That’s a bold statement right? The biggest rivalry in all of professional sports in America. Unfortunately to most, Soccer is a new sport in the United States, so how can I even have the audacity to claim a sport that doesn’t do nearly as well as the other 3 majors in terms of money and attendance has a better rivalry? The thing about soccer that makes it what it is are the fans; “supporters”. Football, basketball, and baseball have fans. Soccer has supporters. So what’s the difference?
Imagine sitting in a football stadium attending a game; you’ll probably see an annoying fan wearing a jersey cheering on the opposing team. If you’ve been to game, you’ve seen this. You probably make fun of them with your friends, maybe tell him to shut the fuck if it gets to that point, but all in all it is what it is. Now imagine being an away supporter walking into Century Link Field (Sounders) or Providence Park (Timbers), escorted into a separate entrance by security and police and essentially being required to sit in a specific section away from the home crowd. Granted this isn’t just you and a couple buddies. You link up with the other hundreds or more supporters for your team and make sure that the home team knows you are there.
This coming Sunday marks the 99th time that the Sounders and Timbers players and supporters clash. Synchronized chants will ensue as the Timbers supporters walk into Century Link field in hopes that their 2nd place team can take out the defending champs and top ranked team in the Sounders. This adds to the competition. Over 40 years of this rivalry and the two teams have always been relatively close in terms of level of play or ranking. But that’s not enough to fuel the fire…
How about the fact that the two cities are very similar economically, socially, and in their demographic? How about the fact that the two cities are separated by a quick 3 hour drive up and down I5? One city claims that the other is their little brother; you guess which one. The other city claims that they are in no cities shadow and are their completely own entity.
I’ve been lucky enough to be in the middle of this rivalry. There’s nothing quite like it. I’ve seen fights, beers thrown, vulgar accusations; I fucking love it. “Our team is better. Our city is better. We have better fans”, I love that shit. It’s fuel to the fire in what is truly a once in a lifetime experience. To be a part of the intense rivalry that is Sounders-Timbers, one can only prepare for what is to come.
“We suck and it goes like this.” Those were the words I mumbled into the microphone seconds before Fox, myself and our buddy Wade played in front of a crowd of 450 corporate hating, too much eyeliner wearing, Good Charlotte loving kids. How in sweet Margaret’s underpants did we get ourselves into this one? How in sweet Uncle Jerry’s raspberry pie were we going to make it out alive?
Nowadays the way to a woman’s heart is complicated. You must stop eating meat, grow a beard and wear tighter pants than her. Back when I was a sophomore in high school it was simple, get a guitar. For extra points, learn how to play said guitar. So, that is what I did. My buddy just so happened to be selling his guitar so, $50 later, I was the proud owner of a Fender Squier complete with a 25-watt amp. For those of you wondering, that’s about the worst guitar on the market but I didn’t care. It was red and I already had visions of hip thrusting in front of sold out arenas. I learned 4 chords and decided it was time to start a band. The obvious next member was Andy Fox, a longtime friend and football teammate with zero experience playing a musical instrument. “Dude, buy a bass guitar and let’s start a band.” So, he did. Once he learned the same 4 chords on bass, we were unstoppable. We would jam for hours in his parent’s basement, screaming nonsense into microphones held up by broom sticks in Christmas tree stands. In the short while we had been jamming together we somehow managed to write a couple of songs. One of which was about a girl I met in Chile over Christmas break. Her name was Carolina. Pronounced Care-o-leeeeeeeeeena. With a catchy name came a catchy song. Little did she know people across the world would be melodically chanting her name as they danced along to the greatest hit of 2006. We had some lyrics and some simple, yet effective riffs. It was time to bring the beat in.
I bought a drum set off another friend, promptly placed it in in our jam basement and had our buddy Wade come over for an audition. Wade and I spent our Middle School years in the marching band playing drums and hitting on the flute players (Wade strayed course and went for a tuba player once but that’s another story) so I knew he could keep a beat. A couple of hours later the job was his. Now the stage was set, 3 idiot jocks with under 4 months of musical experience ready to share our songs with the world. Just like that we were presented with a sign from Apollo himself in the form of, well, a sign. It was posted at our local public library and was promoting an upcoming battle of the bands. A battle of the bands hosted by a public library seemed a bit like an oxymoron. Play loud music but shhhhhhhh be quiet! But it was a start and all we needed to do was submit a recording of a couple of songs to be considered. We jimmy rigged Fox’s old cassette deck to record and spent the week perfecting our songs. The two finalists: “Carolina” and “Wild Blue Yonder”, a song about field mice and buffalo or something like that. We submitted a cassette tape and played the waiting game. About a week later we received a call from a nice lady at the library saying that we had been chosen to compete. “I liked your songs, they were very different from all the other submission.” That was red flag number one. We were too excited to notice, we were headed to our first Battle of the Bands which would obviously lead to platinum record sales, groupies and VH1 specials. The next two weeks were spent practicing the shit out of our songs until the night of the show was upon us. It was go time.
