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“Fly, fly away”

Three years ago I wrote this:

I was planning on writing about the glorious sound of Dave Niehaus back during spring training, when I heard his voice for the first time this year. I’ll just say now that he is soothing and exciting, and is a voice I’ve heard more than any other in my lifetime, except probably my immediate family. And that’s something. And it’s something I’ll miss, eventually. But not yet!

And now I will miss it.

Let’s expand on that life-in-voices, vocal influence idea a minute. Whose voices have I heard the most, really?

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I have seen my beloved-but-recently-somewhat-neglected Mariners in two away games: Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park. However, I did not travel to these historic locales to see the Mariners play lose. In both cases, I was already in these places, and the Mariners just happened to coincide. In fact, I likely would have tried to go to both of those storied grounds whether the Mariners were playing or not.

I once saw a Bellingham Bells away game, too. It was slightly more significant in terms of travel purpose, since I certainly wouldn’t have made the short skip to E. Bremerton (I was already on Bainbridge at the time) just to watch the Kitsap Bluejackets take on who-the-hell-knows. The Bells won, by the way, and I was appalled by the heckling, taunting behavior of the Kitsap players. It was very strange.

So now here I am, four home games into my deep Sounders fanaticism, and I’ve come to a milestone: Away support.

The closest MLS team to the Sounders is the San Jose Earthquakes. I’ve thought about going down for a game, with money I don’t have, on an easy Allegiant Air flight from Bellingham to Oakland. My brother-in-law is moving to Denver; is a trip to Colorado for visits and Rapids in the future?

Really, anything involving air travel is pretty much out of my range and out of my means at the moment. So despite my desire to see my Sounders succeed in a multitude of MLS cities, it isn’t likely to happen anytime soon.

But when an opportunity presents itself, well…

The Lamar Hunt US Open Cup is the longest running team sports tournament in the United States. It is open to any soccer team in the country, from the highest level, MLS, to the lowest, the organization I play in, the United States Adult Soccer Association. The Sounders gained entry into the tournament this year through two play-in games, and their first official match-up, determined geographically, was the Portland Timbers.

The Timbers play in the second division of US soccer, the USL. This is the league the Sounders departed when they made the move to MLS, and the league PDX and Vancouver will depart when they make the same move in 2011. The rivalry between PDX, Seattle, and Vancouver is deep, spanning 30 years, and is amplified by the fact that The Sounders and the Whitecaps have frequently found league success, while the Timbers never have. This Seattle point in this three-way rivalry has been set aside until 2011, barring some unlikely circumstances.

Being, of course, the US Open Cup. Seattle Sounders at Portland Timbers, July 1, 2009.


Shit, I can drive to Portland. Though perhaps more specifically, my brother can drive to Portland.

So off we went, to the hostile territory on the state of Oregon, to watch the Sounders, hopefully, destroy their historic foes.

And I say hostile because the Timbers likely have the largest organized supporters’ group in all of US soccer. They are frequently loud, frequently drunk, and frequently stupid. The subcultured hipness that made Portland’s bike scene so damn…cool is the same force that led Portlanders to fully, heartily adopt a very European style of soccer support.

*And while I love to see supporters’ groups waving their flags and chanting away, I want no part of it because (a) I don’t want a goddamn flag obscuring my view, (b) I don’t want to be surrounded by drunk people, and (c) I can’t stand the shit superiority complex most “official” supporters have (even if they insist that they do not). Which, by the way, is probably part of the reason they get into conflicts occasionally.

To hear less recent Sounders fans tell it, going to Portland would be like entering a war zone. Stolen scarves, beer throwing, harassment, heckling, etc.

I was a little nervous. The Sounders supporter group is nice and all, and they’ve had a lot of growth this year, but the Timbers’ Army is large, loud, and rowdy. See?

The Timbers’ front office sent a letter to the Timbers’ Army asking them to be on their best behavior, to show that Portland is a city of MLS quality. It’s funny that they need to be babysat. But it’s also scary that they needed to be reminded to behave, as if it is their nature not to.

I went through alternating waves of panic and calm as match day approached.

But when we walked by the stadium we saw Sounders fans moving without harassment, and come game time the ECS was chanting away in a large group by the entrance, Some nice chants, some not so nice. Safety in numbers. But where were our seats?

Our seats were: Behind and to the right of Sounders fans; next to Sounders fans; two rows in front of Sounders fans; and directly in front of Timbers fans. 10 year-old Timbers fans.

Whew. Nothing to fear!

And then the Sounders scored in the first 45 seconds. According to the cheering, we had plenty of folks who had our backs.

Victory in an opponent’s home is a wonderful thing to see.

