
My thoughts on things:
  • Real Salt Lake barely qualified for the playoffs and actually finished with a sub .500 record, but they were the hottest team going into the playoffs, and they used that energy to win 3 tough games to get there. Playoffs to me don't determine a winner for the season, but simply crown the hottest team at the time, which is why any side that can win the regular season title and then win the playoffs is truly one special squad. Not that I want to discount the accomplishment, but the whole situation here makes me want the regular season winner to be declared the champion more of a reality. That rewards a complete body of work, not just a hot streak at a specific timeframe.
  • Seattle supported the game well, and it was nice to see many fans show up even if the home side wasn't part of the match. I'm still not a fan of many game day things they do, but putting 46,000 fans in the seats for the championship is an impressive feat.
  • It was great to see some former Timbers playing well in the match. Josh Saunders came in late in the match to replace an injured Donovan Ricketts and performed admirably in a rather tough spot. It's tough to enter late as a keeper, much less then face penalty kicks and hold up as well as he did. It would have been nice to see Bryan Jordan enter the match, but at least former OSU Beaver Robbie Findley played well and was a key cog in the RSL attack.

The Civil War is on December 3rd and it's for all the marbles. Or for the Roses, as the annual Duck and Beaver football game will determine the Pac-10 team that will represent the conference in the Rose Bowl. There hasn't been as much at stake in this game, and the usually friendly rivalry will take on more of a fervor over the next few weeks as trash talk elevates itself to higher than usual levels.


The Oregon - Oregon State rivalry is one of the most friendly in many respects, as you hear stories about Ducks and Beavers interacting all the time until this week, and then all bets are off. Relatives don't speak to each other before the game, businesses and people start promoting their side, and it's time for those in the state who didn't attend either school to pick a side or just remain neutral if you can. And with the stakes being what they are, the pressure to pick a side will be huge.


Myself, I didn't attend either school until I moved here and have attended 3 classes at each college, so I can't choose my allegiance that way. I have dear friends that attended both schools, and based upon that, I can't pick a side much less upsetting one group of friends or the other. The Ducks haven't been there since 1995 and the Beavers haven't been there since the 1960's. I attended a college that doesn't have football, so I can't use that as an excuse, and my wife's alma mater does have football but they seemed to have lost their way. I've always just wished that both teams do well and get into great bowl games so I can watch as a fan, and over the past few years, it's been easy watching their success. And even after this game, both sides will still have good bowl dates.


But this year is different, because both teams have a chance at the Roses and that doesn't come up all that often. So for me, I'll try to take the platypus approach, supporting both sides in a hybrid sort of way until I'm forced to make a call. Besides, being Switzerland in a dispute like this isn't so bad, cause you get those cool bank accounts, chocolates and glockenspiels!!

Friday, November 20, 2009

It's All About The Context?

