And so we were left standing on street corners watching fans with flares and smoke and dancing and singing as celebrations reached rapturous levels. In one second, a beer was in my hand, and in front of Providence Park everyone was your friend. A lift whirred into action as the stadium support staff started to change the marquee on the stadium.
Radio Cab vehicles drove down Burnside honking horns with their passengers hanging out of back seat windows screaming and high fiving lines of people as the celebration that was previously in the bars and houses of Portland spilled out into the street. Traffic stopped in both directions on one of the busiest streets in Portland as mobs of green clad people twirling scarves ran out to celebrate their clubs victory.
There was pandemonium nearly everywhere you looked. Everything that ever happened in the previous years bubbled up into a froth of pent up emotions that burst out of nearly every fan to whom I spoke. You couldn’t help but think of the pain along with the glory, for some it was Hollywood United, for some Cal FC, for some it was the Spencer era, or the Chris Agnello era, or it was simply having the team disappear from existence with the possibility of never being seen again. Then there were the good times, the unbelievable run of 2009, the rebirth of 2013, the sunflower goal, and the emotions of the home opening night of 2011. Nearly everything that has ever happened to the club bubbled up and then popped and all those emotions just poured from the eyes and lips of nearly every person that I saw.
Men and women silently wept and then vigorously celebrated, children were hoisted up on shoulders and we just had a party because our club won the championship.
And what is a club?
It isn’t the front office, the staff, the scouts, or even the players because all these come and go. We love them, we hate them, we fete them and tear them down but they are stewards and passengers on this train. A club is its fanbase, the connection to a city and the collection of individuals that gather to watch it play. A club is a lineage traced from grandparent to parent to child through the history of the city in which it exists. It is mothers, fathers, uncles and aunts taking children to the stadium and teaching them the traditions that we hold dear. It is explaining why we sing “you are my sunshine”, and it is educating, without prejudice, those that have recently joined our ranks. A club contains the remembrance of those who we have lost, and allows us to celebrate the arc of life as it passes in front of our eyes with ever quickening pace.
Gathering in Providence Park is really the same as having family dinner. It is a reset of your life back from checking your phone every five minutes and worrying about emails or bills to a simpler existence where you see your family, talk and all share the same experience, albeit in different ways.
2016 marks the dawn of a new era. Children are growing up that will never know the Timbers as anything but Champions. For 40 prior years there was frustration, abandonment, worry, joy and sadness, but the end of the season finished the same as the Timbers failed to claim the biggest prize.
My daughter will hear the stories, she will know that she was there when the Timbers won, that she went to games during the championship season, even though she won’t remember anything from that time. However, her world will be a world vastly different from my own, not only in terms of sports but in terms of atmosphere. We live in a time where the things that are presented to us, in terms of politics and life and interactions, are incredibly polarized and stilted. I can’t help but think that this thing we have experienced has the ability to teach, to indelibly give us something to which we can cling.
When I will talk to her about the 2015 championship and the time in which this happened, I will tell her to know that it was belief, and courage and the ability to not let fear control your life that showed how a team could win. I will tell her to not have fear of “the other”, to welcome new people, refugees, and people different from you into your family. To passionately embrace the diversity of others as a strength, to build from the idea that a team of disparate people of disparate beliefs and backgrounds can come together to win a championship and that this can exist in life as well as sports.
I can tell her that sometimes in your own struggle for something great that people will push you because their love, understanding, and belief of who you are might be greater than your own. That this cooperation and criticism can encourage you and get you to believe and understand that you can do more than you thought possible.
Moreso, I will tell her the story of a shining example of a star named Diego Valeri who ran as hard as he possibly could with only the idea that he believed he could pressure a goalkeeper and subsequently scored the goal that sent us on our way.
Now the season kicks off on Sunday and we will gather once more to watch our reigning champions walk on to the field to thunderous applause and the deification that belongs to them and them alone. They are now legends and their names will be long remembered as the ones that played in our championship win.
Kwarasey – Valeri – Chara – Ridgewell – Borchers – Villafana – Powell – Nagbe – Wallace – Asprilla – Melano – Adi – Urutti – Jewsbury and Caleb Porter
Thank you, also, to Will Johnson. Captain, you set the tone for the transition to a new Timbers and gave everything that we could ask to the team including your own health. Thank you.
And with my friends, now, up to the city. Let us welcome the 2016 season with open hearts, courage, passion and the belief that all of us need only root for our boys in green to belong.
For the Rose City and the Timbers.
The Axe PDX