Darren Lloyd is one of the drummers in the DnT, and had a crazy idea to write down the tale of his journey to Columbus and back. What follows is a stream-of-consciousness travel log. Pull up a chair, you'll be here a while.
2:40 AM. Friday December 4. PDX. Is that really my alarm? It's strange. Normally I'm somewhat lazy with alarms, but this one popped me out of bed like a jack-in-the-box. Damn it's early. Who does this......oh. Right. We're going to the MLS Cup, and I have a 5 AM flight.
Wendy picks up Kris from downtown and rolls over to pick me up. It's just after 3:20. I'm not entirely awake, but the drive from NoPo is blissfully straight so I don't have to do toooooo much navigating. We arrive at PDX around 3:45, but the Alaska desk doesn't open until 4 AM (and I have a 5 AM flight), so it's time to stand in line. Timbers fans are pros at standing in line, so no big deal. I take a photo of my drum and my feet standing on the PDX Carpet, as one does. And, seeing how my drum doesn't fit in an overhead bin or under the seat in front of me, checked it is! I also learned something new...PDX has nifty check-in kiosks that print baggage tags for you, so you walk up, show your boarding pass and ID, they scan your bag with a tablet, and off you go. At 3:45, those don't print bag tags...and they won't until 4. So. The more you know.
More lines, this time for security. Everyone's half asleep, but there's green and gold, jerseys, No Pity scarves, jackets, and hats, everywhere. Those wearing gear give one another a knowing nod. Security, as usual at PDX, is a breeze. I'm still amazed no one wants to take a closer look at my mallets (in my carry-on) when they go through the x-ray machine, but I've flown with them several times with no issues. The flight to s*ttle is about 30 minutes from Portland. There's one every 30 minutes or so, and in all the times I've done it, I think I've been stuck in my seat with the seat belt light on for the duration of the flight—it's not that they don't do in-flight service, it just doesn't seem to happen often because I always wind up flying in bumpy conditions!
We finally make it to the fishing village. Just like Jail in Monopoly...I'm just visiting. I have about two hours to kill, and I'm getting hungry, so after I take the tram to the N terminal at SeaTac, get some food, and chill for a bit. I'm flying to Detroit, which is a 4.5ish hour flight. I got a free checked bag (the drum), so I instead spent the ~25 bucks on upgrading my seat to row 6, so I'm one of the first on the plane...then I just have to wait for everyone else to get on board. In one of those wonderful moments that you want when traveling alone, no one is in the middle seat, so I can just relax and not worry about personal space issues. As we push back from the gate, I realize that my Fighting 106th pin, which someone gave to me before the final Dallas game at home, isn't on the lapel of my jacket. I mention it to the flight attendant as she comes by to make sure seat belts are fastened and tray tables are in their upright and locked positions, just in case it fell somewhere between the door and my seat, but I resign myself to the fact that I left something behind in the terminal.
I feel like you taxi FOREVER at SeaTac. Maybe shorter only to Denver in my experience. But eventually, the pilots throttle up, trip the brakes, and away we go. I smile as the nose of the plane rotates into the air. Here we go, one more step on the journey complete. Losing that pin is weighing on my mind. It's silly, a souvenir, but like the poppy I got in Vancouver for Remembrance Day in Canada during the Western Conference Semifinals, it's become part of the "routine" for the day. The captain levels out at our cruising altitude and flips off the seat belts sign. I get up and check around the seat area. Maybe I knocked the pin off when I unshouldered my bag to put it in the overhead bin. Nope. I open the overhead bin and there, stuck to the strap of my messenger bag, is the pin. Jackpot. The back is long-gone (maybe I left THAT in SeaTac), but I have the pin, so into my pocket it goes.
