Whenever I write this column, I typically forgo my topic sentence for a semi-chuckle anecdote that could theoretically be stretched into a real thesis. This is a common technique, used by lots of community college graduates. It doesn’t seem right to let you know exactly what the conclusion is, what if you think it’s dumb? I’m on a different line for this particular column, because the subject is complicated. I’m trying to work out a specific problem: Everything is coming up roses, everything I see, I see through the lens of the Timbers.
I’ve been wondering about this because the offseason has provided me more time to catch games from other leagues played by teams I hypothetically follow. Prior to 2015, I could catch any one of these teams and instantly know what I’d be seeing stylistically. I’ve come accustomed to seeing Dortmund’s Gegenpressing and Arsenal’s attempt to coddle possession like overprotective parents. Both are oversimplifications attempting to describe an expectation of familiarity in the unknown; from one viewing to the next I don’t know the particulars or outcome of the game, the same way that from movie to movie I don’t know if Tom Cruise will die, but I still know that he will get the girl and defeat the bad guy. What does that tell you?
But now, I can’t see a forward play without seeing Fanendo Adi. The Timbers’ championship run has left some type of imprint on me in the way that sex with Becky will always be remembered fondly but only because it was the first time. The truth is, Becky and I, we didn’t really mesh and a healthy emotional reticence for each other allowed for the freedom of physical thrashing for an entire 15 seconds. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly think the 2015 Timbers were bangin’ but I’m really looking to see if they are someone I want to have brunch with. What will they look like without Urruti’s red dress? What will our sober conversation be like?
I guess my point is… I don’t know if I want to see the Timbers everywhere I look. I kind of think Leicester City has got something going on, but damn its winter and I want to curl up in my blankets and cuddle my Timbers. There is a woman at work called Atletico Madrid, she’s determined for a raise. She inspires me, I hope she gets it but I kind of think the system is rigged at the top and I just don’t see getting her title. Ugh, I’m so unplugged from the jungle, sitting here drinking coffee and thinking about Timbers.
These relationships have nothing to do with content. Clearly watching Christian Pulisic make his debut for Dortmund at the age of 17 was a highlight, and Arsenal is fighting their way in a title race they will finish fourth in. Also, watching Jorge Villafana at Santos Laguna has been a blast, both because Jorge Villafana is straight dropping fools (still) but because every LigaMx game I watch is chalk full of sexy.
The problem is watching Pulisic or Alexis Sanchez is strange because I don’t know how a left winger can play like a forward but still maintain his positioning. The Timbers don’t have this player and watching them confuses me. I’ve lost my ability to understand things outside green and gold and, dare I say, Porterball. ((The definition of Porterball appears to try something for a while, change it, win.))
I think all of these teams are playing the same game but they aren’t. It’s an optical illusion created by my own mind. And what is weird about this particular illusion is that I end up being right, in a recursive and pointless kind of way. I’m tricking myself into seeing the kind of truth, even though that truth is something I created for no apparent reason other than I have watched so much Timbers that I am now a genius.
And, an idiot.
I’m a genius at seeing into things and equating false narratives. That’s a very Adi pivot from Giroud there, Rabello is like a younger, stronger Valeri–if they were played in the same position in the same system, which they don’t, wow Zlatan is really Chara’ing out there.
Objectively, as far as I can tell, there are no meaningful similarities between the teams I’m watching. This is a dead end for me, so I wondered if anyone was having the same problem. I started asking my friends if they saw any similarities between the Timbers and the clubs they follow around the world. I noticed that when I asked someone who watches an inordinate amount of Timbers matches (basically all of them, for you folks) they had plenty of similarities to cite. But whenever I asked casual Timbers fans (some of which are hardcore EPL or LigaMx’ers) they inevitably said something along the lines of “Meh, I’m not sure I see anything.” At first, I thought that meant my visions of Timbers in everything was real.I justified it by envisioning soccer as an ubermensch that embodies Plato’s forms of soccer: just as the idea of a table is not the table itself, and when the table evolves from concept to form it becomes imperfect–there is a shadow between conception and creation, between the idea and the reality–The Timbers are imperfect too, but For Thine Is The Kingdom, Jesus is imperfect too and he still makes fucking tables.
It doesn’t make sense, because when you are wrong and yet claim you are right, the more non-sensical the rhetoric becomes, and the harder it is to pin down and kill once and for all. See Donald J Trump.
But, of course, I now suspect a different explanation: In reality watching an inordinate amount of Timbers’ matches causes a person to imagine concrete visual similarities that are just merely the manifestation of abstract, subconscious knowledge.
I watched the USMNT the other day and immediately understood Jurgen Klinsmann was playing Darlington Nagbe out of position. Okay, maybe this one is just obviously true.
The Portland Timbers Football Club is such a brilliant and effective experience. I feel like I’m on the verge of tears for its entirety; it is also the most emotionally manipulative show ever made. Part of its brilliance is that it taps into all the nationalistic impulses most Pacific Northwest liberals try to ignore. It’s reactionary in the best, and least, invasive way possible.
I watched Arsenal draw to Southampton and my mind hashtagged it #TimbersThings. I did that. I made that happen. I saw Ozil create 10 chances in a 0-0 draw and I saw Valeri pinging balls into Nagbe’s left foot. I tricked my optic nerves into seeing everything Timbers. I don’t know how, but I did.
What does that mean? Probably nothing. But maybe this: The relationship between experience, success, and reality is less concrete than logic might dictate. What was created by winning the MLS cup was an expectation, an expectation that is false in reality, but also the defining characteristic of dreams.
This is what it’s like to live in Spain and visualize have your understanding of aesthetically beautiful football as dictated by what neighborhood you grew up in. The Timbers are now the lens through which I see the game. This is a false but eternally comforting identity of culture and custom.
This is pride.