And talk about getting thrown in the deep end: Ryan Pollard is a longtime proud member of the Timbers Army, so we were in the thick of a rabid, years-long fanbase that chants, cheers, and screams about the Timbers. (Later, when I can dig out the link, I'll show you where Mike Russell comic-stripped about the Timbers Army back in 2005.) The Army takes over most of the north end of Jeld-Wen Field (which the fans also call, in honor of the windows the corporate sponsor makes, "the House of Pane") and has flags and banners at its disposal. These got waved. A lot. So did scarves. As Ryan cracked, "This is the largest gathering of straight men with a scarf fetish."
My experience playing soccer is limited to a few years in the early-to-mid Eighties, when I had fun but didn't get especially good at anything other than running backwards -- or, shall I say, being comfortable running backwards. (I like that skill.) It hadn't been big in my life since then, and of course there's been a lot of life in the meantime, leading to now when I've gotten motivated to follow The Beautiful Game again (and to call it The Beautiful Game, which I haven't done before but which just sounds right). I'm re-learning how quickly the game can move: it's possible to miss when a goal happens! Also, this game got started really quickly, and I didn't figure out it was underway until nearly 30 seconds into it. THEN I started paying more attention. And also cheered and screamed. Like
We'll sing for you Timbers
Until you finish the fight
There's a party in Portland
And no one's sleeping tonight
Tonight's game was an exhibition, or a "friendly," where the Timbers can play a non-MLS team and it doesn't count for official MLS standings: more playing for the sake of playing. West Bromwich Albion came over from where, um, they have place names like West Bromwich. (I kid: they're from the West Midlands, not far from Birmingham.) The first half really belonged to the Timbers, who scored twice in 45 minutes (no stoppage time+); the second half belonged more to the visitors, who tied it quickly and then, in the one minute (JUST ONE MINUTE) of stoppage time at the end of the second, got a third goal. "Of course we'd lose in stoppage," someone near me said. Still had a really good turnout -- near sell-out? Looked like it -- so I can only imagine the level of energy for league play.
And I wasn't quite able to keep up with the hardcore Timbers Army-ans. I needed a couple of breaks from chanting and hand-waving in the second half, and ended the game tired and hungry. Happily stumbled onto a cart handing out free hummus packs and pita chip bags outside of the stadium; no, don't throw that briar patch at me. (Hmm. Kind of a mixed-up metaphor.) Anyway, now I have some hummus in me, which makes my stomach happy.
I'll be back to a game. Maybe not in the Timbers Army section, maybe somewhere that'll be more sedate, so I can study the game more and re-learn it, at least as a fan.
And now I'd be more disappointed if the NFL doesn't get its act together so it can have its next season, because I want to cheer and scream about the NFL this year, too.
+ This surprised me: it was the first professional-level soccer game (MLS, USL or World Cup) I'd watched where the referee did not add time to the end of a half, as often happens. Note for the less soccer-inclined: unlike NFL football, the clock in soccer almost never stops, but the ref keeps a second stopwatch going measuring how long actual play was stopped -- 10 seconds here, half a minute there -- for fouls or injuries or other interruptions, then has the approximate total of that time that play was stopped added to the end of a half, so it's closer to being a true 90 minutes of total play.
An Edit on 1/14/2012: I finally saved my photos from the game to LJ, so I can share this shot of Ryan Pollard (right), who was nice enough to give (give!) me a ticket to this game:
More photos are here.