Flights across the United States are generally, well, uneventful. I'm in an aisle seat, so the glimpses I do get out the window show, well, clouds. Maybe snow-covered ground occasionally. It's a big country. In a blog post in the Daily Mail made after the game, our English center back Liam Ridgewell points out that PDX-CMH (Columbus) is farther than London to Moscow. Sure, I'm going s*ttle to Detroit, but it's a long flight. Finally, we touch down in the Motor City. It's my first time in Detroit. Farthest I'd been in the Eastern part of the US was Cleveland. South Bend, while a great trip memory, is not as far east. I take my phone out of airplane mode and immediately the emails start flowing in. While I was in the air, plans were finalized back in PDX. Our Gameday Ops and Travel teams had been in talks with Columbus operations and security, getting approval for flags, banners, tifo, and drums. Travel in particular is an unsung hero of this weekend. In addition to herding cats with ticket sales, they worked with the Columbus front office to get five drums approved. Then someone gets a wild idea...what if we bring Epic, one of our two 40-inch bass drums? So we ask on the security call. Columbus says yes. Now we just have to get it there. By the time I'm leaving Seattle, it sounds like it's not going to happen. We go as far as deciding to pull the plug, and reaching out to Alaska Airlines, who'd agreed to let us bring the drum on the chartered flight Saturday. Alaska says, "well, we'd really like to work with you guys to get it there if it fits." So the emails are flying. Guys build a crate to ship it. It will get dropped up Saturday morning at the airport, in the hopes that it'll fit in the cargo hold. The news brings a smile to my face.
I get off the plane and head to baggage claim. I also get in touch with Cassandra. She's a Detroit City FC supporter, a member of the Northern Guard. She's also my ride. Detroit City is an NPSL team (that's the 4th division of the US Soccer pyramid), but they're a pretty awesome group of supporters. Smoke, flares, chanting and singing, language...there are a lot of Timbers Army parallels and connections. Members of the NGS offered to put up us traveling Portlanders. I meet up with Cassandra, my drum arrives on the conveyor belt, and away we go.
Detroit's airport is southwest of the city proper, and we're headed to a house just north of downtown Detroit. I can now say I've been on 8 Mile Road. We make a stop for some food, and then we arrive at Eric's place. He's another member of the NGS, and their trumpeter for gameday. It's a cool house and neighborhood, so many old brick houses set back from the street, something we don't have that much of in Portland. Eric is a college professor and musician, and there's a band rehearsal at his place that evening. He has a 70's Hammond organ in the corner of the room that I gravitate towards. I can't play it (I'm a percussionist, not a keyboardist), but there's something about the sound of these things that's awesome. It has a Leslie cabinet (ever hear an organ that has that oscillating Doppler effect? That's the Leslie.); it's one of the first ones Hammond built for home use. It used to be his grandmother's who was a church musician. He turns it on and plays around with it for a bit. Very cool. There's food and drink and LOUD NOISES, as a reggae/punk/ska infusion starts to play. They are running through songs for a show next Tuesday. Rehearsal winds down and the band members and friends go their separate ways. It's nearly 11. Cassandra has gone home to let her dog out and returned. We're left with her, Eric, another friend, and I, sitting around, chatting.
We talk soccer. We talk about how we thought there were tons of TA coming into Detroit— there are, but most everyone is going to fly in Saturday and drive straight down. We're waiting for Patch, one of the capos, to land in Detroit. Finally, he's close to landing, so Cassandra goes to collect him. They finally return around midnight. We hang out for a while longer, until someone sends me off to bed. I don't exactly feel tired, but I know I look it. I set an alarm for 8 AM, and am asleep once my head hits the pillow.
The alarm jolts me awake. I momentarily wonder, "What time is it, and where am I?" Then I realize. It's Saturday. MLS Cup. Detroit. You're headed to Columbus, Ohio. Who in their right mind is excited to head to Columbus in December?!
