There were three places that were critical in the formative years of the Timbers Army: Section 107, the Bitter End Pub, and the Soccer City USA message board. If Section 107 was our place of worship and the Bitter End Pub was our place to gloriously sin, SCUSA was our virtual spot to reflect upon our worship and our sins. Despite its largely dormant appearance today, its role in the development of the Timbers Army shouldn’t be understated.
Before there was SCUSA, there was the Oregonlive message board. In 2001, when the Portland Timbers were brought back to life, Oregonlive was proudly displayed across the chests of our heroes named Benedetti, Winters, and Napoleon, as well across the chests of those of us in the stands. The irony of this was that the Oregonlive message board was less than welcoming to Timbers fans. In fact, it was antagonistic. We posted there because at the time it was all we had. This was a time, after all, when the Timbers garnered little attention. The Timbers had a good beat writer in The Oregonian but he didn’t get much space for his stuff, the Portland Tribune was good for preseason scoops and then would ignore the team once baseball started, Timber Log was essential for his humor and links, and Soccer City USA‘s Allison Andrews was just about the only one taking any pictures.
Oregonlive had the market cornered on Timbers message boards and during an era where it was hard to come by much information about the team, the club, and its supporters, it was only natural that people posted there. The problem was that whomever moderated the message board didn’t quite understand soccer fans or even the Internet in general. We all know how anonymity is a temptress for a wide range of public displays of emotion. Throw in the emotions generated by the sport of soccer and it is only natural that people would use such a platform to vent, celebrate, and exhibit their mastery over four-letter words. This resulted in a toxic combination. Imagine SCUSA or any other message board but with a moderator who deleted anything fun or worthwhile. It became a bore to read and an obstacle to organizing events, chants, and road trips.
After two years of this and after countless upstanding citizens of the Army being banned from posting on Oregonlive (a badge of honor as common as the website’s name across our chests), Allison launched the Soccer City USA message board in December 2002.
It was a godsend. It was functionally superior, editorially freer, and a place that felt like home. It was a necessary and important spot for for both old and new supporters to learn about the team, learn about traditions, create new traditions, and organize. For a loose group of folks who didn’t have the structure or wherewithal of the 107ist, it was our board room where we met all year round to hash out problems, create new problems, and apologize for the new problems we created. It was where members of the Timbers front office – and this is the truth – often learned about team news first.
It also appealed to our baser sides. The same people who stood side-by-side for 90 minutes and who bought each other rounds at the Bitter End would rip into one another on SCUSA with, um, no pity. Countless threads that started off with good intentions would devolve into name calling, cat pictures, and more people piling on with more name calling. It was often a lesson in middle school behavior with one person trying to top another in a contest to win the prize of least likeable human on the planet.
Yet, despite this, it was endearing. The various personalities hiding behind various screen names became part of the overall Timbers Army experience. The countless threads about chants that would never be sung, kits that would never be worn, TIFO from the Balkans, and run ins with the front office over language in the North End were all part of the daily and yearly ebbs and flows.
Like the Army it helped to create, SCUSA grew. It grew to the point where it was hard to keep up with the various personalities and the various digressive threads. It grew to where it was impossible for one person – and this is no knock on Allison, she is the hero of this story – to oversee. It became more noise and less resource. It also became less needed as the team gained more coverage, as other forms of social media took hold, and as the Timbers Army gained more of a structure.
SCUSA may not be as vital today as it once was, but hidden among the many pictures of rhinos pooping there lies a very real history of a supporters group. Want to see how the No Pity scarf was created and distributed? It is there. Want to see how some chants you sing today got their start? It is there. Want to see how difficult it was to rid the North End of You Suck Asshole? It is there. Want to see who chipped in to buy the Cascadia Cup? It is there. Want to see how people became friends and have always behaved like assholes to one another? It is there. Drama? It is there. Joy? It is there. Want to see emotion in its rawest form? It is there.
Both glory and warts are very much visible for all to see. Consider SCUSA your living document of Timbers Army history.
[Updated: I wrote this post before Allison announced she is planning to put SCUSA to rest. I certainly never intended for this to be an obituary, but am glad that I was able to convey how much her site has meant to me and to many people over the years. I hope you'll join me in thanking Allison for all the time, energy, and resources she has spent helping to make our wonderful Timbers experience what it is today.]