The following is a post from Duane Schulz (@timbersds).
I discovered pro soccer in 1975. 3,000 grew to 30,000 in year one. Commissioner Mildred kissed the boys. We threw beer, swarmed the field, flooded Morrison Avenue post-game, and partied with the team at the Hilton. Timber Jim risked his life every game – it was insane. And it was magic. It wasn’t a sport, it was community, shared values, positive energy. And Portland stood out across the US. We showed the country who we were and how we were different, in many ways a first. And we were ALL the Timbers Army.
I moved to DC, watched the Timbers play the Diplomats with Johan Cruyff along with a measly 5,000 in RFK Stadium. When I returned, the NASL was gone, the Timbers were mostly quiet, coming and going in different forms.
We heard noise from our house on the hill above PGE Park. The Timbers were really back! The USL return was hopeful. Our attendance was impressive compared with other USL cities (hint, hint) given the hiatus. An ambitious, smart, energetic new owner gave us the financial and political means to go big, and threw his heart into it. An Army was born in Section 107. We were a team. He knew we could enable his success, and listened and partnered. Bad logo design feedback from the Army, and a new logo appeared. April 13, 2011 blew everybody away — and we became a global template of what Ownership plus Ultras looked like. The media fought to cover games at Providence Park. Our owner showed us he was committed and brought us Magic. 2015 was something. I still get goosebumps and tears when I think about it.
Fast forward to today. It’s not feeling like a partnership anymore. The MLS is going big, and corporate. Atlanta and LA are the models now. It’s inevitable that we’ll be like the NFL, Serie A, EPL, etc. soon – big dollars to the big markets. The $89M gift of a beautiful remodel of PP (Mike Golub’s a true hero) is part of it.
The question is: Can Portland show how a big MLS future can happen while showing a community-style, values-driven, partnership based on dialogue and collaboration?
Today, I’d say no. The army waves lots of flags — many “political,” many with an obscure history. Now an 88-year-old symbol against fascism (in fact, three forms of totalitarian rule – read your history, people) pops up, we include that in the flag collection. A handful of local anarchists use it as well. (They also use the American flag; better pull that down too, and scarves to keep out the smoke from a goal), and the Front Office says no. Is support of the LGBTQ community not political? This time the Front Office–107ist dialogue is met with the current divisive cultural impasse. And now we’ve replaced the Iron Front with a giant fist. Does anyone in the FO know the political meaning of that? This could have turned out differently. There are many possible paths forward, but none taken.
The letter from the Timbers’ ownership this week was a big disappointment. It was a series of statements without supporting facts. It was irrational on its face and illogical in structure. You can’t ban an anti-fascist symbol and say you are anti-fascist. You can’t allow all of the other clearly political content we display and take this position. Chicago Fire FO said it was OK, but we disrespected their small group of guests last week. It’s our FO’s reading of the MLS rule, not the rule. Sadly, that letter could have outlined the steps to come together with a mutually acceptable solution, and at least left a door open ... But no.
I guess we’ll join the other big stadiums full of fans who like but don’t worship the game, stay seated throughout and leave as soon as we start losing. Just like all the big sports. The magic is gone. Massive bummer, what a shame. I guess we’ll hold onto our season tickets. We’ll be able to make a lot of money from them.