No need to shiver, Timbers Army

Okay, so. Read this and this. Good topic, good comments. EDIT - and this, the TA follow-up on Offside Rules.

You may have lived through, or be living through, a similar situation. For those of you who won't click links, even though I've worked so hard to earn your trust about this sort of thing - haven't I? I think I have. I'm pretty sure I never rickrolled you.

Anyway. The topic is, the Timbers Army said some bad words, and got this response:

The right, true, and just response to Andrew and Laurie's letter is two words long and ends in "off." Timbers fans made their case succinctly, and it's one that you and your fan group have probably made as well. We're the ones who show up every week, and we've been here for years.

(Now that I re-read the complaint letter - three times, you had to move your kids? What was going through their minds before the last time? "Third time's a charm"? It reminds me of the joke where the grizzly tells Frank, "Admit it, you're not here for the hunting, are you?"

On a micro level, people like Andrew and Laurie are easily dismissed. But it's the specter of a fan base of Andrew and Lauries - the unwashed, lumpenproletariat Andrew and Lauries whose chuckleheaded inability to adapt or tolerate or understand anything that doesn't fit in to their conformist checklist led their spiritual ancestors to burn witches, heretic, prophets, scientists and saints rather than risk a moment's discomfort, whose entire emotional and intellectual vocabulary consists of justifying the most barbaric prejudices in the name of their children's delicacy, and who mark my words will one day turn this once beautiful and nurturing planet into a baked cinder of death as a lasting monument to their failure to grow anything above their idiot lizard brains - that puts us at the mercy of our teams' owners.

After all, that's what owning means. Anything outside mainstream fan behavior is at the owners' discretion. That means every single thing from plastic horns to profanity to smoke bombs to standing up to waving flags. No one allows everything, but some allow more than others.

I love telling this story, so forgive the digression. Freddy Adu came to town for the first time, and a good deal of his out-of-market fanbase were wide-eyed, freckle-faced innocent youngsters. About ten minutes into the game, we learned there were many many complaints. The security guard, with an air of long-suffering yet infinite patience, told us in the most kind and understanding way possible that anything was allowed except "F***," "S***" and "Ass."

We nodded gravely, and I think the guard nearly made it all the way back to the top of the section before my friend Kevin started a chant that went:


It wasn't even as if he screamed it, he just said it conversationally, as if "Hey, wouldn't it be funny if we did THIS chant?" Turned out it was.

Point being, the Galaxy had every right in the world to go absolutely berserk over this chant, which they did, and after dire threats our fans finally dialled up enough maturity to give that chant the dignified retirement it deserves, although MAN I miss it.

Anyway, Merritt Paulson felt compelled to respond. For some reason John Canzano was privy to the conversation, and for some reason I too am going to post it online.

Now, let's get the knee-jerk responses out of the way, because Paulson's response is actually very positive.

Dear Andy,

I'm not much of a complainer. But you're ********ing up, when you should be ********ing off.

Love always,

Now, the sad truth is that Paulson, like every owner, has every right to drop the hammer on profanity. I think the only accepted mainstream exception is the God-given right to chant "Bullshit!" at a bad call.

Check out what Paulson is proposing. A separate family section.

You know what the family section of MLS games used to be called? The "stadium."

It's easy to see this in cynical terms - supporters like you and me are more loyal customers, and we add to the atmosphere and excitement. (Some of us. Maybe me more than you. What can I say? I'm a lot of fun to be around.) The atmosphere and excitement part is depressingly intangible, but the showing up every week for nearly fifteen years isn't. By now, most teams realize that our groups bring in more people than they alienate.

There are going to be some setbacks. Portland and New York leap to mind. If the Timbers experience as exponential an increase in attendance as their dear, dear friends in Seattle, then a lot of those seats are going to be filled with people whose expectations are uncomfortably close to Andrew and Laurie.

I bring up New York as well, because moving to smaller stadiums changes the dynamic here a lot. The ESC in Giants Stadium might as well be watching from an orbiting satellite, for all the likelihood they have of bothering more passive fans, and Red Bull Park might bring them uncomfortably close to the civilian population. Hardcore Metro fans' prickly relationship over the years with their front offices might make the adjustment worse. But this won't be universal - for example, I'm pretty sure when DC United Park is built, the Screaming Eagles and Barra Brava will be accommodated much more generously. Houston and San Jose probably will also keep their supporters groups in mind. Kansas City, too, although they have other problems right this second.

This looks bad for Portland, and the rest of us, but it's really a victory. Andrews and Lauries have been trying to play the "financial failure" card since 1996. Now, new owners know better.