There's something about flying that generally makes me feel gross—sweaty, sticky, something like that. I hop in the shower, which despite my best efforts remained cold. Maybe it's the 30s plumbing of Eric's house, maybe I did it wrong (probably that). Regardless, I'm awake. I pull my bag together and bring it downstairs. Eric's got soccer on TV, and coffee ready. I sit down and watch the game, as Patch shuffles in with more coffee. We're prepped and ready for our 9 AM pickup. Gene, another NGS guy, is our ride to the match. Well, he was. He thought we were leaving Sunday morning, but Patch and I have things to do in Columbus Saturday. Other NGS are driving down, so we start to scheme. Who can get us there? In the meantime, Eric drives us to breakfast. He and Patch stayed up later than I did--like maybe 4 AM. They probably need the food more than I do! We go visit some Detroit City FC reps-- they have a booth a a local marketplace where they're selling season tickets for their upcoming season. We chat with them for a bit; they wish us good luck. Then it's back to Eric's. Cassandra, while without a match ticket, volunteered to drive us to Columbus, stay overnight, then drive back Sunday morning. She's organized a watch party with NGS for the match at one of their regular haunts. I check my phone, and Epic is going through TSA. Then, a photo of it being loaded into the belly of a 737 is posted to Twitter. It's actually happening! I repost the photo, captioning it with "HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA," as close as I can get to maniacal laughter in text form.
It's 11 AM and we're on the road to Columbus. It's about a 3.5 hour drive. We drive through the city, very suddenly coming upon Ford Field, Comerica Park, and the site of the new Red Wings arena. We pass the bridge to Canada (I always forget you can hit Canada with a well-thrown rock from Detroit), drive through the most depressing industrial/heavy industry place I've ever seen (smokestack on smokestack on smokestack), and then we're out of the city and headed south. We cross the border and give Ohio a salute—one finger—as one does when entering Oh*o. A quick pit stop for fuel and some snacks, and we're back on the road. We talk soccer—how I fell in love with the game (UP National Championships in '02 and '05); how Patch wound up becoming a capo; how Cassandra found herself in NGS. We talk shit about our rivals. Patch and Cassandra talk about their kids. Finally, we arrive in Columbus. We're staying near Ohio State...and there's people in green and gold all over the place.
We go to check in...and we have some reservation issues. There are no double rooms left, so we grab two singles, offload the gear, and walk over to Applebee's. We'd been talking about nachos at some point during the drive, and all of us suddenly wanted nachos. We sit in the bar, watch some high school football championships (being played at Ohio State's stadium), and have nachos and beer. Then we head into downtown Columbus for the real party. The Timbers Army has taken over two bars right next to each other. We wander into the first one and it's packed full of green and gold. We meet up with the flag crew folks, and flag assembly begins. Earlier in the day, people went to Home Depot, got PVC pipe cut to length, and drilled pilot holes for zip-ties. We have 300 flags to prepare for Sunday. Eventually we wander over to the other bar. I run into coworkers. I run into friends who have moved away. I meet people who have traveled the world to get here—London, Sweden, you name it. We drink, watch college football, reminisce, and plot and scheme about tomorrow. The victory log—which was driven out from Portland—arrives and people run outside, climb all over it, and take photos. In deference to our driver, Patch and I say our goodbyes and head back to the hotel. I nearly bowl over Jon as I see him walking up and jump to give him a hug. I haven't seen him since he and his wife moved to Minnesota. We get back to the hotel...probably at 1 AM. I prepare my gameday bag, get out my clothes for the day, and set an alarm...and immediately fall asleep.
Sunday. Gameday. I beat my alarm to the punch. It's an early morning...the lots at the stadium don't open until 9 AM, with the tailgate scheduled to begin at 10:30. We load up and roll towards the stadium with Cassandra. We stop for breakfast at a diner at 8 AM; they've got soccer on TV. I think back to part of the gameday ops email thread and post two things on Twitter. One is a reminder to all of us that "the eyes of the soccer world are on us. Act accordingly. Jump. Clap. Sing for victory." The other I send to the Timbers Twitter account. It's a Clive Charles quote: "If you have fun, you will win...and you will make me very, very happy." Appropriate sentiments for the day, I think. The hostess asks if she can take a photo of us with our scarves—there ARE people who know there's a big game going on in this college football-crazy town. Then we roll to the stadium. Cassandra drops us off in a spot that looks like it could only be a tailgate area for the Timbers Army. It's in the right lot, and it's coned off. It's 24 degrees and sunny. Cassandra gives Patch her "Fuck Ohio" scarf (NGS hates Ohio the way the Timbers Army hates s*ttle) and heads off on her drive back to Detroit.
