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Sunday, June 05, 2005
Among the thu..er, supporters
What is it about soccer that makes spectators want to toss around beer and chant lewd slogans? More than any other sport, it whips its followers into a frenzy and the phenomenon even stretches here to Portland's very own USL franchise. Sure, NBA fans will jump on the court every once and blue moon for fisticuffs but is lighting off smoke bombs and throwing beer cups on the court par for the course? Nope.
I've been to two Timbers games at PGE park in the last month. Amidst the scattering of families there's a group of fans that call themselves the Timbers Army. They differentiate themselves from soccer thugs, call themselves instead "supporters" instead, dress in green and white scarves and come ready to terrorize the opposing team with a slew of chants and rituals. Aside from OSU fans during a Civil War weekend, I can say I've never seen fans as passionate as this group of 500 or so diehards that pour into section 107 at the beginning of every home game.
When the opposing team's goalie touches the ball, the army chants, "you suck, asshole" and, as they're quick to point out, "there's no pity in the Rose City." Injured visiting players are consoled with "you're going home in an Portland ambulance!" Along with chants, the Army is equipped with huge flags and home made paraphernalia ranging from sweatshirts to thongs. One fan during a recent game against the Virginia Beach Mariners brought along an inexplicable Phil Collins banner with the words "can you feel it in the air?" Maybe it makes sense in the right context.
The Army blew up during the final minutes of the second half. A series of bad calls sent them into near hysterics and they didn't hesitate to register their indignation with the game's officials. After tossing a few dozen beer cups on the field, the Army lit off smoke bombs, played bagpipes, shouted obscenities and booed as the injury minutes ran down to zero. One fan even began banging on the chair next to him with what looked like a monkey wrench. They even continued after the game had ended until the Timbers themselves gathered at the edge of the field to calm them down.
At the forefront of all this is "Timber" Jim Serrill, the team's chainsaw- wielding mascot. Timber Jim, who prides himself on being the greatest in the country, is a true phenomenon. At 51 he continues to regale home game crowds with backflips, chants and slicing slabs off the Timbers' victory log, modus operandi every time the team scores a goal. During the second half of games he typically ascends to the top of a several story tall post on the edge of the field where he waves around the chainsaw and beats a drum.
Last summer Timber Jim's daughter passed away in a tragic car accident. He's currently at work on a songbook dedicated to her. In addition to his day job as tree trimmer, he works as a first aide instructor and promotes seat belt safety. The army continues to collect donations for his granddaughter's trust fund.
Despite being a minor league team in a sport that has few followers in the states, the Timbers have managed to develop an entire Portland sub-culture. If the Blazers had this kind of fanbase, there's no telling how much different that hometown franchise would be.