Look at all these throaty buggers backing MLS's new team — the Portland Timbers. The Timbers made their home debut last night. Portland fans got to sing the national anthem. So what if the Star Spangled Banner is the only song most Americans have at least some handle on that's not Top 40 dreck? (Portland fans also appear to know "You Are My Sunshine.") It's nice to hear a soaking-wet crowd missing all the high notes together.
The Timbers have a tradition of diehard fans. The team goes back to the NASL days. And as Jeff Carlisle at ESPN.com points out, there are several factors that make Portland a good spot for an MLS team:
The phenomenon can be best described as the kind of happy confluence of factors the league loves. Portland possesses a long-standing soccer culture, one that has been percolating for more than three decades. There's the city's alternative bent for embracing movements outside the mainstream. The proverbial chip Portland has on its shoulder in relation to other Pacific Northwest cities, most notably Seattle and Vancouver, will help write the latest chapter in some long-running rivalries. And having just one major league sports team, the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers, creates the kind of opening MLS loves to exploit.
Carlisle also includes a few choice anecdotes about the team's longtime mascot, "Timber Jim" Serrill:
Along the way, the city took the team into its collective heart, including Serrill, who first attended games with his father. In 1978, he asked general manager Keith Williams if he could bring a chainsaw to games without the chain, "so it would be safe." Williams decided it would be even better if Serrill sawed off part of a log every time the Timbers scored. "Timber Jim" was born.
Yet there was a point at which Serrill's act nearly jumped the shark. During a particularly slow game, Williams convinced Serrill to do some cheerleading. Serrill said, "The crowd gave me a red card. Nobody wanted to hear it, giving me the finger. 'Hey dude, this isn't junior high. Go away.'"
Irritated at his treatment, Serrill, who had been clearing power lines for a utility company for years, decided to raise the stakes. He had noticed that two of the light poles in what was then known as Civic Stadium were connected at the top by a crossmember, so he brought his climbing gear to the next game. "I climbed up there and flipped my rope over between them," Serrill said, "and then I came down a ways, like 30 or 40 feet, and I hung upside down, wrapped my feet around the rope, and just started swinging back and forth. And then I fired up my saw, and that was it. That changed everything."
Serrill became an institution, and even went on the road with the team, although opposition fans weren't as enamored with his act as Portland fans were. After a Timbers win in Vancouver, one incensed spectator came out of the stands and hit Serrill in the head with a bag of ice. After shaking off the cobwebs, he noticed that several of the perpetrator's friends were about to join the fray.
"I just went over and fired up my saw," Serrill said. "They backed down."
Where the dream of soccer lives on [ESPN.com]