—by Brian Cheney
Nigel de Jong: a living, breathing bag of human shit. By now, most of us have probably watched
de Jong maliciously curb stomp our beloved Nagbe’s leg. That tackle was meant to injure Nagbe. What’s worse: this is the third game in a row where a malicious foul has been committed on the Timbers, with no serious in-game repercussions. Did you notice that Asprilla wasn’t even in the 18? That might have something to do with Shea’s suspension-earning tackle last week. Nigel’s tackle certainly stole the spotlight this weekend. But for us, for our fanbase, it wasn’t the only big event. Merely a day before, our very own Timber Jim gave a heartfelt speech at the TedX Portland
conference. The topic of his speech could not have been more appropriate or more immediately applicable: Timber Jim talked about the conquering power of love.
For those who did not get to hear the speech, Timber Jim spoke of the powerful effect of meeting darkness and disaster with love. He talked about his battles with cancer, the loss of his father, and the loss of his daughter. His words were so powerful that I was, frankly, at a loss as to how to tie his thoughts into the world of soccer. Where does the power of love fit into the beautiful game?
The events on Sunday were the perfect answer to this question. Soccer may just be a game, but for so many people it has become a major, physical part of life. This is nothing new. Likewise, losing or being unfairly treated in the game has led to a lot of death, hurt, and destruction. Just four years ago, 74 people were killed
at an Egyptian soccer match in a massive riot following a 3-1 loss. 74 people.
Back then, the Port Said riot seemed like nothing that would ever happen here. Following the game yesterday, though, I read the whispers of anger, hate, destruction, and the unspoken wish for revenge coming from Timbers fans. Nagbe is one of us, and the cruelty of another has put him in a large amount of pain. You may think that our committed and passionate fans would never hurt someone, but it has been done by many people for less of a reason.
We all face choices now. We could choose the violent path: the path of angry words on the internet, the path of throwing beer at traveling fans, the path of breaking the windows of traveling fans’ cars. Or we could choose the path of love. Timber Jim’s words were meant for exactly such a situation. He said: “We all face the instinct of fight or flight. Your best option is to run, run from the hate and the desire to hurt. Run until you can turn around and use your anger as a fuel for your love.”
This could not be more applicable than it is now. Our desire to choose love has been something that has defined us Timbers fans, but only to a limit. We welcome fans of other teams, and we buy beers for rivals of other teams when it suits us. But we still ferociously take part in our rivalries, and we are still a group of angry fans. We can do better, and we can do more.
On Saturday, July 23, the LA Galaxy will be in Providence Park. It is likely that their fans, some of whom have defended Nigel de Jong, will be among us in the stands. Likewise, de Jong will be on our field. For this game, our love must be fueled by our anger. We must be ready to stand together and shower the Galaxy with our hospitality, our welcome, and our good intentions. We cannot resort to violence and anger. In fact, our love and humanity should shine like a beacon from the moment we stop running.
This ideal must not be held back by the fact that we are fans of a sports team. Just as fans across the world cause hurt and destruction, we must accept that our good actions can have real consequences. Our charity, acceptance, and welcome can be real factors in the world of a game, and not just for the sake of traveling LA fans.
Our group may be an army, our mascot may wield a chainsaw, our scarves may say ‘No Pity’, but our big hearts must be filled with love.