—by Aaron Flynn
As more regional supporters groups (RSGs) pop up, I’ve created a map to try and keep track of every group. The task is an ever-evolving one, and it’s something that can be time-consuming. As I created this map and talked to different people from across the country, I realized that each group has a different personality. I came up with this idea to record different histories of all of the RSGs possible and give everyone a chance to get to know them from afar.
Seeing as FC Dallas is our next away day, I decided to reach out to a group that’s close to my heart. I spoke with Jeremy Ballew about the Lone Star Brigade, based in Texas.
Jeremy told me that the Lone star Brigade (LSB) was founded in 2012 when a couple of guys in San Antonio, one of whom went to college with Jeremy, had a mutual interest in the Timbers. He had a friend living in Oklahoma at that time who also was following the Timbers. The group came to this realization through seeing Facebook posts boasting about the Timbers in MLS. So, the 4 of them began chatting about starting up something small where any random Timbers fans in Texas could have a place to discuss games. The group originally started with the name Texas Timbers. “We had no idea that it would turn into what it is today. Today, we now have 633 members on our Facebook page, and 2 of the 4 that helped get this started now live in Portland,” he said.
The LSB mainly focuses on away days in Houston and Dallas. I asked Jeremy about his favorite memories of a Texas away day. He managed to narrow it down to three:
Since you don’t ever forget your first, Jeremy recollects that his very first live Timbers match was down in Houston back in May of 2012, a 0-0 draw. There were about 15 people who met at Lucky’s Pub before the game, and that was his first chance to meet several folks from Portland. Not only that, it was also his first Timbers Army experience.
His second favorite was the US Open Cup in Dallas. It was June of 2013 and we managed to beat Dallas 3-2. “To this day," Jeremy points out, that Open Cup match is "the only Timbers match I have been to which we actually won.” For any Texan, beating Dallas in Dallas is just too sweet.
Lastly, I think for the majority of Lone Star Brigade, their favorite game was the MLS Western Conference Final. Without question this was the most memorable away day in Texas. It was rainy and cold, just as it would have been had the game been in Portland. There was a very strong contingent of PTFC faithful. Merritt Paulson even joined us at the tailgate. We had an FC Dallas scarf that someone had been gifted after a Dallas fan drunkenly stole one of our banners and managed to mail it back the next week after profusely apologizing. We threw the scarf on the wet concrete and would casually spill beer on it and walk on it throughout the day. MP joined in on the fun and stomped on it and did a little dance. Jeremy reminisces about victory beers in the parking lot afterwards. That moment would not be paralleled or beaten in Texas. The only better feeling was actually winning the MLS Cup.
Jeremy told me about the game day ops and how the group organizes watch parties. He mentioned that most venues won’t let you bring in large tifo for games, and some are strict about throwing streamers. In Dallas, you have to tear up your streamers and make confetti, because they fear it would hit a Dallas fan's head. In Houston, they’re more lax and allow you to throw streamers. Dallas lets you hang banners from the front of the section, while Houston will only let you hang them behind your section. The LSB has some great artists who create banners on their own time, and they use the LSB Facebook page for recommendations. On that page, we also verbalize the need for capos and ask for help in that area. Jeremy and several others have headed that up over the past few years.
As far as watch parties are concerned, supporters in the major cities in Texas (DFW, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, etc.) are quite vocal on the page, sharing where watch parties are happening in each city.
The Lone Star Brigade is pretty special. To them, it's not just 3-4 admins making every decision for the group. The LSB are a family. They like to incorporate as many active members as possible to make decisions, and they value everyone’s opinion. Jeremy’s favorite tradition is the signing of “the Family Tree,” which is a large rising sun banner with the state of Texas rising from the bottom of the banner. Any Timbers supporter who joins the Lone Star Brigade for an away day is encouraged to sign it. Jeremy says: “To this day, I still think that the way we came about, came together, by 4 dudes simply reading a couple of Facebook posts and saying, 'We should start a little support group here in Texas', still blows my mind.”
LSB loves to tailgate for matches when possible. You can find them always tailgating for the match in Dallas. You can find the Family Tree to sign it there. In Dallas, once the match has concluded, the group navigates to the team bus and waits for the players to exit so they can show their appreciation, win, lose, or draw. Jeremy encourages anyone who has an extra 30 minutes after the match to join them in thanking the players and coaches for all that they do.
I asked Jeremy for his best advice for a Timbers fan who is traveling to be at a game with the LSB. He wants to encourage everyone to buy streamers or confetti. If you don’t have a flag, don’t worry. We have one member who is basically the caretaker of all the flags, and they’re brought to every Texas match. There’s always one available for you to wave! Just as in Portland, the LSB chants the entire match. Jeremy wants everyone to be standing until halftime. Lastly, he encourages everyone to be respectful to the stadium officials and front office folks. Timbers Army carries a title of respect, so there are certain areas in which we are granted a bit more freedom since we usually carry a large number of supporters and we are respectful to the venue’s rules. Don’t violate this. It’s a liberty that not many SGs can enjoy, so try not to abuse it.