—by Dave Hoyt
I've seen some debates recently on some local blogs discussing how to attract that fickle "American fan". Notwithstanding the illogical nature of the target, I thought I'd add my two cents on their chief elixir: add machines, automate as much as possible and eliminate "human error".
I think a big thing to try to understand is that it's generally realized that soccer is a very human game. It's a game where a single bad bounce can mean the only goal of the game. Simulation, bad offside calls, and dubious judgments will always be, I hope, part and parcel of the game. It's understood that mistakes, even grievous mistakes (see: Ireland), will be made.
And most of us prefer it that way.
Finality is dull. There is something inherently unsatisfactory and limiting about the better team clearly winning. There's no drama in that, no stories worth telling. You watch the Super Bowl and even SI spent most of Monday morning talking about the commercials rather than the game. Fans leave the stadium and go home to watch Leno. But soccer? That's a completely different story. One bad call and you go from champion to goat. Fans leave the stadium and march directly to the nearest pub to shout about robbery and ingrain that sense of injustice into their psyche. I wear grudges and grievances like the Austrian nobility used to wear fencing scars. Every game contains an infinite number of opportunities to claim fraud, to deepen the narrative and let rivalries fester.
What could be worse than see a championship decided by three balding bureaucrats huddled in a booth, watching replay film over and over again like the Zapruder film to decide an entire season's worth of passion, dedication and emotion? Even if you win, you don't win with a bang, but a whimper. On the other hand, I've seen my teams win on a goalkeeper leaving the goal line before a penalty kick was taken (thank you, Jerzy Dudek) and lose due to an errant beach ball. No one who ever witnessed those games will ever forget them, win or lose.
Recognizing that the game is played, run and officiated by humans means accepting the fact that luck, chance, ineptitude and error will always play a part in determining the winner. It gives all the participants, players and fans, the ability to create their own story out of what happened. I love it. And "Americans" will learn to love it too.
—by Garrett Dittfurth
One thing I’ve enjoyed about being a soccer supporter in the United States is that it’s very affordable to attend every single match. This article I found at the New York Times on pricing out regular fans to the Champions League Final sort of struck a chord with me. Wembley Stadium is going to be full of people eating prawn sandwiches and discussing their stock portfolios while the match is being played rather than supporting a team. Obviously one of the drawbacks in a sport becoming more popular is that the demand for tickets drives the price up. In some cases it makes absolutely no sense at all. Take Toronto FC as an example. They sell out BMO Field for every match, have a waiting list for tickets, and put a terrible team on the pitch year in and year out. They are price gouging their supporters because they know they can, because what else is a supporter supposed to do but pay what they tell them to? To an extent the same thing is happening in Seattle, where supporters have seen their prices rise despite promises to the contrary. When questioned about it the team hems, haws, and says the supporters weren’t reading the fine print.
How many of you out there are Ducks fans? Were you able to get a ticket to the National Championship game or the Rose Bowl last year? Who here is a Blazer fan? Through pure luck I have a friend that regularly comes up with corporate courtside seats and nicely asks me to go to games every once in a while. The view down there is great. The last game I went to, I sat so close one of the assistant coaches was handing me the updated stat sheets throughout the game once he was finished looking at them. One thing I’ve noticed about sitting that close is there are very few supportive fans. A lot of the people spend very little real time watching the court. It’s really a travesty that the people up close can’t swap with the people in the 300 level—those who are genuinely interested and involved with what’s happening on the court are the ones who have to sit so far away. Sadly, it’s the nature of sport today to out price true fans. I hope MLS takes a lesson from watching what has happened in other sports and realizes that growing the game here in the United States requires making the highest professional level accessible to the most people.
Our new blog section is now up and running with entertaining and informative postings from your very own fellow Timbers Army members.
You can view the blog section here: http://timbersarmy.org/blog/
RSS Feed: http://timbersarmy.org/Blog/RSS
In a blatant effort to get a few comments and some discussion going in our new blogs section of TA.org, I wanted to put out a question to you to get a few thoughts on how we should approach the preseason games coming up next weekend.
On one hand, people are dying to wear their new Timbers kits to support the boys in green. We want to represent our supporters group and the team as well as we always have. A No Pity scarf means it's easier to find a friendly face in the crowd.
On the other hand, this is a preseason tournament away from home with limited amounts of crowd control and supporter segregation. Sometimes discretion is the better part of valor. A No Pity scarf can mean it's easier to find an unfriendly face in the crowd, ready to turn your gear into his or her trophy.
So what do you think?
A team, built on star power and pushed forward on the belief of their own inevitable, never-ending popularity, suddenly starts to deflate. The newness wore off, the expectations built into the marketing were never met, and within two seasons attendance had been nearly cut in half - within four it had been nearly quartered. Familiarity breeds contempt, and once people grew accustomed to having the team around, they lost interest. What they swore was passion turned out to be just a passing fancy.
It's become a common trope for soccer outsiders to warn of the impending doom of MLS due to the demise of the NASL, specifically using the Cosmos as the fuse of destruction. Don Garber and the rest of MLS management have instituted a very conservative and steady approach to the growth of MLS, making most insiders believe a repeat of the NASL implosion is impossible. But have all the lessons been learned?