I've seen the videos of Elizabeth Lambert playing soccer for the University of New Mexico against Brigham Young University, and watched the snippets of Lambert mugging, pushing, hitting, and generally abusing opposing Cougar players. If you simply watch her actions taken from the condensed part of the video, you would see an player that seems to be playing like a deranged lunatic and pushing physical play to nearly incomprehensible levels. Some of my friends who are non-soccer fans have seen the video and seem outright shocked that things like that happen on the soccer pitch.
If you read Lambert's interview for the New York Times, she even admits that it's tough to watch her actions because she doesn't recognize the person playing out there. The elbowing, the hard tackling, the hair pulling, the tackle from behind, it's all tough to watch even for soccer fans, because taken simply for what is shown in the condensed video, her actions could be labeled as assault. Lambert has been suspended from the Lobos soccer team indefinitely, and she is now working on repairing the damage from her actions. She's talking to people about what happened, she's talking with a psychologist, and working on her mental state so that she can hopefully return to the team next year for her senior season.
She appears to be horrified and apologetic about her actions, and trying to make amends as best as possible, realizing that she's crossed a conduct line on the field. There's regret in her words, and I can only imagine what it's like to have your actions put out there for all to see in grand fashion only to realize you've done something truly horrible. It's hard enough for me to look directly at the people I've wronged at points because of the guilt I feel, and I've never done anything close to this in such a public forum. Instead of being a defender on the soccer pitch, Lambert will have to live with the label of being "that girl", "that player" or other horrific names for the rest of her career.
Just ask Kermit Washington, Ron Artest or LeGarrette Blount what it's like to live with such a stigma. Washington had a good NBA career and currently works in sports broadcasting, but every time there is a serious transgression on the field of play, you see the footage of Washington striking former player Rudy Tomjanovich during a game. Washington served what was at the time the longest suspension in NBA history for his actions. Artest was central figure in one of the worst scenes in sports, an on court brawl in Detroit when the Indiana Pacers were in town that spilled into the crowd. It was labeled as one of the worst on-court incidents until Blount lost his composure on the smurf turf in Boise, and had his most famous meltdown. Go on the Internet and you can see the incidents up close and personal, and it's hard not to be horrified at what you see. And now Lambert's footage joins the list of incidents above as an indictment of sports and athletic conduct during the match.
I've never played sports on that level, so I can't begin to imagine the pressure and stress athletes go through when they are being constantly scrutinized, examined, and compartmentalized. I can imagine that the scrutiny is difficult to live with, which is why many athletes have an adversarial relationship with the media. Everyone seems to be an expert after the fact, saying what should have occurred or what they would have been done if they were in that situation, but imagine if you really were on the court when Artest went berzerk or when Lambert was pulling the opposing players' hair. Could any of us truly say we'd be above such conduct in the heat of the moment, especially if you review the incident in the context of the entire game or season?
It's easy to pinpoint one incident and make snap decisions about people, making them live with the consequences of their actions. While they really should live with some of the ramifications of things they do, we also paint ourselves as a society where second chances are readily provided and we like hearing about people that have regained their stature after a rough incident. But those beliefs have to be tempered with some other situations that don't make it always easy to return from the brink.
The Internet keeps track of everything most athletes have said or down, so these incidents never really go away but instead they fade until something happens and then they live a new life in comparison. You have the pressure of televisions and cameras being everywhere, catching every moment of events. I've also heard athletes say it's only a penalty if the official catches it, and most of them are extremely competitive in every aspect of their lives. Combine these with the pressure of winning or performing well, and you can see a recipe for one stressed out society which doesn't make things like this easy to deal with. You also can't forget the influence of moral codes, which is a source for argument amongst even the best of friends or family members. Things like this aren't just black and white situations where you can paint a picture and immediately point at a person or situation and say who is to blame. I didn't see the entire game where Lambert melted down, but apparently the game was physical on both sides, but she took it to the extreme in her reaction. Artest was trying to decompress from something that happened on the court and got hit with a drink from the crowd that started the ugliness.
This is what I mean by context, because none of us are really able to understand exactly what happened, we simply need to react to the aftermath and try to deal with it as best as we can. Just because these things happen on the sports field doesn't mean that sports are dangerous or bad influences in general, it simply means that as a society, we all deal with pressure and stress and it's up to us to find ways to deal with them without resorting to violence. I admire Lambert for being open to talking about her situation and realizing that while this is a mistake, she's doing all she can to rectify the situation. Washington has done his part to try and resolve his issue, while Blount has been reinstated to the team but sequestered from the media.
I'm not sure that's the right approach here, because part of the process of recovery is allowing the person to move away from the mistake and show apology and repentance. Otherwise, you might end up living with the mistake for the rest of your life, and I'm not sure that's the way anyone would want to live. As far as context is concerned, showing your human side is the most important thing we can all do. Now showing my human side, I would really appreciate it if someone could help me get rid of these guys, cause that would make me really happy.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sports Really Is a Business, But There's Humanity Involved