Patch spots giant, five-foot tall letters spelling out #MLSCUP in front of the stadium. We walk over for a photo opportunity, then chat with a local news cameraman. He's excited for the day, excited we're here. It's a theme I hear repeated from Crew fans throughout the day.
We wander back over to our bags as a giant box truck with the Timbers crest on the side rolls up. It's the advance crew for tailgate setup. There's so much stuff in the back of this truck...standing tables. Chips and sandwiches. Beer. Water. A DJ booth. Couches. Flags are put up on the sides of the truck. Patch and I start helping the guys unload the truck. More TA trickle in and, in one of the displays of what I love about this community...just jump in. People are organizing food. People are assembling tables and propane heaters. People get beer on ice and pick up trash.
The Epic has landed.
The TA kegs and cases of beer arrive a bit later. We have kegs of Widmer IPA and cases of Hefe. The taps flow freely as we all get a taste of home. A wedding (yes, really) breaks out in the tailgate lot. We all sing "Can't Help Falling In Love," like we do during games. The flag crew appears and stack of assembled flags are shuttled to a central place in the lot. A van carrying Epic appears. I grab some hands and unload it, then roll it to an out-of-the-way place with the rest of the drums that have arrived. Finally the remaining drummers arrive, and I borrow a drill to uncrate Epic. We set it up in the parking lot as people shoot photos and video. We panic a bit as we can't find the tiny baggie of hardware, but after tearing everything apart, all the parts are located and the drum is reassembled. A new head is on it, so I give it an initial tune and let Ben fine-tune it (I hate tuning bass drums!). People come up to take their photo with the drum. More food arrives. More friends arrive. A drummer and his wife, who recently moved away, arrive. It's good to see them; I am happy he gets to drum with us for this game. Ticket distribution begins and it finally hits me. The Timbers are about to play a game for the right to wear a star. For bragging rights over the league and rivals. None of our rivals (looking at you, s*ttle and vancouver) have won the Western Conference, let alone the MLS Cup. Is this our destiny?
Drums at the ready. Drummers must be getting beer.
1:30. Flags, banners, tifo, and drums roll to the side entrance we'll be using. We set everything down so that the K9 unit and police can check everything over. This isn't just any game, it's a major championship with high visibility to the sporting world, and with current world events...none of us really object. Then, it's go time. They let us in and we make our way to the south end of the stadium where they've put the TA. We get the drums into place and look around going "Wow, we're really here. This is really happening." The drummers all pose for a group photo, as if we were to drop a single...a total album cover photo. It's fantastic. Banners are hung along the rail in front of our section. Gisele, Howie, Duane all together. The tifo is set out in position, ready to be passed overhead. The BAF (big-ass flag, the sunshine flag that is passed overhead after goals) is readied.
Gates are about to open. one of the drummers and I head to get beer. A Crew fan stops us and says, "Here's where you go to get good beer." We thank him, and head that way. I grab an IPA and head back to my seat. The TA is already streaming into our section. The PA system apparently is all housed in the giant scoreboard behind us and the damn thing is annoyingly loud. That is, until we start to play. The boys come out and the drums bang out the beginning of "When I root." The TA erupts in full voice: "WHEN I ROOT I ROOT FOR THE TIMBERS!" We sing off and on during the warmups. I hand my GoPro to a friend, who's standing next to me. She shoots video the whole night, most of which looks like Blair Witch footage, but that's okay.
Then, over the PA, In The Air Tonight comes on. The TA starts singing. We know every word. I step up to Epic, spin my mallets between my fingers, and wait, as one does for that drum solo you know by heart. Phil Collins is a lefty. It's like required listening for a fellow left-handed drummer. The solo comes. I play, and the TA gets even louder. We all laugh and high-five each other. The teams come out. For some reason Crew fans unveil their tifo. Why they did it then is beyond us, but we don't care. We're 90 minutes from a star. The anthem singer turns it into a solo. The TA belts out the anthem like we do every game, oblivious to his flourishes (serious pet peeve—it should be something EVERYONE can sing together, not a solo piece). Right on cue—"...and the home of the
bra TIMBERS!", our tifo goes up. It continues the "Cup Bound and Down" theme from the postseason, this time saying, "We're gonna do what they say can't be done." Fitting, as we were the underdogs.