We loaded up the back of Fox’s truck and headed out to the show. It was being held in what looked like a glorified barn at an abandoned boy scout camp. Red flag number two. We saw some other bands unloading gear so we knew we were at the right spot. We took our guitars back behind the stage for a quick tune then went out to meet some of the other bands. First kid we ran into was about 100 pounds soaking wet with shoulder length jet black hair and a nose ring that screamed daddy doesn’t love me. After introducing ourselves the next thing he said was “Look at you, you guys have like muscles and stuff.” Red flag number three. We started to get an odd feeling like maybe this wasn’t such a good idea as we strolled over to check the lineup. We were to be the 4th band to take the stage, first band after the intermission. Oh boy, nerves were high, nipples were hard, this was it! The MC took the stage to announce the first band and we positioned ourselves far left stage to watch the competition. They wasted no time with slapping us the face with an ensemble of hardcore, screamo songs. At first, we thought hmm that’s an interesting choice of music, not our cup of tea but thanks for trying guys. Then we noticed that the crowd was very much into it. Banging their heads and starting mini mosh pits. I think I even saw a girl in the back sacrificing a goat. Then the second band came on. Some more screaming. Lyrics full of bleeding hearts and why’d you have to leaves and you just don’t understands. The crowd loved it. This was not good. Our songs were simple, repetitive and made you feel warm and fuzzy inside. This crowd was going to eat us alive. Third band played, again with the loud noises and screaming followed by a quick intermission. We weren’t like the other bands that was a fact. We weren’t talented, that was also a fact but by the power invested in us we were going to take that stage and win the hearts of all those soulless dropouts. We set up our gear and took the stage. The room was silent. They could sniff us out a mile away. We didn’t belong there and they knew it. I looked over at Andy, back at Wade, a few deep breaths…”We suck and it goes like this.” I sort of, kind of, definitely blacked out for a bit as we hit the first few power chords to Carolina. Then it was time to open my fat mouth and attempt to sing. “Way down south, down below the equator, dry desert heat that’s where I met her.” The crowd was still silent, trying to absorb what was happening on stage. We quickly moved into the catchy chorus. “Caroleeena! Please don’t change your mind. Caroleeena! I’ll be back in time.” Out of the corner of my eye I saw a few kids singing along and dancing. It was happening, we were winning the crowd over. No, wait, those were just the few friends we invited to come watch us play. At this point we were knee deep in this so we just had fun with it. Grunting into the mic, gyrating the hips. We were losing but winning at the same time. We hit the final note and were greeted with a happy medium between pity claps and encore chants. We survived. The rest of the bands played followed by the announcing of the winners. We were awarded with an “Honorable Mention” which is the equivalent of a participation trophy. We packed our things and started heading out the back door. We were stopped by a middle-aged lady. She told us she was a scout representing Columbia Records and that she was extremely interested in signing us. In actuality, she said none of that but she did tell us she like us the best, mainly because she could understand what we were saying. We’ll take it.
Teddy’s Big Stick would go on to play one more show. A high school talent show. I wore a tie on my head, Fox wore basketball shorts and Wade wore a shirt from Goodwill that said “Nice Pair.” The band broke up shortly thereafter then reassembled a year later with a new member, Scott. We made t shirts and took band photos but spent zero time writing songs. We broke up again just in time for college. The reign of Teddy’s Big Stick was over. For now….
This article is a simple article; addressing complex issues. I’m writing this in the wake of yet another racial incident and how some in the world of sports are using their platform to preach love instead of hate. The ludicrous acts of many during the events in Charlottesville, VA have lined up with the start of the NFL season and several players are using their notoriety in an attempt to create social change and voice their views on bigotry, oppression, and racism.
Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress, via Associated Press
Michael Bennett is one of those players. He and others have followed in Colin Kaepernick’s footsteps in choosing not to stand during the playing of the national anthem. Michael Bennett isn’t sitting to show how much he hates America; in reality it’s quite the opposite. “I just want to see people have the equality that they deserve. And I want to be able to use this platform to continuously push the message of that”. He goes on to say, “I’m being vulnerable right now,” Bennett said. “There’s a whole bunch of people sitting at home judging me, but they will never get to this point where they can be vulnerable. Let people attack me because they don’t believe what I believe in, but at the end of the day, I’m being vulnerable to show every person that no matter [what] you believe in, keep fighting for it. Keep fighting for equality. Keep fighting for oppressed people. And keep trying to change society.”
Bennett is doing it right; He realizes the unfortunate magnitude of the situation and is using what he has to preach love instead of hate. The cancer that is racism, the disease that is bigotry, the virus that is gender hate needs to stop. I’m sitting on the outside looking in and asking myself, how the fuck are these issues continuously ongoing? I simply don’t understand how or why someone would go out of there way to ridicule someone else for something that they are or believe in. The violent nature of some of the things that have happened in America these last several years mirror a time right after slavery ended. I mean, think about that. It’s 2017 and HUMANS are still hating, hurting, killing others because they are different; what the fuck?
The world of sports is, in a way, a release. We as a society watch professional athletes play a game for a whole bunch of money. We cheer and support. This is the silver lining on some all too often occurrences that happen outside of the sports world. But remember, these professional athletes that many of us can name, explain their stats, know how much they make; they are all HUMANS too. And when someone of their magnitude takes a stand on social injustice, my hope is that everyone listens.
The world is ever changing; I get that. Society has come a long way in certain aspects; I get that. But the fact remains that everyone is different, everyone has different views, everyone has different beliefs; but isn’t that a good thing though? Aren’t we better because we are all different? Michael Bennett believes that we should all accept each others uniqueness; so do I.