I remember crafting a letter to the most recent coaching hire at Portland State, Jerry Glanville, when he was first hired as football coach. As a member of the Timbers Army, I was contacting him about PGE Park to welcome him to town and ask for help to update the turf at the stadium. Unfortunately, my letter went unanswered, which I wasn't all that surprised about. The Army wasn't nearly the influence it was then, and MLS was just a pipe dream.
Fast forward to today, and MLS is on the fast track, and Glanville is now the former coach of Portland State as he resigned today. Granted, his performance warranted some concern, as he won a grand total of 9 games in three years since taking over. Glanville might be a great guy and has football knowledge, as his resume is filled with NFL experience, college programs, and some success along the way. But he could never recover from the loss of his offensive coordinator, Mouse Davis, during the offseason, and could never gather enough talent to be competitive in the Big Sky. It seemed like the team is a bit in disarray, but after watching them against Weber State, the team never quit and kept trying to right the ship.
Glanville could tell some great stories about his past football exploits, and he gave up part of his coaching salary to help cover some salary loss for his assistants. He was extremely generous to the citizens of the city, giving sandwiches to the homeless and getting involved with other philanthropic projects about town, and he garned lots of attention for the program. When he was first hired, the attendance spiked and there was a huge buzz around the program, but in the end, Glanville couldn't keep the momentum as the losses piled up.
It's a challenge to be successful at a commuter school that is trying to improve its athletic profile. Portland State is the largest university in Oregon and was a Division II football power in its past, yet they've virtually been ignored in the profile of colleges in the area. Oregon and Oregon State cast a huge shadow over the state in academics and athletics, and as such, it's hard to gain traction when you are running uphill against the Ducks and Beavers. PSU has worked hard to get the word out on their school and successes, and I think they are gaining in some respects. It seems that the alumni are paying more attention and getting involved, while the student body has also been engaged more than they have, but there's still work to be done.
Portland State has always harbored dreams of competing with the big boys, and the thing is the foundation is here. Portland is a large media market and has lots of PSU alumni about, and the school is putting money into their programs to gain some traction on the field while improving academic programs. It's a tough and competitive world out there to get the attention of young people to invest their money and time into going to college there, but they are making strides. My hope is that the athletic department hires a coach that has the energy and passion to push the profile up further, so that Portland State isn't such an afterthought in some conversations.
The other big news is that Trail Blazers and Seahawks owner Paul Allen was diagnosed with lymphoma and will be undergoing treatment. Because I've dealt with the ravages of cancer in my family, I have a lot of experience in dealing with the various emotions that this condition bring forward. I went to visit my mom because she was ill and within a week, she was gone. It was one of the worst things I've ever dealt with, and it still rings with me to this day. You never get to the point where you are really completely OK with what happened, but you learn to deal with the death of someone by cancer by just managing it. I'm still reminded of things she said and did, and I'm shocked at how often I think about things and get a little emotional.
That being said, when I heard the news, I was able to put a more personal spin on things than most. In reading the comments on blogs and on sports radio, people have been freaking out about the long term harm to the Trail Blazers and what happens if Allen isn't able to beat this disease. Granted, those things are concerns, but right now, this situation isn't about a guy who has more individual wealth than most of us will ever see in our life. It's isn't about an intensely private guy who shows himself in little glimpses supporting his sports teams, nor is it about a guy that has been trashed in various avenues for being quiet, aloof, or an accidental success.
It's about a human being that is dealing with a very real health challenge, and I wish him nothing but the best during his recovery. He's already beaten Hodgkin's disease once, and having the experience of that combined with the support of his family and friends is a huge key, and he'll have access to the best doctors available. The situation is entirely treatable, yet nothing in this is entirely certain. All you can do is what you can do, and I think having distractions will help him in the long term. Now that the team is doing well and faces less uncertainty in its future, I can't help but think that a successful Trail Blazers season will do a lot towards helping Allen in his recovery.
I've personally had issues with the Trail Blazers organization and many of their decisions about the Memorial Coliseum, questionable player decisions, and some of the tactics they use to maintain a monopoly in the sports media around here. But none of that really matters right now, as I'm wishing my best to their owner, who has personally done a lot to keep basketball fans happy for years following their team. It's hard to separate the person from the owner at times likes this, but right now, both of them need support in dealing with the challenges that are forthcoming.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Where The Heck Did Things Get This Out of Whack?

I've never been a confrontational person by nature. Causing a scene just to prove a point, even if I've been wrong usually doesn't cross my mind at all, although I do spent time thinking about what I should have done after the fact quite a bit. I spent a lot of years thinking I was just being overly polite or passive because it didn't matter, but what I've found most recently is that I'm dealing with complacency.

