Both Sounders and Timbers have ‘Tea Party’ Wings in their fanbase
This article is going to offend someone.
It will offend that portion of the Sounders fanbase who believe they have a divine right to an incessant stream of sycophantic gush in the media and a constitutional right to be pandered to.
It will offend that portion of Portland Timbers fans who frankly just like being offended. Which is almost all of their small but vocal ‘rebel wing’.
95% of both fanbases do not belong in this group. The article will either entertain or bore you.
It may also offend members of the Tea Party. That part is deliberate. They should be honoured though, as even the worst football fan in Cascadia on their worst day is easier to argue with than most of them are on a good day.
So why would we compare the fringes of either fanbase to the Tea Party?
Firstly because there is no football to write about any more and you need something to read and we need something to write.
Secondly, because there is a responsibility on journalists to tell the truth as they see it and not tell a truth they believe their readers want to hear. That would be pandering and our readers are MUCH too clever and secure to need that, aren’t you? Yes you are. Yes you are! (Insert sound of car keys jingling.)
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, because there enough fans of both sides who are utterly fed up of apologising for idiots who wear the same colours as them for the drivel they post on the internet. Often they are too afraid to speak out because they don’t want to be on the end of a diatribe of abuse. Or they have lives.
And why the Tea Party? The fringes of a football fanbase have a rigid ideology. They have a worldview in which their side and their players can do no wrong. Any facts must be desperately shoehorned into that world view so that it is not disrupted.
In August, Tea Partiers used a Federal Unemployment number of over 8% as proof that President Obama’s economic policies weren’t working.
In September, a figure of 7.8% from the exact same sourcwe was used as proof that the Federal Unemployment numbers were rigged by the Democrats and not be trusted.
You shoehorn the facts into your existing ideology.
Earlier this season, Houston Dynamo’s Colin Clarke used an unacceptable epithet to a ball boy in Seattle whom he felt was returning the football too slowly.
MLS with appropriate speed dished out a three match ban to Clarke, roughly on a par with that given to players who indulge in dangerous bone crushing tackles.
The Seattle fanbase with total justification went into PC overdrive, condemning the word and the repercussions it has inside the LGBT community as well as on school playgrounds.Clarke apologised, took his ban and there was little controversy about the final outcome.
On November 6th, the State of Washington endorsed an initiative allowing Gay Marriage relying heavily on votes cast west of the Cascades, the urban areas from which where Sounders draw much of their support. Sounders fans will have been among those casting their votes for tolerance and equality.
Two days later, word began to circulate that Sounders FC’s Marc Burch had used exactly the same word Clarke used to RSL’s Will Johnson during the second leg of their match in Salt Lake. It was visible on television and very soon afterwards all over You Tube.
A highly visible segment of the Sounders fanbase were consistent. The word remained unacceptable and Burch’s choice of word was unacceptable. They were the majority.
Then there were the Tea Partiers. The same people who had most loudly expressed their moral outrage in May, were playing down the incident.
They may think they used novel techniques to differentiate the two but the three stages of deny, dodge and deflect are the most time honoured tactic of the pub, and now chatboard, tit for tat when fans of opposing loyalties meet.
First came the denial.
Although the word in question was absolutely obvious to anyone watching, some immediately sought to make the debate about whether those words were actually said. Maybe Burch said something else. If the evidence doesn’t fit your worldview of Sounders’ infallibility, change the facts. Think Karl Rove on election night when Fox declared Ohio for the President. Think Tea Party when the unemployment number dipped below 8%.
After the Sounders FC issued Burch’s apology, the propaganda effort moved to stage two; dodge. Dodging takes place once the facts are indisputable.
One poster who had initially played down the importance of the issue (retroactively claiming he himself had thought Colin Clarke’s words of little consequence when challenged), pronounced the matter over with Burch’s apology. No need for MLS to take any action. Sounders had dealt with it.
In his mindset, the rest of the Seattle fanbase were now ‘PC fanatics” for refusing to apply a different standard to Burch as they did to Clarke.
Another poster on this site started dishing it out to us, merely for reporting Sounders’ apology, calling us ‘holier than thou’. That was just for cutting and pasting Sounders’ Press Release without any editorial. We have no idea what he would have called us had we actually condemned Burch’s words.
