In short, yes. I think so. But allow me to place this asterisk right here.
That asterisk represents a series of caveats, “yeah, but…’s,” and a few other items that need to be considered.
In case you’ve been living under a rock, the Timbers Army has become the torch-bearer among American supporters groups. We worked hard for it. We love being in that position. We will do everything humanly possible to maintain that position.
However, the TA doesn’t rent itself out for children’s birthday parties, sporting goods megastore openings, James Beard cooking events, etc. Nor should it. The TA exists to support the Timbers and its surrounding communities.
So what is expected if a WCQ match is held at JELD-WEN Field this summer? Does everyone expect a Timbers Army appearance? I surely hope not. It’s not a Timbers match. It’s a US Men’s National Team match. It wouldn’t make much sense to be chanting about “the boys in green” and setting Seattle ablaze without the Timbers out there in front of us. (OK, maybe the part about Seattle could still apply…I’ll get back to you on that.) Call me crazy, but I think forcing a bunch of TA chants to encourage our national team on the pitch is rather lame.
JWF has hosted a couple US Women’s National Team friendlies over the last couple years. I attended the match vs. Canada in September, 2011. Do you know who was in the North End? Quite a few TA folks, who were very heavily outnumbered by girls ages 8-to-17. It was a completely different atmosphere in the North End, and throughout the entire stadium. And you know what? It should have been that way. Even the most grizzled, aggro members of the TA weren’t about to push these girls out of the way just so we could sling out a few TA chants. We all stood toward the top of the 200’s and witnessed the scene. Sure, it was a bit weird, but we understood our place and accepted it.
(No, I did not attend the recent USWNT match vs. Ireland because my bank loan application for tickets wasn’t approved…but the same scenario applies.)
This issue came up yesterday during the TA Annual General Meeting, where a 107ist member asked about how the TA might support the upcoming Thorns FC season. 107ist President Scott Swearingen responded by saying [I’m paraphrasing here] that like the origination of the TA, any organized support for that team should form organically, and not via forced means courtesy of the 107ist. However, the 107ist would absolutely be open to helping out any organically developed support efforts in the future.
I don’t think Mr. Swearingen could have responded any better. I would much rather see an original concept of a Thorns supporter group, rather than a copycat of the TA. Simply swapping out the word “Timbers” for “Thorns” is not only syllabically incorrect, it’s beneath us. Even though many members of the TA will concurrently support the Thorns, I don’t think I’m alone in thinking the Thorns club deserves better than that.
Which bring me back to the WCQ’s. The TA-fueled atmosphere doesn’t apply for anything outside of Timbers matches. What does apply? Why, that would be the atmosphere provided by the American Outlaws, of course! U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A!
At the risk of sounding like a communist, I will openly declare that I’m not the biggest fan of AO. I find their schtick repetitive and stale. I find this U-S-A chant particularly annoying. The whole organization could use some new blood at the national level, in my opinion. Plus, I’m not aware of any significant AO presence within Portland. They list the Thirsty Lion as the official local chapter bar, so they got that going for ‘em. I’m sure they exist around here in some capacity, but this being the wacky counter-culture land known as Portlandia, I’d be surprised to discover it’s more than a couple dudes out in Gresham. We’re not anti-America here in Portland, but we’re certainly pro-Cascadia around these parts, and we’re known for doing things a little differently. If it’s going to be the same AO-led effort here in Portland, color me not-too-stoked.
So what will we get if we find a WCQ match in Portland this summer? A large TA contingent will be there, but not in organized fashion with our arsenal of chants. There’s a decent chance that someone from AO will show up, but how does that group organize a North End without any major presence already in existence in this city?
I have zero doubt the stadium would sell out (barring any exorbitant cash-grab tactics like we saw with the recent USWNT friendly). I don’t doubt the crowd would be loud and supportive of the US team. However, if the expectation is for the atmosphere to be an exact replica of a Timbers match, without any actual effort put in place beyond just the TA, perhaps we should discuss lowering our expectations a bit.
PS – none of this matters anyway. Since JWF has turf, and not grass, seeing a WCQ in Portland anytime soon is unlikely. Anyone with a lawn to maintain around here knows why turf is preferred. Nuff said.
This is an opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the 107ist or the TA.