I've never wanted to rock the boat unless absolutely necessary, because for me, it's easier to understand the situation and adapt to the least-problematic alternative. It doesn't matter if I get hosed within that process, it's more important to keep some form of peace and normalcy. When I write these words, it sound really stupid to think that's how I've been dealing with things, but then again, I come from a family that didn't handle conflict fairly at all, and I'm married to someone who stands up for herself quite a bit. She's not afraid to be honest, which is an incredible trait that I admire greatly. And while I would love to live more like that, my wiring tends to push me in the path of least resistance. Mind you, I'm working on this issue, because I think it's important that you have a voice and stand up for yourself, but at the same point, you have to have the confidence and belief in yourself to make it happen.

When you are with someone in quite close quarters, things come up all the time that require communication, understanding, and a commitment to listen to each other and try to find common ground. And I always thought I was a good communicator until I started dating girl. Now I realize that while I do a reasonable job of saying things, there is a lot of room for improvement. The fact that I'm willing to do it is a huge step, but it's a process. And one that constantly gets tested, over and over again.

That's because as humans, we interact with others all the time, whether it's friends, family, co-workers, service personnel, or random strangers, and in most instances, we have to interact with what we know at the time at face value. You can't sit back and examine every interaction and react with supreme confidence every time, so you react as best as you can and go from there. And our reactions are tempered by our own personal past and current experiences and attitude, which means that even under the best circumstances, we may not understand why we react to certain things the way we do.

So you can imagine taking all of my experiences and dealing with the realities of our busy, hectic day to day work, there's a huge amount of challenges. Things move quickly, information is flowing at all times of the day, and there is no real down time anymore as we try to cram all of the responsibilities we have into a compartmentalized approach and do the best we can. And while we all try to be polite and considerate of others, that isn't often the case. Sometimes, it's from a bad mood or being preocupied with other situations, but lately, I'm seeing more and more of people just doing what they want without concern for anyone else.

I'm not exactly sure where the sense of entitlement has come from with some people, but I was always taught to be polite and considerate to others unless they gave me a reason to do otherwise. Now with my own temperment included, you can see the recipe for some trouble since it often times takes a long time before the reason gets to the point where I need to do something. But the fact that it's coming a lot more lately tells me that I'm noticing a lot more people who just don't care if their actions affect others.

Tuesday night, girl and I went to our regular bowling league at Hollywood Bowl, which is usually a good time. Granted, the fact that I completely miscommunicated with girl about our lane location added some tension to the night, but things got off to a bad start when some fellow bowlers decided to bring their childen to their bowling league. Normally, this isn't a huge issue, as the kids play in a small area and keep to themselves reasonably well while their parents bowl. Last Tuesday, the kids decided that their toys belonged in the middle of the walkway to the far lanes, which meant that everyone needed to walk through strewn out toys and blankets. The parents passively told the kids to pick up their stuff, but over a half an hour had passed before anything was done. Mind you, it wasn't a huge issue to step around the toys, but at the same point, the parents inability to deal with the kids affected everyone else at the alley.

As we drove home later that night down NE Glisan, we were driving behind a black sedan that suddenly was driving very slowly in one of the lanes. Because of other traffic and the conversation with girl about our bowling night, I didn't immediately move into the other lane until later on to realize that the driver had been on the phone the entire time of her drive. She wasn't using hands free, and was consistenly 10 MPH slower than the posted speed limit, even leaving late at intersections because she was distracted while driving by her call. I get that there are conversations that are important to have, and it might make sense to have them when driving. If that's the case, doesn't the hands free mode on a phone make sense? But instead of thinking of others, the driver decided her converstion was more important that whatever else was going on, even within the flow of traffic.

But I think the final straw that has frustrated me was my experience at the TMBG show at the Crystal Ballroom last night. They Might Be Giants is one of my favorite bands, and one that I forget how much I enjoy until I see them in person or hear one of their songs, so having the chance to see them live was exciting to me, and I was happy to bring girl with me because she likes their music as well. We met our friend, S3K, at Ringlers, and the evening did get off to a rather clunky start when our food was delayed by over 40 minutes because they lost our order ticket.

Granted, the waitress was very apologetic and explained what happened, but there was no discount applied to our order at all. They did expediate our order, and it wasn't like we were in a hurry to get to our show which started at 9 PM, but I just felt like they could have done more. I even gave the waitress a decent tip because it wasn't her fault the order was misplaced, but at the same time, I just felt they could have done more under the circumstances. But I wasn't going to push the issue because I understand how things happen, and the order eventually arrived.

