—by Scott Jeffries
The Timbers Army songbook began as a grassroots operation, but since our rise to MLS, that grass is increasingly feeling as plastic as our pitch. Much virtual ink has been spilled over how to keep our chants fresh and several attempts have been made with mixed success to impose new chants by edict. Most recently, Bickle penned a two-part history
that perfectly illustrated how we got from the bottom-up, fan-driven culture of the USL era to the top-town, choreographed experience we have today, culminating with the issuance of three new songs
we have been told we are to do, plus an official contest offering one lucky winner the chance to contribute your own chant (within the specified rules, of course). I could not be more opposed to this process. Imagine how we'd have responded to this blog post if it were on some fishy northern team's blog a few years ago. How far off is this from reading words off a Jumbotron, except that they happened to be penned by a fellow fan? This contest should be scrapped and those new chants put before the court of public opinion along with the many other great ideas that have been floating around for years but don’t have the official weight behind them to make them immediately happen.
I get it. In a sea of 5,000 people, it is nearly impossible to make anything happen organically. Chants are born within sections but rarely make their way beyond, drowned out by distance and dissonance. The few songs that do find devotees suffer from a bad game of telephone. ("What was the last line of Diego Plays for Rose City? 'Blessed are the cheesemakers'?") Player chants are plagued by competing versions with no way to reconcile them. We no longer meet in the same bar, have the same conversations, and only need to shout loudly enough for people to hear us a few rows away. We somehow need to spread our ideas to sixteen different sections and finally reach critical mass with the beating of drums, blaring of trumpets, and leading of cheers. We're all just pissing in the wind
There has to be a better way. We need to leverage the way we as a fanbase communicate today to better enable fan-to-fan exchange, and, more importantly, fan-to-capo exchange. Absent the resurrection of SCUSA (to say nothing of the 107ist forum whose active users are probably outnumbered by Nevernudes
), it could be as simple as a Facebook group and Twitter account where people can post, like, comment, collaborate, and share. We no longer fill the two hours before kickoff with nonstop song. We can fill that dead air with new ideas, and we can get the word out to fans that we are trying those new ideas. If they work, they work. If not, they don't. The capos, drummers, and trumpeters can see these posts, hear these chants, and, if they seem to be catching on, support their growth. But it's going to require them being open to ideas that didn't necessarily come from them or even people they know, acting less as gatekeepers and more as facilitators, following the lead of the fans, not dictating to them.
This is just one suggestion, and like the chants themselves, should be subject to debate. Is there a better way to promote chant ideas? Who should be allowed to participate? Do we make it open to the public? Registration only? 107ist members? When does a popular chant reach “official” status? I don’t know if this is the best solution, but it’s a start.