The last strategy in the dodging phase is the liberal use of the word ‘overreaction’.
Any reporting of the issue which does not refection well on your club is an overreaction.
Debates about the booing of RSL keeper Nick Rimando while receiving stitches on field was an overreaction. Where they weren’t defending it (see denial stage to follow), it was a non-story.
Our article on the alleged maltreatment of Portland fans in Seattle was again a non-story, an overreaction; unlike the incident where Timber Joey daftly wielded his chainsaw in the wrong place in Portland. That, to the Seattle Tea Partiers, was a real outrage.
You won’t be surprised to know that the views on each incident were reversed 180 degrees among the Tea Party wing of the Timbers Army. More about them later.
After condemning the media and other fans for daring to discuss the issue, comes Stage 3 – the deflection.
The 800 pound gorilla in the room of deflection is a mainstay of Ulster politics; known there as the art of ‘Whatboutery’. That is the art of demanding you discuss another incident entirely, one which with a depressing inevitability, features your side as the victim.
The sentence often begins with the words ‘What about’. Thus the term ‘whatboutery’.
In the wake of the Rimando booing, we were told that we should be discussing an unsavoury chant the complainant had heard in an entirely different game; obviously one from Portland fans aimed at the Sounders.
Although that game had taken place several weeks ago at a different stadium, that was the REAL story.
Other fans attempted to blame the victim as they had in the Rimando incident.
Rimando was a “known time waster”. Will Johnson was a “known flopper”.
The word ‘known’ was used as conclusive proof that the victim deserved all that he had received. It is never stated who exactly knows it.
Even the gloriously idiosyncratic Alan Hinton, a football legend Sounders employee, posted on Prost Amerika that Javier Morales was a ‘known’ diver after Zach Scott clattered into him for his second yellow card in an earlier game.
In fairness, Hinton likes to stir the pot. His comment was part parody, part to inspire a reaction. He is – to us at least – a celebrated and appreciated break from the dull sound of thudding orthodoxy. He may laugh at the thought that there are idiots out there who take even his least serious utterings as if they were gospel.
Others took shortcuts and simply covered themselves for anything else that might come out by condemning the entire RSL roster as ‘known’ floppers. A kind of guilt by football association rather than by association football.
One condemned Will Johnson as a ‘known’ flopper who had “probably” just flopped out of the television picture prior to Burch’s insult and therefore caused Burch to utter the words.
He added the word ‘probably’ to his accusation against the Canadian to cover himself against the truth that he had completely made it up. Deflectors will actually fabricate incidents to justify their worldview. It’s more of an art than a science. It’s written in the small print on a Kenyan birth certificate somewhere. Probably.
Now it’s time for Timbers fans to wipe that smile off their faces. You didn’t think you were going to escape, did you?
Everything about Portland’s Tea Party wing is identical to that in Seattle, except one extremely interesting and actually debateworthy aspect.
In Seattle, the Tea Partiers will post, shout, invent, harass, and even start online petitions in defence of their Front Office and their players. They are slavishly loyal to their FO and any other principle they may hold in their non-football life is subsumed.
Adrian Hanauer can praise Sounders away fans and say they are vital to the growth of the sport in one breath, and take every step to make them feel unwelcome in his own stadium in the next; and the Sounders Tea Party wing will follow him down both paths.
Sigi Schmid will accuse referee Ricardo Salazar of a personal vendetta on Wednesday and say the matter is over on Friday, and ‘hey presto’, the tricorner-hatted brigade will follow in lock step. It’s almost like Sigi Schmid is Roger Ailes. (Nur menschlicher und gutaussehender wenn du liest, Sigi)
As pliable as the Seattle Tea Partiers are to their suits, the Portland Tea Partiers use their mental energy to oppose rather than support their own Front Office. It is profoundly bizarre.
Whereas their Seattle counterparts have an end product; albeit one in which Sounders FC are above the law and a different standard should be applied to them by everyone from the media to referees to the MLS Disciplinary Committee; the Portland Tea Partiers’ aspiration is perpetual war.