After eating, we got in line and soon got into the Crystal Ballroom almost 40 minutes before the show, and the crowd was reasonably sized but there was still plenty of room to move about when we got there. If you've been to a show at the Crystal, there's seats in the balcony for sitting and some benches along the far wall, but otherwise, it's standing room. Since we stand for many Timbers matches, standing doesn't bug me at all as long as I have enough room so I'm not overly crowded. I get that people bump into each other from time to time moving about or dancing, but I wasn't prepared for what happened to me and girl during the show.

The opening act came and played, and it was well received and the crowd was still reasonably sparse. As we were waiting for the Giants to start up at 9 PM, that's when things started to get interesting. As S3K had his head turned to talk with girl, a couple moved from behind us to jump right in front of him to get closer for the Giants. Girl got into it with two girls that wanted to move closer to the stage because they wanted to see what was going on, but girl stood her ground because things were getting more crowded. They referred to Girl as a bitch, and she gave it right back to them by calling them a bitch, then chatting with two gals next to us that were upset about all the people wanting to crowd. One gal stood right behind me in an attempt to get me to move, but I held my ground by putting my elbow right between her breasts to keep her back. At this point, the show hadn't even started but people had decided to start rushing the stage a bit, and it wasn't appreciated.

If that was it, I could still count the night as a success, but then the show started, and while I was engrossed in the songs and singing along, the couple in front of S3K started groping each other and getting in the way of others. Girl, meanwhile, was constantly being backed into by two guys that were trying to dance and didn't have a sense of space. I had to put my arm around her back to try and protect her later on, but all that did was get my arm bumped and make things warmer than it already was for girl. Meanwhile, I was dealing with a pink haired gal that couldn't handle her alcohol, and she proceeded to spend most of the two hours flopping about, falling over myself and others around her while trying to stand up. Her companion didn't seem that interested in stopping her behavior, and the final straw for me was one of the guys behind girl grabbed me to keep himself from falling over, and I glared at him. There was also someone who we couldn't target, but they had some of the worst personal gas I've ever smelled, and they proceeded to let go every 10 minutes in a noxious display that would make even Barnacle Brian blush.

If I could gage the show simply on the music and energy of the Giants, I would give it a huge thumbs up because I love their music and the Giants are professionals who know how to entertain. If I had to include the venue, I would lessen the grade slightly, although the Crystal isn't a bad place to watch a show based on sound and asthetics. But add in the crowd, and I can't give this more than an average show. Girl was completely distracted by the antics, and I know she didn't enjoy herself because of what others did, while I was upset because she didn't enjoy herself and I had my own issues.

Granted, I could have taken some of these issues in my own hands at the time, by getting physical or verbal with the irritants. However, the drunken girl probably wouldn't have understood what she was doing, and the dancing guys probably wouldn't have changed anything, but there's a possibility that the situation could have escalate to something worse leading to ejection or confrontation that would be regretted. I don't think any of those folks are giving it a second thought what they did last night and how they conducted themselves at the concert, but they probably should be.

But it's easier to just keep doing what you are doing at points, because what I want to do is more important than what others are thinking or doing. Seriously, do you really need to get that plowed to enjoy a show, or do you really need to slam into strangers to have a good time? I've been to dozens of shows at the Crystal and never had this issue before, and I've also been on the floor of other arenas and never had things happen this badly. For some shows, it did help that we were friendly to people around us and we provided a unified front, like in Vegas at the Mode show when some people tried to crowd the stage and a line of us stood our ground.

I get that people want what they want, but why should it be at the expense of others? Are we that callous and insulated about our own existance to not even think about how our actions affect others, or are some of us so convinced that we should always get what we want that we'll do whatever it takes to meet our needs? I don't want to make a generalization here, but many of the people that exhibit that this behavior are younger people in the 18 - 30 crowd. It's not always them, but more often than not, it seems like they are at the center of this behavoir. As as someone who doesn't think like that, I can't wrap my head around why they can operate in this matter, not realizing how their actions are viewed by others. I don't know if this is a product of their own self absorption about their needs or an extension of being told they can do anything or be anything no matter what, but it's an attitude that I don't like but it's becoming far more prevolent than I would prefer.

