This “The Fan In You” piece by John Nyen
Editor’s Note: This is a piece by Denver-based John Nyen who saw his Timbers kick it off in MLS Saturday. Despite the loss, still a rocky mountain high.
“I was a stoop-shouldered wreck of a man, stumbling around the Gatorade aisle of the Super Target. I purchased a bottle of lemon-lime, a can of peanuts and walked out to the car, pulling on my sunglasses. The light diffused across the lenses showing the heckle-jeckle spottiness, the result of beer being spilt on the lenses.
The remembrances flooded in from the weekend due to this unusual trigger.
“We are green… we are white…”
The Timbers Army sat in the corner of Dicks Sporting Goods Park, taking up sections 100 and 101. It would be easy to say, “game is at 8:00 pm show up then”, but that isn’t how the Timbers Army or the PID Army/Class VI does things.
I rolled into downtown and already the reports had been coming in from fans. 400 to 500 Timbers Army were coming down from Portland and swarming around downtown. There was a scheduled party between the differing fan supporter organizations at the Celtic, downtown. Pulling into Denver, I wondered what the reception was going to be like, but there was no reason to worry. One block over from my car there were two Timbers Army members, scarf clad and clothed in green, crossing the street. I kept running into more and more as I got closer to the bar and then it was ID time, walking around the bouncer into the inner sanctum. The Rapids fans were clustered en-masse in the middle of the floor, and I walked into the final sounds of “GLORY, GLORY COLORAAAAAAAAAADO!”
Clearly we were here for a good time. The PID Army and Class VI brewed a special IPA called “Three Match Ban” for the event and the 12.5% offering went down quite smooth. I have always found the dynamic of football supporters in the United States quite interesting, because we are bonded by more than just the love of the game. There is an underlying outsider mentality to supporting the game in the States that fosters brotherhood. The defending MLS Champion Rapids can’t even make their season preview close to the front page of the Sports section in the Denver Post. Every sports personality who writes uninformed diatribes against the sport (especially MLS), just fills these ranks even more with the diehard fan. This league is not going away.
I met a group from Portland that included a man from Salem who spent every last dime of his money to get to the game. His group was staying in the hostels and he arrived with an empty bank account. He wasn’t concerned though, because all he needed was his room at the hostel and his ticket to the match. Everything else would be considered secondary.
The late night faded into morning and the excitement of the coming day prevented me from sleeping well.
“We are green… We are white…”
Game Day (Saturday):
Then it was finally here, the day in which the loyal fans of the Portland Timbers would see them play their very first MLS game. There was another filled schedule today, and finally I made it to the British Bulldog to enjoy a pre-pre-pre-pre-pre-waypre-game pint. This was 1:30 pm. We had six hours and thirty minutes left till game time. It was time to get it going. The Bulldog was packed wall to wall with Rapids and Timbers supporters. The televisions and big screen played the Barcelona game, and in between the impromptu singing you could here the cries of adulation as Dani Alves scored a sweet volley to have one of the goals of the day.
I spoke to a wealth of fans that day, including Timbers Army members from Washington DC, Kansas, Texas, and all over Oregon. Some people had gotten off work on Friday night and made the 18hr drive from Portland into Denver just for this one day. It would be a quick turn around to make it back to work.
The busses arrived and we were off to the match. It doesn’t take much to get a bus packed with soccer fans singing as we made our way out into the cornfields and empty lots that surround Dicks Sporting Goods park. Like a UFO that landed out in a rural neighborhood, the stadium lights gleamed overhead at this shiny place.
“Sooooomewhere…. outside of DENVER…there’s…. a…. DICK (sporting goods park)”
Departing the bus, we walked up to the Pig Roast. Oh yes. The Pig Roast. I must be honest, I don’t care that the previous sentence was a fragment, that is how damn excited I am to remember the pig roast. People came up to me unbelievably giddy with the prospect that they had just received a piece of ear. That is how good the pig roast was. It mattered not that the wind came up at that time, as the Bulldog’s Supporters Group set up a spread to be marveled.
Beer was flowing and the pig was devoured with both groups of supporters mingling. The common refrain was that we were going to love each other before and after but hate each other for 90 minutes. This was shown in the class way that the Supporters Groups treated each other. Eventually the soccer ball made its way out and an impromptu passing drill session started on the fields behind. Then the sky darkened and we made our way into the field.
It was time.
Thirty-five years of Timbers history descended into the supporters section as not a man or woman sat down for the entirety of the game. The anthems played and we were off. It was a scrappy beginning with the Timbers playing towards us and the Rapids away. Eventually Omar Cummings took the ball to the corner flag, walked a tightrope of defenders mistakes and played the ball off Adin Brown to the middle of the field. Jeff Larentowicz scored the first goal, and I waited to see the Timbers Army response.
There was one second of silence and the supporters raised their scarves to the sky singing “We always win 2 to 1″… After that there really was no silence and the party was on in our stands.
Standing, singing, and pouring their hearts out, the Timbers Army didn’t care what the score was. We were there and it isn’t important that an expansion team came out jittery in the first half against the defending champions. What was important is that there was an MLS team called the Portland Timbers, and that they were on the field playing their first meaningful game of the season.
The second half was much better, and when Kenny Cooper scored you could feel the explosion of happiness in the stands. Beer, scarves and hats flew into the air as the supporters section officially freaked out. Then finally the time counted down, the players walked off the pitch and the game was over.
But we stayed…
We stayed to sing, party, and dance in the supporters section even as the stadium was clearing out. Even as all the media types left, we stayed in the stadium to sing en masse and to let this moment of exuberance pour itself out.
“WE ARE GREEN…. WE ARE WHITE…. WE ARE FKING DYNAMITE WHOAAAAAAAAAAAAA WHOOOAAAA WHOA!”
Thanks to all the fans that made this wonderful weekend happen. I must say to the PID Army and Class VI, you did a wonderful job.
In the MLS we so often gripe about the management of the league, the playoffs or all the idiosyncratic things that management has put (or not put) in place. However, the true statement is that right now, this is a game for the fans. The MLS is in its infancy and right now is the time to be involved. Start a supporters group and tailgate with your friends at a game. Go on a road trip, see other cities and see how their fans interact with the team. The supporters will make this a better league, and will make this league something of which to be proud.
“When I root I root for the TIMBERS!””