Friday, July 10, 2015

The Sounders and the Fury

My Portland office cubicle holds what may be the largest collection of Seattle Sounders paraphernalia gathered within the Oregon state boundaries. Ticket stubs, game day programs, the sports section of The Seattle Times declaring this year’s smashing 3-0 season opener victory against the New England Revolution. The newer soccer fans in the office walk by briskly, while the more senior members have already learned the best routes of avoidance. They’re all fans of the Portland Timbers — my Sounders’ most-despised rival — and we have an unspoken understanding of mutual mouth-shuttage. Nobody wants to get fired.

The less savvy residents of Portland are aware that this whole soccer deal is kind of a thing (MLS game attendance has tripled across the country in the last decade, and stadium sellouts in Seattle and Portland are commonplace), but are ignorant to the tectonic plates of hatred that divide my bright, key lime Pantone 370C green from the Timbers’ dank, moldy 350C. My coworker Marvin, for instance, doesn’t get it. He stopped by my desk recently to say, “My buddies have season tickets in the Portland Timbers Army section. Maybe you can come along next weekend?”

I knew he was trying to be kind, asking me to join the Portscum Timsuck Army, that ridiculous muck of drunk, angry hypocrites decrying the Sounders for being “sellouts” with their NFL-grade premium stadium and big-name Microsoft sponsorship, bile spewed while wearing their very own airline corporate sponsor’s logo across their hearts. A tide of morons in hunter and gold gear that could pull double duty rooting on the University of Oregon Ducks, since the Timbers’ brass wasn’t adventurous enough to think of two original colors. A hoard of lumbersexual hipsters wearing scarves with a blaring yellow ax emblem, surely designed to pay homage to the gigantic chip each of them has whittled onto their shoulder that screams We’re Soccer City USA! We’re not bandwagoners!

No, Marvin wasn’t aiming for that nerve. So I smiled and thanked him. “Sorry, I’m only interested in professional soccer games.” (...)

On most days I can carry on as a citizen of Oregon without conflict. I moved there from my hometown east of Tacoma, Washington in 2003 for college. I met a native, fell in love, and just never left. I’ll battle to the death over Portland’s superiority in brunch entrĂ©e execution, its wine production, fabulous literary scene, and ease of parking. If the chance to move back to Washington arrives, I’d let it pass me by.

But then there are days when I go to the local fast-food favorite Burgerville on Carman Drive for a tasty Tillamook cheeseburger, and the cashier hands me a Diet Coke receptacle stamped with that loathsome axe. “Do you have any not-Timbers cups?” I ask. They are confused; they stare at the corporate-mandated drink cup, as I’m the first to raise a fuss. I say, “A Timbers-free smoothie tumbler will work fine.”

When I attend rivalry matches at Portland’s Providence Park — or, as my GPS Saved List knows it, “Providump” — I’ve learned to come prepared with a Sharpie. Axe-clad pint cups are the only ones available at Timbsuck games, and there’s nothing quite as satisfying as whipping a fat black pen out of my purse in front of a line of thirsty Army brats to blot out their beloved emblem. (...)

Since Mom now refuses to cross state lines on game day, I accompany Dad when he comes down to Portland for matches — and the battle stories we’ve accrued haven’t inspired her to have another go. Last August, Dad and I drove into Downtown Portland early in my Oregon-plated disguise car, and parked a fair distance from the stadium. “We’ll have time for brunch!” I rejoiced, and recommended an elegant southern restaurant in the Pearl District. It was a perfect Northwest summer morning, all blue sky and sunshine with Mount Hood peeking in from across the river. Saying no to the streetside patio would have been a crime.

As we sat on the wrought-iron bistro chairs, mulling the menu while live jazz music wafted from the window and mimosas appeared before the water glasses did, I felt like a parent at her kids’ piano recital. My city was hitting all the right notes, with its hair combed and in some freshly pressed pants. “Rabbit hash,” Dad read from the specials leaflet. “That’s something you’re not going to find in Seattle.”

Then I saw them rounding the corner, a gaggle of forest green asshats fresh off a morning preload at Deschutes Brewery. I flicked my gaze back to the menu; there was enough lovely city for everyone and the match wasn’t for a few more hours. As long as you didn’t look right into the eye of the cyclops it might just keep walking.

“Enjoying our local fine foods, are we?” a smug frat-boy-turned-silicone-forest type asked, halting the posse behind him. Dad and I half-smiled, our eyes hidden behind sunglasses. For a second I thought he might keep walking. “Why don’t you go home and CHOKE ON A SALMON? SEAAATTTLE…SELLOUTS!”

“Did we just get insulted over brunch?” I asked as soon as they’d clucked their way down to the streetcar. Was there any more Portland way to be heckled than over mimosas with a side of beignets?

by Tabitha Blankenbiller, Narratively | Read more:
Image: Tabitha Blankenbiller