Monday, September 30, 2013

Fool for Love

In the tarot the Fool is traditionally shown dancing heedlessly along the edge of a precipice with a white cat tearing at his britches.

There are times when being a Timbers fan feels a lot like that.

This entire past weekend was a rainy, blustery mess. My kids' soccer matches Saturday were cancelled for the bad weather; no matter, the Boy and I drove down to Custer Park in SW Portland and had a kickabout in the piss-pouring rain anyway.

By late Sunday morning I was grainy and sore with the nagging cold I've been fighting for a week or so. So the last thing I really wanted to do was stand for two hours in the cold rain and sing for my team to beat last year's champions.

But when you're a hardcore fan, you go. You go.

So I put on my hoodie and my rainsuit (but not my lovely waterproof boots, sitting alone, warm, and dry in my Beaverton office) and boarded the MAX train downtown. Trudged though the streaming streets to the field. Got my $6.75 beer and stood watching the raindrop splashes between sips as my feet steadily grow colder and wetter.

I wonder, really, I wonder sometimes what it feels like to be a supporter of one of those huge, eternally successful clubs. The Manchester Uniteds, the Bayern-Munichs, the Milans, the Corinthians, the Paris-Saint-Germains.

Do you stroll to the stadium every Saturday with a light heart and a cheerful mien, full of bonhomie, bursting with optimism and eagerness to be at the hapless opponent? Do you treat every minute of the match as a sunny morning, gleaming with promise and hopes of a happy day? Do you greet your team's goals with a roar of fulfilled expectation, a culmination of promise fulfilled?

What's it like, to feel that way?

I wonder.

Here in the Portland Timbers hustings every match feels more like...well, a man named Garry Nelson wrote a book about his time as player/manager for the English fourth-division side Torquay United called Left Foot in the Grave.

That's kind of what it feels like.

When the club is playing at its' best things are fine. Just...fine.

But a lot of the time they aren't. A lot of the time the match feels desperate, balanced on the edge of a disaster. Your big, successful club has fathoms of depth and acres of skill. Your marginal club - and I don't pretend that my club is anything but a marginal club, one of the smaller markets making its way on savvy and scrap - doesn't have that comfort. A single error, one bad mark, a slip, a moment's inattention means a goal. And a goal a deficit that my club might not be able to make up. So I bite my lip and curse every wasted shot, howl at every bevue and miscue, roar abuse at my midfielders when they give the ball away or my defenders when they ballwatch and loaf about while singing their praises and chanting ritual abuse at the visitors.

Strangely, that feeling of slippery desperation, of being right on the edge of some awful disaster, makes me feel more animated about giving what I can to help my club. If I can just sing that tiny bit much louder...if I can roar just that little bit sooner...if I wear my lucky old USL jersey...and my autographed Timbers Army scarf just so...maybe...just possibly...and we need that tiny bit of extra luck to win...

And that's nonsense, of course.

Nothing I do can or will change the outcome on the pitch one little bit. The players, the officials, the coaches...their efforts mean something. Everything I do, nothing I do, means anything to anyone but me.


As a group, as an Army...all of us, together...well...

Maybe we can.

At least, I like to think we can.

So does love - at least, the love of a soccer team - make me a Fool; "...folly at the most insensate stage." says the Tarot, and I cannot in good conscience disagree. But I can't regret my foolishness and it is too late to repent of it.

"Next time you see us, we may be smiling,
Green and Gold, Green and Gold, Green and Gold, Gold, Gold!
Maybe in prison, or on the TV,
We’ll say the Timbers brought us here!"


Ael said...

Insert witty comment about the similarities between sports fans and religious fan(atics) here.

FDChief said...

No argument. My church is 100 meters long by 70 meters wide and open to the sky, and every Saturday I go to pray for goals to rain down upon the heathen visitors like the wrath of an angry God.