But on the way out I did have a run-in with a Timbers supporter. He ran up to me and asked, “Hey! Hey, where’d you get the corporate scarf?” I didn’t really know how to answer, since my brother got it for me off a lamp post in Fremont. PDX likes to pile on our corporate sponsors and sudden growth in support, but they’ll be enjoying the same effect in a of couple years.

2011 will be the start of a glorious tradition. Portland away. Vancouver away. Sounders, Sounders, Sounders! I can’t wait.

I have no animosity in particular toward Portland, and certainly not toward Vancouver, who I think has a classy organization. However, they’ll be in our division, so I hope they never win a game, always draw when they play each other, and always lose when they play us. Thus

Build a bonfire
Build a bonfire
Put the Timbers on the top
Put the Whitecaps
In the middle
And we’ll burn the fuckin’ lot

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Later JJ. Once you figured out how not to give up home runs, it was fun. Until you forgot. Have fun in New York.

*                    *                    *

©2008 Jean-Louis Blondeau / Polaris Images

©2008 Jean-Louis Blondeau / Polaris Images

This movie is oustanding. See it.

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Goodbye Kevin Frady, welcome back Brandon Newell.

Perhaps the 25 hits I got with my Kevin Frady posts included the attention of someone important. Or maybe I just got lucky.

Now if they could only bring back Clem, Brindza, Given, and the ‘Hus. The glory years. For me, at least.

Go Bells!

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Yankees lose

If I get to write this post, once a year, every year, I’ll be happy for a long time.

If only the Mariners were run as well as the Indians. Sigh. And I don’t count attendance as success.

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What the hell.

1) The Mariners pitchers were never anything to be excited about, which everyone knew from the beginning of the year. We should be more surprised that we were ever 20 games over .500 than by our massive regression to preseason expectations.

2) John McLaren’s a freaking idiot. It doesn’t seem like he could possibly be around next year, as he brought us so painfully and suddenly from dark horse to pathetic non-contender. But he’ll probably be back.

3) One wonders if, by sticking with the “hot hands” and “the team that got us this far,” we were doomed to this fate. But we can’t know, of course, if Adam Jones or Ben Broussard would have done much to help us. Still, as we crashed headlong into the side of the mountain, in might have been nice to see if anyone else could help us out.

4) I’m kind of intrigued as to how colossal the collapse may become. 1-13 is bad. But it could get worse. Lots worse.

5) It was fun to be a playoff team. For a while. Until we weren’t a playoff team. Then it was a little nerve-wracking. Until we were a good team gone bad. Then it sucked.

6) Except good teams don’t go bad like this. Not this bad.

7) So we must have been lucky.

8] But it’s hard to get 20 games over .500 on luck.

9) So there’s no reason for it.

10) What the hell.

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Let’s continue, but this time let’s take a look at data that’s readily available.

vs. Wenatchee Applesox, June 14th – Bells 0 Applesox 1

Bellingham Bells - inning 2

   Bills walked. B. Krause grounded out to 1b unassisted, SAC; Bills
   advanced to second. Clem grounded out to p. Holloway struck out swinging.
   0 runs, 0 hits, 0 errors, 1 LOB.

Playing for the tie in the 2nd inning. Bells lose 5-2.

vs. Wenatchee Applesox, June 15th – Bells 0 Applesox 0

Bellingham Bells - inning 5

   Willeford singled. Yuhas singled; Willeford advanced to second. Hale out
   at first 1b to 2b, SAC; Yuhas advanced to second; Willeford advanced to
   third. Cherry walked. Boyd singled, advanced to second on an error by lf,
   RBI; Cherry advanced to third; Yuhas scored, unearned; Willeford scored.
   Keller to p for Bratney. Bills grounded out to 3b. B. Krause singled,
   RBI; Boyd advanced to third; Cherry scored. B. Krause advanced to second
   on a balk; Boyd scored on a balk. B. Krause advanced to third on a balk.
   Clem walked. Clem out at second c to 2b, caught stealing. 4 runs, 4 hits,
   1 error, 1 LOB.

On this one, if Hale had not sacrificed, instead striking out or flying out, Cherry still may have walked, still loading the bases, still leading to the exact same situation. Or Hale might have joined the hit parade, and the Bells could have shot for even more than 4 runs, having three full outs to work with. The Bells managed a big inning, but the sac bunt did nothing to increase their chances. Their chances of scoring were better before the bunt (1st and 2nd, no outs) than after (2nd and 3rd, one out), and even better after the next at bat (bases loaded, one out). Bells win 9-1 (they hadn’t scored that many runs since Fraidy became coach).

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