I'm not perfect in bringing this up, because everyone has issues in thinking of others when needed, but I'm trying to learn and be more empathetic while also learning to stand up when it's necessary. It's certainly a work in progress, but within our incredibly diverse world, apparently, it's becoming as important of a skill as learning your reading and writing basics. Perhaps we should be teaching our younger generations some empathy and compassion along with other basics rather than turning school into nothing more than an exercise in reinforcing entitlement and standardized testing.

BASEBALL UPDATE - Vancouver steps up for the Beavers, but is it too little, too late? I admire their conviction and sounds like they have some ideas to bring the Portland Beavers to Vancouver, WA, but will it be enough to save baseball for the metropolitan area? Based on the news around PGE Park, it looks like the final hurdles for MLS to take over the stadium are being crossed.

EDIT - I forgot to mention a couple of things in my concert ramblings, added in italics this afternoon. GK

Friday, November 6, 2009

What's Wrong With This Picture?

It's a grand idea with a lot of moving parts, but as much as I would love this to come true, I'm far too grounded and cynical to think this has any prayer of being implemented. Perhaps I'm just a bit wounded from the MLS to PDX process or watching the current Beavers being treated as the metaphorical "stuff stuck on the bottom of shoes that I'm trying to scrape off" as they move from city to city in an attempt to find a home. I just can't sit back and listen to delusional thinking like this without dousing it with a cold dose of reality.
Yes, MLB came calling way back when the former Montreal Expos were looking for a home, and Portland had a winning combination of a good sized television market, very good television ratings, and a decent sized interim facility that could work while a permanent stadium could be determined. The fans rallied about town putting forth passion behind ideas to bring the team here, and there was some solid framework put in place to attempt to lure the Expos here. MLB did tour the area and stadium, and kept Portland on the long list of potential sites, but eventually the team moved to Washington DC into RFK Stadium until their new park was built.
But how seriously was Portland being considered? On the surface, you might think we were in the running until the very end, but MLB used San Juan, Puerto Rico as a temporary home for the Expos for some series to try and gage support. Northern Virginia was in the running as an alternate site to DC, and might have done enough to earn the team had Washington DC not sweeted their offer. As painful as it might be to admit, the Expos were going to end up in DC, regardless of what any other city was going to do. MLB wanted the market, and did what they could to steer the team there.
And here it is more than 10 years later, and Portland sits with essentially the same stadium and the big league dreams of luring MLB here. This goes on despite the fact that corporate entities have left our area, employment number have struggled, tax opponents and public assistance foes have become more of a formidable force, and we have failed in supporting the baseball team we currently have. Mind you, there's nothing that translates support for a triple AAA team into how an MLB team is supported, but at the same time, we can't figure out a permanent stadium for a minor league baseball team, but somehow we can for MLB at 10 times the cost?
I get this is a blue sky dream, and it's nice to dream and think about what might be if you have enough passion, forethought, and have some of the building blocks in place. Portland would be a huge asset to any league they join, as evidenced by the support they give the Trail Blazers not only as fans, but corporate citizens and tax payers.  We love our teams a lot, and that gives us hope that any new team has a better than fighting chance to survive. But sports like MLB require far more corporate support than we have available, far more government involvement than we've provided to know, and far more fans than I think could support the team long term. MLS is a better alternative simply because of the scale of the league and the other infastructrue needs, and there's a built in fan base for the current Timbers soccer team.
There might be a point where MLB makes sense for this area, and it would be amazing to be here when it happens, but this dream requires a lot more than simply wishing and hoping for what might be.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