It has no end point, no definition of victory and can never be over. They are defined by what they are against more than what they are for.
Firstly, club owner Merritt Paulson can never do the right thing. The t-shirts with the second stupidest slogan in Cascadian football “Against Merritt Football” will always be appropriate. (No, you have to guess what the stupidest is).
The slogan doesn’t even make any sense. Take Merritt Paulson away from football in Portland and what would you have had there for the last decade?
The Timbers Army Tea Party wing (TATP) are either too unrealistic to realise you can’t sack an owner, or they realise this and have a campaign goal they know to be completely unobtainable; therefore guaranteeing perpetual revolt.
They are not only at war with the owner. They are at war with other fans especially the 107ist, the leadership wing of the Timbers Army. Once asked on a particular issue, what would bring peace between the two, they replied “We don’t want peace.” The TATP have a psychological need to have something to oppose, to be in the minority, to be rebels.
The sacking of John Spencer and the cup defeat to Cal FC was mannah from heaven for them. They moved into the mainstream as discontent against interim head coach Gavin Wilkinson became widespread. If they couldn’t lay a glove on the owner lay one on his right hand man.
They were of course joined in their dissatisfaction by the mainstream of the fanbase, many of whom shared a dissatisfaction with the level of Wilkinson’s influence at the club, and for a while the lines between the TATP and the bulk of the Portland fans became blurred.
When Caleb Porter was appointed, the gap between the TATP and the rest began to be slightly more visible as a new era loomed, and if the team ever starts winning that gap will widen even further.
But the civil war with the TA leadership might have a few thoroughly watchable battles left, especially if that leadership takes up the mantle of assisting the authorities steer the sport, their sport, upwards rather than remain on the sidelines handcuffed by the history of previous struggles.
There is one thing you can be absolutely certain about with the Portland Timbers fanbase.
There will be more drama between the TATP and the rest of the football community. They will insist on it.
If you are still reading by this point, it is likely we haven’t offended you yet.
It is therefore likely you don’t belong in the Tea Party wing of your own fanbase or that of the Republican Party.
In that case you are probably not going to post the most beloved words of the ideologue - “You just lost a reader” in our comments section. (Then keep coming back to see if there was a 180 degree turn in editorial policy because you posted it.)
If you are among the vast majority of fans who recognise you have idiocy and hypocrisy among your own support, relax. We didn’t mean you. You may even be glad we ran this like you were glad when we ran the “Dear Newbies, They Didn’t Steal Your Songs” article after the initial derby of 2011.
The comments section too then contained perfect examples of deny, dodge and deflect artists including a classic in which one Portland fan accused the Sounders fans of stealing their ‘intervals’. He didn’t even have the sense to add the word ‘probably’.
Yes, in his view, Sounders fans stole silence from the Timbers Army.
Last thought is this.
Being an ideological and implacable cyber warrior does not make you a bad supporter. Intemperate language may dissuade other supporters from joining in the debate. It may make you an utter embarrassment to those who sport the same colours. But it doesn’t make you a bad supporter.
And that’s worth remembering.
Marc Burch’s words do not make him a bad player or a bad human being. He’s not. He’s actually one of the best guys in that Seattle locker room and a solid professional. His words were unwise but we’d stand by him on a personal level anytime.
Likewise Sounders coach Sigi Schmid whose attacks on referees Tim Weyland and Ricardo Salazar were petty and unwise. But who of us can claim with 100% certainty that we would react any different under that kind of pressure?
Likewise Merritt Paulson who referred to some Portland fans as ‘idiots and morons’. If fans tweet idiotic and moronic things, that will happen.
Likewise individual members of both clubs’ Tea Party wings whose company Prost Amerika thoroughly enjoys and we like on a personal level ….. though we may not be enjoying it again for a while once this article appears.
All of the above are utterly personable people, as is every Real Salt Lake player we have interacted with. And their staff.
They are all great people and love our sport.
And they will harbor no animus towards Prost Amerika because of this article and still be back tomorrow reading our next article.
This article was inspired, conceived and written while watching Fox News on a plane back from the Real Salt Lake v Sounders FC play-off game, two days after the General Election.
For your entertainment: