I'm A Lumberjack and I'm OK

Like the US Mens' Soccer Team, I'm choosing to go into action today "without further Adu" and ask:

Is "Timber Joey" really an asset to the game?

[ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-GmHcmdYBo"]YouTube - Timber Joey lets loose with the chainsaw[/ame]

Joey, in case you're just joining us, is of course the guy in the above clip wielding the gigantic, gasoline-gulping, air-polluting symbol of the despoilation of our precious wilderness heritage.

It's a tradition that dates back to the glory days of the NASL, or so we're told, when the first Bevo - excuse me, I mean Joey (although actually his name was Jimmy but let's just stick to the basics here, OK?) - inaugurated the now-hallowed ritual of creating an enormous cloud of sawdust and exhaust smoke and a decibel level similar to that of a B-52 taking off every time the TImbers score a goal.

Joey begins his routine by madly yanking the pull-start cord on his forest habitat destruction device (which, as anyone who has ever done the Briggs & Stratten boogie with a lawnmower can tell you sometimes takes a couple of minutes and a few dozen pulls). When his hated symbol of anti-environmentalism finally roars into action in an enormous cloud of two-cycle engine oil, he proceeds to cut a thin slice off of a two foot thick log, much like the chunky, hairnetted woman at your local deli counter lopping off slabs of bologna except that it takes longer.

Much longer.

In fact, last week almost three minutes elapsed between the time the ball crossed the goal and the time Joey got Old Murderer fired up and another two or three minutes until the chunk of wasted forest product fell to the ground.

But that's not the end of it. Not by a long shot.

When Joey finishes his ritual - which is conducted directly behind a goal net - he picks up the round slab of dead tree and raises it triumphantly into the air like Serena Williams hoisting the Wimbledon Trophy (only not quite as masculinely) and screams for the approval of the Timber Army faithful who return his howls tenfold.

After which he passes his rustic end table top into the stands where it gets passed around like the head of a missionary who wandered into the wrong remote New Guinea village.

Now far be it from me to object if the Timbers want to make earsplittingly loud internal combustion engines spewing great plumes of carbon-dioxide into the atmosphere for the sake of honoring the NASL. Of course, it ought to be noted that the NASL did a lot of stupid crap back in the day - should we bring back, say, the Colorado Caribou uniforms or make all the players wear porn 'staches and very short, very tight pants?

"Next, On Bravo: the MLS Game of the Week"

Furthermore, I take a back seat to absolutely no one when it comes to the love of history and tradition, and I'm certainly not the kind of purist who objects to the inclusion of some sideshow-style attractions like prancing mascots or the ChivaGirls. Especially the ChivaGirls.

But as the clip above demonstrates rather clearly, the problem is that while all this noise and smoke and commotion and hillbilly hullabaloo is being conducted mere yards from the pitch, THERE'S A SOCCER MATCH GOING ON.

One of the unique things about watching a sccer game that you don't usually notice until you attend a game with someone who's never been to one is that people don't look at each other when they discuss something; their eyes are on the field.

That's because the game is so fast and so subtle and major, game-changing things happen so quickly that if you take your eyes off the action for a few seconds you could easily miss the best play of the game.

Yet in Portland, five, six, eight, ten minutes after play has resumed the place is still ringing with the shrill whine of a chain saw, a lingering cloud of smoke and a bunch of people passing a hunk of dead tree around the stands.

For those of you who are fans of the game as played in Europe, can you see Timber Joey doing this act at Anfield or the Bernabeu or the San Siro? Hell, can you see Timber Joey even living long enough to get through that log before he's beaten to death by outraged football fans?

Even fans at a Major League Baseball or NFL game would be offended. You want to do that crap at halftime, sure, fine. Have at it. But while play is going on?

If the fans really need to be distracted from the game for long periods of time then you must not think much of the product.

(We're also not going to get into the wonderful picture of an injured player, in obvious pain and with a possibly torn up knee being helped off the pitch while the Timers' Army holds up hundreds of scarves that proudly proclaim: "NO PITY". Yeah, very classy guys. Wait until PTI gets ahold of that one.)

The final part of the tradition demands that. after the game, the chunks of wood are presented to the guys who scored the goals, for them to take home and save as momentos.

Pity the poor imported striker who suddenly finds 12 or 15 hunks of dead tree piled up in his garage, although on the plus side if he has a woodstove he'll be in pretty good shape for the winter.

Still, I was under the impression that the Timbers are pretty flush right now and don't really have to pay their guys in cord wood.

With all due respect to the wonderful old days of the NASL, a league that not one in 100 of the current members of the Timber Army ever saw, this is one "link with the past" that needs to go away.