What Being A Supporter Is All About

What of the many things I love about the Timbers Army is their passion for the game of soccer in all forms, as they pay attention to league happenings throughout the world. While the Timbers are the main source of our football passion, many folks have other clubs that they follow closely from all parts, and there are many message threads in our forum with news, scores, and thoughts. I personally follow West Ham and Sunderland very closely when I'm not following Timbers news, out of loyalty to former Timbers that were Hammers and to some very dear friends who have opened up their home to myself, my wife and other Timbers fans visiting from across the pond who happen to support a club that is fun to watch.
The passion we share for our clubs is something that draws football fans together worldwide, as we are more than just fans that appear on match day in support of our club. I have many friends that don't support soccer and ask me about why I do what I do for the Timbers - what makes us different from the fans that just show up to watch a match. I've tried to explain what we are and how I feel about my club, but I don't think I could have done a better job than what a Colorado Rapids supporter did in the blog noted below:
The blog was started by Rapids management to interact with fans, and the main point of the first entry was to talk about the frustration of their current season. The Rapids had a playoff berth in their sights, but they went without a win in their last seven matches and they were caught by Real Salt Lake and New England in the final weekend of the season. The Rapids general manager, Jeff Plush, wrote a letter to the fans thanking them for their support, and promising changes because they had fallen short of the playoffs. What followed is a stream of comments from the fans, many angry at various aspects of the club. Whether their anger was directed at personnel decisions, ownership direction, investment in the club, or other factors, it was obvious that these group of people weren't happy with their season being cut short. And after what happened to the Timbers, I could relate to their feelings quite easily.
However, one post rang more true with me than any, and describes what it means to be a supporter better than anything than I could write:

Thank you for taking the time to write this letter, we appreciate this open form of communication with the fans and supporters.

Perhaps, everybody seems to have a reason why this season wasn't successful and solutions suggested are countless and free.

We also want to thank all of you for taking the time to share your thoughts, I can relate to you and you have the right to decide weather you continue to enjoy this beautiful sport.

I apologize in advance, I don't intend to lecture you, just want to share my point of view. 

Legion 5280 I believe is the smallest supporter group within the Front Range. However, we are known to be passionate about the Club. Supporting it is our life's essence.

I want to share my passion and make everyone understand what it is about. 

Fan Vs Supporter - What's The Difference? 
I'm not saying that one is better than the other, just that there is an important difference.
What is the difference between the two?
Well, it's in the words. A fan likes something, a supporter actively supports it. A regular fan wouldn't drive 8 hours to support the Colorado Rapids in the freezing temperatures of Salt Lake City.
What do Supporters do differently?
Passion. Dedication. Loyalty.
Take a club like Club America-Mexico City for example. They have by far the most fans in Mexico, but only a small group of true Supporters. The fans buy lots of merchandise and visit the home matches, and usually refer to the team, not the club. The fan idolizes players, but often knows little about the club's history. When a club doesn't do well, more and more seats will be empty, whereas the section of the Supporters is as full as ever.
The Mindset
A Supporter loves the club, not the team and its players. Those are mercenaries who do not identify with the club and will transfer as soon as more money is offered.
To a Supporter, it's all about the club, not the team.
A fan sees this as a hobby or casual entertainment. But Supporters take it seriously. No matter where or when the club plays, or how important the match is, the Supporter is there. A lot of times this means sacrificing other aspects of his/her life - work, school, family, and friends. That's because words like loyalty and honor still have meaning. A Supporter will defend the club's name if necessary, without getting it into trouble.
To the Supporter the club is a lifestyle.
The Supporter supports the team throughout the entire match, regardless of the score or the performance. Because the team needs the support the most when things are not going well. That is not to say that displeasure can't be voiced. But the support of the team always comes first.
Simply singing or shouting is not enough. Every word uttered and every song sung has to be filled with all of the Supporter's energy and passion. Even if the players on the field don't care, it is done for the club's honor and for the Supporter's entire honor.
Sing until your lungs burn and you are ready to puke.
Supporters look at everything the club does objectively and is not afraid to be critical. It is up them to protect the club's values and integrity and to carry them on with their actions.
Should a decision of the club clashes with the Supporter's believes, but benefits the club in the long run, the Supporter has to put his/her own interest aside.
Everything the Supporter does have to be in the club's best interest.
All of these traits are vital. I have known people who went to every Club America match, but didn't support. There were those who sang passionately, but only cherry-picked a few matches a year, exactly the same here in Denver with the Colorado Rapids.
Unfortunately there seems to be a pre-meditated disconnection going on against the Supporters here. The Colorado Rapids FO wants to replace us with customers who will shell out money without asking questions or criticizing.
Rest assured that Legion 5280 will continue its passion and loyalty to the Club, regardless…

