The best homegrown talent in Portland is moving on to bigger and better things. Along with losing a tremendous broadcaster and universally admired good guy, however, the Timbers will be losing one of their best ambassadors when John Strong moves to NBC Sports Network this week.
Strong’s departure isn’t exactly a revelation, as John’s promotion has been rumored for a couple months now. And even if it hadn’t been rumored, it’s been inevitable for some time. He’s simply too good not to go on to great things.
Since taking a job with 95.5 The Game, you would be hard pressed to find a person who has spread the gospel of the Timbers more enthusiastically and effectively than John Strong.
Just one example of John’s influence is that Strong played a big role in my own Timbers baptism. Freshly home from college and stuck in a job with long hours, little pay, and even less happiness, I started stumbling upon Strong’s somewhat apologetic Timbers segments on “Strong at Night” during my evening commute home. Soon enough I was timing my departure from the office to coincide with the end of Strong at Night, so that just when the soccer-hating sports radio listeners were changing the dial in annoyance, I was turning my radio on to hear a little bit more of the good news. When I got my evenings and weekends back, I met the Timbers Army, and the rest is history.
The only thing extraordinary about my story, however, is how ordinary it is. Strong was one of the first, and to this day the most effective ambassador for the modern Timbers outside the friendly confines of the North End; a true evangelist of soccer in the Rose City.
Strong’s full time move into the Timbers’ TV booth immediately made him, alongside Robbie Earle, one-half of the best broadcast team in MLS. While for those of us who religiously attend home matches Strong was too often the bearer of bad news in the team’s first two years in MLS, the fact that he is beloved nonetheless speaks to his undeniable quality as a broadcaster.
There really isn’t any question Strong will be successful at NBC Sports, and his voice will be more than a memory in Portland, as Strong will deliver nationally televised MLS action into the Rose City on a weekly basis. It is certainly no small comfort to think of how fun it will be to know that the man broadcasting some of the best soccer in North America calls the North End home. But Strong’s departure from his regular gig in the Jeld-Wen Field broadcast booth will leave a massive void to fill on the club’s local broadcasts.
So, before he leaves the Rose City, there’s just one more thing to say to John: Thank you. And good luck – though I’m sure you won’t need it.
Onward, Rose City.
 The Timbers, for example, have only won one MLS game when I watched live with John Strong on the call – this year at Sporting Kansas City.