Friday, May 17, 2013

Hail Portlandia!

I like to consider myself a free agent when it comes to most sports. Being a sportswriter for more than a decade helped tamp down my fandom, and I find it difficult to generate an interest in cheering for teams with which I lack much of a connection. As I've written before, my interest in University of Nebraska-Lincoln sports is almost entirely sociological (i.e. seeing how the people of my home state react to the football team's fortunes), I ceased caring about the Chicago Bulls when Michael Jordan left (for the last time) and the Chicago Cubs will never win anything again (ever).

That just leaves the US national soccer teams, and it's doubtful I'll cover them anytime soon. I did go to Kansas City Wizards games during my last stay in Omaha, but that was as much because of the novelty of having a Major League Soccer team in relatively close proximity as any great love for the Wizards. If anything, I'm more of an MLS fan than of any one team -- I've stood with Wizards supporters in the Cauldron, but I've also stood with the River Rats (Colorado Rapids), Section 8 (Chicago Fire), the Inferno (FC Dallas) and La Norte (DC United). More than anything, I just want MLS to succeed and continue to be a driving force behind the rise of American soccer.

That's what I thought, at least, but lately my head has been turned. For a club that's only been in MLS since 2011, the Portland Timbers have quite the impressive operation. New coach Caleb Porter's fast-paced, attacking approach is certainly easy on the eyes. More impressive than that, though, is the community-minded behavior of the club and its fans. Earlier this month, the Timbers played a scrimmage against 8-year-old Atticus Lane-Dupre and his team, the Green Machine, to help fulfill cancer-stricken Atticus' Make-A-Wish request. This was no mere kickabout on the practice field -- more than 3,000 Timbers fans showed up to cheer on the Green Machine, which beat Portland 10-9 with Atticus scoring the winner in the waning moments. I know the Jack Hoffman play is pretty popular around these parts, but this one is just as hard to watch without getting at least a little choked up.

As if that wasn't impressive enough, this past weekend the Timbers Army put on this display as part of their support of International Day Against Homophobia (HT Joe My God):

On the same day a match in Italy – one that happened to involve United States national team midfielder Michael Bradley's club team, AS Roma – had to be momentarily halted because of racist chants aimed at opposing AC Milan players, the Timbers Army chose to spend their Sunday afternoon taking a stand against another sensitive social issue in the sports world: homophobia. The 5,000-person section used roughly 4,500 colored cards to create the display, according to Timbers Army 107 Independent Supporters Trust board member Abram Goldman-Armstrong in an e-mail exchange with on Monday.
"The Timbers Army has had a 'zero-tolerance for intolerance' policy since its inception in 2001,'" Goldman-Armstrong told "Our display in honor of the International Day Against Homophobia demonstrates our commitment to making certain all people are welcome at the beautiful game, on the pitch and off of it.
"As the language San Jose's Alan Gordon used to attack captain Will Johnson shows, homophobia is still a real issue in North American sports. As supporters, we must do our best to show that there is no room for such bigotry in our sport. Sunday's display is an indication of that sentiment."
Curse you, Portland! Curse your big hearts, your tolerance and your Voodoo Doughnuts! Leave my wishy-washiness in peace!

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