Then, it's game time. We've just started "Portland Boys," as we do to start every game, when Valeri scores 27 seconds in. There's a split second where everyone goes "He's gotta get called for a foul, that's what always happens to us with something like that." But he doesn't. We go nuts. The Sunshine flag goes overhead. High-fives go around. Then, we begin to start "Portland Boys" again. We get a bit further...then Rodney Wallace scores. Grown men are weeping. Voices are being shredded. Flags wave feverishly. Crew fans hurl cans of beer at Wallace (unacceptable). We're leading 2-nil and it's not even the 10th minute. Timber Jim leads us all in "Mighty Mighty Timbers." Then the game gets chippy. Villafaña gets NFL-tackled from behind, as does Ridgewell. We get louder. They get quiet. Kamara scores a garbage goal and it's the only time I hear the stadium all night. We sing "Livin' On A Prayer" as the halftime whistle blows. They play The Ramones over the PA and we sing along again: "HEY! HO! LET'S GO!" The second half starts. 45 minutes to go. We wonder how the ball stays out of the net twice, and wish that their keeper had fumbled the ball across the line instead of out for a goal kick. We jump up and down and pray the bleachers aren't going to collapse. Timber Jim leads us in Sunshine and many of us fight off tears. We look at our watches. We scream for the ref to "BLOW THE FUCKIN' WHISTLE!"
The Timbers have won. First ever championship in MLS. Fifth year as an MLS club. 40 years since their founding. Hugs. Tears. We're screaming at the top of our lungs. A cigar is lit and passed around. I take one hit, then another, and pass it back. We keep singing. We Tetris. The team comes over and dances with us. We stay there, singing, dancing, cajoling our players. I reach into my bag and pull out sheets of gold stars. I put the first one on our expat drummer's chest, and we pass them around, sticking them above our crests and our hearts. I put one on Timber Jim and he gives me a bear hug.
We sing "Can't Help Falling In Love" again and I stand on the bench, arms to the sky, and use what remaining voice I have to get the words out. My hands are at the point where trying to open them requires more effort and energy than just leaving them curled around my mallets. Caleb Porter comes over, stops dead center, and loses his mind, yelling something along the lines of "this one's for you." It's like none of us can quite believe this is happening. Then, as quick as it was over, it's time to go. Flags and banners are collected. Drums bagged up. We have to get things put away.
We head back to the tailgate lot. It's deserted, but for bags of trash set next to the remaining trash cans. We break Epic back down and return it to its crate for its flight on the charter the next day. We have another beer or two. Crew fans come by, thank us for coming, apologize for the idiots who hurled beers at our players, and say "We're coming to Portland next year. You guys are awesome." Then, Patch hails a cab for a trip to a bar downtown. Merritt Paulson's credit card is showing up at 8 and is buying drinks.
We arrive and find a group of TA outside in the smoking area. Drinks are thrust into our hands. We look around at each other and ask ourselves, "How did we get here?" More hugs. Some of us have been waiting 40 years for this moment. Merritt's card arrives. Rounds are bought. Patch gets the last pitcher on Merritt's tab, then proceeds to walk around drinking straight from the pitcher. I head to the restroom and only then realize that in something so Portland...we took over a gay/drag club. I chuckle about it and return to friends and beers. Another cigar appears. We're winding down when we hear the location of the team party. We pile into cabs and head there.
We arrive and I stash my drum, out of the way of Liam Ridgewell, who seemed pretty keen to get it up onstage. I say hello to Sam Younie, the equipment manager; to Pat Rice, one of the front office guys who we work with often. I get a few minutes to talk to Jack Jewsbury and Nat Borchers. It's like a competition to see who can be more gracious and thank the other more profusely. These guys get it. Taylor Peay sips a tequila shot with some fans, then smiles and pours it into my Maker's on the rocks. It's the signal that maybe I'm done sipping something that isn't water. Patch and I find our way to the stage, where we each hoist the cup and take photos with it.