David Fagoaga on behalf of Legion 5280

If you ever wanted to know what the difference is between a fan and a supporter is, read David's words. It describes the plight of many of us better than anything I've read in a while. Keep up the fight, Legion 5280.
Meanwhile, Brian Libby weighs in on changes to the MC for JumpTown, and his thoughts as an architecture fan. While I've disagreed with him on many points, his main tenants that the Timbers and Beavers need good homes for themselves makes sense, and in my mind, the MC always made the most sense for baseball. While the overall concept of revamping the MC intrigues me, my frustration at baseball not having a home which in turn might affect the MLS/Timbers initiative clouds whatever benefit I might see in this whole Jumptown initiative. I hope I'm wrong and this all gets resolved, but until then, I'm remaining skeptical until I see the bottom line and full costs.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

That Certainly Didn’t Take Long

I got the email from the Trail Blazers announcing a new and exciting vision for the Memorial Coliseum area, calling it JumpTown. The ideas are flowing, with potential thoughts bringing a farmers market/grocery store to the area, other additional commerce, a sports museum with Nike’s involvement, a brew pub, and a revamped Coliseum with smaller seating with other events, concerts and Winterhawks hockey all envisioned as tenants of the new arena. It sure looks like a novel concept, and even as I looked at the slick, vibrant presentation, I even saw some things that had slight interest to me.

The announcement of this site was timed in conjunction with the city also putting forth efforts to revitalize the area. They’ve developed a site as well, and are asking for input from residents about what to do with the Rose Quarter area. Granted, the MC has historical designation now, so design plans must fit within the parameters of dealing with a historic property, but the site is soliciting any thoughts about what to do here. The Oregonian also provided their take, with some quotes from the Trail Blazers about wanting a smaller MC and something to take advantage of Portland’s history as a music center, using the name JumpTown as homage to some of the jazz clubs that used to populate the area.

I’m sure there will be lots of people that will see this idea, and get very excited about the possibilities for the area. I mean it’s been 15 years since the Rose Garden was built, and there’s been dozens of ideas thrown out in an attempt to jump start the area as a destination point outside of nights where the Trailblazers or a concert are in the area. But I have my own thoughts about the concept, and what I think will happen here.

Memorial Coliseum is the perfect site for baseball, and it would have provided a huge jumpstart to the area with a ball park that would attract people at differing times than the Blazers. Why it took this long to push this idea forward is beyond me, but anyone that seriously thinks this won’t cost the taxpayers as much or more that the original $50 million dollars that a ball park would have cost is kidding themselves. The Blazers don’t mind competition as long as they get their piece of the pie, and this plan gives them creative control of the area and control over all of the facilities. And because of the absolute love this town has for the NBA team, there’s a really good chance that this idea will pass even with it costing more than baseball.

The new plan does address the Winterhawks, which is a good thing in my opinion. They have a strong fan base, the team is actually performing well this year, and there’s some buzz about hockey, and I think they deserve a home that works for them in the metro area. However, their better home is the Rose Garden, and keeping them there books more dates there to keep the arena occupied. And this plan does nothing to resolve the problem of baseball, who right now needs someone to step up and care about it. And I’m still convinced that had baseball not come knocking to the area, we’d still be talking about what to do with that area for the next few years. The Trail Blazers have done little to nothing in that region, and it was only after baseball came calling that plans suddenly materialized.

Baseball has a long history in the Rose City, and while we may not have many Portland Beavers fans, we have a lot of fans of baseball. Because of the MLS effort, the Beavers are not able to stay at PGE Park, which is a middling baseball park at best. The original design of the park was for track and field, and the horseshoe was meant to be completed on both sides, but baseball fit there during the times where multi purpose stadiums were the rage, and so PGE Park gained history as a baseball park. A newer ballpark would be a great investment in the history of baseball here, plus provide another great entertainment option during the long summers here in Portland. A stadium could also help spur some economic development in whatever area they choose, but the simple fact is that a city of this size should be able to find a home for baseball at a reasonable price.

It’s not the fault of soccer that baseball is in the predicament it is, as the fans of the Timbers voiced their opinion about MLS and given the recent instability of the USL, it seems like moving up couldn’t happen soon enough. The fact is that baseball fans have been very quiet about the future of their team, as soccer, basketball and hockey fans have all made their voices heard and as such, plans are in place to help their teams. Now it’s time for baseball fans to be heard, and make sure that we have America’s pastime here to enjoy for years to come.