Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Cracked Pane

Well, it had to happen.And two weeks ago it did.

(Here's where I admit that I'm SO far behind on my blogging. I wish I had a good excuse. But the ugly fact is that I have a job I love, and a wife I love, and two kiddos I love when I'm not wanting to choke them senseless. So all of those things tend to come before blogging. I'm sorry, but that's the truth, and I can't pretend differently.)

What happened is that my Timbers lost at home.

You might remember here, when I talked about the feeling of singing the team on to win, of being part of the crowd, and the evening, and the Game, of
"...the almost-frightening power of the voice of that love that rose up over the darkened city, over the streets and bridges, over the rivers and the wooded mountains and the cold peaks glimmering under the stars until the daylight returns to awaken us all to our daily lives again."

The team was there, and we were there. The songs were there, shaking and roaring through the old Shed End, and the Game was there in all its terrible, heartbreaking beauty.But the victory was not.

D.C. United came into the House of Pane and broke out our windows; escaping with a 2-3 road win. The match was possibly one of the oddest I have ever watched, or played in, and in amateur soccer in this country you see some very odd things. Perhaps the strangest was a series of penalties all taken from the same foul. Portland's Cooper was pulled down inside the D.C. penalty area and the referee very correctly pointed to the penalty spot. The teams lined up along the edge of the area, Cooper spotted the ball down, the D.C. keeper Hamid set up, Cooper approached the ball, shot...and Hamid saved the PK.

But he didn't.

Lost amid the initial rush and roar was the far-side linesman, standing on the goalline with his flag up to signal that Hamid had moved illegally. The D.C. players went wild, but the referee upheld the call, the ball was respotted, Hamid again bounced on his line, Cooper again stutter-stepped up to the ball, shot...

...and Hamid saved. Again.

But he didn't.The linesman - a hell of a courageous man, in my opinion - had his flag up again. Hamid had moved forward off his line too soon - again.

This time the D.C. players REALLY went apeshit. Hamid received a booking for his protest, the teams milled about for a while, Cooper had an ugly little spat with Jack Jewsbury over who would take the PK, the old barn went quiet again...

...and then erupted, because Jewsbury slotted the kick home and the Timbers were tied 1-1.

It didn't last.

D.C. got themselves a penalty, scored it, and then took another goal from the run of play. The Boys got a late goal, but not enough. The unbeaten home run was over. The House of Pane was just another soccer stadium again.

So we sang our anthems (Timbers Army tradition is to sing "You are my Sunshine" on the 80th minute, and "I Can't Help Falling In Love With You on the 85th). We chanted, and roared abuse at the bastards in black, and at the officials, and dared the handful of cross-continent visitors to sing US a song. But the clock ticked up, and finally the long whistle went, and we had lost.The team took a slow walk around the pitch, applauding their supporters. They slowly filed out through the gate, leaving the pitch to a dwindling crowd, and the groundskeepers emerging to bed the place down for the night.

But in the North End we sang, and chanted; the Shed thuttered with the stamping of hundreds of feet. Jack Jewsbury and Jorge Perlaza emerged to receive their log slices for scoring, although they looked as subdued as you'd expect. But long after they returned to their lockers, we sang for them, and the team, and ourselves, and our city. We roared our pride, our disappointment for the loss, and our hope that we would all be here together again.

Soccer, by its cruelty and caprice, reminds us that Life itself is a cruel joke; that all our plans, all our hopes, all our wishes and dreams, will, in the end, come back to the grass.

But that until then there IS hope, and life, and love. And that you may lose today, your enemies may confound you, and yet you may still find yourself halting for a moment, your hands on the door of your locker ready to close it on the dregs of defeat, and hear far above you the thunder and the glory of that hope, and that love, becauseWe'll sing for you Timbers,'Til you finish the fight.There's a party in Portland,No one's sleepin' tonight...

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