A purple fringe No Pity scarf is tied around the handles of the cup. Backstory needed—the purple fringe scarves were a special run with all proceeds benefitting the Gisele Currier Memorial Fund. Gisele was a special person who many others have written about, but what the TA and the Timbers meant to her—and her to us—can't be overstated. Sam knows some of the history, but he's told how important it is for THIS scarf to be attached to this trophy. He gets it, and promises to relay that to Merritt and Caleb.
It's 2:40 in the morning on Monday, and the party's over. Patch and I hail a cab, and two women ask if we can share it to their hotel. We introduce ourselves; Patch, a capo; Darren, a drummer. They introduce themselves—Caleb Porter's mom and his sister. We're floored. They thank us, and pay for most of our cab ride to our hotel.
We unload the drum from the back of the cab and walk to our rooms. Our ride arrives in 5 hours to take us back to Detroit. My legs hurt. My arms hurt. My face hurts from grinning. I have no voice. Alarm set, I turn off the lights, chuckle to myself, and fall asleep.
If Friday's alarm was too early, Monday's was too harsh. Mostly because of all the celebratory drinking. It's time to go. "Once in a Lifetime" rolls through my head: "And you may ask yourself, how did I get here?" I clean up and pack my bags. Patch shows up, then our ride. The drum doesn't fit in the trunk, so into the middle seat it goes. I nod off in the back seat at some point for about an hour. Eventually, we find ourselves back in Detroit and at the airport...where the ticket counter won't open for an hour. We put our stuff down in line and wait. More TA appear in line behind us. We smile and talk about how we almost can't believe it. We start talking about the silly season—news about contracts and options will drop before we land in s*ttle and we begin to speculate. It's sad, but we know it's going to happen. Guys that won the trophy will find out not even 24 hours later that they won't wear the green and gold for us next year.
Finally the counter opens and I can check the drum back in. Patch and I make our way to a bar inside the terminal and order burgers—honestly, first real substantial meal I feel like I had all weekend. We pay our bill, head to the gate, and meet more friends. This time Patch and I are in row 6, surrounded by more TA. Someone in first class comes back and hands the two of us whiskey, saying "You gentlemen look cold!" I listen to music until my headphone batteries die. As we begin our approach into SeaTac, I hear people around me quietly sing, "If I had the wings of an eagle, if I had the ass of a cow, I'd fly over s*ttle tomorrow, and shit on those bastards below!"
There's nothing like a roving group of 20 TA sauntering, cocksure and smiling, through the airport of the city of your rivals. "I'd get a drink here, but s*ttle has no cups!" one of our number exclaimed. We laughed. We posted up at Alaskan Brewing for pints and toasted the victory. Patch found copies of the New York Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer and we made a quick video. Then it was off for the final leg of the journey. 30 minutes to Portland. What plays over the PA in Portland once inside the terminal?
"Welcome to Portland International Airport, home of the 2015 MLS Cup Champions."
It's Tuesday and I'm on the phone with my boss and his boss. They ask how it's going and I answer, "It's pretty surreal." "Why's that?" they ask. "Because the Portland Timbers are the 2015 MLS Cup Champions," I reply. It's starting to set in. I tell them some of the tidbits recounted here. I watch the victory parade. The emails between capos, flags, and DnT are flying back and forth. We're setting up for the championship rally like it's gameday. Drums. Flags. Trumpets. Tetris. It's like matchday all over again. It's what the team deserves. It's what the TA deserves.
