Between the 2001 and 2002 seasons, members of the Cascade Rangers and other Timbers supporters who stood in section 107 joined forces, creating the Timbers Army. This Army had no officers; the fans themselves collectively decided how to support their club.
Initially, the group known as the Cascade Rangers was founded by brothers Steven “Nevets” and Jim “Lendog” Lenhart in the lead-up to the 2001 return of the Timbers to Portland. The collective, without any sort of official membership scheme, would gather pre-match at the Bitter End Pub to bond through singing, chanting and drinking. The name Cascade Rangers was later abandoned due to the connotation of partiality for the club Glasgow Rangers. Conversely, the name was actually chosen in reference to the Cascade Range, but nonetheless proved offensive to many Glasgow Celtic supporters following the Timbers. In the 2002 season, the Timbers adopted the classic green and white “hoops” kit popularized by Celtic.
Beginning with opening day, May 11, 2001, it was clear that Portland Timbers supporters were not typical “sit-on-your-hands” American sports fans. From the start, Timbers supporters sang adapted traditional football chants, such as, “We love you Timbers, We Do, Timbers, We love you,” and concurrently invented new ones. In 2002, Section 107 (the “Woodshed”) was made general admission and became a place where fans relinquished their assigned seats in favor of a standing only, terrace-like atmosphere. Supporters made banners, waved flags and hung them from the baseball dugout located in front of the section, and lit smoke bombs and fireworks in fervent celebration of goals.
Pickle-buckets served as makeshift drums, creating a deafening cacophony accompanying the chants. Supporters spontaneously erupted onto the dugout after successful match results. The group embraced the now infamous chant “We are Timbers Army; We are mental and we’re barmy; True supporters for-ever more,” in the midst of the 2001 season. “Mental” and “barmy” seemed to aptly describe the heterogeneous mix of supporters when they abandoned their daytime personae as lawyers, ironworkers, carpenters, chefs or firefighters, and raised their voices in unison, singing the praises of the Timbers.
That first year fans traveled to away matches in Seattle and Vancouver. The Timbers Army road supporters were a marvel in Seattle; the Timbers fans easily outnumbered and out-sang the Seattle supporters group, known as the Pod. Additionally, the Sounders themselves played on ancient Astroturf in Memorial Stadium, to piped-in music and commercials.
By the start of the 2002 season, the name Cascade Rangers was replaced with Timbers Army. Over the years, the group slowly grew in popularity, with several hundred people joining the ranks. Newcomers could learn at least a dozen chants from sheets distributed at the matches. Initially, Timbers management considered the Timbers Army a nuisance, but that opinion progressively gave way to a more favorable depiction. The Army grew slowly and steadily over the 2002-2003 seasons, with more Eastern European chants making their way into the Army’s repertoire. In June 2004, Inara Verzemnieks wrote a glowing feature on the Timbers Army, which graced the cover of The Oregonian’s Living section, subsequently helping the Army grow exponentially.
The following year, the Timbers Army graced the cover of the Willamette Week in a photo spectacular by Zach Dundas, Cliff Pfenning and Martin Thiel. The piece hailed the Army for “bringing sports fandom back to the grassroots.” That same year, the Army swelled its ranks and even throughout the Timbers dismal 2006 season, the Army continued to recruit new members. In 2008, the MLS to PDX campaign organized the Timbers Army into an effective political organization, convincing the Portland City Council to support a Major League Soccer franchise for the club.
By 2009 it was clear that the anarchic manner in which this “army with no generals” had been run was no longer able to effectively cope with the thousands of supporters in the North End or their various needs. A series of meetings commenced at the Lucky Lab Brewpub to strategize for the “Timbers Army 2.0,” intended to make the successful transition into the MLS with the club.
Out of those meetings emerged the 107IST, the 107 Independent Supporters Trust. The 107IST held elections in March of 2010 for its first official “Council of XI.” The Trust exists to perform the heavy lifting that will come with MLS; it was not created to replace the Timbers Army. 107IST is Timbers Army, but joining the Trust is simply a further commitment to the section and one’s fellow supporters.
Even now, the Timbers Army embraces all comers and requires no membership, dues or loyalty oaths. Simply show up, stand up, and sing your heart out: You are Timbers Army; You are mental and you’re barmy; a true supporter forevermore.