As part of our continued Supporters Week coverage, Rob Jerand, a member of the Timbers Army since 2005, tackles this exclusive MLSsoccer.com Q&A.
How, when and why did you get involved with the Timbers Army?
I went to a game in 2005, not knowing much about the Timbers or professional soccer in general, and I was amazed at the passion. I've always been a passionate person, so it made a good fit to be surrounded by other supporters who shared that. Next match, I sat in the Timbers Army, and since then it's been an incredible journey filled with many memories. It's also been a gift to get to know everyone in the Timbers Army, especially the supporters that were here in the beginning. The original soccer supporters in the Timbers Army are true pioneers who paved the way for future generations to enjoy. I respect them greatly for standing up for soccer at a time when the sport received a fraction of the attention that is does today.
What is the history behind the Timbers Army name?
The Timbers Army was known as the Cascade Rangers early on, but changed the name shortly after. The early USL Timbers wore green-and-white hoop kits that looked very similar to Scotland's Celtic FC. Given that the Rangers and Celtic rivalry is one of the largest in the world, the Cascade Rangers name didn't really fit. So the name was changed. The Timbers Army original "No Pity" scarf was designed on a bar napkin. I believe it still exists somewhere for people to see. (Image to the right, via SoccerCityUSA.com)
What is your favorite moment so far with Timbers Army?
There have been so many moments in the past several years that it is truly hard to pinpoint just one. It is always nice to beat rival club Seattle in any match; however, one that tops that list was in 2006, when the Timbers had an underperforming year, finishing in last place. At the season finale, the Timbers Army cheered the team off the field in a proud and loud fashion after a 2-0 loss, a moment I'll never forget for as long as I live. I think the team was shocked a bit to see us stand so proudly for them. From a certain point in the season we were so far down in the table, it didn't matter how many more wins or losses we got, at that particular moment in the season finale, we were just proud to be Portland.
Can you define what it means to be a supporter?
You feel it through the triumph of victory, and you feel it through somber of defeat. You'd watch your team in the pouring rain or summer heat or on a fuzzy slow connection laptop like we did from the bar back in the deep USL days. You'd watch them if they are top of the table, or in the cellar. We have supporters that have gone to ridiculous levels to watch the Timbers; like commuting several hours for each game and spending hundreds on travel expenses, watching games from ladders over the high fences into the stadium, waiting outside the gate for extra long hours in crowd lines to get in, and of course the people who have just enough money in their bank account to buy a game ticket, knowing they have to pay the electric bill the next day. It's really about sacrifice and a supporter will get around certain barriers anyway possible that may separate him or her from their club. Passion speaks for itself and cannot be won through t-shirt cannons and pumped-in stadium noise. I credit their passion, faith, and their drive to always believe in this club. I truly believe the supporters in the Timbers Army have made me a better person.
Why should a fan be a supporter?
It's fun, but also very life-fulfilling. The game-day experience in the Timbers Army is of course priceless, and the group also provides a wide range of activities and charitable events while the Timbers aren't playing. These activities range from playing soccer on our Timbers Army sponsored teams, to planting trees in Portland, to raising money for different causes through several types of group activities. I've also had an absolute blast getting to know the game, players, and fellow supporters better. Plus, life can be tough given all the elements. However, when a supporter goes to the terraces, they can experience the emotional ride that the beautiful game can deliver.
I met a gentleman a few years back in the Bitter End Pub during the financial crash, he pretty much lost everything, including his marriage, and he moved to Portland from LA and found great life inspiration in the Timbers and Timbers Army. He told me this team and supporters group kept him alive (literally), and gave him hope to live the next day. It was a powerful moment for me to hear this, and a definite reminder to all of us how the beautiful game can change lives. I see him in the terraces every now and then, but he told me that he will stand by this team until he physically is unable to and is six feet under. Fans come and go, but supporters are for life.
Describe the traveling supporter experience.
Support without borders. Wherever you may play, we will always follow you. The United States and Canada have clubs that are very spread out, which means traveling can be expensive for supporters. I know several folks in the Timbers Army who have very little money and just enough disposable income that they spend it on Timbers away trips. The Timbers Army is of course a very diverse group in terms of background and income, but I know a ton of people who just get by, literally. Myself and several other dedicated supporters over the years have personally donated a ton of money to help subsidize ticket costs or other costs to supporters who just couldn't swing it. It's without question an imperative responsibility that we look out for each other. I mean, why not? We're in this together, and it’s our club.
What is your best road trip experience?
Seattle. I cannot even describe the emotions that run through your veins when you are in your rival's backyard. I am already getting flashbacks. When the buses pull onto Royal Brougham Way, you know the day just got real. The jokes that were told on the bus ride up I-5 stop and the anger knowing you are about to play a franchise you absolutely despise, starts. On days Portland plays Seattle, my entire personality changes. It's a huge day for Cascadia. While I have had fun in other cities -- New York, San Jose, and LA -- Seattle is different. It's just very different. As I said, it naturally hits a nerve. You go up there to support the Timbers in hostile grounds and of course out-sing their fans, who are giving you hell because you are in their presence. If you aren't amped and fired up for this, I am not sure what else in life will excite you.
Timbers Army have many famous tifo displays and chants. How does your group come up with the ideas?
Simply enough, we have a tifo crew and a lot of the chants are orchestrated by our capo crew. We throw our thoughts in a mixing bowl and go from there. It's amazing what the Timbers Army can think of. I truly think we have the most creative minds on earth.
What does it mean to be involved in the leadership of a supporters group?
To inspire people to be the best supporters they can be for their team, town, and each other. Times won't always be rosy, so will you rise or fall to the occasion? The Timbers have been very good at breaking our hearts, but also have given us incredible memories. Of course we want a winning team, but we can't control that. It's very easy to follow clubs that are successful, but supporters and their leaders remind the rest of the sports world that we sing through the good and bad. A very wise Timbers Army member once told us to "believe beyond reason" and another hard-working soul reminds us that "passion is not a part-time hobby." Those are my two favorite quotes, because they truly do tell the story that no emotional borders exist for supporters. You believe because you can, and you're passionate because you can't control it.