Off I go to meet people at the Fanladen and the Tifo Warehouse. We'd taken everything out of the stadium after the Western Conference Final game at home against Dallas, so we have to grab drums and bring them back into Providence Park. We have to uncrate Epic and set it back up—but none of the hardware is in the box. It got carried back to PDX in someone's bag, and they're not able to arrive early. We carry it in pieces up to 18th and Morrison. People are already in line in the pouring rain. We walk to Gate 4 and carry everything we have into the stadium. The flag crew is waiting—they had taken all the flags off poles and cleaned them at the same time we'd removed all the drums from the stadium. Some of the flags went to Columbus, but they have to prep as many as they can before the gates open in 30 minutes. I walk into the concourse, carrying Epic with the help of some of the flag crew. We set drums into place, and place El Diablo (the other big-ass drum) in its spot. The rain swirls around the North End, the wind whips at the banners attached to the stage set up on the field facing us. One comes loose and has to be anchored back down. It won't stay up for the duration of the celebration.
Suddenly I get an idea. We use bungee cords to hold the stands of the big drums in place so they don't move around while they are played. The important hardware we're missing are the screws that hold the base together, but I play a hunch. I figure we can use a bungee cord to hold the pieces in tension. It works, and as the gates open we carry Epic into place. A beer arrives. I toast the deliverer and take a sip. 50 minutes to go before the celebration begins, and the lower bowl is effectively full.
Slowly the rest of the drummers stroll in, finally off work and able to make it downtown. The roads are a mess due to the weather. Every few minutes, a player comes out of the tunnel and peers up at the crowd, still gathering. We chant their name and wave. They wave back. I look at the clock. 5:57. I ask our trumpeter if we should play "Final Countdown." He nods and grabs his trumpet. The TA erupts in full voice.
Timber Jim and Timber Joey come out and place scarves on the victory log, sitting to the side of the stage assembled in front of the North End. He holds his "Spread The Love" scarf aloft over his head and immediately 108 begins to sing "You Are My Sunshine." Jim walks to a railing and hangs the scarves around his neck there. Then takes off his overcoat and unties his tie. He walks to the middle of the stage and begins to unbutton his shirt. He's wearing an old shirt with the original crest and a picture of Clive Charles. He shows it to the camera, it appears on the video board, and the crowd roars. It's the closest I've come yet to crying. (My wife, who is sick and watching at home, tells me later that people online were of two minds: "That's awesome!" and "Who's Clive?" The latter need to look up to the Ring of Honor more often, it's the only number that's retired! Maybe we're biased as University of Portland alumni.)
The team is announced and the drums kick in. Merritt talks. The mayor talks. Valeri, Borchers, Jewsbury, and Chara talk. Porter talks. He also brings the team onto the capo stand. We sing more. Timber Joey cuts a slab for Valeri's goal, then brings Timber Jim out to cut Wallace's slab. Tetris breaks out, smoke bombs go off, and the team mirrors us on the stage as we pogo about the North End. A very shy Nagbe appears, thrust from the back of the stage by his teammates and basically held there by Porter. An...interesting singalong to Journey, Queen, and Neil Diamond breaks out. Merritt and Rodney Wallace drop more F-bombs. George Fochive gathers the team to do a call and response, and as the crowd quiets down, Will Johnson leans in and says "Fuck seattle." We cheer and laugh. It's not about them, but it's funny all the same. I'm pretty sure Will is probably getting traded—he wants to play and the Timbers finish to the season really kicked in when he was removed from the lineup due to lingering issues from his leg break last year. He gets it...and I think we're pretty sure where he won't be going.
The call and response happens (finally) and what started as players responding ends up with the North End singing along. We sing "Can't Help Falling In Love" again and the players hold up their scarves while we all sing. Ridgewell (who from the final whistle Sunday through the night last night I have yet to see without a beer in hand) literally drops the mic. We light off more smoke bombs as the team leaves the stage.
The smoke clears, and while we want to linger, people slowly clear out. Nat Borchers comes back onto the capo stand and shakes hands/takes pictures with fans. Finally the concourse is empty enough we can get drums upstairs. We reassemble everything, cover the big drums, and roll them back to the Fanladen, where they'll stay until it is time to return.
The 2016 preseason starts in 77 days. There are still things that will happen. Contracts to be renegotiated. Trade rumors to be proven true or false. Player contracts sold and acquired. But. Finally. We have a cup. We have a star. And we have a moment to catch our breath, think about the wild ride that was 2015...and before we know it, the North End will fill once again with friends, flags, songs, and smoke.
See you then.