Much will be made of the rivalry between the Timbers and the Sounders this season. Already we see people haggling over the definitions of words such as "authentic", "manufactured", "customer", and "history". I can only tell you what I see.
Since the Sounders joined MLS in 2009, season ticket sales appear to have become the standard benchmark by which fans are supposed to be measured. It wasn't enough to have a good crowd, maybe even fill your stadium, and create an atmosphere that inspired your players to perform beyond their capabilities. Now you're not a real fan unless you plunk down plenty of money up front. I wouldn't blame you if you thought that was taking fandom out of the stands and into a boardroom.
Typical fan demands like reasonable ticket prices were replaced by justifying why your team closed off part of their stadium to artificially boost demand. The right to let individuals create their own game day experience was replaced by pride that everyone is wearing the same shirt and can chant along to one of the two chants being piped in through overhead speakers. A determination to keep the history of your club alive replaced by a rote recitation of trophies won or a steadfast denial that anything mattered pre-2009, depending on the argument.
Instead, fans are soothed, for the time being, by the team winning. Expectations were set when two of their first four signings were Kasey Keller and Freddie Ljungberg. Now they are one of only two teams in the league to carry three Designated Players. Losing embarrassingly to the Timbers in their Charity Shield match in 2010 was mitigated by winning the US Open Cup. The Timbers were not invited to challenge for the Charity Shield in 2011. Maybe more embarrassingly, they publicly made known they felt they were due refunds after suffering the indignity of watching their team lose at home to a superior side. An utter inability to score goals at home have doomed their playoff chances.
So have they learned their lessons from NASL or are they setting themselves up for a similar fall? Listen to one of their supporters and you'll hear an endless stream of boasts about crowd size and minor trophies won. What you will strain to hear is talk about a budding, real culture. You'll rarely hear them talk about what they want to build for the future. You won't hear anything recognizing the accomplishments and history of the league and other clubs.
So when pundits talk about the rivalries between our clubs and the shared success of our launches, know that the real story lies in what's not being written. We built up our fans one by one, loving the club and making real contributions to who and what we are today. We will support our team win or lose. We will pay respect to those who came before us and those who didn't get the chance to be where we are today. We will always stay true to ourselves and each other. And that has made all the difference.
So how does everyone like the re-launched webpage after giving it a spin for a week? Among the other things we added this here blog and they’ve gone and given a few of us the keys to it. I bet you’re wondering how this is all going to turn out. The answer is that it’s largely up to you. We might have match reports at some point but that’s not really the idea. This is the going to be a collection of posts put together by the Timbers Army as a whole. We want submissions from you to complement the posts from our team of highly skilled bloggers who I control like marione…nevermind. They’re very good.
Submissions can be about anything you want but keep in mind this is the blog of the Timbers Army. Let’s try and keep submissions related to the Timbers, Timbers Army, or soccer in general.
To start…how about Hajduk Split supporters celebrating their first 100 years?
Today MLS finally released its 2011 schedule! Here is an update on our away travel plans for Seattle in May as well as for the rest of the season.
As you are no doubt aware, the Seattle Front Office has limited Timbers supporters to 500 away tickets for the match at Qwest in May. The good news is that the Timbers Front Office has agreed to pass the entire 500 allotment to the 107ist for distribution.
We know that demand is going to be high for tickets to this match, so we have attempted to craft a policy that we feel is fair and provides for the maximum number of people to travel while also adhering to the new Cascadia travel policies that have been mandated.
Once tickets become available we will be sending out an email to every member with advance notice of the on-sale date/time and a personalized link to the purchase page.
The policies for Seattle Away ticketing are as follows:
*First come first served, as long as supplies last.
**There will be a family-friendly bus for this match. If you are unable to take the bus due to geographical restrictions, please email us BEFORE the tickets go on sale.
In addition to offering a bus and ticketing package for Seattle away, 107ist will be aiming to organize travel to the following matches:
More information about these will be coming soon!
Your Away Travel Team – Jeremy, Joanne, Abe, Scott and Rob.
For a cold off-season day in January, Saturday the 29th is gonna be one busy afternoon!
After all, you won’t want to miss the 107ist General Membership Meeting, scheduled for noon that day at the Bagdad Theater on Hawthorne Blvd.
And you certainly won’t want to miss the PGE Park Community Tour. Presented by Papa Murphy’s, the tour is open to all season ticket holders, beginning at 12 and 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 29.
Oh, wait …
NOT TO WORRY! We at the 107ist have you covered. We’re already making arrangements for a stadium tour open exclusively to 107ist members.
This will take place sometime in February or March, by which time the newly remodeled home of The Greatest Football Supporters The World Has Ever Seen will have even more shiny good newness to inspect.
In other words, 107ist members and future members can have their cake and frosting too.
We'll have more information very soon!
The Timbers Army has volunteered at Oregon Public Broadcasting television and radio membership drives, taking pledges, answering questions and getting to know the public broadcasting community. In 2008, the Timbers Army was recognized by OPB for their fund raising efforts with a listing in the Top 10 Call-Out Fundraisers list.