—by Matthew Lindley
** Know that this is an opinion piece, and it doesn't reflect the official opinion of anyone (except Matt). **
This last Friday night, as the Timbers found their way into a 1-0 home win, I was wearing a scarf I had gleefully just made a trade for — a scarf dedicated to a certain classic arcade game. That’s when a friend asked the question, “What the hell does that have to do with the Timbers?” And all I could answer was “Umm… It says Rose City?” My comment properly earned a hardened look of disdain.
The thing is, he was wrong and right at the same time. I love soccer scarves and scarf culture in general. I remember seeing different scarves when I would watch EPL matches before I even moved to Portland and thinking what an amazing aspect of support that was. I bought an FO scarf the first day I walked into PGE Park in 2007 because I already knew I couldn’t quite support right without team colors around my neck. All I wanted in the world was the amazing-looking green and black bar scarf I saw so many wearing around their necks. On that day in 2009 (my first day in the TA) when I finally had one around my neck, I truly felt like I belonged.
From there, like many others, I lost my damn mind. I started collecting other Timbers- and TA-related scarves, scarves from other supporters groups, scarves of my beloved Liverpool, scarves of bands I was seeing, and so on and so forth. My true obsessive-compulsive side has been in full overdrive since that first day. I love my scarves, every single one of them, like children. Well, children you’d be willing to trade for better-looking, more sought-after children. (Note: Matthew does not actually have children.)
It used to be there was only that one scarf: Chelsea Chris paid money out of his own pocket, asking only for cost in return, so that this new group of supporters taking up behind the north goal would have a cool scarf to wear at matches. Over the years, a few more scarves found their way around the necks of the “Green White Army” — Legends, Magic Is Real, ACES, etc. All shining beacons of what was had and what was growing under that wood roof.
In the old halcyon days of pickle buckets, SCUSA, and tailgate parties, scarf-trading was about as good as it got. Sponsoring a set of the latest piece of awesome someone posted online, trading for some other piece of awesome someone brought to the parking lot or the North End. Getting a new scarf was like Indy grabbing the idol in Raiders, complete with booby traps. (Make of that what you will.)
Cut to now, present day, and a whole new world — a dystopian land where SCUSA is dead, the evil Lord Facebook rules, and scarf-trading culture is overrun by greed, saturation, and completism. It’s no longer “Spread the Love,” it’s “What can you do for me?”
Gone are the days of “Who did you scarf?” threads; instead, it’s “Who did you persuade to give you 35 of their scarves for the one they think is rare this week?” Also gone is the idea of “Hey, remember that cool thing that happened on the pitch?”; it’s “Caleb wore a tan jacket this week. Let’s make a tan scarf that says CALEB on one side and NICE JACKET on the other, and we can all hold it up, in for a set, YAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!” And absolutely finished are the days of “Boy howdy, that’s a cool scarf! I sure hope I find my way into one!”; instead, it’s “I didn’t get one of those back in the day, so let’s make another run of it!” “Who the hell is this Clive guy?” “Let’s make a Legends scarf with Jorge Perlaza and Kenny Cooper on it!” Trust me: If you’ve watched the Total Recall reboot or listened to the Flaming Lips “cover” of Sgt. Peppers, some things should just be left classic.
Now look, I know I may be coming off harsh at best, and at worst, curmudgeonly, and I know there are some newer TA members who really wish the “Care Like We Do” crowd would just curl up and die, but when venom and vitriol reaches the fever pitch it has lately, what the hell does it have to do with our boys in green? If this team lost every match the rest of the season, but you were able to make a seven-way trade for your all-time unicorn, would it be worth it?
All I’m saying is this: Trade scarves; they are awesome. Make scarves, even if they have nothing to do with the Timbers, but everything to do with your own little pocket of geekdom. Wear scarves, even when it’s 103 degrees out, and your non-footy-loving friends make fun of you. But please, don’t forget why we all got gathered here in the first place, and stop taking everything so godforsaken seriously. Try scarfing a noob every once in a while. Spread the Love. And if that isn’t enough, shoot over to this link and help out some amazing members of the TA… you might even score your “white whale” in the deal.
Once you’ve finished that, if you’ve got an original Tetris, I’ve got five scarves, a case of spiced IPA, and a lock of Taka Suzuki’s hair I’d like to trade.